Several years worth of forms detailing how police officers void tickets can’t be produced by City Hall
City records have disappeared that would show how many times Lawrence police officers were voiding traffic tickets during the height of a Kansas University athletic ticket scandal, a Journal-World review has found.
In 2012 two Lawrence police officers ultimately lost their jobs after they became implicated in the KU ticket scandal, which partially involved a KU athletic official giving KU athletic tickets to at least one Lawrence police officer who dismissed multiple traffic tickets for the KU athletic official.
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In May 2011, the city began an investigation into allegations that Lawrence police officers had improperly dismissed traffic tickets for Kansas University athletic officials, who also were facing charges related to allegations of stealing more than $1 million worth of athletic tickets from KU.
Ultimately two Lawrence police officers — Matt Sarna and Michael Monroe — lost their jobs over the matter.
Monroe filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city. As we have reported, Monroe lost that suit against the city in August. During parts of that lawsuit, portions of the court file were closed to the public. Some court records were unsealed in 2014.
Following the dismissal of the lawsuit in August, the Journal-World assigned two reporters to begin looking in detail at the entire court file and other documents related to the case, which numbered thousands of pages. That review took multiple months. The timing of the assignment was determined, in part, by the fact that the lawsuit was no longer pending, which we hoped would make it easier for the city to respond to questions. The city routinely declines to answer questions about matters that are under litigation.
These articles explain what our reporters — Karen Dillon and Conrad Swanson — found during the course of their review.
Read the related story:Review finds Lawrence police voided city tickets without proper approvals
More details about the police department and the KU scandal recently became available after several court documents were unsealed when former Lawrence police officer Mike Monroe lost his final appeal in a wrongful termination suit against the city in August.
As part of a months-long review of those documents, the Journal-World filed a Kansas Open Records request for forms that would show how frequently police officers were voiding traffic tickets for KU officials and other members of the general public. Specifically, the Journal-World asked for all void and ticket dismissal forms filled out by the city from 2005 to 2016.
City officials responded that they do not have any forms prior to 2012, and said that if the forms had existed at one time, they weren’t obligated to keep them.
“Prior to 2012, a form was not required, and the policy did not require the city maintain the forms,” said City Attorney Toni Wheeler.
The city had a policy in place during the height of the KU ticket scandal that prohibited police officers from voiding traffic tickets for reasons of favoritism. But without the forms, it is difficult to conduct a review of whether the policy was being adhered to during that time period.
Two Lawrence police chiefs said void and dismissal forms from the time period definitely did exist in city records at one point.
Former Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin told the Journal-World the forms were used by officers on his force from 2005 to his retirement in 2010.
“The form had to be filled out and those strict guidelines had to be adhered to,” Olin told the Journal-World. “I don’t know that it had ever been questioned that I can remember.
“If we implement a protocol, you implement it and there is an expectation the part of supervision to understand policy changes implemented by the police department,” Olin added. “I cannot comment whether or not any single individual did or did not understand the policy, but I can tell you that it was my intention to make it absolutely mandatory to every member of the department.”
Current Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib — who took over at about the time the KU ticket scandal started to receive media attention in 2010 — said in a court deposition that his officers also were using the forms “more often than not.”
Khatib declined to be interviewed for this article. Wheeler did not say how the forms came to leave the city’s possession, such as whether they were lost or whether the city had made a decision to discard the forms.
The Journal-World requested the forms because depositions and other documents related to the Monroe case included testimony from several members of the police force stating that voiding tickets for friends, family members or others was not an uncommon practice on the Lawrence force in previous years.
“I would agree to prior to the 2005 policy change, yes, officers had fixed tickets for friends and family,” Khatib said in a 2014 court deposition. “And I think I’ve said that that environment then was more relaxed.”
The Journal-World sought the void and dismissal forms in the time period following 2005 to review whether that practice of voiding tickets for family and friends had ceased.
Although those forms could not be provided, the city did provide more than 900 void and dismissal forms that were filed between 2012 and 2016. For more on those forms, see our related article about the city’s ticket voiding policy.