LANAGAN, Mo. —
Lanagan’s police chief and only other officer have been suspended without pay after being indicted by a county grand jury in connection with what authorities say was the alteration of racial profiling reports and the issuance of citations based on a nonexistent statute.
An attorney for the small McDonald County town told The Associated Press on Thursday that the allegations may all stem from mere mistakes or misunderstandings about how to properly document traffic tickets.
Police Chief Larry Marsh, 52, and Officer Michael Gallahue, 38, were arrested and charged in McDonald County Circuit Court after their indictment last week by a grand jury impaneled earlier this year. Marsh and Gallahue are the lone officers in the town with a population of 419.
Marsh is charged with five counts of forgery, three pertaining to citations and two to racial profiling reports. Gallahue is charged with two counts of forgery, both pertaining to citations.
The forgery charges all are felonies punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The citations were issued between August and October of last year and referenced “ordinance ‘307.000,’” according to charging documents filed by McDonald County Prosecutor Jonathan Pierce. Marsh allegedly filed racial profiling reports with the Missouri attorney general’s office in 2009 and 2010 that “purported to have a genuineness” that they did not possess, the documents state.
Circuit Judge Tim Perigo ordered the grand jury called in February to examine procedures of municipal courts. The seating of the grand jury followed the issuance of an audit of Lanagan’s books by the state auditor’s office in November. It rated the town’s accounting practices and performance of municipal court procedures as “poor.”
The Missouri State Highway Patrol followed up with an investigation leading to the indictments.
Marsh referred questions Thursday to Lanagan’s city attorney, William Weber. Weber said the officers have been suspended without pay pending disposition of their court cases and that the town will be seeking applications for temporary replacements.
Weber said he doubts that Marsh and Gallahue had any intention of fraud.
“It’s very possible this is just a mistake on the officers’ part,” he said.
Pierce, the prosecutor, said Chapter 307 of the state code outlines vehicle equipment regulations. Citations must list the specific portion of the chapter that was violated, such as 307.040, which governs use of headlights. The designation “307.000” does not refer to any specific violation.
“It’s not simply a technical error by writing a mistaken number,” Pierce said.
State Auditor Tom Schweich drew attention to the indictments in a news release Thursday. His office’s audit found that the town’s police were improperly reporting traffic stops on Missouri Highway 59 as taking place on a city street. That allowed the town to avoid paying more than $36,000 to the state under a law that limits the percentage of a town’s revenues that come from traffic tickets issued on state and federal highways, Schweich said.
The Lanagan Police Department reported to the state attorney general’s office that all 1,216 of its traffic stops in 2010 and all 556 stops in 2009 took place on city streets. But the audit found that of 555 tickets issued from January through June 2010, just four were actually issued for violations on city streets. The audit determined that 543 were issued for violations on Highway 59 (Main Street in Lanagan) or state Route EE.
The Lanagan Board of Aldermen met Tuesday and suspended both officers without pay pending disposition of their court cases. McDonald County Sheriff Robert Evenson said the sheriff’s office will be providing law enforcement services in Lanagan until the town resolves the situation.
A STATE AUDIT last year of Lanagan city books discovered $13,600 in missing cash receipts and $2,800 in missing property tax receipts, prompting a comment in the audit summary that “it is likely additional monies are missing.”