Ex-deputies' claims denied

(SHAWNEE, Kan. ) -- Combined claims totaling $150,000 filed by two former Shawnee County sheriff's department employees against the state attorney general's office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation were denied Nov. 28 by a legislative committee.

The Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State turned down the $100,000 claim of former deputy William Dave Reser and the $50,000 claim of former Undersheriff William C. Huffmeier.

The two former officers in the sheriff's department allege they were prosecuted for theft by the attorney general's office and the KBI as part of a scheme by prosecutors to try to get rid of former Shawnee County Sheriff Dave Meneley.

Both men claimed they have run up attorney's fees and other expenses in defending against the charges and emotional suffering. Reser said in addition to those damages, he suffered the loss of pay and retirement benefits.

Margie Phelps, of Topeka, who represented the two officers before the claims committee, said, "What we're going to have to do is file a lawsuit for malicious prosecution.

"I'll have to talk to those guys, but let me put it this way. There's a one-year statute of limitations on malicious prosecution, so it would have to be filed no later than July 2 or 3."

That would be a few days shy of a year after July 5, 2000 when Shawnee County District Judge Thomas Conklin dismissed the theft charges against Huffmeier and Reser.

The committee denied the claims without prejudice, which means the claims could be filed again with the committee.

Rep. Ward Loyd, R-Garden City, a member of the committee and an attorney who moved to deny the claims, said the two former sheriff's officers should pursue their case in court and perhaps return to the panel if they don't win there.

The two had said in their claims: "We are not certain if we could obtain relief in a courtroom because of possible immunity by these state actors. Further, the cost and risk of litigation make that an undesirable alternative."

Assistant attorney general Kevin Graham, who represented the attorney general and the KBI, said during the hearing that Reser and Huffmeier didn't go to court originally because they couldn't win their cases there.

The committee peppered Graham with pointed questions Monday during the claims hearing about why the attorney general had gone to the time and expense of filing misdemeanor theft charges against the two former officers, the minimal value of the lockers Reser is accused of stealing from the county and whether prosecutors intimidated Reser. The value of the lockers was estimated at $150.

Reser ultimately was charged with stealing two lockers from an office and storage space at Forbes Field that the sheriff's office was vacating. Reser said the lockers were going to be thrown away.

Huffmeier was charged because he gave Reser permission to take the lockers.

Roger Myers Capital-Journal
November 29, 2000, Wednesday
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