ASHLAND, Mo. (KMIZ)
At least one Ashland citizen is raising concerns about the city's leadership after reviewing the Missouri State Highway Patrol's investigation into former Police Chief Gabe Edwards.
Edwards was placed on administrative leave in July and was investigated by the MSHP for alleged improper use of law enforcement records. He received $50,000 from the city to resign in December.
However, records of that investigation state Edwards was still coming into City Hall to help with technical problems while he was on leave.
In an interview with an MSHP investigator and Ashland City Administrator Kyle Michel in August, the investigator wrote that Michel told him Edwards "since being placed on leave had been in the City Hall several times to help with IT issues as Edwards was also the 'go-to IT guy' for the city of Ashland."
However, Michel told ABC 17 News in an interview that part of the MSHP's investigation is not true.
"(Edwards) didn't come back into the building to help with IT services," Michel said. "I don't know why that was in there, but that's just not how it went down."
Michel went on to say that while Edwards was the city's in-house IT person before he went on leave, his credentials were transferred to two part-time IT officials within two days of his being placed on leave. Michel said Edwards wouldn't have come back into the building but would have been transferring credentials remotely.
In a letter to Ashland's mayor and board of alderman last month, Ashland resident Dale Roberts brought up concerns surrounding the city's leadership. Roberts is a lawyer, former judge and former director of the Columbia police union.
"Who is making decisions regarding personnel actions for us?" Roberts wrote. "Is it the same person who selected former Chief Edwards to be our IT person and who allowed him to access Ashland's computer files after the Board of Alderman placed him on Administrative leave and who did so knowing he was under criminal investigation?"
In a phone call with ABC 17 News, Roberts said actions like this make him doubt the city's leadership.
"If I were being investigated for potentially being involved in criminal misuse of a computer system, then I don't think my employer should ask me to come work on the computer system," Roberts said.
Among the allegations that led to Edwards resigning was that he improperly accessed police records for private purposes.
In the MSHP's interview with Edwards in August, the investigator reported that Edwards had asked Michel if he would be penalized for not cooperating with investigators. The investigation states, "Mr. Michel stated he was unsure how the details of the administrative side worked."
In his letter to the city, Roberts said this shows Michel does not understand the law or procedures required when it comes to handling personnel matters with public employees.
But Michel said his conversation with Edwards was just a 30-second conversation as he was walking through the building to his office.
"It's a job for the city attorney to understand these things and help advise accordingly," Michel said.
In his interview with MSHP, Edwards admitted to using the law enforcement record system known as MULES to look up Ashland Mayor Dorise Slinker.
Edwards also admitted to having a Facebook account under the name 'Keith Beavers' to post information under an alias. He said the account was created in 2015 or 2016, but he deleted it in early 2023.
Edwards said he used the account to share information about Slinker's past since he did not feel Slinker was a suitable mayoral candidate. However, he denied posting any information obtained through the MULES system, stating the information he posted was public information from Missouri's Casenet website.
Screenshots that are attached as part of the investigation show the Keith Beavers account commenting on posts about Slinker's mayoral campaign.
The MSHP investigation also included interviews with Sgt. Andrew Worrall who submitted the initial grievance letter to Michel regarding Edwards' behavior and an interview with Slinker, as well as MULES log scan results, Boone County Joint Communications logs and Ashland Police Department records.
While the criminal investigation into Edwards surrounded his use of the MULES system, there were more grievances listed in a letter to the city from Worrall about his behavior. The letter said Edwards had added two people to the department's Peace Officer Standards and Training roster who were not with the department, had shown misconduct regarding racial comments in the office and accessing personal emails during IT business and failure to complete tasks.
ABC 17 News asked Michel if the city looked into these other accusations, as well, but he said he cannot comment on that subject.
Roberts said as a citizen, he is not for or against Michel, he is just concerned about things that have gone on within the city. He said the city seems to be spending a lot of taxpayer money on litigation, specifically with police officers.
"I would just hope for more professional work by our city in the future," Roberts said.
In January, the Ashland Board of Aldermen unanimously appointed Scott Young as Chief of Police. Roberts said he has no reservations about the police department's future under Young's leadership, but just hopes the city will do better.