Platte County public works director not charged with stealing after investigation

A criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct led to the issuance of a probable cause statement for a felony of stealing against Platte County Public Works director Greg Sager in late November.

Greg Sager

Greg Sager

However, the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges against Sager, 52, after most of the $1,357 in cash he acquired through the scrapping of county metal materials in 2014 ended up accounted for and returned, according to official documents. Sager remains employed as the county’s public works director, but the investigation — initiated after a former public works employee brought the allegations to the Platte County Sheriff’s Office — also helped turn up irregularities in public works departments practices.

Platte County prosecuting attorney Eric Zahnd wrote a letter to the sheriff’s office on Dec. 1, 2016 declining to pursue the felony charge. While acknowledging that Sager “was not completely candid with detectives” during an initial interview, he could not find evidence that Sager ever used the proceeds for personal benefit.

According to court documents, $1,100 in cash — all bills dated prior to 2013 — was turned over to authorities, while Sager explained that the remainder had been used in the public works’ petty cash box.

“In the context of these facts,” Zahnd wrote, “there is no conclusive evidence that Mr. Sager appropriated county property with the purpose to permanently deprive the county of that property. To the contrary, it appears the proceeds from the sale of scrap metal remained with the county at all times.”

The Platte County Sheriff’s Office initiated the investigation in early November after Bill Manley, a former employee of Platte County Public Works fired over the summer, filed a report with allegations against Sager.

According to investigative documents, Manley made various claims of Sager’s improprieties ranging from the use of county property for personal projects, having county employees perform maintenance on personal vehicles and the removal of county property, including scrap metal and a metal road tube, without explanation. Manley said he contacted county officials, including former district commissioner Duane Soper and Platte County human resources director Mary Robinson, but no action was taken.

Manley believed other employees knew of Sager’s actions but didn’t speak up for fear of losing their job.

Platte County auditor Kevin Robinson confirmed that his office looked into some of the allegations and made adjustments to policies on use of county property for personal projects and other matters.  Robinson also told detectives that public works had an account with a Kansas City company that picked up containers when full and scrapped the metal collected.

However, a check of records showed Sager’s two trips to the St. Joseph facility with checks issued to him and not the public works department, the investigation showed.

In an interview Nov. 22, 2016, Sager admitted to scrapping metal but said he had not done it with Platte County Public Works material. He did not remember the April 5, 2014 transaction in St. Joseph for 2,262 pounds of aluminum sheet nor the 2012 transaction for 565 pounds of aluminum, according to his statement.

Sager admitted to using county property for personal projects but denied profiting from those jobs and said that employees previously used the public works shop to service personal vehicles. He added that county officials have deemed those actions unacceptable, and the practices are no longer in place, according to official documents.

The following day, Sager stopped a Platte County Sheriff’s Office detective at the public works office for an interview with another employee and requested to speak further about the allegations. During this second interview, Sager admitted to scrapping street signs, and he voluntarily went to the sheriff’s office to answer more questions.

According to his statements, Sager said he wanted to buy a TV to put in the employees’ break room and scrapped the signs for that purpose.

However, he said the $1,357 was more than he expected to receive, and because there was not a process in place to handle that type of money, he was unsure of how to move the money to the right place without losing his job. Sager said he purchased the TV with different money, placed some of the proceeds from the scrapped metal in the petty cash box and kept what he believed to be $1,000 in his desk with the intention of slowly funneling the money through petty cash.

Sager said he never used the money for personal purchases, and he gave detectives $1,100 in an envelope — two $100 bills and 45 $20 bills — all with dates 2013 and prior. The petty cash drawer at public works contained another $194, and Sager said the department recently purchased a sound machine for the front door of the office at a cost of about $55, although records of petty cash purchases were not previously recorded.

Detectives requested a third meeting with Sager on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 to discuss the 2012 transaction for $327.25 in scrapped aluminum. He agreed but later called and canceled, saying he wanted to speak with an attorney.

On that day, the sheriff’s office forwarded the probable cause statement to Zahnd’s office.

Zahnd declined to file charges against Sager on Wednesday, Nov. 30 and then issued the letter to the sheriff’s office the following day. The $1,100 Sager returned was deposited with the Platte County Treasurer’s Office on Dec. 15, 2016.

According to Zahnd’s letter, the Platte County Commission requested copies of the investigative documents in Sager’s case.

During the past year, Zahnd declined to handle potential charges in two separate cases involving local entities — members of the Platte County Sheriff’s Office in the death of a detainee and Platte County treasurer Rob Willard in a fraudulent wire transaction he initiated.

However, Zahnd works directly with the sheriff’s office, and Willard was a former member of his office.

Zahnd did file a felony charge of stealing earlier in 2016 against former Platte County director of facilities Kenneth M. Bozenhardt for his use of county funds for personal expenses.

According to court documents, Bozenhardt spent more than $1,000 on various items, including materials used to construct a beer garden at his home. He allegedly admitted to making about $200 from scrapping materials at maintenance jobs — cash he used for personal expenses.

Zahnd announced when charges were filed that he planned to seek a special prosecutor for the case because Bozenhardt was still employed at the time. The Platte County Commission unanimously voted to terminate Bozenhardt during a closed meeting held days after his arrest.