BY ANDY TAYLOR
INDEPENDENCE — County attorney Larry Markle on Tuesday got the green light from county commissioners Fred Brown and Leon Rau to file a lawsuit against commissioner Larry McManus following McManus’ return of a 2001 Cadillac he purchased at a sheriff’s department vehicle auction several weeks ago.
Markle got permission from Rau and Brown to pursue litigation against McManus following an executive session, which is closed to the public and press, at the start of Tuesday’s weekly commission meeting. McManus was excluded from the closed-door conference.
Following the executive session, commissioner Leon Rau asked Markle why the county commission would have any involvement in a lawsuit between Montgomery County (through the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department) and Larry McManus, who was acting as a private citizen on the day he purchased the vehicle at the auction. Markle responded that the lawsuit would be civil — not criminal — in nature. In civil lawsuits, a county agency such as the sheriff’s department has to gain approval from the county commission before litigation can begin.
“Your decision today is not endorsing one side or the other,” Markle said. “What you are doing is permitting the sheriff’s department to go to a court of law to decide this matter.”
Markle was also expected Tuesday night to seek approval by the City of Coffeyville to pursue civil litigation against McManus. Markle will state his case at the Coffeyville City Commission meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.
Why is the City of Coffeyville involved in this case? The dispute centers around a 2001 Cadillac DeVille that was forfeited in a drug investigation in Coffeyville several years ago. Proceeds from the sale of that car were to be shared between the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Coffeyville because the two agencies handled the arrests and the forfeiture of vehicles in that drug investigation.
What is the central point of contention in this dispute over a 10-year-old vehicle? McManus claims he was a victim of false advertising. The sale bill from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department vehicle auction on Dec. 10 listed the 2001 Cadillac DeVille as having had 15,995 miles (that sale bill was placed in several area publications, including the Montgomery County Chronicle). McManus claims he purchased the car believing it had 15,995 miles. He was the higher bidder at $5,500.
However, McManus said that after he purchased the vehicle, he discovered the motor had 159,960 actual miles, not the 15,995 miles stated in the sale bill.
After he had the car title placed in his name and realized the vehicle had numerous mechanical problems, he returned the vehicle to the sheriff’s department parking lot on Dec. 21 and had his attorney, Jeff Chubb of Independence, return the key in a letter to county attorney Larry Markle.
McManus also stopped payment on the check he wrote to pay for the 2001 Cadillac DeVille.
After Tuesday’s commission meeting, McManus said he felt the sale bill was not honest in the listing of the actual miles.
A review of the actual sale bill that was placed in the Montgomery County Chronicle indicates the listed mileage as being “plus/minus” meaning there could be some discrepancy in the listing of the miles compared to the actual miles.
“I understand mileage posted on a sale bill might be a dozen or so miles off the actual miles,” he said, “but to be more than 150,000 miles off?”
The same sale bill lists in capital letters “All statements made on sale day take precedence over any printed material.”
The dispute also focuses on whether proper notification was given to the bidders as to the condition of the vehicles and equipment they were seeking to buy. In Chubb’s letter to Markle, Chubb indicates that McManus did not hear any verbal changes from the auctioneer or sheriff’s department as to information in the auction advertisement.