We take a closer look at why even some officials say at least part of a deal never should have happened the way it did. An inside tract of land on Wichita city property benefited friends and campaign contributors to some officials.
“I have a lot of concerns about that,” says mayor Carlos Mayans. “I’m sure my colleagues on the council share the same sentiments. This shouldn’t happen.”
Mayans and senior council member Phil Lambke say they’re troubled by information turned up by a KAKE On Your Side investigation.
Our exclusive report found friends and campaign contributors to some city officials bought property no one else knew was for sale for a fraction of what the city paid. But, we also found something even more troubling to some.
KAKE On Your Side obtained a copy of a contract change called an addendum. The addendum changed the deal to give the buyers, businessman Lindy Andeel and his partner, former county commissioner Dave Bayouth, a break on paying for the property. Rather than paying $166,000 at the time of sale, Andeel and Bayouth only had to come up with $20,000. Essentially, a $146,000 interest-free loan for up to three years. A deal some city officials say wasn’t even proper.
Wichita’s city council didn’t sign the contract. The deal changed without its knowledge. That goes against normal city policy.
Mayans says the council should have approved the contract.
So, how could that happen to nearly 150,000 tax dollars without any elected officials knowing?
“I guess I would feel more comfortable if you’d ask the parties that signed [the] document as to what they knew when they did sign it and why it didn’t come in front of the council,” says Mayans.
Former city manager and now city consultant Chris Cherches and his top legal adviser, head city attorney Gary Rebensdorf appeared to have signed the deal. But, Rebensdorf says it wasn’t really him who signed.
“Somebody in my office signed my name. But it’s signed off by my office. I didn’t personally sign it,” says Rebensdorf.
Not only that, Rebensdorf says his office really had nothing to do with putting the deal together. The offices of Cherches and property manager John Philbrick, he says, worked that out.
Rebensdorf says it didn’t matter that council didn’t approve it. Because it was presented as it was, a matter that was being taken care of and it was a document in appropriate form.
Philbrick was not available for comment. But he’s previously stated only that the contract was signed by the law department and enacted by Cherches.
Cherches also failed to return calls. Councilmen Bob Martz and Paul Gray declined to comment. Council members Sue Schlapp, Carl Brewer and Sharon Fearey were not available for comment.
Council members who are willing to comment share the same concern.
“It may be just a deal that’s exposed. There may be other cases,” says Lambke.
Staff for district attorney Nola Foulston says civil litigation might be reasonable, but criminal charges aren’t.
Sources close to city council say Andeel may pay back some or all of the $150,000 as early as next week.