Rape comment sets off firestorm in small Missouri town
FERRELVIEW, Mo. (AP) — A member of a small western Missouri town’s governing board is leading an effort to oust the police chief who investigated statutory rape allegations against her son.
Theresa Wilson, the chairwoman of the Ferrelview Board of Trustees, points out that she’s not claiming her son, Jeffrey Gabbard, is innocent. She says there are other reasons, including budget problems, to oust Police Chief Daniel Clayton, The Kansas City Star reports .
During a Thursday meeting to discuss the financial shortfalls, the Board of Trustees worked through issues related to reducing its police force and shifting law enforcement duties to the Platte County sheriff’s office. But the board postponed taking action to terminate Clayton. Opponents accuse him of aggressive enforcement of traffic violations. Phil Gilliam and another board member are opposed to the termination, leaving the measure one vote shy of passage.
Gilliam said Wilson’s participation in the process seeking to remove Clayton from duty “smacks of conflict of interest.”
Ferrelview, a town of some 450 people in a mix of homes, apartments and mobile homes, has long depended on traffic fines to support its public services, said City Treasurer Mickey Vulgamott.
But limits placed on the revenue towns can generate on fines grew steeper after the turmoil in Ferguson that followed the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Now, Ferrelview can generate only 20 percent of its budget from fines, and that isn’t enough to support a police department and municipal court, Vulgamott said.
Wilson insists the desire to remove that chief is “unrelated” to the charges that were filed against her son in October 2015 in a case involving a 14-year-old. Wilson hopes her son is innocent, but says he should “face the music” if he’s guilty.
A Platte County grand jury indicted Gabbard on a second-degree statutory rape charge in August 2016. He was incarcerated for a probation violation on another charge later that fall and is now in the Platte County jail awaiting trial on the rape charge set for Oct. 16. Gabbard’s attorney declined to comment Friday.
The 14-year-old’s father, whom The Star is not naming to protect the identity of his daughter, is a defender of Clayton’s performance. He said the town’s dispute with its police chief “is really alarming” and that Clayton has been good for Ferrelview.
Clayton, saying he did not want to speak while the board is considering his fate, declined an interview request from The Star.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com