A small town mayor is taking an unusual approach to handling the town's finances. He's changed the locks at City Hall and hidden the town's only police car.
Asked why, he said, quite bluntly, "Because we can't trust the police department."
Strasburg's police department consists of two part-time officers and one patrol car. The only other city employees are the city clerk, four aldermen and the mayor. As an outsider looking in, it's hard to imagine how the town of 141 people can support even that many positions.
"When we had a mayor prior to this several years ago, we had plenty of money in the bank," said Mayor Merle Gates. "Now we don't have anything in there."
He said he took the drastic steps Wednesday as a stop-gap measure until he could discuss the matter with the Board of Alderman at Saturday's regularly scheduled meeting.
Jack Ewing, the mayor pro-tem, seemed surprised when asked about the lockout.
"I haven't heard nothing about it," said Ewing. "I wondered where the police car had been, but I've been working daylight ‘til dark."
The mayor's son, who's also an alderman, seemed frustrated that anyone would question the mayor's bold, unilateral actions.
"There ain't no secrets, no espionage or none of this other crap going on," said Mike Gates from his second-story porch. "It's ridiculous why you're out here to start with, but that's fine. If you want to turn this into something, come on down to the meeting."
The mayor was initially hesitant to explain his distrust, but eventually asked a few questions of his own to hint at the problem.
"You don't go out here and turn in time you don't work, do you?" he asked. "You don't take the company car and take it and use it for your own personal use and buy gas for your own personal car, do you? I'm not saying that's what's happening, but I'm just giving you an idea on it."
People in town who had heard rumblings about the problem said the mayor had no choice.
"What's he going to do?" one of them asked. "If he knows something's going on and then waits three days to do something, then that's on him too."
Another resident found the whole thing more amusing than troubling.
"All he ever does is stops speeders is all I see him do," said Sarah Hall of whichever officer is in the patrol car when she sees it.
Many city governments handle concerns about misuse of funds by placing people on paid leave until the matter is investigated and resolved. Changing the locks and taking a patrol car may seem drastic to people familiar with the former approach, but the mayor dismissed any suggestion that he could be overstepping his authority.
"I feel like I'm taking the reins by my hand and getting something done," Merle Gates said. "It's time to put a stop to it."
The mayor says if there's any major police matter in the meantime, the Cass County Sheriff's Office will handle it.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved
Tuesday, September 2 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-09-02 21:15:15 GMT
Authorities are investigating after three people were killed and two others were critically injured in shootings in a south Kansas City neighborhood.More >
Authorities are investigating after three people were killed and two others were critically injured in shootings in a south Kansas City neighborhood. Police are seeking the public's help in finding the gunman. More >
Tuesday, September 2 2014 5:12 PM EDT2014-09-02 21:12:05 GMT
The World Food Program says it provided food to a record 4.1 million people inside Syria last month.More >
Islamic State extremists released a video Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, and warning President Barack Obama that as long as U.S. airstrikes against the militant...More >
Tuesday, September 2 2014 4:42 PM EDT2014-09-02 20:42:09 GMT
Canadian police say pop star Justin Bieber has been charged with dangerous driving and assault after a collision between a minivan and an ATV led to a physical altercation in southwestern Ontario.More >
Canadian pop star Justin Bieber faces new charges after he was arrested for dangerous driving and assault following a collision between a minivan and an ATV that led to a physical altercation involving a photographer, his...More >