Many prominent JoCo leaders listed as witnesses in Shawnee mayor’s perjury case; some don’t know why

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SHAWNEE, Kan. — FOX4 has uncovered new details about what may be behind the perjury charge against Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler.

According to court documents, the alleged perjury happened March 7 and the case was filed in Johnson County Court on Nov. 23. Distler was arrested, booked and released from jail Wednesday after posting a $2,500 bond.

Included in the charging document is a long witness list in this case of some very prominent people in Shawnee and Johnson County.

“I’m totally shocked. It doesn’t make any sense,” former Shawnee City Council Member Tracy Thomas said.

She’s one of 34 people listed as a witness to the perjury Distler allegedly committed.

Thomas, as well as other witnesses on the list, tell FOX4 they don’t know what they are witnesses to or details of the case. Besides the date of the alleged perjury, no other details are included in the charging document.

“Mayor Distler is famously lecturing us from the dais about she’s all for transparency,” Thomas said. “Nothing prevents her from releasing it, and nothing prevents Steve Howe from releasing it.”

Picture of Michelle Distler
Mugshot of Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler

Sources tell FOX4 that the perjury charge stems from Distler allegedly submitting an open records request for City Council members’ emails and signing someone else’s name.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe would not confirm those details but said many different variables determine a perjury charge, which may be brought upon by oral or written statements.

“A lot of people usually think when you testify as perjury,” Howe said. “But perjury can also occur if you test or swear to the accuracy of certain information.”

FOX4 also asked Howe about why his name appears on the witness list, which is unusual.

“I think once the affidavit comes out, many of the questions that you’re asking are going to come out,” Howe said. “So I’m going to decline to really answer that question and let that (affidavit) basically clarify things at that time.”

Distler’s attorney Robin Fowler, who is also on the witness list in this case, declined an interview but sent this statement:

“Michelle Distler has cooperated fully in this investigation, and is disappointed that charges have been filed. She looks forward to all of the facts being presented in court, and to a just resolution of this case. She also wishes to express her heartfelt apology to anyone impacted by these events.”

FOX4 has requested the affidavit that includes details of this case document. Howe said it should be released in the next few days.

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