Updated: Did Chief Williams profit from a backdoor real estate deal for the North Substation?

Update: I was in the City Clerk’s office yesterday, September 16, on unrelated business, and John Philbrick did provide me with documentation showing that part of the property (Tract 25) included in the Shadybrook Addition, which encompasses the North Precinct, the library, and the Bank of America at 21st and Hillside, was obtained from Norman Williams, for $83,000. The property that was obtained from Williams through condemnation is actually closer to where the library sits, which is directly north of the precinct. Philbrick provided this information willingly, and told me that he initially misunderstood specifically what I was asking for in our phone conversation, which is posted below. In Mr. Philbrick’s defense, I did not mention Norman Williams’ name in our previous conversation, because I did not want to tip the City off on what I was looking for. He told me that after reading this article, he was able to find the documents, using Williams’ name as a reference.

Original Post: 

How did the City of Wichita acquire the property that the Wichita Police Department’s North (Northeast) substation now sits on? According to anonymous sources, the City purchased the property at 3015 E. 21st St. N. from former police chief Norman Williams, for significantly more than the property was actually worth, in a backdoor deal with then-City Manager Chris Cherches.

Strangely, neither the City nor the County has any record of the real estate transaction, despite the fact that it occurred during the 1990’s, which is not exactly ancient history.

Williams recently retired from the force after 39 years, and just yesterday it was revealed that Williams was actually on the Brady/Giglio list, which is a list of officers who have instances of dishonesty in their past. Williams was on the list for filing a false report. The department did not willingly release this information, and refuses to comment. However, the Wichita Eagle was able to verify the information through a series of Kansas Open Records Act requests.

Norman Williams

Cherches resigned as City Manager in 2003, after 18 years in office, amid allegations of embezzlement and cronyism.

In our attempts to prove this, we have been stonewalled by the City and the County. Neither entity can account for the purchase of this land. Neither entity can tell us who sold the land to the city, for how much, or even when the purchase was made. According to the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County, records of the transaction simply do not exist.

A staff member with the Sedgwick County Register of Deeds attempted to locate the information, but was unable to find any record of any land purchase for that address. She directed me to call her cousin, the Real Estate Administrator for the City of Wichita, John Philbrick. Listen to my conversation with the staff member at the Register of Deeds:

Philbrick was unable to provide any information in regards to this purchase, stating that the purchase was likely a part of an “assemblage for multiple use”, referring to the library branch and Bank of America location that are located nearby.

Philbrick states that because the land was multiple tracts, and that because the land was sold prior to him being in the Real Estate Administration office, and that because the city did not start centralizing these records until 1994, that he was unable to provide any information on the purchase. Philbrook told me that not only was he unable to provide information on the purchase of this land, but that he didn’t think anyone else would be able to either.

During our conversation, Philbrick asked why I was requesting this information, who I was with, then declined to spell his last name and abruptly ended the conversation. You can listen to my conversation with Philbrick here, and I would suggest you do, to see just how ridiculous this really is:

The City of Wichita’s online records of the minutes for City Council meetings only dates back to 2008, so I was unable to go back and find the council’s discussion on this issue. Sedgwick County’s records for the property show its appraised value, and that the substation was built in 1993, but the site does not provide details on the purchase itself.

The City of Wichita’s adopted budgets contain one reference to the Northeast Substation as a relocation project, in the 1992-93 adopted budget, listing an expense of $100,000. There is no mention of the station itself in the 1991-92 adopted budget, nor in the 1993-1994 adopted budget.

Page 355 from the City of Wichita's 1992-93 Adopted Budget - 1992 Proposed Capital Investment Project List
Page 355 from the City of Wichita’s 1992-93 Adopted Budget – 1992 Proposed Capital Investment Project List

If the purchase of the land for the North Substation was legitimate, the City of Wichita should have no problem laying out the details of that purchase. The lack of transparency in regards to this transaction is astounding, to say the least. Speaking in general terms, these offices have sales records that can tell you who bought what land from whom and for how much, dating back to the 1800’s.

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