Lobbyist pleads guilty to lying to federal agents

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Bill Waris admitted making a false statement to FBI agents on March 12, 2004.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lobbyist Bill Waris pleaded guilty in federal court Saturday to lying to federal agents, allowing him to avoid an upcoming trial that could have featured some big names in Missouri politics.

Waris, 61, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty to making a material false statement to agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Todd P. Graves, federal prosecutor for the Western District of Missouri. Waris entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah W. Hays.

Under the terms of the agreement, the government dismissed the Nov. 17, 2004, federal indictment for which Waris was scheduled to begin trial on Tuesday, Graves said.

Those who received subpoenas to testify in the trial included former Gov. Bob Holden, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and four state senators. They were expected to testify about the selection process for an appointment to the Jackson County Sports Authority, which oversees the stadiums housing the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs.

Waris, a former county executive, is a lobbyist for Jackson County. By pleading guilty, he admitted making a false statement to FBI agents on March 12, 2004, in connection with an investigation into theft or bribery of an official with the Jackson County government.

Waris told the agents that he was not present during a conference call between that Jackson County official and others on Oct. 6, 2003. Graves said Waris knew his statement was false and that he was present during the conference call.

Waris could be subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing had not been scheduled.

Waris was Jackson County executive from 1983 to 1991 and now lobbies for Jackson County government and its current executive, Katheryn Shields.

He was accused by federal prosecutors of lying to a grand jury investigating whether Shields had offered a bribe to Republican activist Catherine Nugent to get her husband to withdraw his application for the sports authority. Shields has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Waris was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

The case revolved around what was said during the five-way telephone conference call in October 2003. Everyone agrees that Shields offered a $12,000 no-bid contract to Nugent to raise money for a local historical society.

The question was whether the award of the contract was contingent on Nugent's husband, Dan Nugent, dropping out of the competition for the sports authority position.

Catherine Nugent declined the contract, saying it "did not pass the smell test." Dan Nugent stayed in the running but was not nominated by county legislators for the sports authority post.

Appointments to the authority, which are made by the governor, are considered political plums, including free tickets to games.

Rather than a bribe, Waris considered the fund-raising contract "more akin to a favor" to a county legislator who had promised Dan Nugent the nomination but failed to deliver, according to a court document. Shields wanted to help the legislator "out of a jam," Waris told the grand jury.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.post-dispatch.com

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