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Cape city employees accused of receiving stolen property

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Members of the city of Cape Girardeau's public works traffic operations crew face criminal charges for allegedly making more than 20 trips to local recycling businesses to sell metal and batteries over several months in 2013.

Four members of the city's traffic crew received summonses last week for receiving stolen property, including the city's former traffic operations manager, Robert H. Kutak Jr.

Kutak and two other members of the division, Austin C. Carver and Geoffrey C. Dial, no longer work for the city, city manager Scott Meyer confirmed Monday. Another worker who received a summons, Travis K. Friga, is still employed by the city, according to Meyer.

The men allegedly took materials from the public works department, sold them for cash and split the profit, according to court documents.

Police began an investigation in November after public works director Tim Gramling reported he had been contacted by a city employee who told him the traffic crew was taking old signs removed from the city's right-of-ways and other unused materials to local recycling businesses.

Sgt. Don Perry investigated the claim and stated in the court documents that Sides Metal Recycling reported scrap metal being dropped off by Carver and Friga on 23 occasions between mid-February and Nov. 1, 2013. The total the men were paid by the business for metal was $1,788. Ellis Battery also was sold batteries by Carver twice in September; he was paid $555 for the items, according to the documents.

Through interviews Perry conducted with the men during the investigation, Kutak said the crew had taken "four or five loads of scrap metal, poles, posts and signs" to Sides Metal Recycling in exchange for cash, along with batteries to the other business. Friga also told Perry in his interview that on Nov. 1, metal "sleeves" for bike lane sign posts were unbanded "so it wouldn't look so obvious" and taken for recycling, and that he and Carver had been instructed by Kutak to haul off old or damaged signs to the metal recycling business. Kutak, according to Friga, per the probable-cause statement, would collect the money paid for the items and divide it among the four men.

The probable-cause statement filed with the Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney's office by Perry indicated there was reason to believe that felony stealing occurred with the incidents, yet the men were charged with misdemeanors. The prosecuting attorney's office declined to comment on the charges Monday, because the case is pending.

Police spokesman Darin Hickey said police request that the most serious charges be filed for any crime, but the decision ultimately lies with the prosecutors.

Meyer declined to discuss the reason or any circumstances related to terminated or continued employment, citing privacy concerns related to personnel.

The city's employee manual lists theft as an example of a "Group III offense" with a recommended action of immediate termination.

Kutak, Carver and Dial are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges before Judge Gary A. Kamp at 1 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Cape Girardeau County courthouse in Jackson. No attorneys for the three are listed in online court records.

Friga has hired an attorney, Bryan Greaser, to represent him in the case. Greaser on Friday filed a request for change of judge on behalf of Friga, who was also set to appear before Kamp. As of Monday, no new court date for Friga had yet been set, but Greaser said in an email to the Southeast Missourian that he anticipates an arraignment date being set for later this month or in February.



Pertinent address:

2007 Southern Expressway, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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'Travis K. Friga, is still employed by the city'

'The city's employee manual lists theft as an example of a "Group III offense" with a recommended action of immediate termination.'

All involved and those who looked the other way should be terminated. The amount suggest the charges should be a felony.

-- Posted by profile123 on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 6:18 AM

What is the union's position on this case?

-- Posted by semowasp on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 6:38 AM

Whether or not it was ever written in stone or, just some good old ancient advice: "Thou shall not steal"

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 6:55 AM

These guys were just idiots. Lost decent jobs for a few hundred bucks.

-- Posted by newaroundhere on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 7:33 AM

"Travis K. Friga is still employed by the city" - there must be a good reason for this. Obviously he does not carry the same guilt as the others. I believe there is more to this story and it will come out in court.For now, people should not judge without knowing all the facts.

-- Posted by cam471 on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 9:08 AM

City of Cape Girardeau Less Taxes Less Government

-- Posted by falcon2412 on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 11:07 AM

"people should not judge without knowing all the facts"

Excuse me, these four thieves have been charged with stealing from taxpayers. I have every right to judge when someone steals from me. All who knew of these crimes and did nothing and all who took part should be fired immediately.

-- Posted by .com on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 1:48 PM

The key word you used is "charged". That does not mean "guilty". You do not have all the facts so your opinion means nothing.

-- Posted by cam471 on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 4:17 PM

my opinion is that they would of just threw it back in the trash...one mans trash is another mans treasure these guys are ontronures of 2014 they were said to steal old signs that apparently not being used for anything but collect dust or they took them after the job plus how much does the city of cape make and there always putting in stupid **** that means nothing and our roads are starting to look like crap the stop lights on west end/ independance...sprigg/74 and west end/74 all takes 10 mins to get threw due to faulty sensors. theres all kinds of things and now there making new roads down town they was the hell out of our tax money and have u seen the street cleaners and trash companies trucks there so ran down because there trying to save any way possible. they should let this go and just warn them not to do that ever again.

-- Posted by cyber_Demon11 on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 4:56 PM

"they would of just threw it back in the trash..."

Cyber, If an employee sees a means to recycle and get cash from "trash"; they should know the money is not theirs, but taxpayers. These guys knew they were stealing and should be fired.

KFVS reported new signs that were to be installed were also recycled for "trash".

Cam, You obviously have a vested interest, you or your loved one should have known better. The writing is on the wall.

-- Posted by persnickety on Tue, Jan 14, 2014, at 5:19 PM

In all likely hood the city would have recycled these materials and that money could have been used to serve the people of Cape. If they really did do this they should be Fired. Period!

-- Posted by E.A. on Wed, Jan 15, 2014, at 12:07 AM

The Public Works Dept is not unionized, semowasp.

-- Posted by sephora on Fri, Jan 24, 2014, at 11:44 PM

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