Editor’s Note: The following story involves controversy surrounding City of Vandalia officials and three police officers who were let go at the beginning of the week before reportedly being re-instated by the end of the week. My goal was to present the facts of the case and views from both sides of the controversies. More information is being pursued on other matters as well.
By Ron Schott
The Vandalia Leader
Traffic citations issued to the new Police Chief and the City Administrator followed by the removal and later reinstatements of three police officers led to an array of emotions felt by those involved during the last two weeks in the City of Vandalia.
The citations issued to two city officials did not first appear in the Vandalia Police Report submitted to the newspaper on Tuesday, January 17.
This led to “The Vandalia Leader,” who was made aware of the citations, to submit an official Sunshine Law request for the public records certain types of citations issued January 10-12. Records were provided to the newspaper on Friday, January 20.
After this past week, the citations issued to both city officials do now appear in the Vandalia Police Report in this week’s issue.
Traffic citations for Vandalia Police Chief Christopher Hammann
The situation involving new Police Chief Christopher Hammann reportedly began on January 6.
According to two different incident reports filed by officers Ray Bumbales and William Parker, Chief Hammann was reportedly driving a 2001 Ford Taurus with no front or rear license plates on the vehicle.
Officer Bumbales said he received an anonymous complaint that Chief Hammann was driving this car while in full uniform with no license plates.
He then observed this action on police video as he noted that Chief Hammann later entered the south door of the police station.
“That’s something I’ve never seen before,” Chief Hammann told the Leader about an officer reviewing video to check on an item like a vehicle’s tags.
Nearly five hours later, Officer Parker was on duty. He said when he entered the station he asked whose vehicle was outside the front of the vehicle.
In his report he said Chief Hammann informed him that he bought the car that day and drove it to work from his residence. Officer Parker said he then informed the chief that he could legally drive the car back home and get it inspected but it was not legal to drive the vehicle without any license on the vehicle.
Chief Hammann later confirmed to”The Vandalia Leader” that he bought the vehicle from a private party and there was an issue with signatures on the title.
The vehicle was also licensed to his fiancée and not him.
On January 10, Officer Bumbales noted in his report that “several city officials” said Chief Hammann once again was in uniform driving the same vehicle with no license plates. The officer said he saw the vehicle parked next to the police station among others at the time of the City Council meeting..
He noted in his report that Chief Hammann told him he was worried about traveling through Laddonia as he could get a ticket for the same offense, this according to Officer.
As Officer Bumbales went off duty, Officer Parker went on duty and received an anonymous complain on the same matter. Officer Parker said this person complained that if “someone else had been driving that vehicle” officers would have pulled them over and ticketed the individual for having no plates.
After transporting a person to the Pike County Jail, Officer Parker returned to Vandalia and reportedly saw Chief Hammann’s vehicle with no plates.
“I thought I had 30 days to license it,” he told the Leader and was what he reportedly told Officer Parker.
“I informed him that he was correct, but that did not make it okay or legal to drive it anywhere he wanted,” Officer Parker said in his report.
Officer Parker wrote a citation for “Failure to Register Motor Vehicle” and released him a no signature bond with a court date of February 28, 2017.
Meanwhile, Officer Bumbales, who had not written the chief a ticket as of yet, met one day later reportedly with Sgt. William Jones and Mayor Ralph Kuda. He said in the report that he feared losing his job if he issued a summons to the new police chief, who was still working in a part-time capacity. Officer Bumbales, in his report, said he was given support and noted that “the police chief should know better.”
Officer Bumbales issued a “Failure to Register Motor Vehicle” citation and sent it certified mail to an address Chief Hammann no longer lives at.
“The day I got my mailed ticket, it was licensed with a temporary tag,” Chief Hammann said.
He later showed a proof of his temporary tag to the Leader, showing a permit issued date of January 11, 2017.
Chief Hammann also said he was concerned that the citation was written up like a traffic ticket though he was not pulled over for the nonmoving violation.
“How do you report it,” he noted as he discussed traffic statistics. “…A traffic stat on a vehicle you didn’t stop.”
“As a citizen of Vandalia, I think it’s wrong for a police chief to come to work in full uniform in an illegal vehicle,” Officer Parker said on record. “It makes us look bad, the town look bad, and makes us look bad as a department…I think it’s ridiculous that a police chief drives a distance that he did in a illegal vehicle to our town. He should know that it is illegal to do so. What if he pulled over someone for the same thing?…The police chief is held to a higher standard, higher than a patrolman, in my opinion.”
On Thursday, January 12, the saga continued as Chief Hammann was driving on his way home through Farber in a different vehicle, a 2008 Ford Expedition.
Officer Bumbales, who is also the Chief of Police for the Farber Police Department, pulled over the vehicle for “Excessive Speed” through town.
“I stopped him for going 5 m.p.h. over though my radar gun locked in at 47 m.p.h.,” Farber Police Chief Bumbales noted. “I was being nice to him and didn’t write him up at 50 m.p.h.”
Chief Hammann was also issued a citation for “Failure to Show Proof of Valid Insurance” as he was unable to produce proof at the time of the stop.
Chief Bumbales said it was “pitch black” and he had know idea he was pulling over the Vandalia Police Chief until he approached the vehicle to make contact with the driver.
He said he first called for a deputy over the radio to provide back-up for the call knowing the situation. With no deputy available, a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper was dispatched in his direction.
Meanwhile, Chief Hammann felt like he was being targeted and called the Missouri State Highway Patrol himself to have a trooper sent to assist with the stop.
Chief Hammann said never in his life had he heard of an officer issue a ticket for going 2 m.p.h. over the speed limit.
“…I am filing a complaint with Farber (city and police department),” he said at the time of the interview.
The traffic stop reportedly lasted for nearly an hour.
Chief Bumbales said he increased his presence on Highway 54 going through Farber and also said he has pulled over drivers going 1 m.p.h. an 2 m.p.h. over the speed limit in the past. He said he’s always on the lookout for infractions to give probable cause to make a stop with the possibility of discovering other issues like a driver under the influence or one with contraband.
Citations involving City Administrator Chase Waggoner
On January 10, Officer Bumbales, in his report, said he was following up numerous complains regarding a small white camper with Kansas expired license plates that was reportedly parked on the roadway on Joe St. near Main St.
The 1984 Dolphin motor home/camper was owned by City of Vandalia’s City Administrator Chase Waggoner.
The vehicle received a 48-hour tow sticker due to the vehicle reportedly being in the roadway, which led to a traffic violation being written. The citation was for “Failure to Move Abandoned/Derelict Vehicle Obstructing Traffic Flow.”
Read the rest of this story in our January 25 issue of “The Vandalia Leader” or purchase an electronic edition at https://www.vandalialeader.com/subscribe/