Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler arrested on charge of perjury, released from JoCo jail

Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler faces a felony charge of perjury in Johnson County District Court. Above, Distler gives remarks at a State of the City address in February. File photo.

Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler faces a felony charge of perjury in Johnson County District Court.

Distler was arrested, booked and released on a $2,500 bond from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler was booked into Johnson County Jail on Wednesday and released on a $2,500 bond.

The Johnson County District Attorney’s office reported in a charging document for the case that Distler did “unlawfully, feloniously, intentionally, and falsely subscribe as true and correct under penalty of perjury any material matter in any declaration, verification, certificate or statement.”

The alleged act(s) occurred around Saturday, March 7, according to court documents.

Distler’s defense attorney, Robin D. Fowler of Bath & Edmonds, provided the following statement on Thursday afternoon:

“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.”

The charging document also names more than 30 individuals and organizations as witnesses, including:

  • Former Kansas state Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook
  • Shawnee councilmembers Eric Jenkins, Mike Kemmling, Kurt Knappen and Tammy Thomas
  • Former Shawnee councilmembers Kevin Straub and Tracy Thomas
  • Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe
  • Shawnee City Attorney Ellis Rainey
  • Shawnee City Manager Nolan Sunderman
  • Lisa Mendoza with Bayer Pharmaceuticals (Distler works for Bayer)
  • Sheila Wodtke, treasurer for state Sen. Mike Thompson’s campaign
  • Ray Erlichman, the author of the blog Shawnee Ray’s Ramblings
  • 911 Dispatch Personnel
  • Johnson County Crime Lab Personnel
  • Kansas Attorney General’s Office Personnel

The witness list also includes Mike Frizzell, a freelance reporter who often files stories for the Shawnee Mission Post. He has not contributed to reporting on this story.

The city of Shawnee released the following statement:

“The City was notified that the Johnson County District Attorney filed a charge against Mayor Michelle Distler on December 2, 2020. We want to reassure our community that City services and programs will not be impacted. Any further questions about the charge need to be directed to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office.”

When reached by the Post for comment Wednesday, Rainey said he has “absolutely no knowledge” as to why his name is on the list. Councilmembers Jenkins and Knappen said the same.

“I don’t even know what it is for sure,” he said. “I’m at a loss. We know there’s a perjury charge against the mayor, and we don’t know what the perjury is about. Apparently I’m supposed to know because I’m going to be a witness, but I can’t tell you what it is. I have no idea.”

The district attorney’s office filed the case Monday, Nov. 23.

Distler’s first appearance in Johnson County District Court is set for Jan. 5.

Distler was first sworn into office as mayor in April 2015 and was re-elected to her second term in November 2019. She previously served on the city council from April 2006 to 2015.

Distler did not immediately return a request for comment.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. Dec. 3 to include a statement from Robin D. Fowler, Distler’s defense attorney.