by Ivan Foley
The human resources director for Platte County faces a felony charge as a persistent DWI offender after what court documents indicate is her fourth alcohol-related arrest.
Mary Robinson, 43, the county’s HR director since 2009, was arrested most recently on a DWI charge in late June at a sobriety checkpoint in Platte City. Authorities say her blood alcohol content was .174, more than twice the legal limit of .08.
If convicted, punishment for the felony DWI charge as a persistent offender is up to four years in prison.
The felony charge came down last Wednesday afternoon after The Landmark had gone to press. It was reported as breaking news that day by The Landmark on Twitter @ivanfoley.
Robinson is free after posting 10% of a $10,000 bond last Wednesday. Special conditions of her bond include no consumption of alcohol, SCRAM alcohol monitoring system, and no driving “unless properly licensed and insured,” according to court documents.
SCRAM is an acronym for secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring. Typically an ankle bracelet is worn to test for alcohol vapors.
A court appearance on the charge is on the docket for Sept. 2 in the courtroom of Judge Quint Shafer.
The office of Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley is prosecuting Robinson’s felony charge after the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office had recused itself from the case.
As HR director, Robinson reports directly to the Platte County Commission. The commissioners held a closed door session with legal counsel Friday afternoon, presumably to discuss Robinson’s situation.
Minutes from that two-hour meeting do not indicate any motions were made during the closed session. Two attorneys for the county were present. Of note, minutes indicate that Duane Soper, second district county commissioner, left the room at some point during the discussion, likely an indication that Soper recused himself from at least a portion of the discussion. The Soper and Robinson families are apparently friends, as the couples have often been seen socializing together at businesss establishments.
Asked about the matter this week, Platte County Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown said: "This is an ongoing personnel matter and I will not comment on it, nor will I speak for other commissioners."
Soper is out of town this week on a previously planned vacation.
About a week after her June arrest on the latest DWI accusation, county commissioners on a 2-0 vote suspended Robinson’s right to drive county vehicles. Robinson told The Landmark in a brief interview that week: “I have never driven a county vehicle.”
Robinson was driving her personally owned 2001 Honda CRV at the time of her arrest in Platte City.
According to a statement of probable cause filed with the felony charge, background investigation by authorities revealed Robinson has had at least three previous DWI offenses.
Court documents say Robinson has three DWI convictions in the state of New York under the last name of Dolan in her criminal history.
Court records indicate Robinson, who is the wife of Platte County Auditor Kevin Robinson, has a conviction of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated in Dover Plain, NY in 1988; a DWI in Colony Town, NY in 1999; and a DWI conviction in East Greenbush Town, NY in 2001.
Robinson’s address is listed as being on Hillview Road Circle, Kansas City in Platte County, which is about 12 miles south of Platte City. Her defense attorney is listed as Mark Ferguson.
Her most recent arrest came on Friday, June 27 at about 9:30 p.m. as she was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint being conducted by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department in Platte City on Hwy. 92 at Prairie View Rd. in front of Platte County High School.
Officers noticed a strong odor of intoxicants coming from her breath, they say, and Robinson performed poorly on standardized field sobriety tests. A portable breath test was positive for alcohol, officers say. Robinson submitted to a chemical test of her breath which revealed the .174 blood alcohol content, according to court papers.
She was taken to the Platte County Jail where she was booked before being released a short time later on bond.
In court documents, the arresting officer, Deputy Katie Mendoza, says she considers Robinson “a danger to the community or to any other person.”
“Ms. Robinson operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit of .08 and she stated that she did not feel as if she was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, showing that Ms. Robinson’s judgment is extremely impaired by the consumption of alcohol,” Mendoza says.
“Ms. Robinson also has numerous alcohol contacts from New York as recent as 2011,” according to Mendoza’s statement in court documents.
In her incident report, the arresting officer says:
“I asked Ms. Robinson if she had consumed any alcoholic beverages and she stated that she had a few to drink before picking up her car at Maria’s (a restaurant on Hwy. 92 in Platte City). Ms. Robinson’s speech was slurred and her eyes were bloodshot and glassy,” the report says.
Robinson later added that she had been at the Avalon restaurant in Weston prior to picking up her car at Maria’s. She told the officer that she had four drinks, which were rum and coke, between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.
NOT HER FIRST TIME IN TROUBLE WITH HER EMPLOYER
The June arrest wasn’t the first piece of controversy for Robinson and the HR office in her time with the county. Most recently, some ire was raised within the administration building when an employee in Robinson’s office was the only worker in the county complex to receive a pay increase in the 2014 budget. The worker was given a 10% pay hike, even though county commissioners had publicly indicated no county employees would be receiving raises. The Landmark broke the story on Jan. 1 after noticing the salary line in the HR budget had been increased by $2,700.
Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, said he argued against the raise. Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, associate commissioners, supported the pay increase for Robinson’s worker.
In 2012, Robinson was issued a written reprimand by then-county commissioners Jason Brown and Kathy Dusenbery. The vote was 2-0, with then-commissioner Jim Plunkett absent.
Minutes from that meeting do not indicate why the action was taken. Robinson, in a phone interview with The Landmark at that time, said: “I haven’t done anything to warrant disciplinary action.”
Brown and Dusenbery declined to comment on the reason for the action, citing the topic as a personnel matter.
A set of minutes originally issued from an Oct. 15, 2012 meeting of county commissioners indicated that on a 2-1 vote, with Plunkett opposed, Robinson would be suspended for one day without pay and that she be required to attend training sessions. “In particular, the sessions are to be oriented toward the human resources director position and are to relate to confidentiality and professionalism issues.”
Those minutes were subsequently pulled from the county record by Bob Shaw, county attorney, according to Plunkett at the time, and replaced with minutes that did not reflect any vote taken in the closed session. Shaw told Plunkett he was pulling the original minutes because the vote taken was not a “final” vote on the topic.
Following that Oct. 15, 2012, vote, Robinson hired an attorney to correspond with the county on her behalf. Ten days after a letter from Robinson’s attorney, commissioners Brown and Dusenbery voted to issue the reprimand to Robinson.
In an interview after that decision by the commission, Robinson told The Landmark she had not been told by the county what she is alleged to have said or done that led to the reprimand.
Robinson’s hiring in 2009 in itself had raised eyebrows. At the time she worked for a firm called People Wise, owned and operated by her husband Kevin, now the county auditor.
People Wise was hired in the fall of 2009 by the county commission of Betty Knight, Plunkett and Dusenbery to conduct a “management audit” of the county’s human resources department after allegations of multiple payroll mistakes had been alleged by then-county auditor Siobhann Williams and confirmed by the county’s outside auditor.
As the controversy brewed, the county commission, in the middle of what became a well-publicized feud with auditor Williams, took action to hire a third “audit” of the department.
The contract penned between People Wise and the county called for total costs of $9,000 for the management audit. The contract noted that People Wise’s billable rate is $125 per hour but “has been reduced to $56.25 per hour in consideration of current and future projects for the county.”
Two months later, Mary Robinson was hired by Knight, Plunkett and Dusenbery as the new county HR director.
At the time, Kevin Robinson served on the board of directors of the Platte City Chamber of Commerce and Knight was an advisory board member for the Chamber of Commerce.
Knight defended the hiring of Mary Robinson in a 2009 interview with The Landmark.
“We watched what she was doing and were really impressed by her knowledge of the HR office as a whole, not necessarily our office. We had no idea that she would want to accept a position,” Knight said.