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County to recoup cost of legal proceedings
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For Barton County, crime may pay.

Officials learned Wednesday the county will likely be reimbursed by the state for expenses stemming from a single costly legal proceeding last year. A notice from the Legislative Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State indicated the claim for $22,166.36 had been approved.

“It’s a real positive for Barton County,” said Mike Keeley, 20th Judicial District chief judge. “We’re real excited.”

Keeley was joined by county commissioners for a telephone hearing with the committee last week. “It was definitely worth our time.”

According to Keeley, there is a state statute that allows for convicted repeat sex offenders to be committed to the Larned State Hospital Sexual Predator Unit following the completion of their criminal sentence. However, this is a civil commitment that comes after a review by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, so the individual is entitled to commitment proceedings in the county where the offense took place.

This is a 2016 case in involving Robert Sigler and crime that took place in Barton County. Sigler remains at LSH.

These cases can drag out for months and get expensive with attorneys’ fees, special witnesses and other costs, Keeley said. The same statute requires the county to pick up the tab for all of this.

There is help, he said. The county is supposed to be reimbursed by the state, but funds aren’t always available.

So, a county can file a special application, submit the bills and attend the hearing, all of which Barton county had done.

Enter the note from the committee.

“It is the recommendation of the committee to allow $22,166.36 in response to your claim. Legislation supporting the recommendation will be introduced, and if enacted, payment will be made summer, 2017,” it reads. “It will be your responsibility to track the legislation through the legislative process and to keep us advised of any change of address which you might have.”

It is still not a done deal, Keeley said. Lawmakers still have to approve the expenditure, but he is optimistic.

The Barton County claim was one of several being considered by the Legislative Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State this year.

Keeley said Barton County has successfully done this before.