TV6 Investigates: Court documents reveal new details surrounding Blue Grass police chief investigation

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 10:30 PM CDT
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BLUE GRASS, Iowa (KWQC) - Recently filed court documents reveal new details surrounding the circumstances that led city leaders to place Blue Grass Police Chief Bobby Flaherty on administrative leave.

Officials have remained largely silent since Flaherty was placed on leave following a special city council meeting on Sept. 8.

However, an affidavit filed Sept. 27 by the Iowa Division of Investigation in support of a search warrant appears to link the chief’s leave to an investigation involving the arrest of Blue Grass City Councilman Matt Sampson in July and the resignation of the officer who arrested him.

The search warrant was issued for Flaherty, his home and his vehicle.

A message left for Flaherty was not immediately returned Thursday night.

Around 2:47 a.m. July 3, Officer Mason Wilson pulled over Sampson for driving a golf cart/UTV after hours, a violation of city ordinance.

According to an arrest affidavit, Wilson detected the odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle and noted that Sampson had slurred speech and was slow to respond to questions.

He failed a field sobriety test and blew a .205 on a preliminary breath test, according to the affidavit. Sampson refused to give a breath or urine sample after implied consent was read to him.

Sampson was charged with operating while intoxicated-second offense, an aggravated misdemeanor.

According to an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant:

Following Sampson’s arrest, Wilson sent a text message to Flaherty, a second officer, and Mayor Brad Schutte about the arrest.

Later that morning, Wilson received a call that said, “Hi Mason, this is Matt Sampson, the guy you arrested last night…

“You’re a piece of s*** for doing what you did to me last should have let me go since I was two blocks away from home...I resigned from the City Council and that is your fault... I’ll make sure your law enforcement career ends here in Blue Grass...enjoy your law enforcement career elsewhere...”

Just before 6 p.m., Wilson emailed Flaherty to document the phone call with Sampson. He also attached a screenshot of his cell phone log.

On July 5, Flaherty rejected Wilson’s OWI report because it detailed Sampson calling Wilson’s personal phone and threatening him.

Flaherty told Wilson that the reason for the rejection of the report is because the phone call is not an element of the crime of OWI and could potentially lead to other legal consequences for Sampson.

On July 6, Wilson sought advice from others and decided to include the phone call in a supplemental report.

The next day, he delivered a hard copy to the Scott County Attorney’s Office. Supplemental reports being delivered to the county attorney’s office is considered standard practice for Blue Grass police.

On July 19, Wilson was called into a meeting with Flaherty. The mayor also was there.

Flaherty issued Wilson a letter of reprimand for “disobeying order from a superior and included not factual information in the report...’’.

He also requested Wilson’s letter of resignation the following day.

During an Aug. 1 city council meeting, Sampon resigned as mayor pro tem but retained his position as a city council member.

The Scott County Sheriff’s office conducted a check on the phone number that called Wilson and found that there are previous calls associated with Sampson.

An examination of his cell phone records also showed that Sampson was in communication with Flaherty and the mayor after he was arrested on July 3 until Wilson’s resignation was accepted on Aug. 15.

On Aug. 24, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation took over the investigation from the sheriff’s office, according to the affidavit.

TV6 also reached out to both Sampson and Schutte Thursday night. Sampson hung up the phone when a reporter identified himself.

Schutte declined to comment.

On Sept. 21, the mayor and city council members posted a message to Facebook confirming Flaherty had been placed on leave and that they are “doing our very best to protect the City and be assured, we are doing everything in our power to keep the City safe.

“We are anxious to get our Police Chief back so he can continue to serve and protect Blue Grass.”

Sampson’s attorney in the OWI case, Ryan Beckenbaugh, filed a motion for discovery on Sept. 26 that acknowledged that Wilson included a police report “which appears to accuse the Chief of Police of Blue Grass of certain actions” and also accuses Sampson of “making a phone call to the officer and threatening the officer’s job.”

“Upon information and belief, the former officer has made admissions to the police chief regarding making untrue or false statements within the course of conduct of his employment,” the attorney wrote in the motion. “Upon information and belief, these statements were captured on a recording device.”

Beckenbaugh further wrote that given Wilson’s “extreme accusations” in the court documents, “the officer’s credibility is absolutely material in this case” and asked for Wilson’s personnel file from the Blue Grass Police Department and the Bettendorf Police Department where he previously worked.

Online court records do not indicate whether a judge has ruled on the motion as of Thursday night.