The mayor of Tonganoxie resigned Wednesday after being caught sending pornographic e-mails for a second time from a city-owned computer.
Mayor Mike Vestal sent a pornographic e-mail to the brother of City Councilwoman Paula Crook. The e-mail, which contained several photos of a nude woman, was sent from a computer Vestal uses for his city-contracted answering service. Vestal forwarded a similarly risqué e-mail in September 2007 to several friends and — unintentionally — to a Lawrence television reporter.
Vestal said he didn’t want those mistakes to distract from city business.
“The things I did were in the past and I’m not going to do them again, whether people believe that or not,” he said. “I wanted to get the focus off of me and back to where it really should be.”
City Council President Jason Ward is now serving as acting mayor.
Crook referred to the most recent e-mail several times at Monday’s City Council meeting and called for a termination of Vestal’s contract to provide an answering service for the city. Vestal receives $1,200 each month for answering non-emergency and administrative calls; 911 calls are answered by Leavenworth County dispatchers.
City Administrator Michael Yanez said the service is not functionally necessary but does provide a convenience to residents. The City Council discussed cutting the service in April, and the issue may come up again Aug. 9, when the council finalizes next year’s budget.
Yanez said he, the chief of police and the city attorney met after the e-mail came to light and sent a letter reprimanding Vestal. He said the letter made clear that any further inappropriate use of city property would result in the termination of his contract. Because he’s a contractor, Vestal is not subject to the same rules that govern city employees, though his use of a city computer can be regulated, Yanez said.
“In good faith, we just provided him proper notice not to do this again — or else,” Yanez said. “Administratively it has been dealt with.”
Though the council could decide otherwise, Vestal has no intention of giving up his contract. He says, with the help of his minister, he’s a changed man and wants to put the incidents behind him.
“I delete all the e-mails I get now, unless they’re city oriented,” he said. “I just pray to God people forgive me and move on.”