Camden County Courthouse

photo by Janet Dabbs

CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. — Camden County Prosecutor Heather Miller has requested a special prosecutor to handle the fallout from two issues that have turned dramatic in the county commission in recent weeks.

Towards the end of 2020, some citizens along with incoming commissioner James Gohagan raised concerns about alleged improper use of county funds. They claimed a private road in the county was treated with gravel as payback for the road-owner's donation to Commissioner Don Williams' reelection campaign.

An investigation was requested and passed on to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which, according to Prosecutor Miller, confirmed it had undertaken an investigation on Jan. 7, 2021.

Also on Jan. 7, an altercation occurred in a Camden County building where the commissioners' offices are located. Gohagan says he was barred from entering his office and was detained inside the building for a period of time against his will. Gohagan officially began work as a commissioner on Monday, Jan. 4. Audio of the encounter reveals an especially heated exchange between one man—reportedly a county maintenance employee—and Gohagan. The sheriff's office was called.

During the exchange, audio reveals the employee alleged Gohagan had a pistol in his desk drawer (which is legal, per county ordinance: elected officials may carry a firearm in county buildings).

Prosecutor Miller says she has requested a special prosecutor to handle both incidents, "in order to promote full transparency and avoid any appearance of impropriety."

Miller's press release, issued on Friday, Jan. 8, is below in full.

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In light of recent events the Office of the Camden County Prosecuting Attorney is releasing the following information:

On December 11, 2020, the Camden County Sheriff’s Department and the Camden County Prosecutor were made aware of allegations concerning the misallocation of Camden County resources.  Individuals within the community provided the Camden County Sheriff’s Department information that Camden County Road and Bridge had laid over mile of gravel on private property.

On December 16, 2020, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and the Camden County Sheriff requested that the Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control conduct an independent investigation into what has been commonly referred to as “Gravel Gate.” The Camden County Sheriff’s Department continued to preserve evidence until the request was granted.

On December 18, 2020 the Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control confirmed that they had received the official request and it had been submitted to supervisors for approval. 

On January 7, 2021, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control confirmed that it had officially undertaken the investigation of “Gravel Gate.”

Also on January 7, 2021 a confrontation occurred at the Camden County Commissioner’s Office.  The Child Support Unit of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office is housed in the same building as the Commissioner’s Offices and staff members were present at the time of the confrontation.

Because staff of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office were witnesses to the confrontation, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney is ethically disqualified from any involvement in the prosecution of cases which may arise.

Moreover, both events center on the Camden County Commission and appear to be part of an evolving situation.

Therefore, on January 8, 2021 the Camden County Prosecutor Heather Miller filed Motions for Special Prosecutor in both the “Gravel Gate” and January 7th confrontation in order to promote full transparency and avoid any appearance of impropriety. 

Finally, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office is not an investigative agency and cannot take reports or evidence from the community.  Persons with information on either incident are encouraged to contact the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Due to the Motions for Special Prosecutor there will be no further releases of information on either of these events from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.  Any further information should be sought via Sunshine Law Request from the appropriate agency.

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