Edgerton City Council member had his Facebook identity stolen
Council member Josie Staumbaugh’s fake social media page. Screenshot courtesy of Josie Stambaugh
A Facebook social media account claiming to be Edgerton Town Council member Josie Stambaugh was revealed at the town council meeting on Thursday July 14.
Stambaugh addressed the council and said she spoke as a resident and business owner.
“It should be taken seriously,” she said. “It has come to my attention that a slanderous Facebook page mocking me with two council members engaging in it is out there.”
Stambaugh said the page titled Fauxsie Stambaugh using the logo of her hair salon Gypsy Rose was created in August and believed it was out of sheer malice.
She said council members Deb Lebakken and Josh Beem interacted with the site through comments and suspected that one of them created the page.
“My campaign money does not fund my personal life,” she said. “I work six days a week. I work hard. I own a successful business. It’s child bullying and cyberbullying. This should be an embarrassment to the city as a whole.
Stambaugh said she expected the site to be taken down immediately and wanted an apology.
Lebakken said it wasn’t his Facebook page. Beem has made no public comment.
Mayor Don Roberts said their city attorney, Lee Hendricks, warned them in the past about how they use social media sites as city officials once elected.
Hendricks said he understood Stambaugh’s frustration.
“I don’t know who created this,” he said. “I am against the council being on Facebook. I don’t see this as a city affair.
Stambaugh said it wouldn’t be a city business if she wasn’t on city council, but since she is, she sees it as something the city should help run.
Hendricks said he saw many unflattering posts about the city on social media.
“There will be ramifications to this, but I cannot be involved. This creates discontent and I will not dwell on it further.
Hendricks said he was not representing any individual government official, but the city as a whole.
“I take this seriously,” he said. “There are many facets to a case. The approach in prior litigation is that we do not comment on this. Some things here have gone off the rails. »
Stambaugh said she plans to take action and go public with the matter.
“I hope to shed some light on those named and elected and put it on the public record for public knowledge,” she said.
Stambaugh said the online comments were embarrassing and very rude.
“I find it very disrespectful that people laugh and scoff when their livelihoods are at stake,” she said.
Stambaugh told Gardner News that the level of immaturity associated with this page and the involvement of city council members who represent an entire city is not only in very bad taste, but also hurts his reputation and his business.
“The fact that this page has been active for over a year and I’m only discovering it now shows complete negligence on their part and I consider them defamation for what they said,” she said. declared. “I intend to file a police report and take legal action against them as this page was maliciously created with intent to harm my personal and professional life.”
Stambaugh filed a police report with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office the following afternoon. She said she spoke with two officers who said it was at the very least stalking and possibly impersonation.
Stambaugh said a warrant is in the works for Facebook to find the creator; as well as a stalking order against council members Deb Lebakken and Josh Beem, Nate Eggleston, John Daly and Shelby Roberts, wife of Mayor Don Roberts.
“An officer said because it involves my business and my staff (not just politics) that being ‘an elected official’ or being fair game is not accurate in this case,” she said. “I am appalled that the city takes no action to reprimand them for their actions and involvement. This should be embarrassing not just for the two referenced board members, but for Edgerton as a whole. I will continue to work for the residents and represent them with grace, understanding and class.
Stambaugh said he was told it was identity theft and criminal impersonation of an elected official.
However, on Monday afternoon, the wife of Edgerton police officer Brad Johnson told the sheriff’s department they shouldn’t be involved after screenshots of the engagement were shown. Officer Johnson on the page, she said.
“Captain Martinez and two officers said they couldn’t find a statute for these types of matters,” Stambaugh said. “They have their hands tied because of the district attorney.”
Stambaugh said she was disappointed with the sheriff’s department’s U-turn and hired former Johnson County prosecutor Jason Covington to represent her.
Gardner News contacted other public officials to find out how they would handle this type of issue.
Gardner city manager Jim Pruetting said Gardner had no slander policy but would encourage the party to hire an attorney. He said they would also give the party who created the fake page the option to take it down and hire a lawyer.
Sergeant Jesse Valdez, Johnson County Public Information Officer, said he was unsure if it was a fraud, but it looked like a tough case that required the assistance of an attorney. penalist.
He said that unfortunately people don’t hesitate to do anything about identity fraud.
Gardner News has also contacted Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office.
John Milburn, public information officer, said their office provides legal representation to the state and its agencies.
“As the principal legal adviser to the state government, the Attorney General may not serve as legal counsel or counsel to citizens or businesses, nor is the Attorney General authorized or allocated the resources necessary to provide legal advice, interpretation or advice to individuals or businesses,” he said. “You may wish to contact a private attorney for advice.”
In 1998, the Kansas Legislature passed a criminal law recognizing that those whose identity has been stolen are victims. KSA 21-4018 is considered a level 7 felony.
In 2016, Attorney General Derek Schmidt signed Bill 2460 into law. The bill requires companies, government agencies and others that collect and hold personal information about customers or others to exercise due diligence” to prevent information in their possession from being inappropriately disclosed to the identity. thieves or whoever.
“For better or for worse, we live in an age where information is truly power,” Schmidt said at the time. “All sorts of business and government entities, big and small, collect volumes of information about people that are supposed to be kept confidential. This new law ensures that there is legal recourse available to the Attorney General’s office when entities that collect this type of information fail to meet their duty to handle it properly to prevent unauthorized disclosure.
Schmidt said identity theft is one of the fastest growing crime categories in the United States.
“In a world where identity thieves go to great lengths to gain access to consumers’ personal information, it is no exaggeration to demand that businesses, government and other entities that collect individuals’ personal information at appropriate purposes be cited to exercise due diligence to prevent their inappropriate disclosure to scammers and criminals,” he said.
At press time, Gardner News was unable to find any specific laws on impersonating a government official outside of law enforcement, the election office, or officials of health.
However, in February this year, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple sued three lawmakers in a libel case that began in 2019: Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, former City Councilman James Clendinin of Wichita and former State Representative Michael Capps.
They were being sued for false attack advertising during the mayor’s 2019 campaign.
One of the alleged misrepresentations claimed the mayor had sexually harassed women.
Lawyers said their defendants did not know the statements were false.
Mayor Whipple’s counter-lawyer argued that they knew this and even though Whipple won the mayoral election, he still has merit and caused damage to his reputation.
The case begins on July 11.
Gardner News could not receive a response from the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office at press time.