Although he never resided in our city, Lee’s Summit should be saddened that Ted White Sr. passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 16. White, a 72-year-old optometrist from Aurora, Mo., is the father of Ted White Jr. – who just received a $15.5 million settlement from the city of Lee’s Summit.

Although he never resided in our city, Lee’s Summit should be saddened that Ted White Sr. passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 16. White, a 72-year-old optometrist from Aurora, Mo., is the father of Ted White Jr. – who just received a $15.5 million settlement from the city of Lee’s Summit.

Court documents show that Ted White Jr. was falsely charged in 1998 of molesting his then-stepdaughter; and, that Richard McKinley, the arresting Lee’s Summit police officer, was having an affair with Ted’s wife, Tina, during the investigation. McKinley and Tina White married a short time after Ted White Jr.’s conviction.

Because of White’s felony conviction, Tina received, among other things, all of White’s shares in his previous company, valued at approximately $600,000. Although Lee’s Summit’s then-police chief, Ken Conlee, and the Jackson County prosecutor knew of the affair, it was kept secret from Ted White, his attorneys and the jury. White went through three criminal trials and spent nearly six horrible years in prison before being acquitted in 2005. He then sued the city, Conlee, and Richard and Tina McKinley. In 2006, Lee’s Summit signed an agreement to pay any judgment for compensatory damages the court might find against Richard McKinley, along with attorney fees and interest, in exchange for the city and Conlee being released as defendants.

    On August 29, 2008, the U.S. District Court returned a verdict in favor of White for $14 million in compensatory (actual) damages against Richard McKinley, plus $1 million each in punitive damages against Richard and Tina McKinley, along with legal fees and interest. McKinley appealed the case all the way to the U.S Supreme Court, losing each time. On July 6, 2010, the date the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied McKinley’s appeal and affirmed the multi-million-dollar award, Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads issued a public statement saying that despite the city signing the indemnification agreement promising to pay such a verdict, “paying any damages in this case would be a violation of city ordinances.”

Legal battles continued for almost three years after White won his civil case, before the city finally paid him $15.5 million – just four weeks ago, on July 22. The following day, White drove to Aurora and gave his parents a check for $1 million. White said his parents’, siblings’ and friends’ lives had been turned upside down for 13 years because of his legal nightmare. His father and his mother, Myrna White, had to go back to work to help pay Ted’s legal fees. They mortgaged everything they could and were driven to bankruptcy in an effort to obtain their beloved son’s freedom and restore his reputation. His father’s health badly deteriorated during the 13-year nightmare, presumably due to extreme stress and over-working.

We all want our city to perform due diligence before writing huge checks with our tax dollars; but one has to wonder how much better life would have been for Ted White’s family if the check had been written (as agreed to) three years ago when the verdict was handed down.

Upon announcing on July 22, that the city had finally received clarity regarding its legal obligations and could now pay Ted White Jr. his $15.5 million settlement, Mayor Rhoads stated that the city is “hopeful that this settlement provides closure for Mr. White and his family.” That’s the closest the White family ever got to the apology they requested from the city.

Unfortunately, after a hellish 13 years, Ted White Sr. passed away only 25 days after the city satisfied its legal obligation. He never had the chance to re-establish a connection with his three grandchildren, two of whom are now grown adults, raised by Richard and Tina McKinley. A tragic story has become even more tragic.

Still, I’m told the last three weeks of Dr. White’s life were the most peaceful and happy weeks of the past 13 years. At least he died knowing the nightmare was finally over.