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Talent mayor testifies in former city manager's trial

Lost City Council meeting minutes, a ribbon-cutting conflicting with the mayor’s wedding, and particulars in an oft-proposed hilltop housing development were among the hours of conversations that Talent’s former city manager allegedly recorded.

Thomas John Corrigan showed little emotion at his first day of trial Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, where he faces 10 misdemeanor counts of obtaining contents of communications accusing him of secretly recording conversations on his smartphone without the mayor or city employees' knowledge or consent.

At least half of the recordings made between April and November 2017 involved Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood, according to more than two hours of recordings that Senior Assistant Attorney General Amy Seely played for the six-person jury.

Ayers-Flood testified that she never authorized any of the recordings, which spanned a wide variety of topics and importance. In some instances on the recordings — from which at least four were in Ayers-Flood’s office — the conversations are mundane banter about Corrigan’s weight loss and the mayor’s appearance at a Phoenix High School homecoming parade, while other recordings discuss more substantial matters, such as a September 2017 conversation surrounding the “Belmont project” housing development. According to earlier Mail Tribune news reports, the proposed 49-home project in the 200 block of Belmont Road has been in limbo for more than a decade.

“It’s the project that won’t end,” Ayers-Flood told the court before Seely played the file.

Corrigan’s conversation touched on the property’s proximity to railroad access, a Talent Irrigation District ditch near the property, along with neighboring residents’ concerns about the project.

In the 15-minute recording, Ayers-Flood told Corrigan she was committed to keeping the city’s handling of the project on the up and up.

“I am not going to align with anybody where we’re talking behind each other’s backs,” Ayers-Flood said in the recording.

One of the earliest recordings was made at the end of an April 19, 2017, City Council meeting, which was officially recorded in Talent’s town hall. Corrigan’s phone, however, continued recording as Ayers-Flood discussed how she wanted to look into lost City Council meeting minutes.

“The best thing we can do as a community is step right up,” Ayers-Flood said in the recordings.

She described seeking feedback from staff while Corrigan relayed staff members’ morale concerns about the records.

“It’s going to go forward in one fashion or another,” Ayers-Flood said. “I want to get it out of the way so we can move onto bigger projects.”

Corrigan’s trial will continue Thursday.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Photo courtesy cityoftalent.org