The Hiawatha city administrator is facing several traffic charges — including leaving the scene of an accident, open container and failure to stay on the roadway — in connection with an incident that occurred in Belton, Missouri, on May 11.
Lt. Dan Davis, public information officer for Belton Police Department, confirmed that Rebecca G. Berger, 42, of Atchison was arrested following an incident at approximately 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 11 within their city limits.
Lt. Davis told the Hiawatha World that a call had come in to dispatch at 12:42 p.m. that day about a woman asleep in a vehicle — that had visible damage to it — at a gas station on the west end of town. Lt. Davis said an officer was en route to the gas station when he passed the reported vehicle headed eastbound on Highway 58 and noted it was driving erratically on the roadway.
He said the officer turned around to follow the vehicle and engaged lights and sirens, however the driver failed to yield to the police officer’s attempts to stop.
Lt. Davis said the officer turned off the lights and sirens and continued to follow the vehicle, noticing a continuation in erratic driving that included the vehicle driving straight through the median of two roundabouts and failing to stop at stop signs. He said the route took the vehicle past three schools — Cambridge Elementary, Belton Middle School and Scott School — and the police officer once again engaged lights and sirens in an attempt to stop the vehicle.
Lt. Davis said the vehicle crashed head-first into a tree into a residential yard near 182nd and S. Scott. He said the police officer took the driver — identified as Berger — into custody at the scene and noted that while she did not appear injured the officer had an ambulance meet them at the police station when they transported her back to check for injuries.
Berger is facing several traffic citations, including open container, failure to stay on the pavement, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to yield to lights and sirens along with failure to drive on right side of roadway. Lt. Davis said the charge of leaving the scene of an accident is due to the initial damage to her vehicle, where it was located at the gas station.
Lt. Davis said a Breathalyzer was given, but noted it was unable to be completed. He said a field sobriety test was also given, and due to the inability to complete a Breathalyzer, a blood draw was taken and sent to the Missouri Highway Patrol to test Berger’s blood-alcohol levels. He said it could take 2-3 months to receive the lab results, so noted that further charges could be possible once results were back.
Berger bonded out of jail and is set for a hearing July 18.
Berger, former city manager in Atchison, was hired as the Hiawatha City Administrator in November and took over the position in January. The Hiawatha City Commission met in regular session this week but has not publicly addressed the incident involving Berger. At Monday’s meeting, they went into a brief Executive Session, but no action was taken following.
The Hiawatha World reached out to Mayor Becky Shamburg for a comment concerning this incident and she responded that she could not comment on city personnel and referred any questions to the city attorney. The World reached out to City Attorney Andy Delaney for a comment via email and his response was “the City of Hiawatha does not comment on personnel matters.”
While the Hiawatha city officials have also not commented concerning Berger’s whereabouts on this day, it was noted on the May 8 agenda for the City Commission meeting that Berger had planned to attend the Mid-America Economic Development Council Conference on “2023 Best Practices” from May 10-12 in Kansas City, Mo., at Hotel Kansas City. According to the conference schedule, the time period of 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Thursday, May 11 was keynote speaker Ron Frierson, director of economic development for the U.S. West Region at Amazon on “Fireside Chat-Dynamic Business Attraction, Retention, and Recovery.”