Clendenin and County Commission release statements, Wichita Chamber reacts, DA opens investigation

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, in cooperation with the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department, has opened an investigation into an attack ad involving lawmakers.

A lawsuit claims Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin, and Rep. Michael Capps, Kansas District 85, attempted to defame Mayor BrandonWhipple by creating a false attack ad during his run for mayor last year.

Clendenin sent KSN a statement saying he won’t be able to make expansive comments because it is a pending legal matter.

But he said he wants to make 5 things clear:

Vice Mayor James Clendenin sat down with KSN Wednesday after Bombardier's layoff announcement._258181
James Clendenin (KSN photo)
  1. “I am proud of the many years of honorable service I’ve been fortunate to provide for the residents of Wichita and particularly District 3.
  2. I should not have attended the meeting that has become widely discussed and frequently misunderstood.
  3. When publicly questioned about that person’s potential involvement, I did not lie and instead stated I had no knowledge if he did.
  4. I never, at any level, had any involvement in the scripting, directing, editing or distribution of the television ad in question. Nor did I even know of its existence until after it was produced.
  5. I look forward to honorably completing my term in office as the City Councilmember representing District 3.”

Clendenin goes on to say he looks forward to being able to fully discuss the matter and his involvement in it as it works through the legal process.

Monday afternoon, the Wichita Chamber and Wichita Regional Chamber Political Action Committee released a statement saying they condemned the actions of Capps, Clendenin and O’Donnell relating to the fabricated attack video.

“Due to the gravity of the situation and the lack of integrity and civility displayed, we ask them to step down from their roles and withdraw from any current races immediately,” the Chamber said in a statement. “There is no place in our community for this type of behavior. It is ugly and unacceptable, and we demand better.”

Rep. Ron Ryckman, speaker of the Kansas House, also issued a statement Monday.

“There’s no place for this type of activity in our party or in any level of government,” he wrote. “Thankfully, back in August, the voters in the 85th chose to have someone else represent them and we look forward to working with them.”

Sedgwick County Commissioners Lacey Cruse, David Dennis, Jim Howell, and Pete Meitzner have reacted to the lawsuit.

In a Facebook post, Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse claims O’Donnell is a risk and a major liability to Sedgwick County and should not be in a position to make decisions on behalf of more than 500,000 people.

Commissioner Cruse continued by saying he should “not have access to any information or financial decisions.”

Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis also posted calling for O’Donnell’s resignation, and the other lawmakers involved after an audio recording was released over the weekend of the three men discussing how to shift the blame to if their participation in the attack ad came to light.

He went onto add that District Attorney Marc Bennett announced an investigation into the actions of O’Donnell, Clendenin, and Capps which he strongly supports.

“This is a serious issue and am grateful for his quick action,” said Dennis “Now, with a District Attorney’s investigation underway, I support the legal process and hope the DA’s investigation can proceed quickly because the people of Sedgwick County deserve to have trust in their elected officials. “

Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell wrote that he agrees with the Sedgwick County Republican Party saying, “Michael O’Donnell, Michael Capps, and James Clendenin should all immediately resign from their respective elected positions. The people of Sedgwick County deserve representation that is ethical, above reproach, and honest. The actions of these men in the “Protect Wichita Girls” scandal is reprehensible and embarrassing to our community.”

On Monday, Sedgwick County Commissioner Pete Meitzner released a statement saying, “I am saddened, angered, and disappointed in their actions, and these deceptions coming from elected officials.”

He went on to add that there are legal processes that are being followed.

“There is still an active lawsuit; we must respect everyone’s right to due process and let the case continue without Commission involvement. There is also an election about a week away that will decide commission representation; I encourage residents to take advantage of their civic duty and vote if they have not already done so. And finally, as the Board of County Commissioners for Sedgwick County, the actions available to us on this matter are very limited and we are in consultation with our County Counselor. All five of us are uniquely elected by the people and do not have authority over one another.”

On Monday afternoon, the Sedgwick County Commission released a statement related to the lawsuit, saying: “The Board of County Commissioners is aware of the recording related to a lawsuit naming County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, II. The District Attorney has initiated an investigation into potential ouster proceedings. Commissioners have limited actions available to use on this matter and are in consultation with the County Counselor. Each commissioner is elected by the people
and do not have authority over one another. A special meeting is scheduled for Wednesday and this topic may be discussed then.”

Statement released by the Sedgwick County Commission

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