District Attorney opens investigation into county commission

Local

There have been several controversies at the Sedgwick County commission.

One involved commissioner Michael O’Donnell that began last fall over charges of fraud. Another included the county counselor and county manager eventually stepping down from their jobs.

Now the DA has opened an investigation.

District Attorney Marc Bennett offered a statement that says, “A complaint concerning a possible KOMA (Open Meetings) violation by the Sedgwick County Commission was referred to the Office of the District Attorney in October of 2018. The matter is currently under investigation.”

The allegation is a majority of commissioners may have broken Kansas Open Meeting Act rules.

Media attorney Lyndon Vix says it can be difficult to prove violations of Kansas Open Meetings Act rules.

“Three complaints that I know of that the DA investigated in the past five years or so. So, not very often,” said Vix.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau this week said he believes at least three commissioners have met in private to talk about commission business.

Vix says KSA 75-4317a is clear on what constitutes a meeting.

“I think there are a number of instances where a majority of a body or board happens to get together. The tough question is, are they discussing business?” asks Vix. “I suppose you can presume they are talking about their families or sports or their Pinterest pages. But, really, are we also going to believe that they’re never talking about the business that they do together? But you don’t know that until you talk to them and they tell you that and so that’s what makes it hard to investigate these and find a substantive violation.”

Commissioner Dave Unruh said he will let the county legal and public relations teams formulate a response to the allegations.

The District Attorney office of Marc Bennett would only release the statement that there is an investigation.

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