TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Herman Jones was cleared of three complaints that included alleged sexual harassment, misuse of state aircraft, and gender discrimination after an internal and independent investigation according to Gov. Laura Kelly’s office.
The complaints were raised by employees still serving at the Kansas Highway Patrol. The identities and privacy of the complainants in the investigation are not being released.
The first investigation was conducted by the Department of Administration. The firm of Fisher, Patterson, Sayler & Smith, LLP was then retained to conduct a thorough and independent investigation, to ensure a review of the complaints that was separate from the Kelly Administration.
The investigations have been summarized below:
- Complaints of sexual harassment in the form of unwanted/unwelcome physical contact and verbal comments.
- These complaints were raised by three KHP employees and generally alleged that Colonel Jones greeted the employees by slapping their backs, shaking their hands, patting their shoulders, hugging, standing close to the employee, and sometimes making awkward comments that were not of a sexual nature.
- Investigators interviewed the complainants, other witnesses, and Colonel Jones. The employees did not allege that the physical contact or comments were of a sexual nature. Colonel Jones was interviewed and indicated that he did not know the physical nature of the greetings made the employees uncomfortable and would avoid such contact in the future.
- The investigation exonerates Col. Jones with respect to the complaints of sexual harassment/discrimination.
- Complaints of misuse of a state aircraft.
- Another complaint alleged that Colonel Jones misused a state aircraft for his family to travel on vacation.
- Investigators interviewed witnesses, obtained flight logs, and interviewed Colonel Jones.
- The investigation determined that Colonel Jones has used a state aircraft only twice. In Spring 2019 he flew to Pratt for a funeral of a law enforcement officer in Greensburg and flew back to Wichita for a graduation ceremony. This was state business and an appropriate use of the aircraft. Colonel Jones also used a state aircraft in July 2019 to return early from a vacation in Eagle, Colorado, so that he could attend a Governor’s Cabinet meeting. The vacation had been scheduled and paid for long before Colonel Jones was appointed KHP Superintendent, and the Governor’s Cabinet meeting was mandatory for all Cabinet members. Colonel Jones left his vacation several days early to return to work and none of his family accompanied him on the flight. This was also an appropriate use of the aircraft for state business.
- Complaint of gender discrimination.
- Another complaint involved a KHP employee arising from a number of unrelated administrative actions. The employee did not initially feel any of the actions were motivated by gender discrimination. The employee raised the issue to Human Resources after another employee suggested an action may have been the result of gender bias.
- The investigators interviewed the employee, Colonel Jones, and other witnesses.
- The investigation determined Colonel Jones’ administrative actions and decisions were not motivated by gender discrimination but were instead consistent with various KHP policy and accountability priorities.
The Kansas Highway Patrol announced that Majors Scott Harington and Josh Kellerman are no longer employed at the agency according to a news release from the governor’s office.
Colonel Herman Jones said the terminations come as an effort to make the KHP as effective as possible in achieving the agency’s mission, according to the release.
“Since my appointment last year, I have prioritized building a culture and a structure within our agency that will help our troopers best serve the people of Kansas,” Colonel Jones said. “I’m confident that the Kansas Highway Patrol will continue to grow stronger as an organization and improve our ability to carry out our mission.”
The KHP has not said why the two majors are no longer employed.
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