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Archive for Thursday, January 30, 1992

LOCAL LEGISLATORS NOT SEEKING RESIGNATION

January 30, 1992

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— Several area legislators said today that Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan should resign if he is convicted of perjury charges brought against him Wednesday by a federal grand jury.

However, until that time, they said Stephan should be treated as anyone else who is charged with a crime presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"I think the talk about impeachment is premature," said Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence.

Winter feuded with Stephan last year after Winter described Stephan's investigations of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System as inadequate.

"Even though my disagreements with him about the KPERS matter are well known, I firmly believe, like everybody else, he is entitled to a presumption of innocence and that the system will have to work without any of us commenting about it," Winter said. "I hope it isn't true, but that's what the system is there for and we ought to let it work."

WINTER, who has said in the past that he may consider running in 1994 for attorney general, said Stephan's indictment has not affected his own plans.

"I don't have any plans," Winter said, smiling. "It's too early for me to be making any plans. I'm concerned about this session, so I'm not thinking about it."

Rep. Judith Macy, D-DeSoto, said it was too early to consider removing Stephan from office.

"The attorney general seems to be able to get himself in a lot of trouble, but he also seems to be able to come out of it unscathed," Macy said. "I don't know what kind of magic powers he has. But I'm not suggesting that he should resign."

Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said she has heard talk among her colleagues that Stephan should consider resigning. However, she said lawmakers should stay out of the picture while the case proceeds.

"I THINK it would be inappropriate to pressure or in any way try to influence what he should do," Praeger said.

She said she didn't think the indictment would hamper Stephan's ability to do his job.

"I trust that if it begins to impair his job, I think he probably would make a decision to resign," Praeger said. "He's been a very well-respected attorney general throughout the country for the way he's handled his office, especially his citizen advocacy."

Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, said he didn't think Stephan would step down, or be asked to, at this point.

"He has an incredible ability to remain popular and continue to run his office in spite of adversity," Solbach said. "In fact, he seems to thrive on adversity.''

SOLBACH said Stephan was entitled to be presumed innocent.

"We don't impeach people or call for their resignation simply because they have been accused," he said.

Solbach, an attorney who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, dismissed a question that he might be interested in filling Stephan's position were Stephan to resign. Gov. Joan Finney, a Democrat, is empowered with replacing Stephan, a Republican, should he resign.

"I'm not rooting for him to resign and I'm not running into the governor's office asking to be appointed attorney general," Solbach said. "She could appoint Wint Winter, if she wants. Stranger things have happened."

REP. BETTY JO Charlton, D-Lawrence, said she heard a rumor during the first week of the legislative session that the indictments were coming. She said another part of the rumor was that Stephan was going to resign before the indictments were handed down.

"But since he didn't, it looks to me like he's going to ride it out," Charlton said. "He's already said he's not going to run again. So I think he hopes to finish his term."

Charlton said that Stephan has shown that he can handle his office and be re-elected, despite his legal problems.

"Apparently the people didn't question his effectiveness at this point, and we have presumption of innocence until proven guilty," Charlton said.

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