Archive for Wednesday, November 30, 1994

STEPHAN RECALLS 16 YEARS AS AG

November 30, 1994

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The outgoing attorney general spoke in Lawrence about issues that dominated his career as the state's top law enforcement official.

Kansas Atty. Gen. Robert Stephan is a lame duck.

In a Lawrence Rotary Club speech -- a mix of political insights and coffee-shop tales -- Stephan spoke Monday about his 16 years as attorney general, the longest tenure for an AG in state history.

"I've enjoyed the responsibility of being attorney general. I'm convinced Carla Stovall ... will do an outstanding job," Stephan said.

He doesn't mind passing the legal torch to Stovall, a fellow Republican. He said that the transition will be smoother than when Stephan replaced Curt Schneider, a Democrat defeated by Stephan in 1979. Schneider wouldn't let Stephan in the attorney general's office until he was sworn in.

"I beat an incumbent, and he was very angry. In fact, he's still angry," Stephan said. "The thing about politics is that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. If there ever was a business where you turn the other cheek and cuss 'em out in the bathroom, this is it."

Stephan said he learned that lesson early in life after running for a school board seat. There were 28 candidates. Stephan finished 27th.

The years as attorney general weren't entirely positive, he said. There's the 1982 sexual harassment case filed against Stephan by Marcia Tomson Stingley, who was fired by Stephan from her job as a clerk. Subsequent litigation has kept the case in the courts for 11 years.

"There have been some negatives," Stephan said.

He said a lawsuit he initiated in 1982 has been contested just as long, but would be personally rewarding when finished. In the suit, Stephan alleged Colorado irrigators deprived Kansans of water from the Arkansas River from 1950-85.

The case was projected to cost $1 million, but the state's legal bill now tops $9 million.

Stephan said the Legislature's investment in the water-rights battle was worth it. A special master ruled Colorado wrongfully took Kansas water. A hearing in early 1995 will determine what damages Colorado owes Kansas, he said.

"You'll see a supply of water in western Kansas that they haven't had in a long, long time. It will be meaningful if the state properly regulates the use of that water," he said.

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