Archive for Thursday, October 30, 2003

Topeka mayor says prosecutor lacks standing to seek his ouster

October 30, 2003


— Mayor Butch Felker, suspended from office over allegations that he violated campaign finance laws, maintains that the Shawnee County district attorney lacks the legal authority to oust him.

An ouster trial is scheduled Nov. 17-18 before Eric Rosen, the Shawnee County district judge who suspended the mayor on Oct. 17.

On Monday, Felker attorney Michael Francis asked Rosen to dismiss the ouster action, dismiss the suspension and reinstate Felker to office.

Dist. Atty. Robert Hecht responded in a document filed Tuesday that he wasn't trying to remove Felker from office "merely" for Campaign Finance Act violations, but because that under the civil ouster law he had "forfeited his office and should be removed."

Felker willfully acted with misconduct, willfully neglected to perform a legal duty and committed an act that violates a penal statute involving moral turpitude, Hecht wrote.

Felker's contention that Hecht doesn't have authority to oust him focuses on wording in the Kansas Campaign Finance Act.

"Only the attorney general can bring an action to oust a mayor for violations of campaign finance laws," Francis wrote in a seven-page filing. "The district attorney has no authority to bring an ouster action under the Campaign Finance Act and, therefore, lacks standing to proceed."

When the Legislature passed the Campaign Finance Act in 1981, legislators gave authority to oust elected officials, other than judges and state legislators, to the attorney general, Francis wrote.

Felker is in the third year of his third four-year term as mayor.

He's accused of falsifying a campaign finance report from his 2001 mayoral campaign to hide questionable contributions and the identities of some contributors. Felker, who admitted committing the violations, was fined $7,500 in July by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

Hecht said that Felker's ouster was sought because he engaged in fraudulent campaign finance reporting, accepted a contribution in the name of someone else and accepted more than $100 in cash, all violations of the Campaign Finance Act.

Perhaps worse, Hecht wrote, Felker took part in a "conscious and deliberate and intentional cover-up," helping in the theft of taxpayer money from the Topeka Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In his Oct. 17 ruling, Rosen said Hecht presented "overwhelming evidence" to support a finding based on good cause that Felker "acted in a manner constituting a violation of penal statutes involving moral turpitude." Rosen noted that finding was applicable only to the suspension hearing.

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