Archive for Sunday, February 22, 2004

Former Shawnee County treasurer wants taxpayers to foot legal bill

Official resigned post to avoid ouster attempt for misuse of funds

February 22, 2004

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— The former Shawnee County treasurer who resigned last year rather than face an ouster attempt over allegations she misused public funds wants the county to pay her legal fees for a lawsuit it filed against her.

Rita Cline filed a motion Friday asking Shawnee County District Judge James Macnish to order the county to pay an $8,750 attorney bill.

Cline contends the county should pay the bill for attorney Christopher Joseph, because Cline was an employee of the county when the alleged misuse of public funds took place.

Joseph no longer represents Cline.

"I'm not a wealthy person," Cline said Friday. "I was out these attorney's fees and the county is asking me to give up a wage claim. They're asking me to sacrifice when I have done nothing illegal."

In September, seeking to recover $24,456 in what it considers misspent public funds, the county sued Cline and Employers Mutual Casualty Corp., which insured her as a public official. The $24,456 was paid to a former treasurer's office employee.

Cline resigned in March 2003, while facing an attempt by Dist. Atty. Robert Hecht to remove her from office.

Hecht had sought Cline's ouster, contending her hiring of the treasurer's office employee was an attempt to funnel county funds into a home health care business the two had started. Though Cline denied wrongdoing. she apologized for creating "a perception of risk to the financial integrity" of the treasurer's office.

Also Friday, Cline filed an ethics complaint against county counselor Rich Eckert with the Office of Kansas Disciplinary Administrator.

"This is what I expect from someone like her," Eckert said, reacting to Cline's court filing and ethics complaint against him.

Eckert said the county shouldn't cover Cline's attorney fees.

Eckert said people accused of stealing from the county can't acquire representation from the county.

Cline disagrees.

She said that, based on Kansas law, the county is required to provide her legal counsel. Because the county counselor's office is acting on behalf of the Shawnee County Commission, Cline said she was forced to hire an attorney.

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