Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Senator accused of conflict of interest

Parents in Shawnee Mission district file complaint with state

May 12, 2005


— A conflict-of-interest allegation has been lodged against state Sen. John Vratil regarding his work for the private law firm representing the state in school finance litigation and his work as a key sponsor of the new school finance law being challenged before the Kansas Supreme Court.

Vratil, a Leawood Republican who is vice president of the Kansas Senate, denied any impropriety.

"It's frivolous," he said of the complaint, which was filed by a group of parents of students in the Shawnee Mission school district in Johnson County.

It was filed with the Office of the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator, which investigates complaints against attorneys and recommends discipline.

Vratil is a senior litigator with Lathrop & Gage, which represents the Shawnee Mission district and the state in the school finance litigation.

The district and the state are asking the Kansas Supreme Court to uphold the Legislature's recent school funding law.

But the Shawnee Mission parents say the new law provides insufficient funding.

"By defending the status quo with regard to state funding of school districts, Lathrop & Gage acted in direct opposition to the best interest of its pre-existing client, the Shawnee Mission district," according to a copy of the complaint received by the Lawrence Journal-World.

The complaint notes Vratil was a principal author of the new school finance law, and questions his ability "to separate his political interests from the legal interest of the Shawnee Mission District, and to put his client's interest first when those interests conflict with his own political interests."

"They don't know what a conflict of interest is," Vratil said. He said he and Lathrop & Gage would respond to the administrator's office, and that he couldn't comment further.

Among those who made the allegation against Vratil are officials with Kansas Families United for Public Education, which has advocated for more school spending and opposes the new school finance law.

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