Morrison’s fate as AG uncertain
Lawmakers say resignation may be in order if allegations by former lover are true
Topeka ? Attorney General Paul Morrison’s job is on the line.
A year ago, Morrison was applauded by Democrats and moderate Republicans for defeating then-Attorney General Phill Kline.
But now Morrison faces an uncertain future in light of revelations about his extramarital affair with a former subordinate who now reportedly accuses him of sexual harassment and ethical misconduct.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders on Monday agreed that if Morrison did what Linda Carter claimed he did, then Morrison should resign.
Morrison admitted to a two-year extramarital affair with Carter, who was the former director of administration for the Johnson County district attorney’s office when Morrison was the district attorney there.
And while political leaders expressed shock about that, the real heartburn comes from Carter’s reported allegations that Morrison sexually harassed her and tried to get information from her about legal action involving Kline.
If those allegations are proven, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said, Morrison should step down.
“Certainly, if any of the allegations turn out to be accurate, I think yes,” Sebelius said.
“One deals with his conduct as an attorney in the DA’s office; the other is as an employer, and I think either one should trigger a resignation,” she said.
Those allegations were published by the Topeka Capital-Journal, which reported that Carter filed a complaint against Morrison with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The newspaper also said it obtained a signed statement from Carter.
Morrison refuses to step down
Sebelius, a Democrat who welcomed Morrison when he switched parties and defeated the conservative Republican Kline in 2006, said she didn’t want to pre-judge Morrison and noted that while he admitted to having the affair, he denied trying to use Carter to get information about Kline.
Morrison’s office said he has no intention of resigning.
Morrison has refused to speak publicly about the stunning revelation.
In a prepared statement, he admitted to having an affair with Carter but denied the other accusations.
“Any allegations of discrimination or harassment are blatantly and patently false. Any allegation that I used the relationship to influence litigation is absolutely false,” he said.
GOP wants answers
For the Kansas Republican Party, that wasn’t good enough.
GOP Chairman Kris Kobach said Morrison should give the public a full response to each allegation – or resign.
If the reported allegations made by Carter are true, then Morrison broke the law by engaging in sexual harassment and trying to influence the judicial process by using his relationship to gain information about Kline, Kobach said.
“Any of these acts alone would be grounds for resignation or impeachment. All three together constitute a shocking abuse of power,” he said.
Morrison was district attorney in Johnson County for 18 years before switching to the Democratic Party to successfully challenge Kline for the attorney general’s job. It was a bitter election in which Morrison blasted Kline’s investigation into abortion clinics.
After his defeat, however, Kline mustered the support of Johnson County precinct leaders who selected him to serve the remainder of Morrison’s term as district attorney. Carter stayed on in the district attorney’s office until the end of November.
Morrison and Carter started their relationship in September 2005 and ended it last summer, according to Carter’s statement reported in the Capital-Journal.
When confronted with the allegation, Morrison said in a statement: “Unfortunately, it is true, however, that I once had a consensual relationship with Mrs. Carter. And I profoundly regret that I did.”
In that newspaper report, Carter said they had sexual encounters in the Johnson County Courthouse and hotels in several Kansas cities and several states.
Carter says Morrison tried to pressure her to write letters for former district attorney’s office employees who were dismissed by Kline. She also said Morrison sought information about Kline’s investigation into the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park.
The timing of the relationship also rankled some because it occurred during the 2006 campaign – when Morrison’s wife, Joyce, fought off charges from Kline related to another sexual harassment claim against Morrison in the early 1990s.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said Morrison’s credibility had been damaged, “but it’s not irreparable.”
He said if Carter’s allegations about Morrison seeking information on Kline through her are true, then Morrison should resign.
But, he said, the legal process must be allowed to gather facts in the case.
Asked whether it was a setback to the Democratic Party, Sebelius said, “I think it’s a huge setback for Kansans. I think when people put their faith in a public official and feel that faith to be violated, it’s a huge disappointment and a shock for a lot of people. He’s a high-profile statewide officeholder who was elected by Republicans and Democrats and independents.”