Topeka Hoping to keep his job, Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison said Tuesday he wants an independent investigation into allegations made against him by a former subordinate with whom he had an extramarital affair.
"It is essential that the people of Kansas have confidence in the office of attorney general," Morrison said in a prepared statement.
Morrison said he will ask Stanton Hazlett, who is Kansas Disciplinary Administrator, to investigate the allegations made by Linda Carter of sexual harassment and attorney misconduct. The disciplinary administrator is an agency under the Kansas Supreme Court that reviews complaints of misconduct against lawyers.
But Morrison's move didn't impress Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach.
"It's as if someone who has been accused in a killing in a hit and run, and they say, I agree to pay a speeding ticket," Kobach said.
Morrison described the allegations against him as "professional and legal misconduct." But Kobach said: "It appears that Morrison is just trying to make this whole scandal a question of attorney ethics. It is much bigger than that. It is about sexual harassment, violations of the law and a huge abuse of power."
Carter, who was the director of administration for the Johnson County district attorney's office when Morrison was the district attorney, reportedly said Morrison sexually harassed her. Further, Morrison asked Carter to provide information about his political rival, Phill Kline, and litigation Kline was working on when he became Johnson County district attorney, according to a report by the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Carter has filed a complaint against Morrison with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the paper reported. Attempts to contact Carter have been unsuccessful.
Morrison has admitted to having a two-year affair with Carter, but he has denied any professional or legal misconduct.
"The allegations that I attempted to influence ongoing cases or improperly gain information are absolutely false," Morrison said. "I will cooperate completely and openly with the disciplinary administrator to resolve this matter once and for all."
Group wants Morrison out
Meanwhile, calls for Morrison to step down came from the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which urged supporters to send e-mails to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator's office.
"His abuse of power, his lack of self-control, and his willful disregard for the dignity of his office makes him unfit to be the chief law enforcement official of Kansas," the e-mail said.
Republican and Democratic leaders - including Sebelius - have said if Carter's allegations of attorney misconduct and sexual harassment are true, then Morrison should resign.
But they have also said Morrison deserves his day in court to answer the charges made in the EEOC complaint.
"If the legal complaint is in fact true, and there was some tie to the relationship in pending litigation, then I think that's a very serious issue," said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka. "And, I would hope that before the Legislature gets involved in any sort of impeachment that the attorney general would consider resigning from office."
But Hensley cautioned that he was calling for that only if the allegations were true.
Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, agreed, but added that regardless of the outcome of the EEOC complaint, the admission by Morrison of having an extramarital affair hurts Morrison's credibility. Both Morrison and Carter are married.
"He is damaged goods, and it will take an awful lot to rehabilitate him," Journey 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 the Capital-Journal, which said it received a statement from Carter.
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.