Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty on Morrison resignation
Paul Morrison statement ( .DOC )
Sunday: Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Attorney General Paul Morrison's former director of administration when he was Johnson County district attorney, Linda Carter, said in a signed statement that she had a two-year extramarital affair with Morrison, and that he sexually harassed her and tried to coerce her to intervene in litigation involving current Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline and to get information about Kline's work in his investigation into a Planned Parenthood clinic. Morrison admitted having had an affair with Carter, but denied her other allegations.
Monday: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius says if Morrison did what Carter said he did, then he should resign.
Tuesday: Morrison asks attorney oversight agency to investigate his actions.
Thursday: Kline gets permission from Johnson County Commissioners to investigate Morrison concerning allegations that he threatened and tried to blackmail Carter while she was still with the Johnson County district attorney's office.
Friday: Morrison resigns but denies having broken any laws or attorney conduct standards.
Topeka Facing multiple investigations linked to an extramarital affair, Attorney General Paul Morrison on Friday announced he will resign from office, adding another chapter to an unprecedented scandal in Kansas politics.
"Because of my actions in my personal life, many people have stopped believing in me. That has been damaging to this office, my staff and the people of this state," Morrison said, reading a statement in front of reporters.
"My actions caused pain and sadness to many people I love," he said. "I have been working for some time to get right with God, get right with my family and get right with friends, and address my personal problem, and I will continue to do so."
After his four-minute statement, in which his cell phone rang several times, Morrison took no questions, turned around and walked back into his office.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is responsible for choosing the successor for Morrison, who has been mired in controversy during the past week.
Linda Carter, a former subordinate of Morrison's when he was the Johnson County district attorney, has accused him of sexual harassment and trying to get information from her on the activities of Phill Kline, Morrison's political foe and current Johnson County district attorney. She has filed a complaint against Morrison with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Morrison, who defeated Kline in last year's election for attorney general, admitted to having an affair with Carter, but denied her other accusations of professional misconduct.
Democrats - who had welcomed Morrison's party-switch to take on anti-abortion warrior Kline, a Republican - said Morrison made the right decision to leave.
"He really put himself in a situation where it would be difficult for him to run that office the way it should be run," said state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.
Meanwhile, Republicans tried to tie Morrison's problems to Sebelius, a Democrat, who recruited Morrison to the Democrats.
"Governor Sebelius was a main factor in the selection of Paul Morrison to run for attorney general as a Democrat in 2006," said Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach. "The people of Kansas should question whether the governor can be trusted."
Sebelius will chose a replacement, but she didn't indicate when.
"My priorities are to protect the people of Kansas and preserve their faith in our system of justice," she said in a prepared statement.
Some Democrats' names have been mentioned, including Kansas Securities Commissioner Chris Biggs, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson.
Morrison's resignation is effective Jan. 31, but he faces federal, state and county investigations.
Morrison had been Johnson County district attorney for 18 years when he switched to the Democratic Party to run against then-Attorney General Kline in 2006.
The Morrison-Kline contest was a bruiser, with Morrison criticizing Kline's pursuit of medical records in his investigation into alleged illegal abortions.
At one point, Kline dredged up a sexual harassment claim filed against Morrison from the early 1990s that concerned another woman. Morrison and his wife, Joyce, said there was nothing to the claim and said it showed Kline's desperation.
Morrison won the election for Kline's post. Then, Kline took over Morrison's old job, as Johnson County Republican officials voted for Kline to replace Morrison as district attorney and serve the remainder of Morrison's term. In Johnson County, Kline continued to investigate what he said were allegations of illegal abortions.
Carter continued working in the district attorney's office after Kline took over. She said Morrison unsuccessfully tried to coerce her into writing letters on behalf of attorneys who had sued Kline after he fired them from the Johnson County office.
And Carter said Morrison tried to get information from her about Kline's case against the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park.
This week, Morrison denied the charges and asked the state's attorney disciplinary agency to investigate his actions.
But on Thursday, Kline upped the ante.
He received permission from Johnson County commissioners to hire an independent prosecutor to investigate allegations of harassment and blackmail. The target of the investigation is Morrison, according to several sources.
Kline said it was necessary to seek an outside prosecutor in the matter because staff members in his office may be witnesses in the probe.
Kline would not comment on Morrison's resignation or on a Harris News Service report that Carter revealed to Kline details of her affair and allegations against Morrison prior to her filing a federal Equal Employment Opportunity complaint. Brian Russell, a Lawrence attorney representing Carter, also declined to comment on Morrison's resignation.
Douglas County District Attorney Branson said Morrison always conducted himself professionally with him.
"It sure is regrettable what is going on now," Branson said. "I have a lot of emotion for the Morrison family right now."
Of his name being talked about as a replacement, Branson said, "My focus is on serving the people of Douglas County."
Kansas University political science professor Alesha Doan said the controversies that have surrounded Kline and Morrison probably will result in more cynicism among voters about politics.
"In Kline's defeat, there was sort of a perception of him using his position for his own personal agenda, and now you have these allegations against Morrison," Doan said. "The end result is one of cynicism and mistrust among the voters."
Now the focus will turn to Sebelius as she names a replacement.
Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty said Morrison's resignation now gives his replacement three years to develop a track record to run again in 2010.
"Three years is a good chunk of time," Beatty said. "Morrison did some real heavy lifting for the governor and the Democrats. He defeated Phill Kline, and the office is still Democratic."
Paul Morrison, from Johnson County DA to former state AG
Paul Morrison becomes Johnson County district attorney. He runs again four times unopposed.
Morrison switches parties to run against Phill Kline for Kansas attorney general.
Nov. 7, 2006
Morrison defeats Kline in a landslide for attorney general.
June 27, 2007
Morrison drops Kline's charges against George Tiller, accusing Kline of pushing his anti-abortion political agenda.
Dec. 9, 2007
Linda Carter, Morrison's former director of administration, reveals two-year extramarital affair with Morrison; alleges he sexually harassed her, tried to coerce her to intervene in litigation involving Kline and to get information about Kline's work.
After asking the attorney oversight agency to investigate his actions, Morrison resigns.