Topeka It's improper for Attorney General Paul Morrison to remain on the job until Jan. 31 because the Democrat, embroiled in a sex scandal, is damaging the office every day he stays, a top Republican Party official said Thursday.
But a Morrison spokeswoman said the comments from Christian Morgan, the state GOP's executive director, showed that he doesn't understand the office or its work.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a fellow Democrat, will name a new attorney general to serve the remaining three years of Morrison's four-year term. She hasn't started interviewing candidates, and at least 15 people have been mentioned as potential appointees.
Morgan said Morrison's top deputies could keep the office running in his absence and that Morrison doesn't need to be in the office for an orderly transition to occur. He also suggested a transition will be short because Sebelius plans to encourage the new attorney general to keep Morrison's staff in place.
"So why is Paul Morrison hanging around?" Morgan said during an interview. "He's going to continue to damage that office by remaining there."
Other Morrison critics, including two conservative groups, Concerned Women for America and Women Influencing the Nation, raised the same issue.
"I don't understand why Morrison gets to be there one more minute, much less 40 more days," said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group.
Morrison announced his resignation last Friday. Spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said he decided his last day would be six weeks later, providing stability for the office's staff while paving the way for a smooth transition for his successor.
"I think he felt that it was in the best interest of the office to have someone in the leadership role while that process was going on and also to help the new person," Anstaett said. "I don't think Mr. Morgan knows the amount of work we do here and the sensitivity and the amount of the cases we handle."
Morgan, who worked for more than a year for Morrison's predecessor, Republican Phill Kline, replied: "Ashley doesn't understand that everything that Morrison touches - even during this period until he is done - is tainted with his unethical conduct."
Morrison has acknowledged having an extramarital affair with a former subordinate, Linda Carter. But he has denied her allegations of harassment and professional misconduct.
According to Carter's account, the affair started in September 2005, when Morrison was Johnson County district attorney and Carter was the office's director of administration. She has said it continued for two years, including while he was running for attorney general and after he took office.
Morrison switched to the Democratic Party and unseated Kline last year. Johnson County Republicans chose Kline to replace Morrison as district attorney.
Carter alleges that she and Morrison had encounters in the Johnson County Courthouse, he got a tattoo with her initials and, when the relationship began to unravel, threatened to wreck her chances of getting a new job. She continued working for Kline when he became district attorney, and she alleges that Morrison tried to get her to provide sensitive information on Kline's activities, including an investigation of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park.
Kline plans to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate, and Carter filed a civil rights claim in November with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.