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Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2007

Some assistants will move as Kline, Morrison switch jobs

January 7, 2007

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— The weekend promised to be long and suspenseful for more than two dozen Johnson County assistant district attorneys who don't know if they'll still have jobs when Phill Kline becomes their new boss.

Kline steps down Monday as Kansas attorney general and takes office as Johnson County district attorney to replace Paul Morrison, who ousted Kline from his statewide office in last year's elections.

Both will be joined in their new positions by some of the attorneys from their current staffs.

From Johnson County, at least three assistant district attorneys are making the move with Morrison to new duties in Topeka.

But the remaining 27 were advised that Kline would inform them Monday which ones he will dismiss. They've been told they will have until the end of that day to leave, Morrison said.

"It's incomprehensible to me that you would leave people hanging this long" and then give them only the rest of the day to clear out, Morrison said. A number of jury trials are scheduled to begin Monday, he said, and it's possible that an attorney who is dismissed will be in trial.

Kline's approach to dealing with staffing changes has "created a lot of angst" in the office, Morrison said.

Eric Rucker, who is leading Kline's transition team, declined to comment on staffing or other potential changes in the district attorney's office.

In Topeka, Kline's offices were emptying Friday afternoon. Moving boxes rested against the wall.

Key employees in Kline's office already had left, including Kline and his spokesman Jan Lunsford. Earlier in the week, Lunsford said Kline was on vacation and wouldn't be speaking publicly until he took the oath in Johnson County.

"He's out of the office, out of state and out of reach," Lunsford said.

Lunsford estimated that about a third of Kline's office staff would be leaving, either to go to Johnson County with Kline or because they weren't asked back by Morrison.

Morrison spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said the incoming attorney general has rehired 84 of the office's 123 total employees. She said 21 were not rehired and 18 others did not reapply.

Among those accompanying Morrison to Topeka will be Rick Guinn, Morrison's chief assistant district attorney in Johnson County. Morrison said he was still talking with a couple of other assistant district attorneys about the possibility of joining him in Topeka.

Morrison served 18 years as Johnson County's top prosecutor and had two years left in his latest term. A former Republican, he switched parties to run for attorney general against the Republican Kline.

Last month, Republican precinct committee people in Johnson County chose Kline to serve out the remainder of Morrison's term as district attorney.

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