Topeka — After Sen. Jim Barnett lost the governor's race last year, campaign manager Christian Morgan was out of work. He filed for unemployment benefits, touching off a legal tussle between the campaign committee and the state Department of Labor.
The department's Unemployment Board of Review declared in April that Morgan, now executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, was a campaign employee while working as its campaign manager from March 9 to Nov. 10, 2006.
He left the job three days after the two-term senator lost to Democrat Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
The Barnett for Governor campaign appealed the board's decision to Shawnee County District Court. Judge David Bruns heard arguments Thursday and said he would try to have a ruling in a couple of weeks.
The campaign's attorney, Monte Miller, said Morgan was operating under a contract that stated Morgan was an independent contractor and would not be considered an employee.
"Christian Morgan was to complete a limited-purpose project, to get Senator Barnett elected governor," Miller said.
Darren Root, an attorney for the Labor Department, said the agency applied the law as it was written. Miller noted the contract made it clear Morgan wasn't an employee, but Root countered: "A contract isn't enforceable if it is contrary to the law."
An employer pays unemployment taxes for an employee, but independent contractors pay their own taxes. Miller said he didn't know how much money might be involved.
Morgan, who earned $4,500 a month as campaign manager, said in an interview that he decided in December to apply for unemployment benefits, not knowing whether he qualified. He did not attend Thursday's court hearing.