Olathe An attorney for Paul Morrison claims Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline improperly involved himself in a sexual harassment complaint against Morrison and should be banned from participating further in the case.
The Kansas City Star reported Friday that in a letter sent to the Kansas attorney general's office, Michael Blumenthal said Kline's early investigation of the sex harassment claims by Linda Carter showed a "clear disregard for established policy and procedure." The letter was also sent to The Star.
For instance, Blumenthal said, Kline began looking into Carter's claims before she filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November.
Carter, a former district attorney's office employee, had a two-year extramarital affair with the former Kansas attorney general, dating back to Morrison's tenure as Johnson County district attorney.
Kline spokesman Brian Burgess declined to comment on Blumenthal's letter Friday, saying Kline has "a long-standing policy not to comment" on the case.
Request to not settle
Morrison, while acknowledging the affair, has denied Carter's sexual harassment claims. Blumenthal, in his letter, asked the state to avoid paying money to settle the case, saying that "would create a false tacit admission by the State of Kansas that there is merit to Ms. Carter's claim that she was sexually harassed by Mr. Morrison."
"Should Ms. Carter refuse to withdraw her EEOC charge, we must respectively insist that the State of Kansas vigorously defend against Ms. Carter's false claim," Blumenthal wrote.
He added, "We must respectfully insist that you not permit Mr. Kline to have any further input or role in the handling of this matter."
Kline was Morrison's predecessor as attorney general. Morrison switched parties to run as a Democrat to defeat the Republican Kline. Republicans then named Kline to fill Morrison's old job in Johnson County.
State attorneys are defending against the complaint because Morrison, as county district attorney, was considered a state employee. The EEOC had scheduled a mediation session.
Ashley Anstaett, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Steve Six, confirmed the office received the letter but declined to comment on its contents, noting that it involves ongoing litigation.
"The office's sole objective is the best interest of the state, which we'll pursue in this case," Anstaett said Friday.
Morrison resigned as attorney general after details of his affair with Carter, a former director of administration in the district attorney's office, became public.
Carter continued working in the district attorney's office for a time after Kline succeeded Morrison as district attorney.
Back and forth
The two political rivals have spent much of the past year issuing a series of charges and countercharges. Last month, Kline appointed two special prosecutors to investigate whether Morrison broke any laws during an extramarital affair.
Besides the sexual harassment charge, Carter has claimed Morrison tried to get her to provide sensitive information about Kline's activities in the district attorney's office and that Morrison, through her, tried to influence a federal lawsuit filed by eight employees of the district attorney's office who were dismissed by Kline.
Morrison has denied those allegations.
Blumenthal raised concerns in his letter about how independent Kline's initial investigation of Carter's sexual harassment claims and how they were handled.
He claimed that Kline had heard allegations of a sexual relationship between Morrison and Carter as early as March 2007 but didn't try to determine if the relationship was consensual.
Instead, Kline waited until November 2007, then asked his chief investigator, Thomas D. Williams, to begin looking into those claims, Blumenthal said. That violated county policy requiring Kline to report the claims to the Johnson County human resources director, Blumenthal wrote.
Morrison was considered a state employee, but Carter was a county worker and county policy should apply, Blumenthal said.
When Williams interviewed Carter, he did so in the presence of Shawna Chambless, an executive assistant who knew of Carter's affair with Morrison as early as August 2007, Blumenthal said. That potentially compromised the investigation because Chambless could be a witness in the case, he said.
He also noted that Williams' investigative report refers to Carter's EEOC complaint, which wasn't filed until the following day. The complaint was faxed from the district attorney's office and notarized by an office employee.
Blumenthal also claims in the letter that Williams' investigative report was the likely source for a story disclosing the Carter-Morrison relationship that appeared Dec. 9 in The Topeka Capital-Journal.
The newspaper's story included a number of details that The Capital-Journal said came from a signed statement by Carter. Her EEOC complaint is short and alleges only that she was discriminated against by her supervisor and that the improper conduct continued after his employment ended.
"It is therefore clear," Blumenthal said, that Kline's office, "(1) conducted an improper investigation into an EEOC charge that had not yet been filed; (2) participated in the filing of the EEOC charge on behalf of Ms. Carter; and (3) failed to maintain the confidentiality of the Investigative Report taken in connection with the improper investigation."