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Archive for Saturday, February 6, 2010

Inappropriate action

It may not be illegal, but having a top legislative leader acting as the attorney in a lawsuit against the state certainly sends the wrong message.

February 6, 2010

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At the very least, Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal’s decision to represent clients who are suing the state is a major distraction for lawmakers.

At worst, it could raise serious ethical concerns about possible conflicts of interest involving a legislative leader who wields powerful control over what issues are considered by his chamber.

O’Neal is representing 20 plaintiffs who are challenging the constitutionality of a provision in last year’s final appropriations bill that swept unused fees from various state funds. In defending his decision to act as the group’s attorney, the speaker cited the fact that he voted against the appropriations bill and filed a written protest. He also said he has fully complied with state ethics laws in the matter.

Meeting the letter of the law is not the key issue here. Disagreeing, even vehemently, with a decision by the Kansas House doesn’t make it OK for the speaker to get involved in a lawsuit against the state. Legislating is all about compromise and accepting the will of the majority. It just isn’t appropriate for the leader of the House to be filing suit over a decision approved by the majority of House members.

A fellow legislator’s call on Friday for O’Neal to step down as speaker may be an overreaction, but not by much. In the current economic crisis the state needs a speaker who is able to maintain a certain level of objectivity, not one who is actively fighting the state government. If he has problems with state laws, he has a powerful podium to address those issues, but it should be in the Legislature, not in the courtroom.

Comments

grimpeur 4 years, 2 months ago

Amateur hack. The worst in part-time governance. He doesn't care. Polite discourse will be insufficient to root out the problem of pointy-headed, short-sighted, ethically-challenged, angry little moonlighters in our statehouse. Somebody needs to slap this guy--verbally, literally, whatever--and slap him hard.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

Should a lawyer be able to recognize a conflict of interest and/or ethical misconduct?

This is the type of activity that brings on more laws. Self discipline does not work.

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commuter 4 years, 2 months ago

I agree this is an ethical issue, just like the school districts using taxpayers money to sue the state for more money.

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Eybea Opiner 4 years, 2 months ago

At the best, very bad judgement on O'Neal's part. He should step aside. I know he won't, so hope that his constituents will deny him reelection.

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Peter Macfarlane 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't often agree with the sentiments expressed in the editorial section, but in this case I couldn't agree more. How absolutely tacky of Mr. O'Neal!

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Rex Russell 4 years, 2 months ago

If Mr. O'Neal cannot see the ethical issue and conflict of interest here, we have a problem.

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kansasmutt 4 years, 2 months ago

Amen. He should step down if this go`s on. Kansans should be outraged he does not step down .

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