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Archive for Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Panel dismisses complaint against O’Neal, but says House rules need to be changed

March 30, 2010, 1:47 p.m. Updated March 30, 2010, 8:32 p.m.

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House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, and his wife, Cindy, listen Tuesday as a report is read aloud of a committee investigating a misconduct complaint against him. The committee dismissed the complaint but called for changes in the law that allowed O'Neal to file a lawsuit against the state.

House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, and his wife, Cindy, listen Tuesday as a report is read aloud of a committee investigating a misconduct complaint against him. The committee dismissed the complaint but called for changes in the law that allowed O'Neal to file a lawsuit against the state.

State Rep. Jeff King, R-Independence, (left) and state Rep. Clark Shultz, R-Lindsborg, confer Tuesday during a meeting of a select committee investigating a complaint against House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson. King read aloud the committee report that dismissed the complaint but said changes are needed to the law that allowed O'Neal to file a lawsuit against the state.

State Rep. Jeff King, R-Independence, (left) and state Rep. Clark Shultz, R-Lindsborg, confer Tuesday during a meeting of a select committee investigating a complaint against House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson. King read aloud the committee report that dismissed the complaint but said changes are needed to the law that allowed O'Neal to file a lawsuit against the state.

Related document

Investigative Committee Report ( .PDF )

— An investigative committee Tuesday dismissed a misconduct complaint against House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, but urged repeal of the law that allowed O’Neal to file a lawsuit against the state.

O’Neal said the decision vindicated him. “It's the outcome that should have happened,” he said.

But House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, who filed the complaint against O’Neal, said the committee’s recommendation to change the law shows that O’Neal’s conduct “should not be permitted.”

The dispute was over O’Neal filing a lawsuit on behalf of some businesses, trade groups and insurance funds in a lawsuit that challenged action by the Legislature last year to sweep their fee funds in state accounts to help balance the state budget.

O’Neal voted against the sweep, and filed an official protest -- requirements necessary for him to bring the lawsuit.

Democrats said O’Neal, who holds the most powerful position in the House, created a conflict of interest by leading the lawsuit against the state.

After Davis, and other House Democrats, filed a complaint on March 12, a select committee was appointed for the first in-House probe in nearly 60 years.

After several meetings, the committee, composed of three Republicans and three Democrats, met in closed session for two hours Tuesday and emerged with its report.

Before a packed committee room, including O’Neal and Davis, state Rep. Jeff King, R-Independence read the report out loud. The committee then unanimously adopted it by voice vote.

King said O’Neal violated no law or House rule. But he then added that the statute allowing attorney-legislators to challenge in court the constitutionality of a legislative action “is troubling.”

The report says the law leads to the appearance of impropriety and cast a shadow on the House. The committee recommended that changes be made in the law and that the House adopt a code of ethics for guidance in the future.

The committee also said it doesn’t condone litigation filed by legislators against the state.

Davis said he hoped the committee report would persuade O’Neal to step away from the lawsuit, but O’Neal said he plans to pursue the litigation.

Comments

kujayhawk7476 4 years, 6 months ago

God 'Ole Boys Network, alive and in place in the Kansas Legislature.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 6 months ago

So while considered legal, O'Neal's actions have been shown him to be wholly lacking in integrity-- just the kind of lawyer the businesses he represents were looking for.

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kansasredlegs 4 years, 6 months ago

The Special Investigating Committee made its report this afternoon about the complaint filed against Speaker O'Neal. The panel agreed unanimously that the Speaker did not violate any rule or law. However, the panel found that the legislature should immediately amend the statute that Speaker O'Neal has used to claim his representation of several powerful special interests in a lawsuit against the state is permissable. The select committee asked that the statute be amended to take out any language that allows a sitting legislator to sue the state about legislation passed during that legislator's term. The present statute says that a legislator may sue if they vote no and make their opposition part of the record.


Rep. Davis: Time to eat some crow - You are a lawyer just as Mr. O'Neal is, you had to know he was not in violation of any rule or law. All you had to do was go to fellow legislators and say that this needed to be fixed, but you didn't do that . You let future political aspirations cloud your view and personally attacked his character. I know there will be those who write that Mr. O'Neal is a person of little character, but reread above - O'Neal: Lawyer / Legislator -- Davis: Lawyer / Legislator - so, the argument goes both ways. Put aside politics for one moment and do the honorable thing (tough in politics I know) and publically apologize for your political grandstanding. If not, I would not understand why any individual would retain your legal services when you apparently couldn't understand the rules and regulations of your own legislative body.

Pushing for change of a rule or law at the expense of one who is not violating said rule or law is questionable and perhaps unethical in and of itself.

Want some coffee with that Crow?

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bruno2 4 years, 6 months ago

Plain and simple, just because something is legal that doesn't make it right. The irony of a sitting legislator - and the Speaker for that matter, who exercises extensive control of what legislation moves through the assembly - actually suing the State over legislation passed on his watch, is frankly overwhelming. O'Neal needs to be booted out.

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kansasredlegs 4 years, 6 months ago

"just because something is legal that doesn't make it right" -- bruno2

Sorry bruno2, but in these here United State of America the Rule of Law always wins despite what we might think. Mr. O'Neal may not win a popularity contest right now, but he did nothing unlawful or against legislative rules of conduct.

The solution is to pass legislation which prohibits such conduct in the first place. Not, just boot 'em out because you say so.

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MyName 4 years, 6 months ago

@kansasredlegs:

Oh, so Davis should have just pretended that there was nothing wrong going on, even though there actually was a conflict of interest, it was just technically legal. How the heck do you get away with such ethical gymnastics without getting soft in the head?

I mean the way it works now he could work to pass a law banning freedom of the press in Kansas, and then be party to a lawsuit seeking damages for the passage of that law. And then he could come back and claim that he not only should be a member of the legislature, but in a leadership role there. It's ridiculous. And if O'Neal was my representative, I'd give him the boot at the next election. And that's a perfect example of the "rule of law", as well.

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Hektor 4 years, 6 months ago

@MyName "Oh, so Davis should have just pretended that there was nothing wrong going on..."

"All you (Davis) had to do was go to fellow legislators and say that this needed to be fixed, but you didn't do that ."

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 6 months ago

If Davis's goal was to get this fixed, he chose the appropriate method, since it got statewide attention focused on the problem, whereas merely complaining to fellow (mostly Republican) legislators would likely have accomplished very little.

Now there is a unanimous report from the ethics committee saying there needs to be change, with considerable statewide attention drawn to it.

Yea, Davis is a politician, and this was pretty good politics on his part.

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JustNoticed 4 years, 6 months ago

If you think the rule of law always wins, kansasredlegs, you're just not paying attention.

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kansasredlegs 4 years, 6 months ago

@MyName

No need for Davis to pretend that something wrong was going on, since there was nothing wrong going on. The bi-partisan committed looking into the matter concluded that there was nothing unlawful nor contrary to legislative rules occuring here. But many posters here just don't like it when the rule of law doesn't go his or her way. If you don't like it when one plays by the rules, change the rules or change the game.

Perhaps the next issue Mr. Davis can tackle while he's on this effort to clean up questionable ethical, but legal behavior, is to implement and enforce a rule that a legislator must actually reside in the residence in the district he or she wants to represent.

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Eride 4 years, 6 months ago

Just because an action is legal doesn't mean it is ethical.

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MyName 4 years, 6 months ago

Again, you're confusing legality with ethics. The difference between the two is the difference between the Governor of North Carolina and the former Governor of Illinois. Neither deserve to be in office, but the Governor of North Carolina will have to wait for the next election to leave, while the Governor of Illinois did not.

The root of this investigation is that we don't want Kansas to turn into some corrupt, incompetent state ran by a good ol' boys network. If a politician does something ethically wrong, people need to know about it, and calling for an investigation is one good way to start. If we let blatantly unethical actions go by without even the semblance of oversight, we might as well not bother with having ethics or morals at all.

And why don't you explain to the rest of us how winning an election in a district that you have a residence in is unethical? Or how this compares to the obvious conflicts of interest that arise from being part of a lawsuit about legislation that you just passed?

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jayhawklawrence 4 years, 6 months ago

MyName:

"The root of this investigation is that we don't want Kansas to turn into some corrupt, incompetent state ran by a good ol' boys network."

I am sorry MyName but you are a little too late to stop this from happening. It is the way things are until the voters get more educated.

I find it amusing that someone can criticize Rep. Davis for calling attention to what most Kansans would consider unethical behavior by Mike O'Neal.

But that is what lawyers like O'Neal are good at. He appears to be very proud of himself as well.

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