Kansas taxpayers have picked up the tab for more than $500,000 in legal fees and expenses for former Attorney General Phill Kline and two of his aides, and with more hearings upcoming this summer, that bill is likely to go even higher.
Kline is accused of violating the state’s ethics code as an attorney while he was attorney general and Johnson County district attorney. The allegations stem from investigations Kline conducted into the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park and George Tiller’s abortion clinic in Wichita.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Sunday that the stated paid $200,023 in legal fees and $20,291 in expenses to the Overland Park-based Holbrook and Osborn law firm, which defended Kline during an eight-day disciplinary hearing earlier this year.
The state also paid $178,285 in legal fees and $4,929 in expenses to Kansas City, Mo., law firm Graves, Bartle, Marcus and Garett for defending Kline earlier.
The total for Kline so far is $403,528. An additional $125,959 went to lawyers to defend Kline aides Eric Rucker and Steven Maxwell, both of whom received informal admonitions in the ethics case. Both worked for Kline while he was attorney general and district attorney.
No decision has been made on the ethics allegations against Kline.
Kline said he personally paid more than $200,000 so appeals could be filed in an abortion case while he was district attorney. He said the office didn’t have the resources to handle the appeals and the staff was bogged down with 8,400 cases a year.
During Kline’s eight-day hearing, the state Board of Discipline of Attorneys heard testimony about allegations including misconduct by Kline, mishandling of patient abortion records, infractions of trial publicity, conflict of interest, lack of candor toward a court and lack of truthfulness in statements to others.
Jeff Wagaman, spokesman for the Kansas attorney general’s office, said legal fees for state officials and employees who are defendants in lawsuits are paid by the state under the Kansas Tort Claims Act.
“Historically, the state of Kansas and its agencies were immune from liability for the wrongful conduct of their officers and employees in the absence of a statute imposing liability,” Wagaman said. “The KTCA replaced sovereign immunity with the general rule that the state would be liable for the wrongful conduct of its employees in the same manner as a private employer.”
According to state records examined by the newspaper, more than $2,500 was spent to fly Kline from his home in Virginia to Topeka, to house him in a Topeka hotel and to provide him with a rental vehicle.
More legal fees and expenses are still in the pipeline, so the state probably will be on the hook for more legal bills. Also, a four-day hearing scheduled to begin July 19 on a second count accusing Kline of misleading a Johnson County grand jury could push total state spending on his legal issues even higher.