Topeka Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's supporters accuse the state official pursuing a professional ethics complaint against him of concealing an investigators' report highly favorable to Kline for months, but the official said Wednesday the allegation is "absolutely not true."
Kline has repeatedly cited the May 2008 report in his testimony before a three-member panel of the state Board for Discipline of Attorneys. The panel was in its third day of hearings Wednesday on a complaint alleging that Kline misled other state officials and mishandled patients' medical records in pursuing investigations of abortion clinics when he was attorney general from 2003 to 2007 and Johnson County district attorney from 2007 to 2009.
The report was prepared by two attorneys investigating Kline's conduct for state Disciplinary Administrator Stanton Hazlett's office. It reviewed allegations from attorneys for the abortion clinics and concluded there was no probable cause to believe Kline violated ethics rules. Some of the same allegations appeared in the ethics complaint Hazlett filed against Kline last year.
Kline told The Topeka Capital-Journal in an interview that Hazlett should have disclosed the report to him. Instead, he didn't learn about it until January 2010, when it was provided in thousands of pages of documents to attorneys for a former top deputy who had faced an ethics complaint but received only an informal admonition. The document has been public since.
Thomas Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based anti-abortion law firm, who's observing the hearing, suggested Hazlett's office "ignored" the report as part of an apparent "political vendetta."
And Kline said of Hazlett, "He's not applying the rules to himself the way he's applying them to me."
Hazlett said the report was among 30,000 pages of documents provided to several teams of attorneys who've represented Kline, including his present lawyers. He said Kline could have had access to the attorneys who wrote the favorable report, noting Kline likely was aware that they'd be preparing something because they spoke with him.
The disciplinary administrator told The Associated Press that the suggestion his office concealed the report is "ludicrous," adding, "It's absolutely not true."
Kline, an anti-abortion Republican, lost his bid for re-election as attorney general in November 2006. Fellow Republicans then picked him to fill a vacancy in the Johnson County district attorney's office, but he lost the GOP primary to retain the post in August 2008. He is now a visiting assistant professor of law at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the late evangelist Jerry Falwell.
Kline filed misdemeanor charges against Dr. George Tiller, of Wichita, in December 2006, accusing the abortion provider of performing illegal late-term abortions and failing to adequately report the details to the state, as required by law. The case was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, and Kline's successor filed different misdemeanor charges the following year. Tiller was acquitted in 2009, shortly before he was shot and killed.
Kline also filed a criminal case against a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park in 2007, when he was Johnson County district attorney. It's still pending, but the clinic denies Kline's allegations that it performed illegal abortions and falsified records.
Kline told the Topeka Capital-Journal that it would have helped him to have had the May 2008 investigators' report before his primary election that year.
And, he noted, in legal proceedings, "It's common practice to share."
The two attorneys who prepared the report for Hazlett's office are listed as witnesses in Kline's ethics hearing.
Their report dealt with accusations that it was improper for Kline to appear on "The O'Reilly Factor" shortly before the election in November 2006, a show in which host Bill O'Reilly referred to the Wichita abortion provider as "Tiller the Baby Killer." It also dealt with allegations that Kline made misleading statements about his activities.
Kline has vigorously disputed those allegations, and he told The Topeka Capital-Journal the report shows the ethics case against him should never have been pursued. The panel hearing Kline's case will recommend to the state Supreme Court what, if any, sanctions he should face.
But the report doesn't deal with most of the allegations Hazlett's complaint makes about the handling of patient records by Kline and his former staffers.
Nor does the report cover an allegation in Hazlett's complaint that Kline once made a false statement to the disciplinary administrator's office. Kline has said in his testimony that the last allegation is so vague and unclear that he doesn't know how to respond to it.
Hazlett said, "We investigated many, many, many other allegations."