Archive for Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lawmakers knock DA’s probe of meetings with Brownback

June 7, 2012


— Two Republicans in the Kansas House see a Democratic district attorney's ongoing investigation as political after being subpoenaed and answering questions about private dinner meetings lawmakers had with GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

Reps. Steve Brunk of Bel Aire and Virgil Peck of Tyro were among seven GOP legislators who received subpoenas late last month from Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor. He is investigating potential violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act from seven dinners Brownback had in January at Cedar Crest, his official residence.

Two of the subpoenaed legislators, Sen. Bob Marshall of Fort Scott and Rep. Anthony Brown of Eudora are compelled to appear at the county courthouse Thursday morning to answer questions. Brunk and Peck received similar summonses but came in for interviews last week.

Brownback invited members of 13 House and Senate committees to the seven dinners in January, almost all of them fellow Republicans. Most attending the meetings have described them as social gatherings, and Brownback has said they're confident no laws were broken.

On Wednesday, Peck called the investigation "just a witch hunt." Brunk said the dinner he attended was a "nonevent," and two members of Taylor's staff pressed him for details on what exactly was said and how legislators interacted with the governor.

"It just feels really, really political," Brunk said Wednesday. "I felt like they were kind of looking for a 'gotcha' moment."

Taylor spokesman Lee McGowan declined to respond to Brunk's and Peck's comments.

Also subpoenaed were Sen. Susan Wagle of Wichita and Reps. Rob Bruchman of Overland Park and Scott Schwab of Olathe. Bruchman and Schwab eventually were released from their subpoenas, and Wagle is arranging to answer questions by phone to avoid traveling while she undergoes cancer treatments.

Taylor's staff had attempted to interview legislators before they ended their annual session. Lawmakers had to agree to answer questions, because the state constitution shielded them from being subpoenaed while they were still working.

Brownback invited more than 90 of the Legislature's 165 members to the dinners, and the only Democrat on the list has said she assumed it was a mistake and didn't attend. Brunk and Peck said they would have answered questions earlier but had limited contact with Taylor's office, so the interviews weren't scheduled.

Both said they considered fighting their subpoenas but already had business in Topeka last week, including the Legislature's brief, formal adjournment ceremony.

"I wasn't going to make a special trip down there for essentially nothing," Brunk said.

The Open Meetings Act prohibits a voting majority of a legislative body from discussing government business without giving the public notice or access to the meetings.

Taylor said from the beginning of his investigation that the act does not apply to Brownback as an individual and that the alleged violations are civil, not criminal, matters. Officials who knowingly break the law can be fined up to $500 per incident, but a case typically leads to an order spelling out how officials will avoid future violations.

The governor acknowledged in March that he set up the meetings to discuss his agenda and took questions and comments after speaking. But he's dismissed criticism that the dinners were business meetings.

Peck said the two dinners he attended included small talk about lawmakers' families and the weather.

"Whenever you get more than one legislator together, you're going to talk politics," Peck said. "There were no decisions made."


jayhawklawrence 5 years, 7 months ago

Thankfully, we have a DA who is not a pawn of the current administration.

matthew2600 5 years, 7 months ago

"I felt like they were kind of looking for a 'gotcha' moment." Why is it that any time anyone questions anything a Republican does it's partisan and a "gotcha moment"? Exposing Sarah Palin for not reading newspapers is not "gotcha" it's a valid question as is an attorney asking whether meetings break the law. If they didn't break the law they shouldn't have anything to fear, right?

Orwell 5 years, 7 months ago

If they broke the law they deserve to "get got." This complaint about "gotcha" has become standard Republican code for "I screwed up, so I must attack anyone who points it out."

irvan moore 5 years, 7 months ago

lawmakers don't want laws enforced? interesting

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

The OMA prohibits them from discussing government business.

Peck says there were no decisions made.

Those two aren't the same thing, are they?

If they discussed government business, they violated the Act, even if they made no decisions at the meeting.

Richard Benson 5 years, 7 months ago

"I felt like they were kind of looking for a 'gotcha' moment."

Really? That's what lawbreakers all say when they describe being interviewed by prosecutors.

And that's because prosecutors really are looking for a "gotcha" moment when they question suspects in an investigation.

Moreover, any two-bit politician who would accuse much-respected, no-nonsense, generally-not-at-all-about-politics career-prosecutor Lee McGowan of conducting a politically-motivated witch-hunt for anyone of any political persuasion is:

a) uninformed;

b) unconcerned with the truth;

c) afraid of what will come out of the investigation;

d) irresponsible; and

e) a miserable excuse for a human being.

But then, I understand the negativity. I used to be a frequent opponent of Mr. McGowan in the Courtroom, and I didn't like it much, either.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Of course it is political. Politicians are suspected of breaking the law.

The RINO misinformation machine is running full throttle!!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Voters beware!

Massive Misinformation Machine Confused Wisconsin Voters = do recall vote AGAIN

Election Protection Hotline Keeping Busy with Confused Voter Calls

Questions about requirements for Election Day Registration, poll workers improperly asking voters' ID and deceptive robocalls suggesting voters who signed petitions or voted in earlier elections did not have to vote again are among reported issues.

Below are some of highlighted issues being reported:

* Voters initially turned away despite providing sufficient proof of residency;
* Voter was challenged by poll worker because she did not provide a photo ID; however, when the voter threatened to record the conversation, the poll worker apologized and allowed her to vote;
* Voter received a letter in the mail falsely stating that her polling location had changed because of an event;
* Voter reported being turned away and witnessing others turned away despite providing sufficient proof of residency;
* Voters reported being challenged repeatedly by the same poll worker, but having no problems with a different poll worker;
* Voter received a voicemail from an unidentified voicemail falsely stating that if you voted in a recall primary you don't need to vote in the recall election);
* Voter reported individuals wearing "Vote!" teachers providing incorrect and misleading information to voters about the location of their polling location. They suspected that these individuals were attempting to dissuade voters by frustrating and misleading them;
* A voter reported that he and his wife encountered people inside the polling place (not officials) yelling at him “you better not vote for Scott Walker,” and another individual asking to see their ballots and, when they refused, accusing them of being Republicans;
* Poll workers were making mistakes by marking the wrong names on the voter roll, and not monitoring the polling boxes;
* Leading up to the elections Milwaukee County buses had false information about photo ID laws, dissuading voters because of their lack of ID.

Joe Hyde 5 years, 7 months ago

Hosting that many dinners at Cedar Crest in a month's time probably put quite a strain on household staff. Next legislative session a better plan might be to wait until every legislator is in attendance, then for noon chow the governor springs for Chinese or pizza with individual meals delivered to this same hand-picked group of lawmakers. Moderate Republicans and Democrats can be directed to the snack and pop machines out in the lobby.

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