The Great Tax Evasion Goat Rope

By Lee White

Years ago, when I covered overnight news for a Wichita radio station, there was a group of police beats in the southcentral part of the city called 30 District. It included South Broadway and the surrounding neighborhood, which was infamous for prostitution and drug use. Although there were legitimate incidents, the area had a reputation for calls that sounded like the crime of the century when dispatched, but turned out to be of dubious importance (e.g. hookers who didn’t get paid claiming to have been robbed or worse). Such calls were known as “30 District goat ropes.”

It’s election year and the goats are apparently running amok in Butler County.

Last night, I received a copy of a subpoena issued to write-in candidate for Butler County Sheriff Walker Andrews from the Kansas Department of Labor. Click here to view it. Andrews owns a Caribbean Sun tanning franchise in Andover and the subpoena said he had failed to pay unemployment taxes for the past two quarters. The subpoena ordered him to appear at 10 a.m. last Wednesday at the state office building in Wichita.

My source seemed concerned that Andrews was in dire straits financially and might have even run his election chances onto the rocks. I agreed that the subpoena was likely a major problem and, after confirming as best I could on a weekend that the document was the real deal, I texted Andrews and promptly received a phone call.

Yes, Andrews had received the subpoena. The civil process deputy for the Butler County Sheriff’s Department — you know, the place Andrews’ opponent Kelly Herzet runs — had telephoned one day to let Andrews know he had some paperwork for him. Andrews said he met the deputy and received a copy of the subpoena.

It was then, Andrews said, that he realized he had forgotten to pay his unemployment taxes during the busy campaign season. He said he called his accountant and told him to make the payment right away. Andrews said he later spoke with Mary Ernst at the Department of Labor, who confirmed that the agency had received his payment and that he didn’t need to appear at the hearing.

Click here to view a copy of the receipt Andrews’ accountant received when he made the payment of a whopping $69.11. That website shown along the bottom is the labor department’s Internet payment portal. The receipt has an El Dorado address because a corporation Andrews formed   — Midwest Tanning, LLC — owns the Andover tanning franchise. The corporation’s headquarters is at Andrews’ home in rural El Dorado.

I’m grateful to my source for passing along the information even though it didn’t turn out to be as big a story as we both thought it might be. I certainly would have written about it anyway. Although I’ve supported Andrews politically, I will not turn a blind eye if he really screws up. Sadly, that’s the difference these days between a lowly blogger and a broadcast station or newspaper. I guess I’m “old school.”

So if you need a fake bake, call Caribbean Sun in Andover. If you’re having difficulty rounding up goats, call the Butler County Sheriff’s Department. And if one of them gets away, call the Watchdog.

PAC Launches Postcard Mailing In Support Of Andrews Write-In Campaign

writeinpostcardfrontwriteinpostcardbackUPDATE 11:30 a.m. CDT 10/27/2016: Some are laboring under the false assumption that I, Lee White, had something to do with these postcards. I did not even know they existed until receiving an e-mail from a member of the PAC at 5:06 p.m. Wednesday (10/26/2016). I therefore had no input whatsoever on their content and certainly did not help to pay for them. I simply don’t have that kind of money.

The political action committee Citizens For A Better Butler County launched a massive direct mail campaign today aimed at getting voters of every persuasion to write in Walker Andrews for Butler County Sheriff. PAC officials say they mailed 22,000 cards in an effort to unseat incumbent Sheriff Kelly Herzet, who won the Republican primary with only 40 percent of the vote.

Figure In Flinthills Case Caught In Real Estate Limbo

By Lee White

UPDATE 8:05 p.m. CDT 10/28/2016: U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn H. Vratil yesterday agreed to dismiss Jonathan Henak from the lawsuit apparently after receiving the signature of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon Fleenor. Moving day is apparently back on. Click here to view the order. 

A key figure in this federal whistleblower lawsuit filed against Flinthills Services, Inc. finds himself in a bit of a pickle due to protracted settlement negotiations. Jonathan Henak, who was named as a defendant in the case, was chief financial officer at Flinthills, an agency that provides services to the developmentally disabled, from October 2009 to February 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Since leaving Flinthills, Henak has worked as CFO at a similar agency based in Wichita, Paradigm Services, Inc. On October 18, parties in the case filed a stipulation to dismiss Henak from the case. They had originally notified the court July 28 that they were working on a settlement. Today, U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil, citing a procedural error, refused to allow Henak’s dismissal. Click here to view Vratil’s written order.

“By separate email, plaintiff’s counsel informed the Court that although the parties are still finalizing their settlement, they have agreed to dismiss claims against Henak because he is in the process of moving from Wichita to Kansas City to take a new job, and he has contracts to sell and purchase
houses which will fall through if the lawsuit against him is not dismissed,” Vratil wrote. “In the email, counsel states that the United States Attorney General has consented to the stipulation of dismissal.

“…the parties may dismiss a qui tam suit only if the Court and the Attorney General give written consent to the dismissal and their reasons for consenting. Here, the record does not contain the Attorney General’s written consent to the dismissal, or her reasons for consenting.”

Being named as a defendant in a lawsuit creates what is known as a “cloud on title” in a real estate transaction. Banks typically balk at lending money until they know for certain that a borrower won’t be forced to pay a judgment. It is unlikely, then, that either of Henak’s house deals can close until he is officially dismissed as a defendant in the Flinthills case.

A developmentally disabled Flinthills client signed over the rights to live in his home rent free — a “life estate” — to the agency in 2011. Click here for details. There is a question as to whether the client knew what he was signing or the ramifications of doing so.

It is unclear what, if any, role Henak played in the client’s signing over his life estate to Flinthills, but he was CFO at the time and one would think that the matter would have at least crossed his desk. Henak is still listed as resident agent for Sandstone Homes I, LLC, the separate company that owns group homes Flinthills uses, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s website. It’s not much of a stretch to believe he at least had knowledge of all properties the agency owned and how Flinthills came to own them.

But if Henak did, indeed, take part in what happened to the Flinthills client, perhaps his adventure in real property Purgatory is karma. If it is (and even if it isn’t), I’m glad Judge Vratil is following proper procedure and requiring U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to sign off on the settlement releasing Henak as a defendant. That could take awhile. And winter is coming.

Police Officer Continues Role In Chief’s Business After State Certification Revoked

By Lee White

A long-time Augusta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) officer who had his state law enforcement certification revoked apparently continues part-time work as a diving instructor at a business owned by ADPS Director Tyler Brewer. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training revoked Michael Stueven’s law enforcement certification on September 12, according to this website. Stueven was officially notified of the revocation on August 25 and apparently chose not to request a hearing to appeal the decision within the required 15 days.

Click here to view a copy of the commission’s Summary Order of Revocation obtained via a Kansas Open Records Act request. Among the allegations it contains:

  • Stueven, by his own admission, exchanged inappropriate Facebook and text messages with a female prisoner he was assigned to transport to Augusta from the Kansas Department of Corrections Women’s Correctional Facility in Topeka and back to prison. The prisoner transports occurred on January 26 and 27, 2016. The document identifies the woman as K.S.
  • Stueven encouraged his own department to issue an arrest warrant for an individual identified in the order as O.F. and pushed the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office to revoke O.F.’s bond. The order stated that the woman and O.F. were involved in a “violent relationship.”
  • Stueven, who was married but admitted “pursuing K.S.,” put her up in a motel for two days following her release from prison and O.F.’s arrest.
  • Stueven failed a polygraph examination during which he stated he never had sex with the woman.

The order indicates ADPS hired Stueven on June 21, 1994, and that his last day was March 4, 2016. Stueven had served as an investigations sergeant for several years. He was also trained as a firefighter, which is the norm for departments of public safety where officers are cross-trained for both law enforcement and the fire service.

Brewer is a former Wichita police major who has served as ADPS director since February 1, 2003, according to the department’s website. Brewer served as police chief in Jefferson City, Missouri, prior to taking the Augusta position.

On February 7, 2007, Brewer formed a limited liability company called Amber Waves Diving. This annual report to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office indicates Brewer is president and treasurer of the company. Tim Follis, an ADPS lieutenant, is listed in the report as a director.

Amber Waves Diving operates a retail store at 307 S. Greenwich Road in Wichita, according to its website. The company also offers SCUBA diving classes. In addition to Brewer and Follis, two other members of the ADPS are involved with Amber Waves. Officer Derek Highbarger teaches safety classes and Sgt. Chad McCluskey handles information technology duties. Other prominent individuals from the emergency services community in Butler and Sedgwick counties also serve as instructors.

As of this writing, Stueven is still listed as a staff member on  amberwavesdiving.com. His biography has been changed to reflect his departure from the ADPS. Click here for a screen capture of his bio dated February 5, 2016, from archive.org.

I have sent e-mails to Augusta City Administrator Josh Shaw, Mayor Matt Childers, and Brewer, as well as a Facebook message to Stueven seeking comment. If and when I hear from them, I will publish their statements.

Why This Matters

In discussing this story with friends and family since I learned about it on Monday, some expressed the opinion that what Brewer does with his private business shouldn’t matter. Normally, I would agree except for the following reasons:

  1. Three of the men Brewer currently supervises at ADPS (and now one he used to) are involved with Amber Waves Diving. One is even part owner. Firefighters, rescue personnel, and a law enforcement officer from other agencies are also involved. I know a couple of these men and have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for them, but given the close relationship between the public agency and Amber Waves, this is a story worth telling.
  2. ADPS recently weathered another, even more serious allegation of sexual misconduct when Officer Jerry Ballinger pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Click here for the Wichita Eagle story from 2013. Ballinger apparently took his own life in 2015, according to this Butler County Times-Gazette story. In my opinion, Brewer sent the wrong message about inappropriate sexual conduct to his subordinates on the ADPS and to the public by keeping Stueven on in his diving business.
  3. The Topeka Correctional Facility where Stueven picked up the female inmate involved in this story was rocked by a sex scandal in 2009. Tim Carpenter, of the Topeka Capital-Journal, broke the story and wrote this follow-up piece earlier this year about a large lawsuit judgment one of the women won. Carpenter’s reporting led to a change in state law that makes it illegal for those in positions of authority such as police officers, prison guards, and teachers to have sex with those under their control regardless of whether they have reached the age of consent.

Perhaps Stueven himself said it best in this 2011 Times-Gazette officer profile: “I don’t think a lot of people realize that once you put on a badge, it follows you everywhere you go, twenty-four hours a day.”

Rose Hill Council: Still Rife With Strife

dsc00261By Julie Pots

Council Member Bill Baker brought forth a list of requests at Monday night’s Rose Hill City Council meeting and again exposed an ongoing rift between council factions. Baker wants details of attorney billings. The city chose to enter a contract to reduce its month billing about 50 percent, so details have to be requested by council. Baker requested a paper copy of Administrator Austin Gilley’s PowerPoint that is viewed by each council member at each meeting via individual laptops. He also asked for more flood information because last flood he did not know what was happening.

“This isn’t about transparency, Mr. Baker, this is about control,” Gilley said. “If you want me to provide a monthly statement to you regarding everything I do, I can do that. The presentation is available at every meeting. All anyone has to do is ask.”

Council Member Bob Klem said he believes the problem is that the council has the responsibility to know what is going on. Council Member Roger Perryn stated he would just like to get past “this.”

Gilley agreed that it’s council’s job, as the council body, to know what is going on, but “you have to ask for detail as a council, not as individuals. I am not going to play these games.”

Baker said that if he had any questions about bills from the city attorney, he would call the mayor. Gilley said he has offered multiple times to meet with Baker, but Baker refuses to meet with him. Baker said he refuses to meet with Gilley “because you set me up and lie about me and demean me.”

Mayor Beth Pompa interjected, “When is going to stop? I am done with this!” She asked if there was a motion Baker would like to make. Baker made a lengthy one regarding attorney billing statements, but no second was offered and the motion died.

“You (Baker) have to ask for (the detail),” Klem said.

“But I can’t ask for it, the council has to,” Baker said.

“So what? We still can!” said Council Member Ross Chappell.

Gilley said that since it’s a contract billing then council as a whole must ask for it from the attorney. Chappell said he would do that.

Looking at Klem, Chappell stated: “Are you afraid we won’t (agree) to that? I’ll do it.”

“Well yeah, it’s been that way for a little bit,” Klem replied.

Council President Roger Perryn said he recently wanted a paper copy of Gilley’s meeting presentation, called Gilley about it, and received one right away.

“Just ask (Gilley) for it,” Perryn said. Pompa agreed, stating that a motion regarding the distribution of paper copies was unnecessary.

The council also received reports from staff and citizens.

Long-time citizen Harold Beedles addressed the council, inviting members to a presentation at 6 p.m. tonight (10/20/2016) featuring a writer from Rose Hill who was a former POW. A second citizen, Mindy Runnalls, asked about the possibility of placing information regarding the coming library speaker on the Rose Hill City FB page. Councilman Bill Baker requested a change in the agenda to add a discussion of the council’s attorney billing procedure and was granted that change.

Next up was Rose Hill’s new Police Chief Nelson Mosley, who gave a very impressive and detailed summary of his first three months on the job. Nelson was appointed on July 17. He is steadily implementing the philosophy of Community Policing as a priority with the police department. He noted several recent activities such as chamber involvement, senior center breakfasts, a children’s puppet show at the library, the Charlie Futhey event, the emergency services recognition dinner, and the annual fall festival. Mosley mentioned that in addition to the very good article in the Rose Hill Reporter, the Derby Informer also ran an article August 10.

Among the chief’s priorities are the updating of policies and procedures, uniforms and equipment and officer training. Something else he is researching is reviving the Crime Stoppers program. He is currently inventorying equipment and uniforms, as many were hand-me-downs. The standard uniform will be dark blue. To display officer awards, he is planning on purchasing different uniform bars that will be given to wear on an officer’s uniform when they receive special recognition. The chief also noted that the reserve officer count was up to seven now.

Chris Wendt, representing the Rose Hill Historical Society, asked that the council approve some temporary road closures during the Old Time Christmas festivities scheduled for December 10. They asked for a donation of just $400.00 to hire a second transportation trolley. Wendt stated that the first trolley was being sponsored by the Rose Hill Veterinary Clinic, and noted that would also be two horse drawn carriages as well. The council approved both the street closings and the $400.00 donation to support the second trolley.

Gilley discussed lightning damage to the traffic light and the fact that the city of Rose Hill is one of the most transparent cities in Kansas and also noted that not a single records request had gone unanswered to date.

Gilley also talked about updating zoning regulations regarding cell towers in the right-of-way. Perryn commented that recent laws have been passed that make cell carriers free to install cell towers in the right-of-way giving cities no say in where they put them.

Analyzing The Ongoing Council Feud

Baker was unhappy with previous city administrator Kathy Raney. He attended meeting after meeting, constantly criticizing both her and the city council. Eventually, Raney quit and Baker took full credit for her departure as he prepared to run for city council himself. Gilley’s knowledge, experience and education far exceed Kathy Raney’s (no offense intended) but Baker and Klem are still not satisfied. Growth would mean a certain loss of control to those who want to maintain Rose Hill as it is. They can feel control slipping away each month Gilley and the current council move toward the future and away from the old ways of staying a bedroom community.

For a long time, it has felt like the city motto was, “Come here and raise your children, and when they are grown go back where you came from.” With the exception of Klem and  Baker, who insist on treating the mayor with disrespect, the remaining council members are a true blessing for the entire city – respectful, open to new ideas and discussions, and considerate of their fellow council members.

The current council, administrator, and mayor are not responsible for the city’s woes. They did not cause the sewer cost to be underestimated by hundreds of thousands. The old regime did. They are not responsible for the fact that Rose Hill’s contract with the Wichita Water Department has no limitations on how many times per year the rates can increase, unlike other cities close by. Again, this was the old regime. As Gilley noted, he will always make himself available to the council members. It’s not proper protocol for individual members to take action without a vote of the entire council.

Andrews Issues Statement On Write-In Campaign For Butler County Sheriff

Retired Wichita Police Lt. Walker Andrews has issued the following statement concerning his write-in campaign for Butler County Sheriff in the upcoming November 8 election:

When I retired from the Wichita Police Department I had a mission to bring  everything I’d learned in nearly three decades back to my home county.  I  wanted to serve all of you and give back to a community that I’ve lived in my entire life.

andrewspic
Walker Andrews

On August 2, I just couldn’t make it happen.  We lost a tight election and
it looks like we just had two other great choices.  After taking some time
to think about it, I’m not ready to give up.  While I didn’t end up with
the votes, Butler County spoke and they said loud and clear that a change
in Sheriff is needed.  I decided to embark on a write in campaign and have
spent quite a bit of time getting out and talking with people in the county
to let them know that on Election Day, there will still be a choice.

While write in campaigns are typically tough to win, 60% of the voters
voted against Kelly Herzet.  I think that gives us a pretty good shot.
Something has to give.  Turnover has been terrible since Sheriff Herzet has  taken office and it has continued at an alarming rate since the primary  election.

There are things about the Butler County Sheriff’s Office that have worked for a long time and there are things I believe we can do better.  By bringing in someone with a different experience in law enforcement, I bring new ideas which are only there to bring added security and safety to the citizens of this county.  I’ve met several of the Deputies in this county
and they are good hard working men and women.  The main thing they lack is a strong leader.

I’ve never worked for Sheriff Herzet so I can’t say what it’s like.  But
look at this election.  A former Lieutenant and a current Deputy both ran
against Sheriff Herzet.  That says something.  Both men cited turnover
being a reflection of Sheriff Herzet’s policies.  The turnover numbers
don’t lie.  I’ve had a proven track record of supervising police officers
and I’ve never seen a department crumbling like the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

So I ask you, on Election Day write in “Walker Andrews” for Butler County  Sheriff.  We can make it happen.  I ask you to tell your friends, share  this post, visit my Facebook page, and pull your signs out and we’ll get  the word out.  There’s more to come from me in the weeks leading up to the  election so stay tuned.  Let’s show the men and women of this county’s law  enforcement that we back them and we are going to give them a strong leader again.

Blog Comment: Seven Road Patrol Deputies Have Left Sheriff’s Department

The following was received as a comment on a recent blog post concerning Walker Andrews’ write-in campaign for Butler County Sheriff.  I’m bumping it up from a comment to a post for two reasons. First, the writer seems to have genuine knowledge of the situation. Second, the county is needlessly delaying the release of records concerning turnover at the sheriff’s department. 

Good morning Mr. White, long time listener, first time caller. I understand you are having some difficulties getting some open records information regarding the Sheriff’s Office. I’d like to help. I’ve decided to keep my anonymity due to my current work situation (if you catch my drift) so I apologize for that. You asked for numbers on attrition at BUSO. Currently, seven deputies have quit. That’s an entire crew missing from patrol. One. Entire. Crew. Not. Patrolling. Think about that. The jail is worse. It’s more than double that. That’s the reason why they don’t want to release that information. It’ll prove Mike Holton and Curtis Cox’s assertions that turnover is a result of Kelly Herzet being a shoddy leader. In fact, specifically ask BUSO how many Deputies they’ve lost to El Dorado PD and to Bel Aire PD. Might give you a chuckle.

It’s probably time the 60% of us who didn’t vote for Kelly Herzet to band together and vote for the write in. Walker Andrews has launched a write in campaign but he needs much more exposure than what he’s putting out currently. I personally did not vote for him in the primary due to pathetic tactics by people like Julie Winslow and the so called CBBC, but since it appears he’s cut all ties with them, I’d be willing to write his name in now. Unfortunately, that cost him the primary. There’s just not enough tin foil in Butler County to go around when Julie Winslow’s ideologies start getting thrown around.

Keep digging Mr. White. You’ve clearly gotten to Mr. Herzet. And Mr. Andrews, if you’re listening, you gotta step your game up if you want to win this. Stay away from the known local nut jobs, but employ every tool you have and you could win this. We’d be happy to welcome you as the Top Dog.

Time For New Leadership

By Lee White

It’s time for Butler County EMS Director Chad Pore to go home to Greensburg and stay there.

Pore, who apparently still lives in Greensburg more than two years after accepting the Butler County position, put his foot in his mouth big time during a September 21 staff meeting. During a discussion of how the 2017 county budget affected his department, Pore said, “One commissioner is not going to be back next year. That’s good.”

The only county commissioner who is not returning next year is Peggy Palmer.

Pore had voiced his displeasure earlier in the meeting that a station remodeling project budget was slashed by about 75 percent.

“The whole thing, I’ll be honest, the whole thing is not what we want,” Pore said. “We want a quarter of a million freakin’ dollars to do a damn remodel that we should be able to have and the reality of it is, above my pay grade says, ‘no.'”

As is common practice, someone with EMS posted the staff meeting video to YouTube. Click here for the link. You will notice that it says “this video has been removed by the user.” That occurred several hours after I posted the video on the Butler County Watchdog Facebook page.

There are two issues here. First, a county department head stands up in full uniform in front of his staff and the public and rejoices at the fact that one of his bosses is leaving. That smacks of insubordination. If County Administrator Will Johnson allows a department head to get away with such behavior this time, what is he going to do when it is directed toward a commissioner he likes (e.g. Mike Wheeler, Dan Woydziak, or Jeff Masterson)?

The second issue involves the video and its sudden disappearance. Pore knew the camera was on him. How do I know that he knew? Because at one point late in the meeting, he asked that the camera be shut off, presumably so he could discuss something he didn’t want the folks out in YouTube Land to see. Then after I post a link to it, the video disappears — removed by the user.

The video’s removal reminds me of the new as-yet-unwritten county policy regarding Kansas Open Records Act requests. Those requests now go to County Counselor Terry Huelskamp, who writes letters at taxpayer expense, apparently in an effort to delay release of the records. In other words, if it makes the county look bad, cover it up! I blame Johnson for allowing this culture of secrecy to permeate the county.

Because I’m often called a liar when I report information that tarnishes the county’s image, I’m careful to have a Plan B. In this instance, I used my phone to make audio recordings of Pore’s utterances from the YouTube video because I anticipated its removal. Click here for the remark about Palmer and click here for the quote about the remodeling budget. I apologize for the audio quality, but I think you’ll hear what you need to hear.

No, I haven’t always agreed with Peggy Palmer, but the people in her neck of the woods seem to like her. They have elected her to multiple terms in the Kansas Legislature — both House and Senate — and the county commission. As evidenced by her candor when a citizen questioned commissioners about Pore’s residency at the July 12 county commission meeting, she’s honest and transparent.

Pore exercised horrible judgment by attacking Palmer in front of his staff and in a public forum. Coupled with his reluctance to move to Butler County, it should be abundantly clear to him, to Johnson, and to county commissioners that an exit strategy is in order. Anything less will demonstrate that Johnson has lost complete control of the organization he is paid so well to manage and that his days should also be numbered.

County Funnels Open Records Request Through Attorney

By Lee White

As expected, the woman who last Thursday requested a list of new hires and terminations from the Butler County Sheriff’s Department for the period beginning August 1, 2016, has received a letter from County Counselor Terry Huelskamp. The Andover attorney said he would get in touch with her to discuss how much time and money it would take to supply her with the records.

In May, this same woman received two years’ worth of the same information for both the sheriff’s department and Emergency Medical Service in three days for $39. One wonders how much taxpayer money the county is paying Huelskamp to write letters such as this one. My guess is, more than $39. Perhaps I should file a Kansas Open Records Act request for the bills.

But what do legal fees matter to the Butler County Commission, County Administrator Will Johnson, and Sheriff Kelly Herzet? Not much of the money comes out of their pockets. Besides, they don’t want another blog post like this one to remind taxpayers that the agency apparently continues to have problems recruiting and retaining deputies.

Public access to records is vital to holding elected and appointed officials accountable. The Open Records Act, although often a tool for journalists, is supposed to apply equally to all members of the public. Just because Johnson and Herzet don’t like the individual making the request — just because the information the records contain might prove embarrassing — doesn’t mean that the law and county policy concerning the law should not apply equally. Does every member of the public who requests records get a letter from Huelskamp? That’s fodder for yet another Open Records Act request.

In case you’re wondering why someone wants these records — not that one is required by law to state a reason — there have been reports of more turnover at the sheriff’s department. Records might help answer these questions:

  • Have five deputies recently left the road patrol?
  • Are road patrol deputies being required to work overtime at the jail because it is still understaffed?
  • Did a contract deputy assigned to Douglass recently leave for greener pastures?

By needlessly delaying a lawful open records request, county officials have more or less confirmed that turnover is still a problem. Instead of just handing over the statistics and letting them speak for themselves, Johnson & Co. have generated more negative publicity for themselves by dragging the process out.

While Johnson continues to hide behind his lawyer, the situation at the sheriff’s department becomes even more dire as experienced deputies leave and quality recruits make themselves scarce. County commissioners already approved more money for jail deputies, according to this story from the Times-Gazette. But the jail isn’t the only issue.

Instead of trying to sweep everything under the rug, how about real leadership and real solutions? Yes, it’s going to take money, but money is only part of it. Why not bring in a human resources consultant to conduct confidential interviews with current and former deputies and to study pay, benefits, turnover, and working conditions and draw comparisons with other departments? I’m not usually a fan of spending money on consultants, but this may be the time to do it and it makes more sense than paying lawyers any day of the week.

Andrews Launches Write-In Campaign For Sheriff

By Lee White

With a post on this campaign Facebook page, retired Wichita Police Lt. Walker Andrews launched a write-in campaign for Butler County sheriff. Andrews came in second in a four-way primary race that incumbent Kelly Herzet won with about 40 percent of the vote. Andrews faces an uphill battle to win a write-in campaign as would any candidate. Voters are used to choosing from the “menu” even if there is no choice or the choices really suck (witness the current presidential race).

I suggested a write-in on election night and encouraged Andrews and the other two losing candidates, Mike Holton and Curtis Cox, to come together in support of the effort. That was not to be, which makes the hill Andrews must climb even steeper. So the question becomes, if I lived in Butler County (thank God I don’t!), would I push the button for Herzet, write in Andrews, or simply abstain?

Without a doubt, I would write in Andrews. The sheriff’s department allegedly continues to suffer from deputy turnover — a major issue in the primary. I say “allegedly” because when a local resident requested the same sort of public records referenced in this blog post, she was met with a delay tactic county administration recently adopted. This tactic involves referring Kansas Open Records Act requests to Terry Huelskamp, an Andover attorney, so he can write a meaningless letter at taxpayer expense to the person who requested the records in hopes that individual will drop the matter or not know what legal steps to take.

Those legal steps are clearly outlined right here on the Kansas Attorney General’s website. I have encouraged the woman who requested the number of hires and terminations at the sheriff’s department since August 1 to follow the procedure outlined on the attorney general’s site and not to let Huelskamp and County Administrator Will Johnson off the hook. Whatever she chooses to do — and whatever Johnson, Huelskamp, and the county commissioners who employ them choose to do — will not happen in a vacuum this time.

Playing games with the Open Records Act only lends credibility to the information others and I have received that the revolving door continues to spin at the sheriff’s department. Instead of proposing real solutions (e.g. pre-employment skill testing, a pay-and-benefits study, or focus groups where current employees can speak without fear of retaliation), Johnson, who made $121,953 in 2015, according to kansasopengov.org, hides in his office and squanders scarce resources on legal fees to cover Herzet’s backside and aid his campaign.

Voters should also ask themselves this question: Who becomes sheriff if Herzet retires before the end of his term? If the answer is Undersheriff Tony Wilhite, be afraid. Be VERY afraid. You think turnover’s bad now…

The issue is really larger than the sheriff’s race. It is about a county that was growing and has become stagnant (projected to grow by only 1,400 by 2019). It is about an administrator who believes he is accountable to no one, least of all the public. It is about bright minds who avoid working and living in the county because of the petty, vindictive, inbred manner in which it operates and because they don’t want to pay Johnson County taxes for Greeley County services. Who can blame them?

Writing in Walker Andrews for sheriff may seem an exercise in futility, but it is a simple way voters can thumb their noses at the status quo. It will also make the people bankrolling Herzet’s campaign spend more of their money. That’s key in a war of attrition. Moreover, it’ll send a message to Johnson and the county commissioners that they will join El Dorado City Manager Herb Llewellyn on the plant-watering detail if they don’t clean up their act.