Augusta Park Board Member Responds To Removal From Office

At the February 5 Augusta City Council meeting, Council Member Justin Londagin made a motion to remove Rob Chandler from the Park Advisory Board two months before his term expired. Londagin cited Chandler’s poor attendance as the reason. The council voted 5-2 to remove Chandler and replace him with Clair Carpenter. Carpenter is the daughter of former 75th District State Rep. Will Carpenter, R-El Dorado. She will serve the rest of Chandler’s term and a term expiring in 2020. Click here to view video of the meeting. Discussion of the matter begins at 2:05:38. Chandler sent the following e-mail to the council:

Dear Mayor Childers and Augusta City Council,

I want to take this time and honestly thank you for allowing me to be apart of the process of continually serving my fellow citizens of Augusta.  It has been an honor to be involved with a board that advised a city council that looked further down the road for improvements in a community that I have spent my entire life in.  I’ve seen a lot of changes and been apart of those changes. Changes that have brought people and pride into Augusta.  This email will have a lot of “I’s” in it and I apologize in advance. I’ve never liked to toot my own horn or publicly broadcast my acolytes but I’m cashing my chips in and laying them out for all to see.

It’s sad that I even have to do this for such a menial action but I feel I have to defend my character since this action occurred in a public venue and was broadcast live and archived for public viewing.  This is of concern because I work in law enforcement and people see me on a daily basis.  There are certain standards that apply to my agency and others that require a good moral character that the public needs and expects.  When there are accusations made that reflect poorly on my character I need to defend myself.  People need to know that they can count on me to be there for them in time of need.  I fear that this untimely public display of arrogance might reflect poorly upon me and have consequences in my ability to have the trust of the people I serve.  Being that I did not have the opportunity to defend myself I feel that it is necessary for me write this email.

I was informed by Cody Sims on February 07, 2018 at approximately 0845 that the city council had voted to remove me from my position on the Park Board.  I was shocked to say the least.  I realize that it’s a volunteer position that comes with a three year term.  It might seem insignificant to the common person but I can tell you that I took great pride in serving.  I enjoyed knowing that I was apart of something that improved the daily lives of my kids, their friends and families, and those that I don’t know.  I can’t tell you how many times people that knew I was on the board would complement the accomplishments of the city.  It would always make me smile.

Cody stated that it was his responsibility to inform me of the action of removal.  I don’t want to include everything that was said between Cody and I for the fear of reprisal from the council. He did not speak ill of anyone or cast council in a negative spotlight.  Cody is a fine man and does a wonderful job. I’ve always enjoyed visiting with him.  I will say that Cody was taken back, as well as others, by this action.

I’ve learned that Councilman Justin Londagin took this action upon himself.  I assume he wanted to put some friend of his in my place but couldn’t wait until my term expired in April.  Why the urgent action is beyond me unless there is something stewing that we aren’t aware of.  Londagin publicly stated that since his election he has only seen me one time. If this was truly the case I would have personally vacated my seat with respect.  I can tell you this is not the case.  I have missed meetings but have made almost all the joint meetings with the city council.  For Londagin to say this was very dishonest and disrespectful. I would have expected more from a public servant who I actually voted for.

Park Board meetings a very infrequent and there is not a calendar with set meeting dates.  These meetings are set up maybe 2 weeks in advance. I get my work schedule a month in advance so I know when I’m available.  We are sent an email asking what days we would be available to meet. I’ve always confirmed my availability. There were two times when the date I said I was available was not chosen because of the availability of other members.  So I was unable to attend.  If members that confirmed did not show up for the meetings then that was not my fault.  That fault lies directly on those members.  I missed September 29th, 2016 because I was graduating from the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.  This process is somewhat flawed but until another model is constructed it will have to work.

My volunteer work in Augusta started in scouts and proceeded through high school when I donated my collection of Civil War artifacts to the museum for temporary display.  I worked on the log cabin when they need assistance reconstructing it.  I put countless hours in the construction of the Play Park.  I’ve been a little league coach for football, softball, and baseball for twenty years plus.  I’ve coached middle school and high school sports for countess amount of youth for three different districts in Butler County.  I volunteer my time on the baseball board.  I’ve sat on the Conservation Board.  I currently sit on the Staff Parrish Board at the First United Methodist Church in Augusta and up to the last council meeting I sat on the Park Board.  I now serve the people of Butler County in a law enforcement capacity.  I don’t think I’ve ever requested recognition for those act but I will defend my actions.

I know the vote was a 5 – 2 decision to remove me. I don’t hold ill feelings to those who voted in favor.  But let this be a lesson in politics and life. Don’t be too quick to take action when you aren’t told the whole truth. It would have been nice and appreciated to finish my term with honor and respect. Instead of the way you treated an honorable and selfless citizen.  For those members that won’t fall on their sword when they are wrong then you need to check your hubris indicator.

Mayor Childers keep up the good work.  We are proud of you.

Robby Chandler

County Needs To Take Lead On 4-H Facility At Former Honor Camp

By Lee White

Followers of our Facebook page may remember this story from The Hutchinson News. The story said the state was preparing to tear down the long-vacant honor camps at Toronto and El Dorado. In the case of the El Dorado facility, located just east of town on Twelfth Avenue, Butler County had sought to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land, transfer the long-term lease from the state to the county so it could be used as a headquarters and fairgrounds for the 4-H program. How diligently the county sought the lease transfer is a matter for debate. Diligence was apparently lacking because the Corps declined to transfer the lease.

Until its closure in 2009, the camp benefited the inmate population, the state park, and local governments by engaging low-risk prisoners in work programs and even wildlife rehabilitation. Click here to view a story about the Honor Camp that appeared in the Los Angeles Times almost 32 years ago.

Add it to the list of riches the State of Kansas has squandered. A scant decade ago, Kansas’ fiscal policy — particularly its cash-basis law, which limits borrowing — was a model pundits contrasted with that of debt-ridden California. Today, California is thriving and Kansas is reeling from former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts that didn’t draw enough new businesses or people to the state to cover revenue losses.

Brownback’s tax cuts were not matched by spending cuts. If they had been, the fiscal crisis that led to the Legislature reinstating income and corporate taxes over Brownback’s veto might have been averted, but the fallout would have been catastrophic. That’s because so many Kansans rely on “government cheese” for their livelihoods. This is especially true in rural areas where school districts dependent on subsidies from Topeka are often the only act in town.

Butler County has more going for it than other parts of Kansas. It is right next to Wichita, yet there seems to be an anti-Wichita mentality and an inability on the part of its leadership to grasp the concept that as Wichita goes, so goes Butler County. Beyond that, making the county attractive to families is a task that has fallen to the cities. Andover does it best, but Augusta and El Dorado are falling in line. Rose Hill is a sleeping giant that would thrive if its leaders could ever quit fighting among themselves.

The county long ago adopted land use policy that encourages people to live in cities. Although I agree with the policy — allowing a bunch of five-acre lots down every road would overburden county services — I believe the county’s role in economic development and promoting the kind of “quality of place” improvements that would spur growth of the tax base has atrophied in recent years.

People complain about the burgeoning drug culture in Butler County, yet they elect leaders who apparently weren’t aggressive enough in selling the Corps on a facility upgrade for 4-H that might save a few kids from becoming part of that seedy world. Residents elect leaders who say there’s no money for a drug task force, yet spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars a year propping up a jail that has failed to attract enough prisoners from outside agencies to pay for itself amid chronic staffing shortages. Meanwhile, Harvey County — with far fewer residents and a smaller tax base — somehow scrapes together enough to restart its drug task force and little ol’ Chase County houses so many federal immigration detainees that Uncle Sam pays for its entire corrections budget.

What’s wrong with this picture, folks? How come these adjoining counties can get the job done with far fewer resources? I can’t wait to hear the litany of excuses and red herrings, “you don’t live here” chief among them.

Maybe I labor under a misguided sense of duty to the few friends I have left in Butler County and to the legacies of guys who are no longer with us such as Dave Clymer, publisher of The El Dorado Times, and Sen. Frank Gaines. The former is the reason El Dorado Lake exists and that the City of El Dorado controls most of the water rights. The latter is the reason El Dorado State Park exists. Gaines struck a deal: If El Dorado would take the Honor Camp, he’d get his fellow legislators to fund a really nice state park. He may have been a Democrat, but Gaines delivered on his promise. As it turned out, the Honor Camp was almost as big a benefit as the state park and the inmates sure kept said park well-maintained.

Whatever the motive, I penned this letter to Brig. Gen. Paul E. Owen, commander and division engineer of the Southwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Dallas. It is my sincere hope that Gen. Owen will instruct his subordinates to take another look at transferring the Honor Camp lease from the state to the county so plans for a new 4-H facility can move forward. But if that happens, it will be up to Butler County officials to gather a delegation and make their case to the Corps. If they can’t be bothered to “seize the day,” then the voters of Butler County need to replace the three commissioners who are up for re-election this year, especially given the fact that there are myriad other reasons to do so.

To The Butler Community College Football Team

Lee White has been invited to address a “virtual” meeting of the Butler Community College football team. Here’s what he has to say:

I’ll get right to the point. I’m here today to talk about the recent theft of The Lantern from distribution boxes around campus. You or your friends — and don’t tell me you don’t know something about this — didn’t like the fact that The Lantern printed a story about one of your former teammates being charged with capital murder. So you thought you could do your friend a favor by taking papers from the racks.

Well, guess what? Your foolish actions have attracted far more attention to your friend’s arrest than if you would have just done the two jobs you were brought to my hometown to do: Go to class and make Butler look good. I can’t speak to how well you’re doing the first job, but I can tell you that you suck at the second one.

A few moments ago, I checked my email. I received a Google alert that the story KWCH-TV did last night appeared on a website operated by the three largest newspapers in Alabama. Here it is. So not only have you made your friend and his crime even more notorious (which will be oh-so-helpful when it comes time to pick the jurors who will decide his fate), you have, on a grand scale, tarnished the reputation of the institution my wife and I attended.

At least some of you are here because your quest for the NFL got derailed somewhere else due to poor academic performance or bad behavior. There’s even a TV series about guys like you. It’s called Last Chance U and it has been filming at Independence Community College. As I told someone on my Facebook page last night: The series could just as well have been shot at Butler.

And I don’t have a problem with using the flotsam and jetsam of the college football world as feedstock for the program at Butler unless and until it starts interfering with the mission of the institution. And despite appearances to the contrary, the mission of the institution is learning, not football. It is where my wife learned to be a nurse. It is where I learned to write, report, and fight for press freedoms — on the very newspaper you trashed last week, The Lantern.

In the 1980s, administrators didn’t like the fact that some student journalists wrote stories that made them look bad. So they tried to get the adviser fired. In the 1990s, the new administrators didn’t like the fact that some student journalists wrote stories that made them look bad, so they tried to get the new adviser fired (the old one had gone to teaching English classes by then). Both times, professional journalists — some who had ties to the Lantern and some who didn’t (Steve McIntosh now at KNSS was one of them) — joined forces to keep the student press free. I’m so proud of the young lady, Kiara Ealy, at KWCH who broke the story this time and the newsroom management who backed her up.

Somebody asked me last night how one can steal a free paper. Well, first off, they’re not free. Students pay for them with their fees. If they don’t pay their fees, they don’t go to school. Kind of like the taxpayers of Butler County who pay $20 for every $1,000 their property is worth to the college. If they don’t pay their taxes, they lose their property.

Then there’s the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Courts have ruled that student journalists have a constitutional right to publish the news without interference from the public schools they attend. A story about a recent member of the football team getting arrested on suspicion of capital murder is damned sure news.

So most of you guys are here on scholarship, basically getting paid to play in the form of free room and board, books and tuition, to the extent that the NJCAA allows. Student athletes at other institutions, in an effort to unionize, have argued to the courts and federal agencies that they are employees of the schools they play for. Thus far, the courts haven’t decided whether they are employees or not, but if an employee of Butler Community College took the newspapers or assisted with the taking of newspapers for the purpose of censoring the student press, that could rise to the level of violating the Lantern staff’s First Amendment rights under color of law.

You see, the Constitution doesn’t protect citizens from the actions of other citizens in most instances. It protects citizens from the actions of government officials. Now, sometimes, as in the case of public accommodations and certain employers, the Constitution protects citizens from discrimination at the hands of other citizens. We recently celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, who repeatedly risked and ultimately gave his life so we could live together as a nation regardless of the color of our skin.

Journalists, too, have had to fight for their rights to print what the public needs to know. I encourage you to view a movie that just came out called The Post. Some brave journalists risked a long stretch in federal prison for printing documents about the Vietnam War. Many journalists have been killed in this country and elsewhere because somebody didn’t like what they published.

Look, guys, I’m sorry about your friend. He’ll have his day in court. But just as the guys you play football with are like brothers to you, those young ladies who run the Lantern are like sisters to me. I’ve never met them, but like Butler’s football program, they are part of a tradition of excellence that encompasses generations and is much bigger than any individual who has ever been a part of it.

I still remember delivering copies of the Lantern with “Were No. 1” emblazoned on the front page after the football team won the 1981 national championship. There was a copy of that paper on a table when many of us gathered on the campus in 2003 to say goodbye to one of those advisers the administration tried to fire, Bill Bidwell. I’m glad that this is a virtual team meeting because you can’t see the tears.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you much success on the field and off.