Cemetery Flap Ensnares Sheriff

By Lee White

A Facebook post circulated this weekend about an incident at McGill Cemetery near Potwin accused Sheriff Kelly Herzet of threatening to arrest a man who drove over the grave marker of Herzet’s father. Adriane Young Bowlin posted the photos (above) and this account of the incident on her Facebook page:

On the afternoon of August 17, my husband Grant, along with my 6-year-old son was out at McGill cemetery helping my father put dirt on my grandparent’s graves, that for quite some time has been sunken in about 6” and not taken care of properly. This process consisted of pulling trailer up next to the grave site. My husband was very careful not to disturb any of the other grave sites. Once my husband reached my grandparents grave site, he was approached by Dave Hall. Dave said that he would appreciate it if they did not drive through the cemetery. Grant asked him what he should do. Dave’s attitude immediately changed and he said, “I would have used a f@$#ing wheel barrel.” To which Grant responded “there are 3 tractor bucket loads to fill the neglected sunken grave. I wouldn’t have had to drive through the cemetery if the grounds keeper/township properly maintained the grave sites. Dave Hall then told Grant move his vehicle. Grant went ahead and unloaded the dirt and raked it out to make it look nice (see pic). Under Dave’s watchful eye Grant drove forward, which was the only way to get out of his location. There was a foot stone that was impossible to avoid. Slowly and carefully Grant proceeded to drive out. The foot stone was undamaged but there was tall unmowed grass laying over it. So Grant drove my father home and then decided to stop at the store to get him and my son something to drink. When he returned to the vehicle, Sherriff Kelly Herzet approached the passenger side of the vehicle without announcing who he was. Herzet then blurted out “Are you the son of bitch that ran over my dad’s WWII plate (footstone)”. My husband apologized to Sherriff Herzet. But Herzet began threatening to arrest Grant for desecration of a grave over and over again. The whole time Herzet is threatening Grant, my 6-year-old son is sitting in the seat behind him. This I feel is and was inappropriate for the Sherriff of Butler County to conduct himself this way in front of a child. After this incident, my child was scared and crying asking Grant if he is going to go to jail. I feel like situation was not handled properly and conducted as the Sherriff of Butler County should act towards any citizen let alone in front of a child. So I proceeded to call the Butler County Sheriff’s office to try to get ahold of Herzet to speak with him about the situation and hopefully get an apology for the way he conducted himself in front of my child. I was told by the sheriff’s office that they would get a message to Herzet and have him call me. After some time, with no phone call, I called the sheriff’s office back only to be told that they could not bother Sheriff Herzet after 5 as his hours are from 8 to 5. Knowing Herzet my whole life, I decided to call him personally as I still have my child upset about not knowing why the police officer was yelling at his dad. After leaving message, Herzet finally called me back, only to be very rude and continue to threaten my husband with jail time and said that he was not to step foot out at the cemetery or he would be arrested. I told Herzet that I did not appreciate that way he acted in front of my child and that there were many ways that he could have handled the situation properly. I got an apology that I feel was not meaningful.
I returned the following afternoon to check out the so-called desecration of the WWII plate (foot stone). As you can see in the picture, nothing about the foot stone is damaged or even disturbed. As a matter of fact, the stone is deep enough in the ground that it can be mowed right over.

As a citizen of Butler County, the majority of my life, it worries me that the Sheriff feels like he can conduct himself in this unprofessional manor. If he was approaching my husband on a personal level then he should NOT be able to threaten Grant that he was going to arrest him. If he was approaching him as the Sheriff of Butler County then apparently Sheriff Herzet has forgotten his code of conduct. As stated on the Butler County Sheriff’s web site: 
It is our mission, as representatives of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, to serve all citizens, whomever they may be, with respect. We accomplish this by being ethical, professional, courteous, and efficient in order to meet the issues of law enforcement in an ever-changing society, while respecting the rights of the individual citizen.

On a side note: I told Sheriff Kelly Herzet that because of the way he acted, he has lost out vote. He then stated to me that he doesn’t need our votes. Maybe he has forgotten that we the people of Butler County are the ones that put him in office.

Sheriff Herzet issued the following statement in an e-mail Sunday afternoon:

I was contacted by David Hall that Grant Bowlin and Robert Young had left ruts on my Father and Mothers grave. We had just had about two inches of rain the day before. I stopped by the cemetery and witnessed it myself. What upset me the most was driving over my dads  WW II gravestone. I did photograph the ruts and the stone being ran over. 
When I pulled into Potwin where I live I saw Grant sitting in his suburban with a trailer attached across from the grocery store. I. did approach him on the passenger side and told him to stay off my folks grave. He commented something back and I told him again if he leaves ruts on my folks grave again and I could prove it was him I would do my best to arrest him. Grant smarted off something else and I walked away. I didn’t see his son sitting in the back seat. 
I later called his wife Adrian and apologized to her and told her I didn’t see the boy in the back seat. While I was talking to her I could hear Grant yelling obscenities at me in the back ground.
I believe the matter at the cemetery could have been handled with a shovel and a wheelbarrow.
Lee after I got home I did get a visit from Robert Young who has been a friend of mine our whole life. Robert Young came to my home and apologized to me and I accepted his apology and I thought things were good. Robert did agree a shovel and wheelbarrow would have been better idea.
As I told Herzet, I wasn’t there, so I really don’t know what went on. I was going to hold off on writing about the incident until Monday, but since Herzet answered my e-mail on Sunday and gave his side, I’m going ahead and publishing it. There’s quite a bit of interest that has been generated via Facebook.
Both sides seem to agree it would be a good idea to use a wheelbarrow next time a grave needs fill dirt. The area has received more rain than usual for this time of year, so driving any vehicle over a cemetery is likely to produce ruts. I’ve already heard from a veteran who’s upset about either this incident or another one like it.
I don’t think the Youngs intended to cause damage or to show disrespect toward Herzet’s father, who was a veteran, but I can’t blame Sheriff Herzet for being upset that someone left tire marks on his parents’ graves. I’d feel the same way if someone did that to mine. I believe most of us would.
Perhaps those involved in this incident and those in Facebook Land should file this under “lessons learned” and move on. Emotions tend to run high when our deceased loved ones are involved. My last visit to the family plots at Sunset Lawns in El Dorado on Memorial Day weekend ended with an ambulance ride for my wife, who suffered her first-ever — and I hope last — grand mal seizure. I hope for a little less drama next time and extend those same wishes to the Young family, as well as Sheriff Herzet and his retired deputy, Dave Hall.

Time To Consider ‘Becky’s Law’

                                                                Rebecca Anne Denchfield Stone
                                                                      July 6, 1978-June 21, 2003

By Lee White

Rebecca Anne “Becky” Denchfield Stone died of a gunshot wound to the head from her sheriff’s deputy husband’s 40 caliber Glock service weapon around 11 p.m. June 21, 2003, at 1110 N. Ohio Street, Augusta, Kansas. Her death was ruled a suicide (click here to view the autopsy report). Investigating agencies included the Augusta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI)

Acting on a tip from a former Butler County Sheriff’s deputy, I learned on June 21 — the 14th anniversary of Becky’s death — that her then-husband, Michael Anthony Stone, had been convicted of a misdemeanor violation of California Penal Code 273.5 (A), Inflicting Corporal Injury on a Spouse, in 1995. Click here to view the court “minutes” from the California case.

Although the case was dismissed in 1997 under California Penal Code 1203.4, the dismissal did not restore Stone’s federal gun rights because he was convicted of violating a state domestic violence statute (municipal violations no longer strip a citizen of gun rights due to this 2017 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling). In addition, the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Act prohibits anyone with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from serving as a police officer even if the conviction was expunged (click here and see (d) on Page 6 of the document).

So on that first night of summer 2003, Becky Stone died of a shot fired from a gun that never should have been there. The Butler County Sheriff’s Department was required to certify to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (Kansas C-POST) that Stone met the requirements to be a deputy. Stone was hired in 2001 as a jail deputy, then later promoted to road patrol both while Stan Cox was serving as sheriff. In 2006, one of Stone’s ex-wives filed this protection-from-abuse order in Sedgwick County District Court. Because Stone resided in Douglass, the Butler County Sheriff’s Department served him with the paperwork.

Although the order was ultimately dismissed because Misty Stone, the ex-wife, didn’t attend a hearing, it is important for two reasons. First, Misty was the victim in the California domestic violence case and detailed the circumstances of that case in the affidavit for the order. Second, it represented yet another opportunity for the sheriff’s department to discover and report to Kansas C-POST the existence of the domestic violence conviction. By then, Craig Murphy was sheriff. Cox resigned as sheriff in December 2003 to go on active duty with the U.S. Army. The current sheriff, Kelly Herzet, was not connected to the Stone case in any way that I’m aware of.

The investigation of Becky Stone’s death also either failed to uncover the domestic violence conviction or the investigating agencies failed to report it to Kansas C-POST. ADPS Chief Tyler Brewer, in this Butler County Times-Gazette story, detailed the agencies that had looked into the Stone case. The KBI and ADPS have yet to respond to my e-mails concerning when or whether they discovered the domestic violence case and whether they reported it to Kansas C-POST. The California court minutes contain several mentions of actions being entered into CJIS. The FBI operates a computer database known as Criminal Justice Information Services that virtually all state and local law enforcement agencies have access to.

Despite all these opportunities to discover the domestic violence case and report it, Michael Anthony Stone remained a cop until August 5 when his resignation from the Marion Police Department became effective as a result of my July 10 complaint to Kansas C-POST.

Perhaps officers who learned of the conviction would have reported it had a law been in place mandating that cops report to Kansas C-POST any disqualifying violations of law that they discover about other officers. Such a law would be similar to ones requiring educators, nurses, and doctors to report child abuse to the authorities. It should include language protecting officers from civil or criminal liability or employment retaliation for filing a report in good faith.

The vast majority of law enforcement officers are good people who do a dangerous and thankless job for which they often aren’t adequately compensated. There exists in that profession, however, a “code of silence” concerning officer misconduct. Even members of the news media are afraid to write stories questioning the behavior of law enforcement because they fear officers will no longer give them information if they do.

I’m certainly not advocating for a law that forces cops to think twice before defending their own lives or the lives of others. What I am asking the Kansas Legislature to consider is a law that gives officers permission and incentive to report misconduct they discover during the course of their employment.

There’s no guaranteeing that such a mandate will prevent what happened to Becky Stone. The sheriff’s department was, after all, required to certify his eligibility to Kansas C-POST under penalty of perjury and either failed to discover the conviction or covered it up. It might, however, prevent such cases from slipping through the cracks for years on end as this one did. It might also help strengthen Kansans respect for the badge and remove a bit of tarnish.

Augusta Department of Public Safety Should Live Up To Its Motto

By Lee White

Integrity is the basis for community trust.Augusta Department of Public Safety motto

A former Butler County sheriff’s deputy, Michael Anthony Stone, resigned effective Saturday as a Marion police sergeant after I reported to his professional certification agency, the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (Kansas C-POST), that he had been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor while living in California in 1995. Click here to read the story from the Marion County Record and here to read the story from The Associated Press. Click here to view the documents from Kern County, California, Superior Court.

As the Record’s story explains, I received a tip about the domestic violence conviction and partial expungement from a former Butler County sheriff’s deputy who first contacted me in 2008 regarding the death of Stone’s former wife, Becky. Click here to view the California statute Stone was convicted of violating and here to view the expungement statute, which has some limitations.

At the time of Becky’s death, which has been ruled a suicide, the Stones were living at 1110 N. Ohio Street in Augusta. According to an e-mail I received last week from Sheriff Kelly Herzet, the autopsy report on Becky Stone (click here to view it), and the newspaper account below, the Augusta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) handled the probe of the June 21, 2003, shooting death. The autopsy report indicates that one of the ADPS investigators who attended Stone’s autopsy was Michael Stueven, who lost his Kansas C-POST certification last year (click here).

I had never written about the Stone case until last summer when some of Becky’s friends and family members showed up to protest at a sheriff candidate meet-and-greet at Butler Community College (click here for KAKE-TV’s story). Augusta Department of Public Safety Director Tyler Brewer issued this statement concerning the case to the Butler County Times-Gazette days after the protest.

“Brewer advised investigators from Augusta say they spent an enormous amount of hours investigating the Stone case with the uppermost transparency. During the initial investigation, investigators had a forensic expert from the KBI assist them with the scene. After the conclusion of the investigation, Augusta officials had investigators from the Wichita Police Department Homicide Unit, specifically Kenny Landwehr, and the head of the cold case squad from the KBI review the case, and their analysis determined the cause of death was suicide. Also the Sedgwick County Forensic Center, the Butler County Coroner, and the Butler County attorney reviewed the case and concurred with Augusta’s findings. In addition, the victim’s family attorney and a special investigator that the family had hired reviewed the case. They too came to the same conclusion as did Augusta and other investigators enlisted to review the case.” — Butler County Times-Gazette, July 20, 2016

If we are to take Brewer at his word, then, all these individuals and agencies reviewed the case and either missed the existence of the California domestic violence case against Michael Stone or discovered it and didn’t let Kansas C-POST know about it. Regardless, Stone remained a cop for 14 years following the death investigation.

Why?

That’s a question I think Brewer needs to answer. I asked him in the same e-mail I sent to Sheriff Herzet whether his department learned about the domestic violence case as part of the death investigation. If he doesn’t want to answer to me, then maybe he needs to answer to Augusta City Manager Josh Shaw, who also got a copy of the e-mail, or to the Augusta City Council, which allocates 28 cents of every property tax dollar to public safety, according to this story on augustaleader.com.

We may never know what really happened to Becky Stone that first night of summer 2003. The official version is “suicide” and, as I told the Marion newspaper, I haven’t discovered anything to contradict that finding. What I have found, however, is that the only individual besides Becky known to have been present at 1110 N. Ohio that night shouldn’t have been a deputy and that the gun that fired the fatal shot — a gun Herzet says remains in the custody of the ADPS to this day — shouldn’t have been there either.

If Brewer’s investigators didn’t find that out, what else might they have overlooked? And if they did find that out and said nothing to C-POST, well, what does that say about how seriously the ADPS takes its motto?

These are good questions and the people deserve good answers.

Praise For Sheriff’s Department

The following comes from Mike Hayes, a member of the Towanda City Council, who is also a licensed private investigator and a former deputy. National Police Week is May 14-20. Although I am not afraid to hold law enforcement accountable on this blog and on my Facebook page, I believe the public needs to understand that the cops “get it right” the vast majority of the time. Thank you, Mike, for this timely reminder of the many good works these brave souls perform day in and day out.

A huge thanks and pat on the back to Sheriff Herzet, Undersheriff Wilhite and the Butler County Sheriff Department and specifically Captain Ken Morgan and Detectives Gresham, McMurphy and Hughey as well as the patrol crews of Lt. Gurley and Lt. Bartlett.

On April 26th a very expensive and hi-tech item was stolen from my son. Due to the hard work and professional efforts of these officers the suspect was apprehended in less than 24 hours. By the excellent follow-up investigation and a cooperative effort with the Arkansas City Police Department the property was recovered within 48 hours.

We don’t give enough credit to our law enforcement officers for the great job they do and the long hours they spend on our safety. We also don’t give them all the tools they need to do their jobs, especially in Butler County where these folks work for wages well below the standard in our area.

Support your local law enforcement and let them know how much you appreciate all that they do.

Mike Hayes

Towanda KS

Watchdog Files Open Records Requests In Augusta Threats Case

By Lee White

((UPDATE 4/25/2017: The Butler County Sheriff’s Department reports that it has no such complaints on file.))

((UPDATE 4/28/2017: The Kansas Bureau of Investigation reports that it hasn’t yet received any such complaints.))

I filed written requests today under the Kansas Open Records Act with the Augusta Department of Public Safety, the Butler County Sheriff’s Department, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The requests, filed by certified mail, seek the front page of any Kansas Standard Offense Report filed between April 13 and today by Augusta Department of Public Safety Chief Tyler Brewer or anyone from Augusta with the same last name.

Under the Open Records Act, the agencies have three business days to respond in writing to the request by providing the requested record, declaring that the record does not exist, or citing a state law that closes the record to public inspection. The front page of a Kansas Standard Offense Report is known to be a public record. That fact is clearly printed on the form, as one can see by clicking here.

I made the request because Brewer asserted in two media reports, including this one from KWCH-TV and this one in The Wichita Eagle, that he and his family had been the subject of a death threat following an ADPS officer’s shooting of a dog. I chose to send requests to these agencies because one is Brewer’s own department and the other two — the KBI and the sheriff’s office — would be departments a law enforcement officer might call upon to act as a neutral third party in an investigation. As of this writing, I have not received a response from any of the three agencies.

A death threat against any law enforcement officer and his family is serious business. Anyone who is desperate or crazy enough to pick up a telephone and make such a threat knowing full well that technology exists to trace the call needs to be hunted down and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Lives of others in the community could be in jeopardy should one of these nut cases try to make good on a threat. The public needs to know that an investigation is, indeed, underway and providing a copy of basic information about the case is the best form of reassurance.

Ethics Commission: Herzet Contributions Didn’t Violate Law


By Lee White

The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has ruled that there was insufficient evidence of probable cause that Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet intentionally violated campaign finance statutes alleged in a complaint I filed in November. Click here to read the original blog post about the complaint, which contains much of the evidence I presented to the commission.

The complaint (click here to read it) alleged that Herzet had accepted in-kind — or merchandise — contributions that were improperly made in the names of owners, family members, and employees of Graphic Concepts, Inc. It also alleged that Herzet’s campaign finance report did not list the occupations of the contributors, which it clearly did not (see above). Finally, the complaint alleged that Herzet accepted an aggregate amount from a person that exceeded the $500 legal limit. The total of contributions from individuals connected with Graphic Concepts was $3,500.

Naturally, I’m disappointed in the commission’s decision. I believe there certainly was enough evidence that the occupations of the contributors were not listed on the campaign finance report form. The spaces to report their occupations were, as you can see, left blank. I also believe I presented enough evidence from Herzet’s and Graphic Concepts’ own Facebook pages to show that at least some of the in-kind contributions “more probably than not” — which is a good definition of “probable cause” — came from Graphic Concepts itself and not from the individual contributors listed on Herzet’s report.

I believe the evidence also showed that Herzet knew at least some of the merchandise came from Graphic Concepts and that Graphic Concepts knew it and not individual family members or employees provided it. Consider the Facebook image (below) submitted to the ethics commission, which Graphic Concepts captioned, “A little bit of campaign items Sheriff Herzet ordered from us!” It shows the truck wrap that Herzet’s report claims came from Spencer Owens.

It doesn’t bother me that Sheriff Herzet won’t get it trouble as a result of the complaint’s being dismissed. I am concerned, however, that this case will embolden corporations to give other candidates in-kind contributions in the names of employees, relatives, or even people with no connection whatsoever to the businesses.

At least some of these statutes alleged to have been violated in my complaint required that the candidate or contributors “knowingly” committed the violations. Maybe that was why the commission made the decision that it did. If the laws are indeed that weak, the Kansas Legislature needs to fix them. Otherwise, after reading about this case, it won’t be long before political operatives from every corner of the map set up sham corporations to funnel as many truck wraps, signs, and flyers as they wish to campaigns big and small.

The ethics commission, by law, considers this matter confidential. Clearly, I do not. I believe this case reveals a serious deficiency in Kansas campaign finance law — one that could easily be exploited by any party or candidate, even a “fringe” one. That is why I’m publishing a blog post about it and including documentation related to the complaint.

I hope somebody in the Legislature will see that the statutes need to be rewritten. What happened in a small-town sheriff’s race may be of little statewide consequence, but the same scenario that played out here could easily occur in a governor’s race. Do the Republicans, who hold the governor’s office and majorities in both houses of the Legislature, really believe the Democrats or some fringe element won’t try something similar? Or are the Republicans willing to bet their appointees on the ethics commission will somehow find probable cause if they file a complaint?

Complaint Filed Against Sheriff

By Lee White

UPDATE: The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has ruled on February 22, 2017, that there was insufficient evidence of probable cause that Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet intentionally violated campaign finance statutes alleged in this complaint. The actual complaint drafted by the attorney for the commission did not name the contributors, only the sheriff; however, the information contained in this blog post and the links within it was forwarded to commission staff. 

For additional documentation of the allegations presented here, please click on the links, which are underlined and in blue. 

I have filed a complaint with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission (KGEC) alleging in-kind contributions to Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet’s campaign from an El Dorado business exceeded legal limits and that at least one of the contributions was either falsely or incorrectly reported on the Herzet campaign’s October 31 Receipts and Expenditures Report.

The KGEC considers such complaints confidential until it determines whether probable cause exists to launch an investigation. The complaint was filed by certified U.S. mail and by e-mail and arrived in Topeka on Monday. I chose to withhold publication of the complaint until after the polls closed. State law gives anyone legal standing to make complaints to the KGEC.

Herzet’s October 31 report showed $3,500 of in-kind contributions from members of the Owens family and at least one employee of Graphic Concepts, Inc., an El Dorado business that makes and sells promotional items. Articles of incorporation filed with the Kansas Secretary of State in 2001 show Sally R. and Lonnie K. Owens as directors of the corporation. The articles state the purpose of the corporation is, “Production of visual advertising products and any other business which corporations may carry out under the law of the State of Kansas.”

The KGEC Handbook for Candidates and Treasurers defines in-kind contributions as, “a contribution of value to a candidate, candidate committee, party committee, political committee or any representative of them without charge or at a charge of less than fair market value to the recipient.” In this instance, in-kind contributions appear to have taken the form of merchandise from Graphic Concepts advertising the Herzet campaign.

The handbook indicates that state law limits individuals and corporations to a total of $500 of any combination of cash and in-kind contributions to county candidates during primary and general election cycles. An individual or corporation could legally contribute $500 before the primary election and another $500 after the primary.

Graphic Concepts, as a corporate entity, was not listed as a contributor to Herzet’s campaign for either the primary or general election cycles, but it was named as recipient of an expenditure of $771.83 for campaign mailers on Schedule C of this report filed on July 25. Sally Owens, who is listed on the company’s latest annual report as president, treasurer, and secretary, her husband, Lonnie, and others who appear either to be family members or employees are listed as contributors in the October 31 report (photo below). Contributor Keri Mefford, in particular, lists her workplace as Graphic Concepts on her Facebook profile.

herzetscheduleb

In the complaint, I allege that it appears as if the Owenses funneled contributions of company merchandise through family members and employees in an effort to circumvent contribution limits. The allegation is similar to this one that resulted in fines for a Nevada liquor distributor for giving employees cash to contribute to Sen. Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. The difference in this case is that merchandise — not cash — may have been given to employees to contribute to the Herzet campaign. Corporate, employee, and family bank statements and other financial documents would prove key in determining whether a violation occurred should the KGEC launch an investigation.

There is also a discrepancy concerning the timing of a contribution. The October 31 report indicates Spencer Owens contributed a “truck wrap” to Herzet’s campaign on September 15. Herzet’s campaign Facebook page featured identical photos of a truck wrap, one posted on September 20 and another on June 9 — more than three months before the contribution date indicated on the report. The wrap itself urges people to “VOTE AUGUST 2nd.” In my opinion, this gives one pause to consider not only whether the October 31 report was accurate but whether it was truthful — and not only the part about the truck wrap.

The Owenses have been longtime supporters of Herzet. The company’s Facebook page as recently as Election Night prominently featured this photo of Herzet standing in front of a parade float. The October 31 report indicates Ben Helferich contributed “parade items” on October 1. It is doubtful, therefore, that Herzet was unaware of the contributions the Owenses and their employees were making to his campaign and the timing of such contributions. This is also not Herzet’s first experience as a political candidate. Neither is it Bob Hirschfeld’s first time as his campaign treasurer.

I urge the KGEC to undertake a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding these in-kind contributions to Herzet’s campaign. Anything less would essentially gut the campaign contribution limits all contributors and candidates in Kansas are supposed to abide by. Whatever the KGEC decides to do about this matter will not happen in secret.

Facebook messages have been sent to the Herzet campaign and to Graphic Concepts. I will publish whatever responses I get in full.

Calling Out The PAC

November 2, 2016

WOW what a mess the Butler County Sheriff race has turned into. After my comments during the primary in this race I had vowed to keep my mouth shut, but I guess not.

During the primary there were at least some issues that should have affected the citizens of Butler County but in the general election it seems that nobody seems to want to challenge the policies of the incumbent, Sheriff Herzet. In fact, all of the challenges are coming from faceless individuals using Political Action Committees as a shield.

I will say that the biggest issue in the primary, employee retention, has been placed squarely where it belongs, with the Butler County Commission. My research proved that the biggest issue is pay. Research also showed that on July 13, 2016 Sheriff Herzet and his staff AGAIN asked the commissioners to consider a pay increase for deputies, and at that time discussed a very well researched and factual presentation they had prepared. The hard facts seemed to fall on deaf ears and the budget process moved forward without action on this critical situation. If this is an issue for you call your county commissioner, not the sheriff.

I received a postcard from the Citizens for a Better Butler County, which if my calculations are correct cost this faceless group $6500.00, urging me to write in a candidate for sheriff. The card instructed me to take the card with me when I vote. Last time I looked it was illegal to have campaign materials in a polling place. I’m not sure that encouraging citizens to violate the rules promotes a better county.

I found the information on the card unusual given all of the issues this group railed on in the primary.

First, I have to agree that there were good folks running in the primary, but would have to disagree that if Holton and Cox hadn’t run all of these people would have voted for Andrews. Finishing second in a primary doesn’t count for anything unless there is a runoff.

Second I found it humorous that they borrowed a line from my post prior to the primary when I said:

We are at a point in our society where this election is crucial. The sheriff has always been the first line of defense for the public, but we have reached the point where he may also be the last line of defense, depending on what the federal government does or doesn’t do.

In no way was this intended to mean that our current officers were not capable of defending our rights.

Third, I find the statement that Sheriff Herzet retiring humorous and the assertion that Undersheriff Wilhite would automatically succeed him misleading.

  1. I have asked the sheriff pointblank if he intends to retire early, and his answer satisfied me. He can’t retire early because at the end of his term he will still not be eligible for Medicare and he won’t be able to draw his full social security for 3 years after the end of this term. Having been covered by the KEPRS pension plan at one point in my life I know that people can’t retire on KEPRS only. The man has publically stated he isn’t going to retire early so drop it.

By statute if the sheriff leaves office early, the county clerk automatically assumes the office until the central committee of the party holding the office meets, this meeting by statute must be held within 21 days of the party chairperson being notified of the vacancy, and nominates a person who’s name is then submitted to the governor for approval and appointment. This meeting has to be open to all interested members of that party wishing to place their name into nomination. So, although Undersheriff Wilhite would probably be tasked by the county clerk to manage the department in the interim, he is not guaranteed the nomination. In fact I would be surprised if he would even be interested in it.

Fourth, what does making write-in history have to do with the issues we face daily in our lives? We should make history by supporting law and order and our law enforcement agencies. We should be calling our commissioner and telling him we are tired of the low wages they make. Instead of spitting and calling them every name in the book we should be thanking them every time we see them.

Last, an incumbent running against Political Action Committees that don’t have a public face is wrong. Candidates should speak on the issues and not rely on PAC communications that publish campaign literature with no attention to issues.

 Mike Hayes

Towanda, KS

 

Reports Reveal Contributions, Spending In Sheriff Race

By Lee White

Campaign finance reports covering the period from July 22 to October 27 shed light on who is backing Sheriff Kelly Herzet and his write-in opponent, Walker Andrews. Click the links below to view reports from the Herzet and Andrews campaigns, as well as the Citizens for a Better Butler County Political Action Committee, which has spent heavily in support of Andrews.

Andrews Report

Herzet Report

Citizens for a Better Butler County PAC Report

Perhaps the most burning question of late: Who paid to mail these postcards supporting Andrews to Butler County voters? The answer is Jeff Haenggi, trustee of Pleasant Township, whose occupation on the receipts and expenditures form is listed as “security.” Haenggi contributed $5,442.46 to Citizens for a Better Butler County. The PAC reported spending $5,542.46 to mail 22,239 postcards.

Herzet reported receiving cash contributions totaling $1,000 from Charlie and Ben Giles, of Wichita, whose occupations were listed as self-employed certified public accountants. The sheriff also received a total of $2,500 in in-kind contributions from the family of Sally and Lonnie Owens, who own Graphic Concepts, Inc. in El Dorado. They provided shirts, banners, yard signs, and a truck wrap. Two other in-kind contributors — Ben Helferich, who listed the same El Dorado address as Alexis Owens, and Keri Mefford, of El Dorado — provided $500 each of parade items and banners, respectively.

Andrews received a total of $692.23 in in-kind Facebook advertising contributions from me and reimbursed me for $244.60 of that amount. The ads promoted Andrews’ campaign Facebook page during the primary election season. Andrews did not list any cash contributions for the reporting period.

A Teachable Moment

By Lee White

Today’s high school students and young adults have grown up with the Internet, yet it seems as if some of them haven’t a clue how it works. Specifically, they don’t seem to grasp two key concepts:

  1. What all but an expert hacker does in cyberspace is never truly done in secret.
  2. What anyone posts online has the potential to reach millions of others often with unintended and sometimes horrifying consequences.

I was reminded of this a couple of times the past week. Those who follow the Watchdog Facebook page have undoubtedly read about the two Augusta High School girls who posted a Snapchat photo showing their Halloween costumes, which included ripped T-shirts and fake blood. The photo contained the caption, “Rape victims.”

Someone copied the photo to Twitter and the thing went viral. By Tuesday, a couple of national zines — Mic and Teen Vogue — had picked up the story. I had seen the photo for the first time when one of my Butler County Facebook friends posted it on Halloween. I resisted sharing it until it became clear that the matter had become public.

One of the girls’ parents contacted Mic and explained that the teens were actually dressing as characters from the 2013 horror flick “The Purge.” The parent acknowledged that the girls made a serious error in judgment by captioning the photo the way they did. The controversy seemed to die down somewhat after that explanation, but not before the teens reportedly received threats and drew a whole bunch of unwanted attention to themselves, their school, and their town.

I’m glad the Internet and digital cameras weren’t around when I was their age. Just about everyone I know would say the same except for the ones who are revisionist historians. But the Internet is here to stay and the best advice I can give anyone is to understand and apply those two key concepts above when using it.

Every device we use to go online has its own unique identification number called an Internet Protocol (IP) address. The number exists so that the other computers and servers we access can know where our requests are coming from and where to send the information. IP addresses also function as something of a digital fingerprint.

Go to Google and type in, “What is my IP address?” You will likely see a set of four numbers separated by periods. If you click on some of the links, you might even get a hint as to where you are located. Location information is not entirely accurate, as the owner and renters of this northwest Butler County farmhouse discovered. Their property was identified as the default location of many IP addresses and the poor folks were harassed endlessly and unintentionally by everyone from cops to bill collectors.

Especially in the case of smart phones and laptops with wireless access plans, the IP address location may appear in a different place from where the user is actually located. For example, my iPhone still has a Contra Costa County, California, area code and phone number. I kept the number because my dad, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, could remember it until earlier this year. On one search I did, the IP address location was in the Los Angeles area about 400 miles south of Contra Costa County. When I did the search, I was sitting at my desk here in Missouri. Bottom line: Never rely on IP address location searches.

For the average Internet user, IP address searches reveal the name of the individual’s service provider, contact information for the provider, and some basic — often inaccurate — location data. Law enforcement officers and attorneys, however, can find out who the IP address actually belongs to, where that person lives, and sometimes even a current or recent location based on cell phone signals. This is how they track down criminals or prove allegations in a civil case. Most of the time, they need a judge’s order to obtain the information. Sometimes they don’t.

The blog you’re reading logs IP addresses of those who send messages or leave comments, which I can see on the blog’s administration panel. The server logs of any website collect time-stamped IP address data.

As a supporter of free expression, I give people wide latitude in the sorts of comments they leave on the blog or on Facebook. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet recently took to his campaign Facebook page to complain about supporters of his opponent, Walker Andrews, making profane comments, which he or his campaign staff deleted. I strongly condemn such behavior. Although profanity-laced tirades are probably legal, Herzet has every right to delete those comments. If they cross the line into criminal threats of violence, I hope he uses the courts to discover the identity of the individual(s) making them and prosecutes them to the fullest extent of the law.

Remember, the First Amendment protects us from government officials restricting our right to free speech. It does not stop private citizens from complaining in a lawful manner about what we do or say or exposing our “speech” to the world at large as happened in the case of the Augusta teens. As a frequent user of e-mail and social media, I must constantly remind myself to think before hitting “post” or “send.” Now is the perfect moment to remind young and old alike to do the same.