Government ethics

Wichita ethics code to be considered

Wichita ethics code to be considered

The Wichita city council will consider an ethics code that overlooks a simple and effective solution to a problem. This week the Wichita City Council will consider the final version of a proposed ethics code. It does not cover campaign finance. It does cover gifts to council members, which has been an issue in the past. Part of the problem with the proposal is the creation of a new board, the Ethics Advisory Board. Its members will be asked to judge things like whether a gift is "... intended or has the appearance or effect ..." The board will be…
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Wichita water plant contract

Wichita water plant contract

Wichita should consider discarding the water plant contract in order to salvage its reputation and respect for process. This week the Wichita City Council will consider approving a contract with Wichita Water Partners to build a new water treatment plant. It's a controversial matter that likely played a significant role in the recent mayoral election. Wichita Eagle reporting by Chance Swaim in the story Wichita’s mayor steered multi-million-dollar water plant contract to friends traces through the issues. The most important thing is that the city receives a reliable water plant that meets its needs. Currently, the city operates a plant…
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Longwell: ‘There is no corruption’

Longwell: ‘There is no corruption’

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell says there is no corruption involving him, but this is only because of loose and sloppy Kansas and Wichita laws. In an advertisement in the November 3, 2019 Wichita Eagle, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell defended himself against charges of corruption. Referring to a recent investigation by the Sedgwick County District Attorney, the ad states: In 2018 and 2017, Bennett found I was 100% compliant. In 2016 he found only one instance where I was $21.33 over the annual $500 threshold allowed for "goods and services" received from local companies. Here's what the District Attorney found in…
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City code on ethical conduct in Wichita

Wichita has a city code governing ethical conduct by council members, but it seems to have no teeth. Here's an excerpt from the Wichita city code as passed in 2008 (full section below): "[Council members] shall refrain from making decisions involving business associates, customers, clients, friends and competitors." When asked about a specific application of this city law relating to former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, the Wichita city attorney supplied this interpretation: Related to the Mayor's participation in the item, yes, City Code advises Council members to "refrain from making decisions involving business associates, customers, clients, friends and competitors. ...…
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The power and influence of the Wichita mayor

The power and influence of the Wichita mayor

When pursuing a large Wichita city contract, did the winning company lobby all council members, or primarily Mayor Jeff Longwell? The role of Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell in the awarding of the contract for the new Wichita water plant has been in the news. A recent Wichita Eagle article showed how the mayor steered the award to a company other than the company recommended by the city's selection committee. [1. Swaim, Chance. Wichita’s mayor steered multi-million-dollar water plant contract to friends. Wichita Eagle, September 29, 2019. Available at https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article234701932.html.] Central to the story is the relationship between the mayor and…
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Sedgwick County Commission needs to slow down, get things right

Sedgwick County Commission needs to slow down, get things right

Sedgwick County needs to make sure past issues are known and settled before proceeding with hiring a new county manager, writes former commissioner Richard Ranzau. While most members of the Sedgwick County Commission are eager to move on from events of the past two years, it's important to know what really happened. Some important questions: A majority of commissioners wanted to fire former manager Michael Scholes, with chair David Dennis presenting Scholes with an ultimatum on September 28, 2018. Later, in November, the same commissioners hired an outside law firm to investigate Scholes so that a politically correct reason could…
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On big contracts, Wichita has had problems

On big contracts, Wichita has had problems

As Wichita prepares to award a large construction contract, let's hope the city acts in an ethical manner this time. As the Wichita City Council prepares to make a decision regarding a contract for the new baseball stadium, the council's past reputation in these matters can't be overlooked. The controversy over the stadium contract has been covered by the Wichita Eagle: "The Wichita City Council hasn’t officially approved a design-build team for the city’s new $75 million Minor League ballpark, but there’s already been a protest over the recommended group. ... At issue in a protest by a competing team…
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Sedgwick County Manager epitomizes duty, honor, country

Sedgwick County Manager epitomizes duty, honor, country

Statement to Sedgwick County Commission By Karl Peterjohn As a Sedgwick County citizen and taxpayer, I have been distressed to see news reports about the scandals, FBI and other legal investigations, that involve this county commission. The details of this appalling topic shall remain for another day. Today, I am here to praise four county employees who deserve public commendation. On May 12, 1962, five star General-of-the-army, Douglas MacArthur, an army officer during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, gave his famous speech to the army cadets at the West Point military academy. MacArthur, then in…
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Déjà vu scandals in Sedgwick County government

Déjà vu scandals in Sedgwick County government

The Sedgwick County Commission scandals are an outrage for me. I must speak out against the appalling revelations that provide explicit evidence of illegal misconduct in our county government, writes Karl Peterjohn. Déjà vu scandals in Sedgwick County government By Karl Peterjohn During the Watergate scandal the press repeatedly stated that the campaign break-in was not the primary crime, but the cover up involving the White House was. These scandals eventually led to criminal convictions, and ultimately, to the resignation of the president. Sedgwick County government now appears to have multi-part scandals. It is not clear whether these scandals will…
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Say no to Kansas taxpayer-funded campaigning

Say no to Kansas taxpayer-funded campaigning

Kansas taxpayers should know their tax dollars are helping staff campaigns for political office. As reported by the Wichita Eagle, it is perfectly allowable for some Kansas state government employees to work on political campaigns.[1. Lowry, Bryan. Taxpayer-funded campaign staff can knock at Kansans’ doors. Wichita Eagle, July 17, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article90179637.html.] Not all Kansas state government employees can work on campaigns while being paid by taxpayers. Only personal staff members of elected officials can. But this can be quite a large number of people. The Eagle reports that Governor Sam Brownback has 21 personal staff members. It's not…
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Wichita city council campaign finance reform

Wichita city council campaign finance reform

Some citizen activists and Wichita city council members believe that a single $500 campaign contribution from a corporation has a corrupting influence. But stacking dozens of the same $500 contributions from executives and spouses of the same corporation? Not a problem. On December 1, 2015 the Wichita City Council considered an ordinance regarding campaign finance for city elections. A Wichita Eagle article on the topic started with: "A proposed change in city ordinance would allow corporations, labor unions and political action committees to have a greater influence on Wichita politics. For years, city elections have remained insulated from the power…
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Exchange Place incentives, including free sales tax and an ethics bypass

Exchange Place incentives, including free sales tax and an ethics bypass

A downtown Wichita project receives free sales taxes and a bypass of Wichita's code of conduct for city council members. Remarks to the Wichita City Council, March 3, 2015. Regarding the Exchange Place project in downtown Wichita, I'd like to remind the council of the entire subsidy package offered to the project. There are historic preservation tax credits, which may amount to 25 percent of the project cost. These credits have the same economic impact as a cash payment, and their cost must be born by taxpayers. There is $12.5 million in tax increment financing, which re-routes future property tax…
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The odd ethics of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer

The Wichita city council should repeal a law that the council doesn't follow. As he has done previously, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer decided not to vote on a matter involving Spirit Aerosystems at the November 4, 2014 meeting of the Wichita City Council. The mayor didn't give a specific reason for recusing himself, but it's probably because he was formerly an employee at Spirit. So it's good that he did this. But if we're going to observe ethics protocols like this -- and we should -- let's go all the way. The mayor should have announced at the start of…
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Will the next Wichita mayor advocate enforcing our ethics laws?

Will the next Wichita mayor advocate enforcing our ethics laws?

Wichita has laws that seem clear. But the city attorney said they don't mean what they seem to say. Will our next mayor stand up for ethics? Wichita has a city code that seems to give guidance to council members (the mayor is a council member) on ethical behavior. The code says, in part, “[Council members] shall refrain from making decisions involving business associates, customers, clients, friends and competitors.” But Mayor Carl Brewer and many council members have done just that. Many times, in fact. And the Wichita city attorney said that the city code doesn't really need to be…
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For Wichita sales tax, concern over conflicts of interest

For Wichita sales tax, concern over conflicts of interest

Supporters of a proposed sales tax in Wichita promise there will be no conflicts of interest when making spending decisions. That would be a welcome departure from present city practice. In November Wichita voters will decide on a new one cent per dollar sales tax, part to be used for economic development, specifically job creation. "Yes Wichita" is a group that supports the sales tax. Language on its website reads: "Conflict-of-interest policies will prohibit anyone from participating in decisions in which there is any self-interest." The page is addressing the economic development portion of the proposed sales tax. It's part…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: The harm of cronyism, local and national

WichitaLiberty.TV: The harm of cronyism, local and national

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Does Wichita have a problem with cronyism? The mayor, city council, and bureaucrats say no, but you can decide for yourself. Then, from LearnLiberty.org, the harm of cronyism at the national level. Episode 48, broadcast June 22, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.
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Is there a problem in Wichita?

Does Wichita have a problem with cronyism? The mayor, city council, and bureaucrats say no, but you can decide for yourself. View below, or click here to view in high definition at YouTube.
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Questions for the next Wichita city attorney: Number 3

Questions for the next Wichita city attorney: Number 3

Wichita will soon select a new city attorney. There are a few questions we ought to ask of candidates, such as: Will the next city attorney advise council members to refrain from making decisions worth millions to their friends and significant campaign contributors? Two years ago as the Wichita City Council prepared to handle the appeal of the award of a construction contract, the Wichita Eagle editorialized that "appearance matters" on city contracts: "There will be an elephant in the Wichita City Council chambers today as Mayor Carl Brewer and the rest of the council formally consider Dondlinger and Sons'…
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Wichita considers policy to rein in council’s bad behavior

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. -- P.J. O'Rourke Your principle has placed these words above the entrance of the legislative chamber: “whosoever acquires any influence here can obtain his share of legal plunder.” And what has been the result? All classes have flung themselves upon the doors of the chamber crying: “A share of the plunder for me, for me!” -- Frederic Bastiat Update: The council deferred this item to a later date. Tomorrow the Wichita City Council considers a policy designed to squelch the council's ability…
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Wichita city code ignored, on purpose

When a city has laws that it doesn't enforce, what are citizens to do? Here's a section from the Wichita city code as passed in 2008 (full section below): "[Council members] shall refrain from making decisions involving business associates, customers, clients, friends and competitors." When asked about a specific application of this city law, the Wichita city attorney supplied this interpretation: Related to the Mayor's participation in the item, yes, City Code advises Council members to "refrain from making decisions involving business associates, customers, clients, friends and competitors. ... " but the Code does not provide definitions or limits to…
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