By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — Is it art or obscenity?
That may be up to a grand jury after a family organization was given a second whack at removing a statue from the Overland Park Arboretum, but don’t expect the city to give up without a fight.
Last year, the City of Overland Park sunk more than $35,000 (not counting staff time) into defending a statue donated to the municipality by Chinese artist Yu Chang after the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri pushed the matter before a grand jury. The statue, entitled “Accept or Reject,” depicts a bare-breasted woman (with no head) photographing her chest, and was ultimately ruled not obscene.
The latest petition drive, led by group leader Phillip Cosby, comes after the Kansas Legislature changed the state’s citizens’ grand jury law to ensure that aggrieved voters don’t surrender the pursuit of their claims to local prosecutors.
“Now, the second shoe drops,” Cosby said Monday.
Cosby last year petitioned a grand jury to investigate whether the statue is obscene but failed to secure an indictment. He blamed Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe for not leading a thorough investigation. The grand jury session lasted less than a day, and no witnesses were called.
Cosby followed up by joining with abortion opponents to get the Legislature to change the grand jury law. Under the new law, the person filing the petition — in this case Cosby — must be the first person to address the grand jury.
So, just how far is the city willing to go for the sake of art? Officials weren’t too keen on offering specifics when contacted by Kansas Watchdog, but city manager Bill Ebel said the municipality would cooperate if Cosby is successful in landing a second grand jury appearance.
“My personal view is that the governing body is likely to continue defending the important principles identified previously,” said Councilman Terry Goodman, who deferred to City Attorney Mike Santos regarding what exactly those principles are.
Santos did not respond to calls for comment from Kansas Watchdog.
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