TOPEKA – After a five-minute closed session of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission on Wednesday Chair Sabrina Standifer announced there would be a civil fine hearing on March 21 “in the matter of Michael O’Donnell, Wichita City Councilman.”
The Notice of Hearing gave details:
“The Commission alleges that City Councilman Michael O’Donnell … engaged in the following conduct: using a City of Wichita computer and City of Wichita email account to send at least 39 emails, primarily on Oct. 4, 2011, to individuals requesting their financial sponsorship for a fundraiser for Senator Love to be held on Oct. 30, 2011.”
In a telephone interview on Monday O’Donnell said he had been in office about six months and made “a negligent and sloppy error” in sending solicitation emails on behalf of his friend Senator Garrett Love.
O’Donnell said all email recipients were close friends who had met Love and supported his Senate candidacy.
Kansas Watchdog asked O’Donnell if he knew why the hearing notice was so specific that he sent out 39 emails.
O’Donnell said as an outspoken conservative he has received a number of open record requests, including requests for his emails. He believes one of those disclosures in response to an open records request may have revealed his mistake.
O’Donnell said he knew he could not send out solicitations for himself on his city computer, but he was “obviously wrong” and “wasn’t thinking” when he sent the email soliciting for his friend.
In a similar case last year State Rep. TerriLois Gregory (R, Baldwin City) was fined $150 when she used a state computer for solicitations and accidentally sent them from her state E-mail address.
In other business considered at the Ethics meeting (also see “Twitter Minutes” and the monthly document packet below):
In a departure from past meetings draft ethics opinions were not available as part of the the monthly document packet.
All of the discussions related to the opinions were in closed executive session due to “the attorney-client exception” to the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
When the body returned to open session to vote on the opinions, the general public had little context of the discussion without the text of the draft opinions.
The Commission approved both opinions. See the text of both opinions below.
Executive Director’s Report
Carol Williams told the Commission that a bill was introduced in the House to make the agency responsible for every school board race and every ballot question election in the state.
Williams said this could involve as many as 1000 school board office holders up for election every spring. If passed “that would dramatically increase the population of people that we deal with,” according to Williams. She told the commission that a new person would be needed for at least half-a-year every year to deal with the school board races.
Live tweeted by @KansasWatchdog on Feb. 15, 2012 using hashtag #ksethics.
Some corrections from the live tweets were made below.
12:00 Agenda for Kansas Governmental Ethics meeting today http://t.co/QZ6tXdVO. Will live tweet starting at 1 CT using hashtag #ksethics
1:04 #ksethics KS Gov’t Ethics Commission meeting is a teleconference; press can only attend in person, esp. if there is a closed exec session.
1:05 #ksethics Carol Williams describing proposal for Ethics Commission to oversee campaign finance for all school board races. #ksleg
1:05 #ksethics Williams: Proposal would cover not only school board races but special ballots. #ksleg
1:07 #ksethics 11 people to receive civil penalty assessments for late filings of various reports #ksleg
1:08 #ksethics Largest civil penalty on list ($300) to Elliot Lahn, Steve Wright, Ronald Robertson. State Rep candidates. #ksleg
1:09 #ksethics Commission votes to waive $50 penalties against Steve Huebert and Marsha Huebert. #ksleg
1:11 #ksethics Carly Miller, candidate for Wichita School Board, asks for waiver of $50 penalty on her and treasurer. Vote is to waive penalty.
1:12 #ksethics Commission votes to waive $300 civil penalty against state employee Lynn Davidson.
1:14 #ksethics Commisson votes to go into closed executive session for 15 minutes. I am the only one that must leave the room.
1:16 #ksethics Hint before the closed session that the commission may be considering an opinion request that requires legal discussion
1:33 #ksethics Kansas Gov’t Ethics Commission closed executive session extended another 10 minutes.
1:52 #ksethics Ethics Commission out of executive session; now considering two requested opinions.
1:53 #ksethics Don’t understand opinion being voted on since I have not been able to read it. First opinion approved.
1:54 #ksethics 2nd Ethics opinion requested by Dennis Wilson, Kansas Lottery, dealing with issue with employees. Have not been able to read yet.
1:56 #ksethics Dennis Wilson’s ethics opinion request about lottery employees receiving discounted meals. Commission votes to approve opinion.
1:58 #ksethics Another 5 minute closed executive session of Ethics Commission about matter related to audits, complaints, investigations.
2:01 #ksethics Next Ethics meeting scheduled for March 21, 1 PM. Civil fine hearing for Michael O’Donnell at 2 PM. Will get info about hearing
2:09 #ksethics Civil fine hearing next month will involve Michael O’Donnell, a Wichita City councilman
February 2012 document packet
p. 1: Agenda
pp. 2-3: Minutes, Jan 18 meeting
pp. 4-6: Civil penalty assessments: Maria Moreno, Cori Collis, M. Suzie Honeyman, Mary McBride, Carly Miller, Jason Bell, Elliot Lahn, Steve Wright, Ronald Robertson, Lawless Barrientos, Benjamin Jones
p. 7: Notification of failure to file, Carly Miller
pp. 8-11: Requests for Waiver of Civil Penalty Assessments
[text of draft opinions are not available to public during discussions by Ethics Commission]
- 2012-01, Krista Engel, KanCare contracts
- 2012-02, Dennis M. Wilson, Kansas Lottery, Casino employees and “Players’ Club”
Civil Fine Hearing
[this document packet was not published last month]
- Kansas House Republicans Cannot Have a “Leadership” PAC?, Kansas Watchdog, Jan. 19, 2012.
- Summary and Rankings of Kansas Political Action Committees, Jan. 2012, Kansas Watchdog, Jan. 17, 2012.
- Ethics Commission to require mileage logs for legislators’ travel reimbursements, Kansas Watchdog, Dec. 8, 2011.
Contact: Earl F Glynn, firstname.lastname@example.org, KansasWatchdog.org
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