November 27, 2014

OPINION: Kansas goes Kremlin with arrests, secrecy

Dane Hicks

Guest Columnist

You and your spouse are sitting in your living room watching Laverne &
Shirley re-runs some night when all of a sudden you hear a window break and something that looks like a jelly jar lands on the floor nearby.
Before you can get up to see what happened, the stun grenade detonates – the flash blinding you for a few seconds and the ringing in your ears has you completely disoriented. In a little more than one second you and your wife are face down on the carpet with a SWAT team member’s knees on the back of your neck, handcuffed and arrested.
Hours later when the mess is sorted out, they let you out of jail with an apology. Ooops. Sorry. You weren’t who we were looking for. Just a big misunderstanding. You’re free to go.
Like most people, you want to know “why?” What in the world made the cops think you were a dangerous criminal drug suspect? What information led them to treat you like this and where did it come from?
The answer – the information the police and prosecutor submitted to the judge to base your arrest warrant – is listed in a court document called a “probable cause affidavit.” In any other state in the union, you can make a public records request, get a copy of that affidavit, and find out just why you were arrested.
But not in Kansas. Our Legislature keeps it secret.
Think I’m kidding? The scenario above is pretty close to what happened to Robert and Adlynyn Harte in Johnson County. After a year in court and $25,000 of their own money paid in legal fees to unseal an affidavit, these two former CIA agents with security clearances found out Robert’s trip to a hydroponics store for his tomato garden and some tea leaves Adlynn threw out in the trash were all that cops and prosecutors needed to send a SWAT team to their front door early one morning. They didn’t find an indoor marijuana growing operation or any other drugs. For the Hartes to get answers – not to mention the humiliation- was expensive indeed.
A bill that came out of the Kansas House this session would have changed that, but thanks to the Senate Judiciary Committee headed by Republican Senator Jeff King from Independence, it got gutted and the important provisions regarding arrests deleted. King even seconded the motion on the neutered bill when no one else on his committee would. As of this writing and unless the bill is put back into its original form, Kansans can still be deprived of their freedom, treated like criminals, and never know the reasoning of the cops and prosecutor and judge who did it to them.
How can Republicans like Jeff King – stalwarts of the party that supposedly will stand up for open government and individual rights – still hold to a policy that seems more like it came from the Kremlin than the Sunflower State? That’s a question Sen. King and his cohorts should answer. Funny how, when they’re campaigning, politicians can’t say enough about how much they believe in open government. But elect them and we see how things change when the rubber meets the road.
Opponents say they fear too much pre-trial publicity will taint a case if too much of that information is available. But the fact is that no criminal conviction in Kansas has ever been overturned due to pre-trial publicity. They may have been overturned because, cops, prosecutors or judges are later found to have screwed up – but never because a newspaper or TV station ran a news story.
The public should be able to see those affidavits. The work of cops,
prosecutors and judges should be subject to the same public scrutiny as the work of any other public official, especially when it can deprive Kansans of their freedom and the sanctity of their homes.
Kansas deserves better than this.

Dane Hicks, is president of Garnett Publishing, Inc. and editor and publisher of the Anderson County Review.

Cartoon courtesy of Fred Campbell

Cartoon courtesy of Fred Campbell

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    So much of this goes on today and has been going on for years due to citizen apathy and ignorance. Way past time for the citizens to provide the proper oversight of their government entities and hold them accountable.

    For weeks I have been trying to get information from the city of Gardner and have got nothing but the runaround and the brick wall. Sent this e-mail to them today. I am at the end of my rope with them. Next step is a formal complaint with the Jo. Co. Dist. Attorney and the Attorney General. Citizens are entitled to know what they pay for, what prompted their arrest and hundreds/thousands of other types of information. It is way past time for citizens to be Charles in Charge rather than so-called public servants who we pay so well and yet don’t seem to understand who their real boss is and who is paying the bills and their salaries.

    *******************************************************************************************************

    Judith Rogers judithrogers234@gmail.com

    9:04 AM (2 hours ago)

    to Steve.Howe, Bryan.Denton, lfotovich, Steve, kharrison, troberts, hfreeman, gardnernews, Roxie,

    Ms. LeRoy: You and the city of Gardner continue to stonewall me in securing information with respect to the salary, the car allowance and the retirement benefits received by the present City Manager for the year 2014. Please comply with the Open Records Act and answer the following questions. If you and the city of Gardner do not comply with this final request, I will be making a formal complaint with the Jo. Co. District Attorney, Steve Howe.

    1. What is the city manager’s present 2014 yearly salary?

    2. What is the city manager’s present 2014 monthly car allowance?

    3. What is the city manager’s present 2014 percentage of salary for each of her retirement benefits?

    4. Since the city manager received her contract, has she received any type of bonus and if so, what was the amount and when did she receive the bonus?

    ********************************************************************************************

    I hope many, many Gardner citizens copy these questions and send them to the city of Gardner with their own e-mail request under the Open Records Act. It takes responsible citizens to hold their government entities accountable – this is a good time to do that. Won’t take much of your time and it could tell you very clearly as to how your city of Gardner operates. One citizen cannot accomplish everything – it takes a village to get decent, responsible, ethical government at all levels. Help yourself today and send a simple e-mail with a request for information.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    In my opinion the Pope is doing some things that need to be done…………..

    *********************************************************************************

    Pope replaces German ‘bling bishop’ after inquiry

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful.

    Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg in October pending a church inquiry.

    At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction of a new bishop’s residence complex and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.

    But in a country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church, the outcry was enormous. The perceived lack of financial transparency also struck a chord since a church tax in Germany brings in billions a year to the German church.

    The Vatican said Wednesday that the inquiry into the renovation found that Tebartz-van Elst could no longer exercise his ministry and that Francis had accepted his resignation, which was originally offered Oct. 20.

    A replacement, Monsignor Manfred Grothe, currently an auxiliary bishop in Paderborn, will take over, the Vatican said, citing a statement from the diocese.

    It said Tebartz-van Elst would get a new job “at the opportune time.”

    It added that the pope hoped that the faithful of Limburg would accept the decision with “docility and willingness to rediscover a climate of charity and reconciliation.”

    While the then-head of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, had been particularly blunt in his criticism of the bishop, Tebartz-van Elst had his defenders in Rome, which could explain the Vatican’s decision to give him a second chance with a new job.

    Francis has called on his priests and bishops to be models of sobriety in a church that “is poor and is for the poor.”

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    Here is another example of why citizens need to be providing oversight of their government entities. This kind of stuff goes on every day of the week and the most corruption is done at the lowest level of government such as at the city level. Citizens need to do their jobs and save themselves a bunch of money and suffering. Please note how the FBI posed as COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS AND INVESTORS and every time I look at many of those fraudulent “farm” appraised parcels of land here in Gardner, it is very clear to me as to who the thieves are but it really hurts when my own city government, including the administrative staff, are supporting and giving so many of these jaybirds benefit districts and putting the citizens at financial risk while doing so.

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    Charlotte Mayor Resigns After Corruption Arrest
    By M. Alex Johnson

    Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Patrick Cannon resigned after only 114 days in office Wednesday night after he was arrested on federal corruption charges that allege he accepted tens of thousands of dollars from undercover agents, at least once in the mayor’s office itself.

    “I regret that I have to take this action, but I believe that it is in the best interest of the City for me to do so,” Cannon, 47, a longtime Democratic member of the City Council who was inaugurated as mayor in December, said in a letter to the city manager and the city attorney.

    Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, a five-term Democratic member of the City Council, immediately becomes mayor of a booming city that’s bigger than Boston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Denver.

    Cannon was released on $25,000 bond pending his indictment Wednesday at a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler in Charlotte. He wouldn’t comment as he left the courthouse Wednesday.

    If convicted of all three counts of theft and bribery, wire fraud, and extortion, he could face as long as 50 years in federal prison and fines up to $1.5 million, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

    In an affidavit attached to a 46-page criminal complaint (PDF), the FBI disclosed that it began investigating Cannon in August 2010, when he was a member of the City Council and Charlotte’s mayor pro tem.

    Over the next three-plus years, the FBI alleges, Cannon solicited and accepted bribes of about $48,000 in cash and other assets — including airline tickets, a hotel room and use of a luxury apartment — from undercover agents posing as commercial real estate developers and investors.

    The “businessmen” wanted favors from city zoning, planning and permitting officials — who are highly influential in Charlotte, one of the South’s biggest business and commercial centers.

    At least once, Cannon accepted a large cash bribe in the mayor’s office itself, when he took $20,000 in cash in a leather Fossil briefcase on Feb. 21, according to the affidavit.

    In one of their meetings, Cannon told an undercover agent a few days before he attended a meeting of new mayors with President Barack Obama in December that “I’m still in play” and offered to raise the agent’s purported concern over an extension of a transit line with Obama, according to the FBI.

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