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Sedgwick County Commissioners Argue Over Scope Of Personnel Review

LaRissa Lawrie
KMUW/File photo
Dave Unruh, left, and David Dennis at a weekly Sedgwick County Commission meeting.

Sedgwick County commissioners spent more time debating the process of a personnel investigation than conducting business during their weekly meeting Wednesday.

The commission hired an outside attorney recently to look into county leadership issues after several high-level county employees voiced concerns.

Commission Chairman David Dennis says he’s hoping for an “open, external and transparent” analysis into factors that are contributing to low morale and staff issues.

Dennis provided a scope for the personnel review and requested that the attorney interview current and former members of the executive team and department directors among others.

Dennis says outside legal counsel was needed because county counselor Eric Yost is part of the problem.

“Eric Yost has provided information to people that were confidential in nature, attorney-client privilege,” Dennis said.

Dennis and commissioners Richard Ranzau and Jim Howell confirmed that the FBI is conducting its own investigation into the commission.

Ranzau says commissioners Dennis, Dave Unruh and Michael O’Donnell are the target of the FBI investigation. He says they tried to fire county manager Michael Scholes because Scholes cooperated with the ongoing FBI investigation related to Commissioner O’Donnell.

Ranzau and Howell issued statements during the meeting about the county’s personnel review and the FBI investigation. Both say they are not under investigation.

Ranzau said the scope of the county’s independent personnel review should include the county commissioners.

“It’s all connected," he said. "If you want to understand truly what’s going on, you have to include the misconduct and unethical and inappropriate behavior by commissioners for the last two years."

Commissioners decided by a 3-2 vote to limit the county’s review to the personnel issues first and consider adding commissioner conduct to the scope later. Ranzau and Howell were the no votes.

A report is due in three weeks.

Commissioners also approved by a three-to-two vote a change in the county’s quorum policy to comply with state law. Ranzau and Howell voted against the proposal, saying it was politically motivated.

Now, three commissioners instead of four will need to be present to conduct county business or hold meetings.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.