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What’s Next For Sedgwick County Internal Investigation After O’Donnell Acquittal?

Deborah Shaar
KMUW/File photo
A November 2018 Sedgwick County Commission meeting.

A possible internal investigation into Sedgwick County commissioners is still on hold.

The next steps could be decided soon now that the federal trial of Commissioner Michael O’Donnell is over. A jury acquitted O’Donnell Monday of nearly all charges related to his state and county campaigns.

County commissioners voted in October to open an investigation into commissioner conduct once a personnel review was completed. Former Commissioner Richard Ranzau had accused some commissioners of misconduct and unethical behavior for incidents that happened in the past two years.

Interim County Counselor Mike Pepoon presented a scope for the investigation — developed by Ranzau and commission Chairman David Dennis — at a January county staff meeting. Pepoon told commissioners he had questions about the process of an inquiry.

"Who do we have to investigate it? Do we use an attorney?" he asked. "What is the purpose of this report? Is it an internal document that we want to use for self-improvement? Is it something we want the public to have access to?" 

Commissioners directed Pepoon to research options and get a cost estimate. So far, he has not made any recommendations.

Sedgwick County paid nearly $90,000 to an outside attorney last fall for the personnel review into county leadership. The personnel review took about three weeks and included more than 100 hours of interviews with at least 45 current and former county employees. No further details on the results of the investigation have been released.

Shortly after they received a report on the personnel review, commissioners reached resignation settlements with two top county leaders — former County Counselor Eric Yost and former County Manager Mike Scholes.

During that time, commissioners approved and adopted their first code of ethical conduct in November. The code suggests appropriate commissioner behavior, accountability and ethical standards but does not include any punitive action if standards are not followed.

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