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Sedgwick County Officially Ends Investigation Into Commissioner Conduct

Deborah Shaar
KMUW/File photo

Sedgwick County commissioners voted Wednesday to bring an end to a potential ethics investigation into the previous board of commissioners.

Former Commissioner Richard Ranzau prompted the investigation in October when he accused some of his colleagues of misconduct and unethical behavior.

Ranzau said during a public meeting that Commissioners David Dennis, Dave Unruh and Michael O’Donnell were targets of an FBI investigation. He said the case involved their efforts to try to fire County Manager Michael Scholes because Scholes cooperated with an investigation related to Commissioner O’Donnell.

A complaint that commissioners violated the Kansas Open Meeting Act (KOMA) was also filed. At the time, the commission voted to investigate commissioner conduct after a probe into county personnel problems was completed.

A scope for the ethics investigation was determined in January, just as Commissioners Ranzau and Unruh left office.

Interim county counselor Mike Pepoon says since then, investigations by the FBI and the District Attorney’s office wrapped up with no significant action.

Pepoon says District Attorney Marc Bennett looked into the KOMA complaint for seven months, and recently issued a report on his findings. Bennett said the investigation did not yield evidence sufficient to establish that any of suspected violations of KOMA occurred.

Pepoon asked commissioners for direction on how to proceed with the ethics case given that there are no active investigations pending.

Commissioners voted unanimously to nullify the October vote by the previous board of commissioners for the ethics investigation and bring a formal end to the case.

“I’m interested in moving forward," said Commissioner Lacey Cruse, "I don’t want to spend any more money on an investigation of commissioners who are no longer here."

The county spent about $89,000 on the investigation into county leadership issues last fall. An outside attorney interviewed more than 100 current and former county employees.

The results of the personnel review were issued to commissioners privately in mid-November. A few weeks later, the county approved resignation settlements with County Manager Scholes and County Counselor Eric Yost.

County commissioners approved their first code of ethical conduct in November.

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