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James Clendenin Resigns From Wichita City Council: 'I Have Become A Distraction'

City of Wichita/YouTube
Council member James Clendenin reads a statement announcing his resignation during Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Wichita City Council member James Clendenin has resigned, the latest politician to leave office after becoming entangled in an attack video from the 2019 mayoral campaign.

Clendenin, who represents District 3, made his announcement during Tuesday’s council meeting. He said he will resign Dec. 31.

"I recognize that I have become a distraction from the critically important work of this council and from this city that I love and have served for nearly a decade,” he read from a prepared statement. “I cannot in good conscience allow that to continue.

"There are too many important hills we need to climb together to get this city moving again after the pandemic. It would be selfish and unproductive for me to continue in my council position if other events in any way diverted attention from the important city work that must go on."

Clendenin, Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell and state Rep. Michael Capps were all involved in a video that falsely accused mayoral candidate Brandon Whipple of sexual harassment. Despite the video, Whipple went on to defeat incumbent Jeff Longwell.

Whipple has filed a civil defamation suit against Clendenin, Capps and O’Donnell.

After a backlash against the video in 2019, Clendenin, O’Donnell and Capps were heard on a recording discussing plans to cover up their involvement with the video and instead blame former county Republican Party chairman Dalton Glasscock. The recording was released earlier this year.

Clendenin acknowledged his role in the coverup but has denied involvement in the production and distribution of the video. He said his only role was raising funds.

The City Council formally censured Clendenin in October, but he said at the time that he looked forward to "honorably completing" his term in office.

The District 3 Advisory Board, which Clendenin selected, also criticized his actions and asked for him to resign.

In November, the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office filed a petition to begin ouster proceedings against Clendenin. The petition said Clendenin violated a state law regarding criminal false communication, which constitutes misconduct while in office.

A similar petition from the District Attorney led O’Donnell to resign in November. He had promised to leave office even if he won reelection in November.

O’Donnell wound up losing his bid for a second term to Democrat Sarah Lopez.

Glasscock was named to finish up the rest of O’Donnell’s term.

Capps lost his primary race in August after state Republican leaders campaigned against him. His term ends next month.

In a lengthy statement Tuesday, Clendenin thanked his fellow council members, staff at City Hall and his constituents.

He also thanked his family and friends for their care, concern and love.

"Sometimes it’s only in the darkest hours can you fully appreciate God’s grace and the light and love that surrounds and sustains you," he said.

Clendenin has represented District 3 and south Wichita since 2011. He won reelection in 2013 and 2017. His current term ends in 2021.

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.