Sedgwick County Censures O'Donnell For Role In Cover-Up

Oct 28, 2020

Sedgwick County commissioners formally asked their colleague Michael O’Donnell to resign immediately due to his actions involving a negative campaign video last year.

Commissioners adopted a resolution Wednesday that censures O’Donnell and calls for him to decline a second term representing the 2nd District should he win re-election next week.

Commissioner Jim Howell said he was grieving to have to read the resolution and call for action.

“Each of the commissioners have stated publicly in the last few days that we have individually called for his resignation, and at this time it’s not clear what Commissioner O’Donnell plans to do,” Howell said. “So this is our formal position of our county commission.”

Commissioners took action less than a week after an audio recording of O’Donnell was released. The secretly taped conversation came from a meeting last November after the campaign video appeared.

At the meeting, O’Donnell conspired with Wichita City Council member James Clendenin and state Rep. Michael Capps to plan a cover-up of who produced the video. The attack ad video targeted Brandon Whipple during his mayoral campaign and contained false allegations of sexual harassment.

Howell said the recording showed O’Donnell’s lack of honesty and integrity, and that his behavior violates the county’s code of ethical conduct.

“The comments and conduct by Commissioner O’Donnell within the audio recording were not consistent with the democratic ideals of honesty, openness and accountability which are stated within Principle 1 of the Code of Ethical Conduct,” Howell said.

Before commissioners voted to approve the resolution, O’Donnell made his first public comments since the release of the audio recording.

O’Donnell admitted his fundraising ended up supporting the video without his knowledge. He continues to deny any involvement in the creation of the video.

He apologized to his colleagues and constituents for taking part in the plot to blame others.

“My actions in the aftermath of this video were terrible, and once again represented a serious lapse in judgment,” O’Donnell said. “I deeply regret my actions.”

The audio recording suggests the politicians plotted to blame Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Dalton Glasscock for the video.

Commissioner Lacey Cruse said the political scandal is a distraction from the work of Sedgwick County. She urged O’Donnell to step down.

“The only way out of this is to resign, is to admit what you did and ask for forgiveness,” Cruse said.

Whipple is suing O’Donnell, Clendenin and Capps for defamation.

The mayor recused himself Monday when the Wichita City Council censured Clendenin.

The Sedgwick County District Attorney began its own investigation into the audio recording for potential ouster proceedings.