AG Derek Schmidt statement on KOMA complaint against Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission

TOPEKA, KS (STL.News) Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today issued the following statement:

“Late yesterday, Senate President Susan Wagle filed with the Office of the Attorney General a complaint alleging violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) by the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission during its recent meeting that resulted in three nominees to fill the Supreme Court vacancy being forwarded to the Governor.  The complainant asks that the Commission’s action be set aside because of the alleged violation.  Under the KOMA, time is of the essence because the statutory deadline for a court to set aside an action expires later this week.

“Because two of the three nominees are employees of the Office of the Attorney General, we have a conflict of interest and cannot handle this matter.  The Shawnee County District Attorney also has statutory authority to enforce the KOMA in Shawnee County, but because the third nominee is the current chief judge for the Shawnee County District Court I thought it inappropriate to refer the complaint to him.

“Therefore, I have asked the Sedgwick County District Attorney to handle this matter on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.  I am grateful District Attorney Marc Bennett has agreed to do so.  His office is experienced in KOMA cases, and I have full confidence in their professional handling of the matter.

“I have delegated to the Sedgwick County District Attorney the necessary authority and will provide supporting resources as appropriate, but the District Attorney and his office will exercise their independent judgment in determining how to proceed.”

The Attorney General’s office ordinarily does not announce or comment on pending investigations.  But in light of the unusual situation presented here and the compressed time-frame, the Attorney General and Sedgwick County District Attorney concluded that the public interest served by explaining the situation significantly outweighs the risk that publicity could impede the investigation.