Thursday, March 17, 2005

DA Hecht covers for Kline

AP Wire | 03/17/2005 | DA: Neither Kline nor board violated open meetings act:
Private meetings between Attorney General Phill Kline and State Board of Education members didn't violate Kansas law, Shawnee County's top prosecutor said Thursday.

District Attorney Robert Hecht investigated last month's gatherings at the request of two Democratic legislators. Kline, a Republican, met last month with the six conservative Republicans who form a majority on the 10-member board, in two gatherings of three board members each. …

But Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, and Rep. Paul Davis, of Lawrence, the two Democrats seeking the investigation, said Hecht's report shows a need to strengthen the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

"I don't think this is in any way a vindication of his actions," Davis said. "The chief law enforcement officer of this state needs to set a better example."

Hecht concluded that Kline, as an individual, wasn't covered by the open meetings law when he arranged the meetings with board members. Also, Hecht said, Kline didn't transmit information between the two gatherings or try to help the board make any decisions.
The first point was always the touchy question. If a person who isn't a member of a body holds serial meetings with a majority of a quorum, is the single individual a violator of the law? Hecht says no. At what point is it a conspiracy to violate the law? At what point is he an accessory before the fact? I'm not a lawyer, so I just don't know. It's clear that this is a giant hole in the law if there's no way around this.

What's the intent of the law? That decision making by government bodies be exposed to public scrutiny. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, etc.

The other points are plainly false. How could information not transfer between meetings? It just doesn't make sense. Does anyone not believe that Kline intended to meet with the entire conservative majority? I don't.

As for whether he tried to help the Board make a decision, he raised an issue they hadn't discussed before. That sounds like he was lobbying for a particular decision, trying to influence the Board's decision.

It may be that this is a legitimate argument, but the job of the DA is to prosecute crimes. If there's a grey area, let a jury decide, or at least a grand jury.

I called for an independent, fair, and impartial process, and I got a petty cover-up. This is a stain on Sunshine Week, and an insult to the intelligence of all Kansans.

Stupid Me” by Frank Black and the Catholics from the album Dog in the Sand (2001, 2:31).