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Commissioner Jim Howell: Why I voted

Following, from Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell, an explanation of his recent vote, along with insight on current events in Sedgwick County. From Howell’s Facebook post on December 5, 2018.

Today, I supported the settlement “Agreement and Release” between Sedgwick County and county manager Mike Scholes for $205,427. This is exactly 13 months’ salary which is the amount Scholes would be paid during the remainder of his contract which would expire on December 31st, 2019. Note, this contract was renewed in September 2017, or about 15 months ago. At that time, commissioners had the opportunity to not renew Scholes employment contract. Nevertheless, it was renewed. The settlement amount does not include benefits such as vacation, sick leave, cell phone, or car allowance. The amount is roughly equivalent to 9 months’ salary plus benefits. The higher settlement amount was necessary to secure the release. Without the release, the county would have significant risk of additional litigation. For this reason, the attorneys representing the county in this case recommended we accept this settlement with the ‘release’ to eliminate additional financial exposure with potential higher costs to the taxpayer.

In my opinion, Scholes case against the county was substantial. The defense alone could have easily cost the county $150,000 to $300,000 plus Scholes’ legal costs plus any settlement deemed appropriate by a judgement. By supporting this settlement today, Scholes has agreed to drop any civil claim against the county and that puts the issue behind us. We needed to settle the case to save the county further embarrassment and more cost.

In my opinion, the effort to terminate Yost and Scholes was not based on substantive issues but motivated by personal and political reasons. It may have been retaliatory. County policy was violated and due process was ignored. The culmination of these failures collectively cost the taxpayers nearly half a million dollars. Had we not accepted the settlement today, the costs to the county could have been much higher.

Finally, in reference to the statement read by the chairman today, he stated,

“Commissioners Howell, Ranzau, and former commissioner Karl Peterjohn, drove a lot of decisions that have turned out to be very costly to our taxpayers, and when you have these same commissioners supporting multiple threats to sue the county, it just wasn’t right to cost us even more. Those same commissioners have continued for more than 2 months to make unproven allegations about other commissioners including me, it’s time to put all that to rest…. It’s now been 9 weeks, more than 2 months and there’s no further external investigations even if they don’t want to admit that.”

With respect to, “decisions that have proven to be very costly”, I would challenge that statement. Through my advocacy, millions of county dollars have been saved. This is an easily proven fact. In contrast, the actions and comments of some of my colleagues over the last couple of months has directly cost the county nearly half a million dollars.

With respect to the statement that I am “…supporting multiple threats”, please know that I have not supported any threats against the county. That allegation is utterly false. The fact is, the claims against the county are substantial and serious. For two of the commissioners to vote NO on this settlement demonstrates that they are not taking the legal threat seriously or do not understand exposure the actions and comments of those commissioners have caused.

With respect to, “…there’s no further external investigations…” please know the FBI does not inform us of their timeline. The indictment of one of my fellow commissioners took about 14 months from the time the media reported the wiretaps until he was officially indicted. It has been another 7 months since those indictments were released and has yet to go to trial. Just because the FBI has not done something publicly in 2 months does not mean there is not an active investigation. Furthermore, an investigation from the District Attorney’s office regarding Kansas Open Meeting Act for alleged actions related to the effort to terminate Scholes is currently underway.

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https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article222659680.html