Government ethics

Wichita fails ethics test

Yesterday Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and a majority of the Wichita City Council failed a test, showing that Wichita elected officials, except for one, aren't interested in ethical behavior. The problem is worse than portrayed in a Wichita Eagle editorial, which commented on the appearance of the mayor's and council's action. In Wichita, we don't have the mere appearance of a problem, we have an actual and real problem. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the mayor and all members of the city council except for Michael O'Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita) don't see that's a problem…
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For Wichita government, an ethics tipping point

Tomorrow Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and the Wichita City Council will make a decision that will let the city learn the ethics and character of its elected officials. The issue is whether the mayor and five of six council members will decide to preside in a quasi-judicial matter over a case involving a major campaign contributor and personal friend. Now we know that the mayor has also intervened on behalf of Key Construction, recommending exclusively that the firm be hired for a construction project. My reporting in Wichita City Council can’t judge airport contract details the campaign contributions made by…
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Wichita City Council can’t judge airport contract

On Tuesday the Wichita City Council will conduct a hearing for review of the award of a contract for the construction of the new Wichita Airport terminal. But because of relationships between nearly all council members -- especially Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer -- and one of the parties to the dispute, the city council should not participate in this decision. The contract, worth about $100 million, was awarded to Dondlinger and Sons and its partner. Dondlinger has built many large projects, including INTRUST Bank Arena. But the city then ruled that Dondliger's bid is "unresponsive." The reason is that Dondlinger…
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Kansas needs pay-to-play laws

In the wake of scandals some states and cities have passed "pay-to-play" laws. These laws may prohibit political campaign contributions by those who seek government contracts, prohibit officeholders from voting on laws that will benefit their campaign donors, or the laws may impose special disclosure requirements. Many people make campaign contributions to candidates whose ideals and goals they share. This is an important part of our political process. But when reading campaign finance reports for members of the Wichita City Council, one sees the same names appearing over and over, often making the maximum allowed contribution to candidates. And when…
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Wichita ethics kerfuffle quashed; lessons learned

On Friday the Wichita Eagle reported that the involvement of Wichita public relations consultant Beth King in a project seeking city approval was a problem for three members of the Wichita City Council. Not so, however, for the city manager, the mayor, and three other council members. The crux of the problem is that King is engaged to be married to Wichita City Manager Robert Layton. But now, as reported in the Wichita Eagle King will step down from her assignment of providing public relations support to the project. With that, the problem is solved, according to city hall standards.…
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For Wichita city hall, ethics again an issue

Reports that the Wichita city manager's fiancee is involved with a group seeking approval from the city for a project indicate that the city's perspective on ethics could use reform. Nearly two years ago Wichita public relations executive Beth King was involved with a group seeking tax increment financing from the city. At the time I met with Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and expressed my concerns that since King was dating City Manager Robert Layton, there might be a conflict of interest. If not, then at least the appearance of that. Brewer assured me that there were policies in place…
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Wichita city hall silent on handling of ethics issue

A correction has been noted in this article. On Tuesday the Wichita city council will hold a public hearing regarding a request by Real Development for a $2.5 million increase in tax increment district financing. While this proposal should be opposed on its merits, there is reason to give extra scrutiny to this matter. That's because Real Development employs the services of Wichita public relations executive Beth King. What matters to public policy is that last year she and Wichita City Manager Robert Layton began a dating relationship which continues to the present. Documents released to me in response to…
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