Editorial: Fallout from DA Steve Howe’s activism just beginning, and it will hit Brownback hard

Steve Howe is Sam Brownback’s David Souter.

Over the coming days and weeks, Republican voters not just in Johnson County but in the entire state of Kansas will gradually learn about District Attorney Steve Howe’s recent laughable decision involving the adherance of Johnson County Community College’s elected board members to the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).  To briefly review:

  • Howe said that unlimited serial meetings may take place, regarding any topic, and involving any number of elected officials, provided that the politicians never explicitly state, “This is how we’re going to vote in the future.”
  • Howe said that it’s acceptable to discuss (or distribute typed information about) the budget — in great length and in great detail — during a closed meeting involving the local government’s entire elected membership, provided that at least part of the closed meeting involves the “job performance evaluation” of a city manager or somebody else who plays a role in developing the budget.

District Attorney Howe is either unwilling or unable to provide substantive answers to the following questions:

  • Why, in the formal written statement of findings, he failed to mention the great length — 64 specific items — of the budget list distributed in executive session;
  • Whether he talked with any respected experts on open meetings laws outside of his office, such as Kansas Press Association counsel Mike Merriam, who has no doubt that JCCC violated the law (the unwillingness to comment can be interpreted here as a likely “no”);
  • Why his written findings rely significantly on statements similar to “JCCC President Calaway said…” when Calaway has clearly and repeatedly engaged in unethical, dishonest behaviors.

Howe says that his office did a thorough investigation — but that’s not true.  Not only does it appear unlikely that the DA spoke with any KOMA experts, but Howe also refused to make simple requests for Email communications from JCCC, under the Kansas Open Records Act.

In a short time, conservative voters state-wide will learn of these unprofessional actions by DA Howe.  Some voters will assume incompetence, but most will likely assume corruption manifesting itself through legal activism and through the selective enforcement of the law.

At the center of this is Sam Brownback, who provided Howe with a crucial endorsement over former Attorney General Phill Kline in the 2008 Republican primary for District Attorney.  Granted, if Kline had won the primary, he probably would not have won the general election in Johnson County, which voted for John McCain by a much smaller margin than any recent Republican presidential nominee.  But it’s now clear that Howe is unacceptable.

Brownback chose politics over principle, rolling the dice and losing.  In one of the few examples yet where Brownback unilaterally played a role in a law-enforcement appointment, we now know that Brownback didn’t do enough research.  Just as President George H.W. Bush unintentionally chose activist David Souter for the Supreme Court, Howe is a dud who brings more harm than good to his office.

In Steve Howe, Johnson County has an unqualified activist as its chief law enforcement official, and Brownback put him there.

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