Michael O’Donnell among state/city leaders caught conspiring on secret recording

Secretly recorded meeting sheds light on lawsuit
Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 1:25 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 at 5:18 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The man responsible for producing a false political attack ad against Mayor Brandon Whipple has been released from the lawsuit surrounding it.

Matthew Colborn, the man who has admitted to producing the false attack ad, was released from the lawsuit on Thursday (10/22). Colborn’s attorney Michael Shultz released a statement on Friday saying, “Matthew is very pleased to be dismissed from the lawsuit. We are grateful to Mayor Whipple for his willingness to settle these claims.”

The false attack ad in question suggested, then candidate for Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, had sexually harassed women. He had not. The quotes used in the ad were taken from a Kansas City Star article that in no way involved Whipple. The ad claimed it was paid for by an LLC that was soon traced back to State Representative Michael Capps.

The statement announcing Colborn was released from the lawsuit goes on to thank Whipple’s attorney, Randy Rathbun, “for staying true to his word that if Matthew would provide a truthful account and comply with his discovery obligations, we could get this matter resolved. He has provided that truthful account, and we turned over all of the relevant material Matthew had.”

That “material,” as the statement reads, includes an audio file Colborn secretly recorded during a meeting. Whipple’s attorney and Matthew Colborn says the recording captures a meeting between State Representative Michael Capps, Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, Wichita City Council member James Clendenin and Colborn.

Factfinder 12 obtained a copy of that recording. In it, four men discuss an upcoming appearance of Representative Michael Capps on a local conservative radio talk show hosted by John Whitmer. The recording takes place the day of the appearance.

“John is going to ask me a softball question,” Capps says. “I don’t have a choice because John is going to ask this question. John wants to know about the domain, so I either have to accept the domain, which I don’t want to do on air.”

Michael Capps' company Krivacy, LLC once owned the domain name

Throughout the recording, the men discuss how to place the blame for the false attack ad on Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Dalton Glasscock.

In it, Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell says, “I think, here’s the problem for you, is that the more vague you leave it because if the lawsuit is ever to go forward. I cannot perjure myself and neither could James and say ‘oh yeah, Dalton was there’ but I can’t say he was in the room but I can say he knew about it. I’m just trying to keep us out of a lie incident. A refutable lie. What’s irrefutable is that Dalton didn’t know anything.”

At one point in the recording obtained by Factfinder 12, State Representative Michael Capps requests O’Donnell look through his log of text messages to determine a date Glasscock was in Wichita so the group of men could claim they met with him on that date to discuss the attack ad.

“Well again, prepping for the next chapter, if this doesn’t go as smooth because I’ve already checked my text messages,” Capps says to O’Donnell. “You’re going to have to find in your text logs and you’re going to have to discern a date that Dalton would have been in town if I’m forced to give a date.”

Shortly after the false attack ad was released, an actress that appeared in the ad spoke to media and revealed the location where she said the ad was filmed. The address she provided was 300 S. Broadway. That address is listed as being owned by Michael Capps and City Council member James Clendenin. Though, in the audio obtained by Factfinder 12, the men discuss distancing their office.

O’Donnell says, “I’d keep your office out because that...girl brought up your office.” Wichita City Council member James Clendenin responds with, “Here’s the other thing. If it wasn’t in our office and she continues to say it was in our office, then where in the building was it? Then that gets us in trouble with our landlords and I do not want to get in trouble with our landlords.”

Several times, the men in the recording go over the story Capps should give when he appears on the radio program of a man named “John” later that evening. During their rehearsal, the men also work to concoct a story to implicate Sedgwick County Clerk Kelly Arnold.

Capps rehearses his lines aloud, saying, “I have every reason to believe that county clerk Kelly Arnold and chairman Glasscock did conspire to cover it up.”

O’Donnell corrects him saying, “No, you have firsthand knowledge of that, he told you that, that they discussed it. All right?”

Capps continues to rehearse what he will say by the other men in the room, saying, “My narrative is going to be something to the effect that ‘while I have absolutely no basis to believe that County Clerk Arnold is actually involved in this video, I can say with relative certainty that Kelly Arnold and Dalton Glasscock conspired.’ I like the kind of words ‘conspired’ to cover this up,” he says.

Later the men decide Kelly Arnold should not be included in their plan, deciding he might work with Whipple’s attorney Randy Rathbun to discover their identities.

“They might join Randy Rathbun in trying to get more info,” O’Donnell says.

“That’s true too,” Clendenin replies.

In maybe the most damning exchange in the recording, that lasts just over 45 minutes, Clendenin takes any hypothetical out of the scenario by saying just that.

“So, hypothetically, it’s not hypothetical, but we know that Michael and I are John Doe and John Doe in this,” Clendenin says.

“I’m trying to keep that out of there. I’m trying to plant the seed that Dalton is one of the Johns Does,” Capps replies.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got that but, Randy Rathbun knows...Yes, because people have said, people have ID’d Michael and I, especially me that have gone after me hard,” Clendenin continues.

The original lawsuit brought by Whipple lists the defendants of Matthew Colborn, John Doe 1 and John Doe 2. Randy Rathbun is Whipple’s attorney.

In early October County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell responded to allegations he was involved with the false attack ad video to Factfinder 12. In the report, he swore on his “father’s grave” he had nothing to do with the ad. O’Donnell’s father died in February.

In the audio recording obtained by Factfinder 12, O’Donnell says, “Like I’ve always learned in politics, it’s always avoid the truth at all expense, right? And just go on the attack.”

Capps, Clendenin and Kelly Arnold have not responded to requests for comment. O’Donnell said his lawyer would not allow him to be interviewed or make a statement.

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