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O’Donnell resigns from county commission after DA findings

Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 5:13 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell on Friday (Nov. 13) agreed to resign from his position as Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett ruled there was enough evidence in the case involving a false attack ad against Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple to force O’Donnell out.

“Over the past two weeks, the Office of the District Attorney has conducted an investigation to determine (O’Donnell) and two other individuals committed misconduct sufficient to warrant initiation of ouster proceedings pursuant to state law. The alleged conduct involved Commissioner O’Donnell’s role and involvement in funding, and developing a political advertisement aired on Youtube and Facebook that contained misleading statements regarding (then) mayoral candidate, Brandon Whipple,” the district attorney’s office explained."

The district attorney’s investigation addressed efforts to cover up responsibility for the ad that made false sexual harassment claims against Whipple and to pin the responsibility on others who didn’t contribute to its creation or distribution in any way.

“The advertisement was funded in such a manner as to conceal the identity of those involved,” the district attorney’s office said.

In concluding the investigation, Bennett decided there is enough evidence to indicate that ouster proceedings are appropriate against O’Donnell.

“The District Attorney notified legal counsel for Commissioner O’Donnell that the District Attorney intended to initiate a legal proceeding for forfeiture of public office through ouster proceedings the week of Monday, November 16, 2020. In response to this communication, Commissioner O’Donnell, through counsel, indicated his intent to resign from his position prior to (5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13), effectively terminating the need for official ouster proceedings,” the district attorney’s office explained. “

Results from the Nov. 3 general election for Sedgwick County Commission 2 show challenger Sarah Lopez with a slight lead (125 votes) as the county works toward finalizing election results. If Lopez’s lead holds, she will begin serving on the commission in January. In the meantime, a replacement will be elected by the Republican precinct committee and appointed by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. If O’Donnell is elected to serve a second term, the Republican precinct committee will elect a new person to fulfill the full term. That person also would be appointed by the governor.

O’Donnell on Friday released a statement regarding his resignation, expressing appreciation for the residents he served and those he worked with.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve in the greatest community and work for the wonderful people of Sedgwick County these last four years. I am proud and humbled by how much we have accomplished, even in unprecedented times, for this region, county, and my district. Thank you to my parents and family, friends, colleagues, and supporters for your love, guidance, and support. I look forward to this next journey in my life,” O’Donnell said.

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