Sedgwick County attorney placed on administrative leave

WICHITA, Kan. Update: Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sedgwick County Commissioners voted to put County Counselor Eric Yost on paid administrative leave following a special meeting on Wednesday.

Commissioners passed the vote 3 to 2 but did not give a reason for the move or say how long it would last.

They named Karen Powell as the acting county attorney.

"We have some recently retired attorneys from our office that are outstanding people and that's where I would look if I was given that responsibility," said Commissioner Dave Unruh.

The vote comes amidst rising tensions in the county surrounding two FBI investigations involving county commissioners and Yost.

Commissioner Jim Howell said he thinks the commission is trying to solve the turmoil.

"One of my questions is, is there in fact turmoil and I don't have an answer to that question," he said.

County attorney Yost was not at the meeting. His attorney was but did not want to comment on the board's action.

A couple of week's ago, the county hired an outside attorney to investigate county leadership and the commission itself. There may be results from that investigation sometime next week.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

The Sedgwick County commission now says it may hold a special meeting after Election Day. This announcement comes after Sedgwick County Counselor Eric Yost accused commissioners of illegal actions.

Monday, Eyewitness News learned Yost may have been trying to reach a settlement before going public with his claims against the commissioners.

Yost, now seeking a settlement to leave the job, says he's being targeted as a whistleblower. He says that comes after some of the commissioners tried to fire the county manager for cooperating with an FBI investigation into Commissioner Michael O'Donnell.

Yost is looking for an apology and damages. Documents Eyewitness News obtained say he wanted $125,000 if the county reached an agreement before last Friday and no less than $250,000 after that point.

"What we were attempting to do was avoid the necessity of having Friday's news conference through some type of apology that was issued by (Sedgwick County) Commissioner (David) Dennis, or the commission," says Yost's attorney, Austin Parker.

Yost specifically wants an apology for comments from Dennis made in a public meeting.

Eyewitness News reached out to Sedgwick County commissioners Monday. Commissioner Jim Howell said he did call for a meeting last Friday, but not enough commissioners were willing to meet.

"If there is a settlement down the road, if there is litigation down the road, they may wish we could go back to last Friday and have that discussion," Howell says.

Some questioned the negotiation process between Yost and the commission, while others thought it was fair.

"The counselor, in my opinion, is a very upstanding, high-integrity person and I have the greatest respect for him," Howell says. "And I read what was provided to us, and to me, that is not what this was at all."

Another email Eyewitness News received says if there is a lawsuit, it could include not only the county, but commissioners, the sheriff and deputy counsel.

"That's a possibility, and we still are trying to avoid that possibility from becoming a reality," Parker says. "We're open to amicable resolution."