Attorney: FBI investigates commissioners' ploy to fire county manager

Published: Nov. 2, 2018 at 12:49 PM CDT
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The issues of division, accusations and FBI investigations involving members of the Sedgwick County Commission - and other top county leaders - take another turn today.

An attorney for Sedgwick County Counselor Eric Yost spoke in the last hour. Yost is a top official who works for the county.

His attorney detailed what he calls efforts to unlawfully fire Sedgwick County Manager Michael Scholes for his assistance in the FBI investigation into Commissioner Michael O'Donnell.

Yost's attorney says - after the FBI began to investigate those efforts after Commissioners Dave Unruh, Michael O'Donnell and David Dennis targeted Scholes for removal.

The issues start in Feb. 2017 when Eyewitness News learned O'Donnell was wiretapped in connection with an FBI investigation.

Fast forward to November 2017, Yost says Unruh asked him if it was legal to fire Scholes for cooperating with the FBI investigation. Yost said it was illegal and gave the memo to Scholes.

The day after telling Scholes commissioners wanted to fire him for cooperating in the FBI investigation, the FBI interviewed Yost about the issue, he says.

"These are unsubstantiated allegations and I think it would be best to wait until we have a chance to review because we need to do what's best for (the) county and community and not get involved in all this petty bickering," O'Donnell says.

The FBI doesn't talk about ongoing investigations and commissioners say they shouldn't either.

"The best thing for us to do is let the system, let the process take its course and this all has to do with personnel issues and litigation," Unruh says.

Yost's attorney says at least two of the commissioners now want to fire Yost because he was a whistle blower.

"Are we considering litigation? Absolutely, because my client has been defamed and there are damages that he is incurring from that defamation," the attorney says.

The Sedgwick County Commission next meets Nov. 13, after the election that could change the faces of county leadership.

Unruh is not running for re-election in District One. Richard Ranzau faces challenger Lacey Cruse in District Four and Jim Howell faces challenger Jim Skelton in District 5.

For now, Yost remains in his role as Sedgwick County attorney.

Statement from Sedgwick County Chairman David Dennis:

Regarding a news conference held by County Counselor Eric Yost’s attorney, I continue to be troubled by public unsubstantiated allegations.   

I do hope that the public remembers that just because someone makes an accusation, does not mean it is true. The proper authorities must and should be able to seek information from all.

There are processes in place and I will continue to follow those processes even as others attempt to prevent or use for political reasons.

We are focused on providing quality public services to 500,000 citizens every day and appreciate our employees who provide those services.


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