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Lawmaker subpoenaed in meetings probe

Published on -5/25/2012, 2:15 PM

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TOPEKA(AP) -- A Kansas House member said Friday that he's been subpoenaed by a county prosecutor investigating private meetings Gov. Sam Brownback had with legislators at his official residence.

Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, told The Associated Press exclusively that he received a subpoena Thursday ordering him to appear June 7 at the Shawnee County Courthouse. Schwab was angry about being summoned to answer questions, calling it "beyond ridiculous" because he wasn't at any of the gatherings.

Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, is investigating seven meetings the Republican governor had in January at Cedar Crest, the governor's official residence. Brownback invited members of 13 legislative committees, with all but one of the invited lawmakers being Republicans.

Taylor's spokesman did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. The district attorney has been investigating the meetings since February and has yet to announce any findings. Brownback has said repeatedly that he's confident none of the gatherings violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Schwab said he has told Taylor's office repeatedly that he did not attend the two gatherings to which he was invited. Schwab called Taylor "a politically motivated monster" and said the district attorney's investigation is "a witch hunt."

"He's completely incompetent or politically motivated," Schwab said. "He just needs to resign."

Brownback invited more than 90 of the state's 165 legislators to the dinner gatherings in January at Cedar Crest, grouping them by committee membership. The one Democrat who was invited has said she assumed it was a mistake and didn't attend.

The governor acknowledged in March that he set up the meetings to discuss his agenda for this year's legislative session, did "most of the talking" and took questions and comments. However, he's dismissed criticism that the gatherings were business meetings, and many lawmakers who attended them have described them repeatedly as social gatherings.

The Open Meetings Act prohibits a voting majority of a legislative body from discussing government business without giving the public notice or access to the meetings.

Taylor said at the outset of his investigation that the Open Meetings Act does not apply to Brownback as an individual, and that the alleged violations are civil, not criminal, matters. Officials who knowingly break the law can be fined up to $500 per incident. But typically, a case leads to an order or agreement spelling out what steps officials will take to avoid future violations.

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Online:

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

Kansas governor: https://governor.ks.gov/

Shawnee County district attorney: http://www.snco.us/da/

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna

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