Personal conflict foreshadowing removal of Kansas Highway Patrol's two highest-ranking officers percolated through lively emails exchanged in January between the KHP superintendent and the spouse of the agency's top attorney alleging infidelity, coverup and threats.
The back-and-forth involving KHP superintendent Mark Bruce and Kyle Lord, who was married to KHP general counsel Tammie Lord, offered a glimpse of controversy roiling through the state law enforcement agency before the March ouster of Bruce and his top deputy, Lt. Col. Randy Moon.
The flurry of emails came to light Tuesday when KHP complied with a Kansas Open Records Act request submitted 11 weeks ago following the leadership overhaul authorized by Gov. Laura Kelly.
Kelly's office referred to the newly disclosed emails involving Bruce as a personnel matter. Neither KHP superintendent Herman Jones, who replaced Bruce, nor Bruce responded to requests for a statement. Kyle Lord, who was arrested June 18 in Shawnee County on suspicion of driving under the influence, said he wouldn't elaborate on his email communication with Bruce.
"The DUI is public record. I have no comment about anything else related to the article," Kyle Lord said.
Kyle Lord opened the email conversation with Bruce by sending a lengthy message Jan. 18 laden with frustration about discovery in 2017 that his wife was involved in an extramarital affair with KHP Capt. Craig Phillips. Kyle Lord alleged the two KHP employees engaged in romantic activities at state offices and exchanged 8,000 text messages in a single month. A KORA request indicated cellphone providers didn't retain texts from three pertinent phones examined by the agency.
In the email to Bruce, Kyle Lord requested an investigation of their indiscretions unhindered by KHP's preference for hiding "behind the thin blue line."
"I'm curious as to why the KHP supports this behavior and allows these employees to continue working together," Kyle Lord said.
He also conveyed by email, based on information he said was supplied by Tammie Lord, that Bruce approached the KHP general counsel to ask whether it was possible to shield retirement benefits from a spouse in the event of divorce.
Bruce replied to the email by assuring Kyle Lord that allegations of misconduct within KHP wouldn't be buried. He warned Kyle Lord of placing in writing "rumors, partial truths or completely false" statements harmful to reputations and livelihoods.
"I take this as seriously as the allegations you have made against your wife and Captain Phillips," Bruce said.
Kyle Lord replied: "After reviewing your email, I have realized the second paragraph is a thinly veiled threat."
"I am in no way attempting to threaten or scare you," Bruce answered. "It is my duty to protect members of this agency from unfair and untrue allegations."
"I understand that you are trying to protect yourself, but I truly believe that you as a person and as an extension of the agency you lead are a completely hypocritical farce," Kyle Lord said.
On Jan. 22, Bruce told Kyle Lord the Kansas Department of Administration would take charge of examining his allegations "to ensure an impartial review." That wasn't satisfactory to Kyle Lord, who claimed KHP was destined to avoid inconvenient truth.
"You have chosen the route that gives you the easiest outs and most plausible deniability," Kyle Lord said.
However, Bruce said Kyle Lord declined to cooperate with the Department of Administration's inquiry into his complaints.
Two months later, March 28, the governor announced the departure of Bruce and Moon. They were tainted by a December incident in which Excelsior Springs, Mo., police reported a woman identified as Moon's girlfriend appeared to have been harmed in a domestic dispute with Moon at Elms Hotel and Spa. A KHP captain who reported directly to Bruce produced a report clearing Moon of wrongdoing.
In an email to The Topeka Capital-Journal in May, Bruce condemned news coverage of their exit from KHP. He lamented that he was cast aside despite moving the agency ahead during a four-year span as superintendent.
"An individual who dedicated 30 years of honorable service to Kansans only to be unceremoniously and thanklessly shown the door," Bruce said.