Kansas lawmaker files complaint against Gardner Edgerton school board’s attorney

03/07/2014 11:38 AM

03/07/2014 11:38 AM

A Kansas representative wants an investigation of the Gardner Edgerton school board’s attorney in the aftermath of the board’s Feb. 27 firing of three top officials.

Rep. Bill Sutton, a Gardner Republican, said Thursday that he filed papers with the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator alleging that board attorney Joseph Hatley failed to properly represent the school board in the special meeting, during which Superintendent Bill Gilhaus and two other school district officials were fired.

Hatley was “verbally combative, condescending and bullying in nature toward a majority of the (school) board members” during the meeting, Sutton said in a news release issued late Thursday. He said Hatley appeared to be more intent on representing the interests of Gilhaus than the school board.

Neither Hatley nor his firm returned calls seeking comment.

Sutton said he questions the “appropriateness” of Hatley “repeatedly assuring the former superintendent (Gilhaus) after the special meeting that he was not fired because the meeting was illegal.”

Sutton also questioned the legality of what he called the superintendent’s “double-dipping” contract, which he said was drafted by Hatley.

Sutton referenced a recent article in The Star that pointed out Gilhaus agreed last year to retire, collect pension benefits and then return to work for the district at a reduced salary. Sutton said the arrangement “is not in keeping with legislative intent.”

Sutton said district patrons deserve legal service “without bias or hidden agendas.”

Officials of the Kansas Disciplinary Administrator, which investigates complaints against attorneys, said late Thursday they could not confirm whether Sutton had made allegations against Hatley. They said such complaints remain confidential at this point and that only the Kansas State Supreme Court can discipline attorneys.

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