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Former FBI agent, who sued the bureau, running for Kansas governor

Michael Tabman
Michael Tabman

A former federal agent who unsuccessfully sued the FBI has joined the field of more than 20 people seeking the Kansas governor’s office.

Michael Tabman, a native of New York City with a strong Queens accent, moved his family to Overland Park in 2000 when he was working for the FBI’s Kansas City field office. He has lived in Johnson County since his retirement in 2007 after 24 years with the FBI.

Tabman, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, served on the FBI and New York City Police Department's joint drug task force “during the days of Pablo Escobar” and in 2005 served as the special agent in charge of the investigation into the Red Lake Massacre, a mass shooting that took place on a Native American reservation in Minnesota.

Based on his law enforcement experience, Tabman said, he supports stronger regulations on “weapons of mass murder” and opposes efforts to arm teachers. However, he also said that he supports the right of a person to own a firearm for self-defense and other purposes.

“We’re never taking your guns. That’s off the table,” he said.

Tabman left the bureau in 2007 after Special Agent Harry Samit accused him of retaliating against him when Tabman was running the FBI’s Minneapolis office.

Samit arrested Sept. 11 attacker Zacarias Moussaoui several weeks before the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

During Moussaoui’s death sentence trial in 2006, Samit testified about his unsuccessful efforts to warn superiors about the possibility of a terrorist hijacking and accused FBI headquarters of “criminal negligence” while under oath.

“An agent came into my office and was insubordinate. Bottom line,” Tabman said without naming Samit when asked about the allegations.

Tabman said he had checked with legal counsel before disciplining the agent, but the agent claimed whistleblower status and was reassigned to Washington, D.C., during an internal inquiry.

“The FBI went crazy. They went nuts,” Tabman said, blaming the situation on the political climate of the time.

Tabman said the retaliation allegations were determined to be unfounded and dropped after an FBI inquiry. He said he sued the FBI after his retirement “because they were trying to besmirch my character.”

A federal judge dismissed his complaint in 2010.

“I didn’t lose my case," he said. "What I lost was my right to get in front of the court.”

In the year since his retirement, Tabman has frequently appeared on cable news and last year launched his own online talk show, "Crimes and Times with Michael Tabman," which looks at the intersection of crime and politics.

His wife serves as a special education paraprofessional in the Blue Valley School District and previously worked as a teacher in New York, which Tabman said gives him a strong understanding of the fight over school funding that has dominated Kansas politics.

“She comes home every day complaining about the lack of resources,” Tabman said.

He blamed the situation on financial mismanagement in Topeka.

Tabman said he tried to appear at a candidates’ forum last month when the Democratic Party held its annual convention in Topeka but was denied because he entered the race too late.

“We have a crowded field and nobody’s really taken the lead,” Tabman said.