Kansas to pay $350,000 to settle lawsuit against Phill Kline

Kansas officials have agreed to have the state pay $350,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit against former state Attorney General Phill Kline.

Gov. Sam Brownback and top legislative leaders approved the settlement Wednesday. The money will go to Jacqie Spradling, a former senior prosecutor in Johnson County.

“This is a final settlement that will allow the parties to put the matter behind them,” said Joseph Colantuono, Spradling’s attorney.

Kline, a Republican, was Johnson County district attorney when he dismissed Spradling in 2007, citing insubordination and a poor attitude.

But Spradling alleged in a lawsuit filed in Johnson County that Kline was retaliating against her for complaining about sex discrimination.

Brownback and eight legislative leaders met as the State Finance Council, which must approve legal settlements involving state officials. As county prosecutor, Kline was still considered a state official.

An internal memo for Brownback and the legislators, obtained by The Associated Press, said Spradling had 15 witnesses, all employed in the district attorney’s office in spring 2007, who agreed she “was treated differently than other employees” after written complaints to Kline and others, less than five weeks before her dismissal.

The memo said the defendants had the legal burden of showing Spradling was fired for non-discriminatory reasons.

“The State of Kansas would be exposed to far more than this amount in attorney fees alone should this matter go to trial, in addition to any damage award,” the memo said.

The Finance Council’s vote was 8-0, with House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican, abstaining because, he said, he knew Spradling’s spouse.

Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Republican, said he voted to approve the settlement reluctantly but saw it as “fiscally prudent.”

Kline’s attorney said the settlement arose from negotiations that he described as tedious. Reached by telephone Wednesday evening, Kline declined to comment to The Star.

The state isn’t the first party to settle in the lawsuit. In October, Johnson County agreed to a $7,500 settlement in exchange for being dismissed from Spradling’s lawsuit. That money, her attorney said at the time, was to be given to Safehome, a domestic violence shelter.