Brian Newby’s once-sterling reputation as the leader of the Johnson County Election Office has lost most of its shine in recent months.
The latest blow: District Attorney Stephen Howe’s office reportedly is investigating allegations that Newby misused public funds during his time at the office, which is financed with county taxpayer dollars.
An audit released earlier this year identified about $36,000 in costs it considered questionably related to Newby’s duties. The county said it would ask that he reimburse $5,478 in travel expenses.
Newby has denied doing anything wrong.
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However, controversy also has dogged the former Johnson County official in his new role as executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in Washington, D.C. The nonpartisan office is supposed to help make voting more accessible and promote good election practices.
But shortly after taking that job, Newby abruptly decided that people in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia could not register to vote by using a national form that doesn’t require providing proof of U.S. citizenship.
Enter Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, always an ominous announcement whenever voting rights are being discussed.
As The Associated Press reported, Kobach endorsed Newby for the job with one of his Republican bosses on the national commission. In addition, email exchanges between Kobach and Newby showed they were part of a mutual admiration society as the Johnson County officials pursued the new role.
At one point Newby emailed Kobach, “I think I would enter the job empowered to lead the way I want to.”
That may or may not have been referring to Newby’s actions affecting Kansas and the two other states, voting restrictions that Kobach fully supported.
Fortunately, voting rights advocates have sued to overturn Newby’s decision, one that could keep him in the national spotlight for months.