by Melissa Brunner
I have had occasion to work with both Shawnee Co. DA Chad Taylor and interim Topeka City Manager Dan Stanley. I like both of them. I believe both want to do a good job for the people they serve. Which is why the standoff over prosecuting misdemeanors that occur within the Topeka city limits is so frustrating.
I understand Taylor's concerns about prioritizing in the face of budget cuts. I understand Stanley's concerns about the city attorney's office and municipal court being equipped to handle the types and numbers of these additional cases. Both Taylor and Stanley say they have statutes to back up their positions. Fine. But while they sort it out, are the victims of battery and domestic violence to be content to simply wait for justice and protection? The alleged perpetrators can't be held behind bars indefinitely while it sorts itself out, so they go free to perhaps face charges at a later time. It doesn't mean they won't be charged, just not right now because the DA's office is passing them back and the City Attorney's office says it's not equipped to handle them.
I have not had the chance to visit with Taylor about this issue, but did ask Stanley a few questions while I met with him on another topic. Stanley says part of his frustration is the DA's decision to make this change effective immediately. If Taylor had given notice that this policy would begin after the first of the year, Stanley said, it perhaps would have given time to develop a plan on how to handle it.
So what is the plan now? ((When I first posted this at 2:45 pm Thursday, I wrote:)) Well, I inquired of both the DA's spokesperson and the City's spokesperson today as to whether there is a meeting for the two sides to discuss this face-to-face. So far, city spokesperson Dave Bevens tells me the City Council will discuss its options in a Tuesday work session. He is not aware of any invitation extended to the DA's office to attend. I have not yet heard back from the DA's spokesperson Dakota Loomis. I'll update when I do. (See below)
No matter who you think is in the right or in the wrong here, I would hope the two sides can get together to discuss a resolution sooner rather than later. We're told 30 cases were referred back to TPD in just the first few days. By next Tuesday, when the council has its discussion, how many more will there be? And even then, it looks to be the council talking amongst itself. How long after that before a meeting of the minds from both sides? In that time, how many more cases will be delayed?
I'm interested in your thoughts on the subject. What solutions do you have?
((We received a news release from Loomis at 5:12 pm Thursday on behalf of Taylor and Stanley.)) It turns out, Taylor and Stanley did meet Thursday. In a statement, they say they are hopeful an amicable agreement will be reached shortly and they'll continue meeting over the next few days to develop a solution. We'll be waiting to hear more!