The City of Topeka and Shawnee County District Attorney Robert Hecht have different view on whether the city would be out more than a million dollars if it backed out of deals to buy a helicopter and new software program.
Hecht says no, and says he could take action if the city tries to make payments.
He sent a letter Thursday to an attorney for City Manager Norton Bonaparte. In it, he says the city can't be liable for the purchases because the contracts authorizing them violated the Kansas Cash Basis law.
The City Council Tuesday passed new contracts for financing the purchases. The new contracts corrected errors that made the originals violate the Cash Basis law. The votes were 5-4, and Mayor Bill Bunten is promising to veto them. If he does, it would take 7 votes to override the veto.
Even with a veto, city spokesperson Dave Bevens said Thursday the city could face a lawsuit to pay up because it has separate contracts with the software and helicopter companies themselves. He says the contracts where the Cash Basis law is in question are with Municipal Services Group for financing the purchases.
The city and Hecht argued in court Thursday over a related matter. The city is seeking to quash subpoenas for Bonaparte and other city wokers. Hecht wants to question them as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Cash Basis law. Hecht has already filed a separate lawsuit over approval of the helicopter purchase.
Acting City Attorney Braxton Copley says both sides should be allowed to question potential witnesses, so there's a level playing field.
“We are not saying ‘No, you can’t have the documents,’ or ‘No, you can’t talk to these people,’” Copley said in a statement. “Instead, we are asking the judge to allow our attorney to be there to ask questions, for a record to be developed. We want a level playing field, equal footing, as we prepare for civil litigation. That is what we asked the judge for.”
City of Topeka News Release on Court Hearing:
City’s Attorney Counters Hecht
The City of Topeka today asked a Shawnee County District Court judge to quash four subpoenas issued last month to four City employees by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office.
Thomas Haney, special counsel to the City, argued before District Court Judge Larry Hendricks that District Attorney Bob Hecht is using his subpoena power in an attempt to gather information from City employees to be used against the City in a lawsuit regarding issues surrounding the purchase of an ERP system and police helicopter.
Hecht used his subpoena authority late last year during his inquisition into the potential violation of the Kansas Open Meetings law. His office has most recently issued subpoenas in an investigation into allegations of a violation of law implicating a quo warranto proceeding. The latest sets of subpoenas were issued prior to Hech’s filing suit against the City.
The City’s counsel argued that the district attorney should be required to follow the discovery process under the rules of civil procedure to gather information for his suit. The discovery procedure allows both sides to question a witness and a court record is created.
“We are not saying ‘No, you can’t have the documents,’ or ‘No, you can’t talk to these people,’” said Braxton Copley, Acting City Attorney. “Instead, we are asking the judge to allow our attorney to be there to ask questions, for a record to be developed.”
“We want a level playing field, equal footing, as we prepare for civil litigation,” Copley said. “That is what we asked the judge for today.”