Barta Leaving Sheriff's Office Early

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee County Sheriff Richard Barta is leaving office sooner than expected.

Barta had already said he wouldn't seek reelection, but in a news conference Tuesday, Barta announced he'd step down, effective April 20th. His wife, son and daughter joined him at the podium at the Law Enforcement Center.

Barta says his decision is because of a federal law known as the Hatch Act, which prohibits Undersheriff Herman Jones from running for sheriff while Jones is employed with the office. Barta has endorsed Jones' election bid and said it would be unfair t Jones and his family to make him resign in order to campaign.

Barta's departure gives Jones a chance to be selected as interim sheriff by the Republican precinct committee members. He would then be able to campaign for voters to let him keep the job.

Barta has been sheriff for 12 years. He was appointed to the job in March 2000, succeeding ousted sheriff Dave Meneley. Barta then won re-election several times. Barta previously had a long career with the Kansas Highway Patrol.