Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reports of Phill Kline's vanishing act come under fire

By Diane Silver

Some of Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline's oldest enemies are coming to his defense in the wake of a Kansas City TV station's investigation. I have to admit that these folks have a point.

In a nutshell: Alternative newsweekly The Pitch, which usually calls Kline dimwit, and moderate blogger JustCara say the KCTV-5 investigation of the longtime darling of the Religious Right is full of holes. The arguments of both make good sense.

I found The Pitch's arguments to be quite persuasive. This is particularly true given that The Pitch joined with KCTV-5 in the Freedom of Information case that opened Kline's parking records to public inspection.

The saddest thing about all of this is that there are real questions about Kline, particularly about where he lives. If he's still living in his Topeka home, then he is breaking the law. Of course, KCTV-5's sloppy report just made this much harder to determine.

More on the report from the Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz blog.

PHOTO: Phill Kline when he was the Attorney General of Kansas.


Uncle Pavian said...

So, the "saddest" thing about Mr. Kline's tenure as Johnson County District Attorney is that he maintains a home in Topeka, where his daughter is going to school, but complies with the statute requiring residency in Johnson County by having an apartment there. Am I missing something, or is the problem that he's spending too much time at one place than at the other to suit you? Are we at the point where progressives want to start conducting bed checks on politicians and using the Kansas Open Records Act to examine their parking habits?
Funny how the people who have the most to say about privacy rights don't really have all that much respect for them when it comes to their political enemies.

Diane Silver said...

Actually, the saddest thing is that sloppy reporting made what may be a real story harder to get. That was the point I was trying to make.

However, I'll be happy to argue your point because it is very important.

If it is true that Kline is actually lying about living in Johnson County, then the stakes are far from trivial. This does, in fact, raise a huge question about Kline's integrity and his ability and willingness to follow the law.

If the top law enforcement official in Johnson County is breaking the law, then that is indeed a serious issue for the people who depend on Kline to protect them. If Kline believes the residency law is unjust, then he should be open about his opposition to it and ask for the law to be changed.

None of possibilities speak well to Kline's ability to (a) tell the truth (b) act with integrity (c) enforce the law.

Uncle Pavian said...

Nope, doesn't wash.
If Mr. Kline says he maintains a residence in Johnson County, that should be enough without having reporters sitting outside his house to see when he comes home.
The question goes beyond sloppy reporting or whether Mr. Kline is in only technical compliance with the requirements of the statute. I see it as about the unwillingness of people who advocate for privacy rights to respect the privacy rights of their political enemies.
Looks like we'll have to disagree to disagree on this one, too. Unless, of course, you want to send a tv crew out to my house and KORA my parking records.

Diane Silver said...

I must have missed the part where I advocated bursting into Kline's bedroom to determine if he was sleeping in the bed he is claiming to occupy. If this is an unjust law, then Kline is in a position to protest and attempt to change it.

As for parking records: Determining whether a public official is in his office and actually doing the job that you and I as taxpayers pay him to do is called accountability. Determining whether a public official is lying and breaking the law is called accountability.

Uncle Pavian said...

I don't think I said you were advocating bursting into Phill Kline's bedroom, however, the reference to bed checks is legitimate, I think. Here's the relevant quote from the KCTV piece:

KCTV5 News asked the owners of the Stilwell property how often they saw Phill Kline.

"Good Lord, I don't know. I don't see him every time he comes," said Earnest Adair.

Adair and his wife Pat own the storage facility in Stilwell and said Phill Kline paid $400 a month to rent an upstairs apartment from them.

They are also both clearly Phill Kline supporters.

"He’s one of the greatest heroes we know," said Earnest Adair.

The Adairs say Kline lives in one of three apartments they have on site.

Pat Adair says Kline works most of the time but does in fact sleep at the Stilwell address.

"Yes, he sleeps here. Yes, absolutely sleeps here," she said.

Phill Kline, however, would not answer when asked how many nights in the last month he spent at the Stilwell address.

"I'll see you guys later," he said.

[My emphasis] As you know, the whole transcript lives at

It looks as if somebody is spending a lot of time and energy trying to figure out where Phil Kline spends the night. Moreover, I notice that everybody who has weighed in on this question has been awfully vague about how "Kansas law requires..." but nobody seems to have linked to the actual text of the statute. Sloppy reporting? Oh, at least. But when the question is whether Mr. Kline complied with the law, it looks pretty weird that nobody seems to be willing to say exactly what the law is.
If we knew the actual text of the law Mr. Kline is supposed to have broken, we might be able to decide the issue on the specifics, rather on whether or not Phil Kline is a Bad Guy.
Go figger, eh?

Diane Silver said...

The best post I've seen on Kline and the law with details and links is at Siege Mentality.

I always have troubling posting links in the comments, so here's hoping this goes up correctly.

Diane Silver said...

One more thing... well, maybe two or three...

How is it violating anyone's privacy rights to stand on a public street and see whether a public official is living where he has told the public he lives. Kline hasn't hidden his address. He isn't in the witness protection program. He is a public servant. How does it violate his privacy to see if he is going home?

How does it violate the privacy rights of a public servant for the public to know if he is ever in his office and if he is actually at work?

When Sen. Brownback was running for president, many journalists reported in the many votes he missed and his lousy attendance in the Senate. Was it an invasion of Brownback's privacy for the people of this state to hold him accountable and to demand that he actually show up at work?

If you work for a company, you are accountable to your boss to be in the office. In some places you have to punch time cards. In others, you have to be at your desk. How does it violate the privacy rights of a public official for the public -- their boss -- to demand to know if they are on the job?

If I was Kline, I would have handed over my parking records, office logs or anything else. I believe in transparency in government. I can't quite figure out why you don't.

Uncle Pavian said...

Well, I said we'd have to agree to disagree.
If you can't see why I have a problem with KCTV's behavior, or how nobody seems able to point to the specific statute that they're claiming Mr. Kline has violated and explain what it says, or how it's okay to stake out people's homes for weeks on end (a practice, which, if it weren't taking place at Phil Kline's house, we'd call stalking, never mind the thousands of dollars and hundreds of staff hours KCTV has put into the effort), I'm not sure I can explain it.

Diane Silver said...

I think KCTV-5 did a lot of things wrong, which is what the original post is about. I believe, for one thing, that it had no business staking out Kline's kids, which apparently one of it's reporters did.

The specific law, as quoted and linked to at Siege Mentality, is:

KSA 22a-103(d), which states:

(d) In the event that any district attorney changes residence outside of the judicial district from which elected, such district attorney shall promptly resign from such office as district attorney. If such district attorney fails to resign, such district attorney shall be subject to removal from office as provided by law.

I posted to Siege Mentality's link to the specific statute, and here is another link to the specific statute.

Uncle Pavian said...

About time somebody actually looked at the statute. I think it's arguable either way whether Mr. Kline has changed his residence. Besides if the most damning story they can come up with after expending the kind of time and resources that they put into this story is that he maintains a residence in one place but is physically present in another. As Horace observed, "Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. [The mountain has labored and brought forth a ridiculous mouse.]"
But that's not really the point. You apparently see this whole sequence of events as a television station fulfilling its constitutional function of holding a politician who may have broken the law accountable. I see it as a demonstration of how far progressive elements in the media will go to destroy one of their enemies.