Kansas officials have agreed to investigate ethics complaints Operation Rescue filed against the state attorney general and the Johnson County district attorney over their handling of an investigation into a Planned Parenthood clinic, the anti-abortion group announced Monday.
Operation Rescue claims that Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe helped engineer the dismissal of criminal charges related to abortions against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Johnson County. The anti-abortion group has argued that the prosecutors, both Republicans, undermined criminal cases started by former Attorney General Phill Kline against the late Dr. George Tiller and the Planned Parenthood clinic.
Neither Howe nor Schmidt immediately responded to messages left on Monday, which was a legal holiday for Columbus Day.
Kansas disciplinary administrator Stan Hazlett sent letters to Operation Rescue's Cheryl Sullenger, dated Sept. 24, saying his office plans to investigate.
The Planned Parenthood clinic had faced 107 charges, including 23 felonies, alleging it falsified documents and performed illegal abortions. Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate believed it was the first time a Planned Parenthood clinic had faced a criminal prosecution.
Planned Parenthood officials and attorneys repeatedly described the allegations as baseless. Howe cited various reasons as he dropped charges, starting in November. When Howe dismissed the last charges in August, he and Schmidt issued a joint statement saying they had consulted while the case was ongoing.
Operation Rescue argued in its complaint that it received information through an open records request made with Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson that evidence that Howe and Schmidt said was no longer available in fact still existed. Anderson was the judge who initially heard Kline's request to gather abortion records from the clinic.
"We understand that prosecutors have wide authority to determine what cases will be prosecuted, but they do not have the authority to lie to a judge and deceive the public in order to destroy a prosecution, and that is exactly what Schmidt and Howe did," Sullenger said.
The disciplinary administrator doesn't make complaints against an attorney public unless a review panel concludes there's probable cause to believe the attorney violated ethics rules. The state Board for Discipline of Attorneys can recommend sanctions against an attorney, but the final word rests with the Kansas Supreme Court.
Operation Rescue, based in Wichita, already has called upon Howe and Schmidt to resign. Schmidt is in the middle of a four-year term, while Howe is seeking re-election but faces no opposition.