Citizens’ committee behind RCPD bill

By Brady Bauman

An effort to require that the top police official in Manhattan be elected, rather than appointed, is being driven by a citizens’ committee involving a bail bondsman and a bar owner. A bill that would implement the change was introduced into the state Senate Wednesday by a senator who did so on behalf of Sen. Tom Hawk of Manhattan.

The bill, Senate Bill 436, would require that the position of the director of the Riley County Police Department be elected every four years. The bill was introduced in the senate Federal and State Affairs Committee and then referred to the Ethics and Elections Committee on Thursday. No votes have been taken.

There was no individual sponsor listed for the bill, but a staffer for the Federal and State Affairs Committee said that the bill had been introduced by a committee member, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goeudeau, on behalf of Hawk, who is not on the committee. Hawk told The Mercury Thursday that he did not support the measure. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

The group pushing the measure is called Citizens Assuring Transparency. The organizer is David Stuckman, the owner of A-1 Bail Bonds in Manhattan, according to Rusty Wilson, a bar owner who has been involved in the group. Wilson owns Kite’s and Rusty’s Last Chance, two Aggieville bars. Calls to Stuckman weren’t returned.

Wilson said in a phone interview with The Mercury that he had no qualms with current RCPD director Brad Schoen. Schoen was appointed the RCPD’s director by the law board in 2007.

The RCPD is the state’s only consolidated police department — it is run by a director who is appointed by the law board. The law board is made up of city and county commissioners, the county attorney, and citizens.

Changes in the administrative structure of the RCPD would have to be approved by the Legislature because the department was created by legislative act in the 1970s.

“Only a few directors in the country are appointed the way we do it,” Wilson said. “It’s nothing personal. It’s about transparency. I have nothing against (Schoen) at all.”

Wilson said he’s only been to a “couple” meetings with the group since it formed a year ago.

“I haven’t been directly involved,” Wilson said. “(And if passed) it doesn’t change the law board.”

Thursday, Hawk said lobbyist Kevin Barone was involved with the group. Wilson acknowledged that the group had hired a lobbyist to bring their message to Topeka. Barone, who is listed as the president and CEO for The Capitol Lobby Group, LLC, of Topeka, appears to be that lobbyist.

Wilson said the the first meeting for Citizens Assuring Transparency he went to was last spring and had 40-50 people in attendance at a local coffee shop in Manhattan. He also said there were many attendees from communities north of Manhattan, such as Riley.

An email, Wilson said, circulated about the prospect of lobbying for the bill and gained steam. Stuckman sent the email.

“There’s a lot of people who (want to be the director),” Wilson said. “And they should have a chance to run for it.”

Barone said: “I met with them a year ago,” he said. “I was brought in through somebody (in Manhattan) I know.”

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