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Johnson County Sheriff's Office issues misleading Facebook post on ballot measure

'That's a bald-faced lie'
Posted at 6:03 PM, Oct 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 12:30:35-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many voters have expressed confusion over Amendment 2, which would add the role of sheriff to the Kansas constitution.

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office further added to the confusion after issuing a Facebook post stating, "Voting NO on Amendment 2 would take away your right to elect your local sheriff."

The statement is not true.

Michael Poppa, executive director of Mainstream Coalition, a non-partisan organization aimed at getting people involved in the political process, said he was surprised the sheriff's office used its official page to make the statement.

"That's a bald-faced lie," Poppa said. "That will not happen if you vote no."

The sheriff's office later edited the post and removed the portion about the NO vote. But, Poppa and voters also took issue with the remaining portion that states, "Voting YES on Amendment 2 would preserve your right to elect your local sheriff."

Currently, voters already get to elect the person they want to serve as sheriff.

A sheriff is elected in 104 out of 105 counties.

In Riley County, the sheriff is appointed due to the county consolidating its law enforcement agency in the 70s.

Amendment 2 would bar the rest of the state from eliminating sheriff offices and also prevent the position from ever being appointed, which is what Sandy Horton, executive director of the Kansas Sheriff's Association, says the goal is for the amendment.

"Approval of this amendment would protect the office of the sheriff from ever being abolished," Horton said.

Poppa points out that this amendment benefits the sheriffs of Kansas most, not necessarily the voters, since they already have the power to elect.

"I would say the majority of sheriffs would probably welcome this amendment because it does give some job security under the constitution," Poppa said. "It guarantees a sheriff will be elected, and it removes one of the measures that recalls them from also."

Right now, county attorneys have the ability to remove a sheriff from office. If Amendment 2 passes, that decision will move to the state.

Horton said sheriffs and their county attorneys don't always see eye to eye, which raises concerns for sheriffs.

"Sheriffs feel like people should be charged differently or don't give a plea deal or bargain, people need to be held accountable...a lot of times there's not a conflict, but that fear, or not fear, but potential exists," Horton said.

But, Poppa said the idea of removing local control and passing it along to the state is concerning.

"I get what he's (Horton) saying, however, I come back to local communities governing themselves," Poppa said. "I'm not sure how a state attorney can know what's best for a local community."

No matter what, whether the amendment passes or fails, voters will maintain the right to elect the sheriff candidate of their choice.

Poppa said both of the sheriff's posts appear to be aimed at swaying voters into voting YES on Amendment 2.

Sheriff Calvin Hayden has expressed on numerous occasions his support of the amendment.

"The sheriff was campaigning using the official Johnson County Sheriff's Office on social media," Poppa said. "The sheriff is there to protect and save the people. It is not there to spread disinformation or campaign against certain issues or a candidate."

Hayden declined to be interviewed. Shelby Colburn, the spokesperson for the office, said she changed the initial post after Hayden brought to her attention it was inaccurate to say voters would lose their right to elect if they voted NO on the amendment.