Wichita police this week plan to send District Attorney Marc Bennett the results of a criminal threat investigation into a recent editorial in a free newspaper distributed in south Wichita.
The editorial, titled “Its Official: They Are All Crazy at City Hall,” was published two weeks ago in businessman Craig Gabel’s Wichita Post. Some City Council members are demanding accountability for what they see as a call to citizen violence against them for considering punitive rates and fines to address the water shortage at Cheney Lake. Those options were temporarily shelved at last week’s council meeting.
“If the Council adopts either of these plans we need to implement an emergency plan that includes barricades and riot police at City Hall,” the editorial reads. “Not to keep people out but to keep the crazy and insane in so they don’t infect the general population.
“Maybe even a shoot on sight order would be advisable.”
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Police spokesman Lt. Doug Nolte said Monday the investigation is almost complete and should go to Bennett this week.
“They will decide if they want to charge it at that point,” Nolte said.
Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner is one of the council members calling for accountability. Meitzner said he’s not taking the editorial lightly and stands behind the council’s decision to seek a police investigation with the blessing of city attorney Gary Rebenstorf.
However, there have been no changes to City Hall security, city officials said.
“There’s kids who get kicked out of school if you say something like that on Facebook, any kind of bully threats,” Meitzner said. “He put it in a newspaper. I’m not sure what his intent was, but I’m not sure who reads his newspaper, either.”
District 4 council member Jeff Blubaugh, in whose district the Post circulates, said he also supports the request for an investigation.
“If people feel threatened, the police need to decide whether they think a threat was made,” Blubaugh said.
However, Blubaugh said he didn’t take the editorial as a threat.
“I think it was just to get a reaction,” he said. “And if the purpose was a reaction, then it succeeded, didn’t it?”
Mayor Carl Brewer also supports the investigation.
“There’s always somebody out there willing to follow someone else’s instructions,” the mayor said. “They just need somebody to tell them. Better to be safe than sorry here.”
No response from City Hall, Meitzner said, would be a tacit endorsement of the editorial’s tone.
“Ignore it, and the next time someone tries to do something like this, they’ll say, ‘The last time, Gabel did it and you did nothing,’ ” Meitzner said. “This is wrong, and he should be held accountable for it.”
Blubaugh called for an end to tactics like the editorial and alleged vandalism during the contentious race for the District 4 seat.
“Obviously, some of the stuff with my opponent (Joshua Blick) was politically motivated,” Blubaugh said. “I thought it had been taken care of. It’s time to move on and get on with the city’s business.”
Gabel, a local tea party spokesman who owns Mike’s Steak House, is a longtime foe of City Hall fiscal policies and unsuccessful candidate for the council. He did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.