A Republican candidate for the Kansas House is locked in a feud with the Kansas Real Estate Commission that cost him his real estate license and that he said drove him into bankruptcy.
Eric Henderson sent commission members threatening e-mails and repeatedly lied to the commission, a Shawnee County District Court judge found in upholding the state agency’s 2012 decision not to renew Henderson’s real estate license.
The commission said Henderson had failed to demonstrate “the honesty, trustworthiness and integrity and competence to transact the business of real estate.”
Henderson, a Park City resident who is challenging Rep. Gene Suellentrop of Wichita in the Republican primary in District 91, said he has done nothing wrong.
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He said he has been the victim of abuses of power by the commission and others, including the Park City Police Department. He contended the real estate commission targeted him because he offered lower prices than competitors.
He said his decision to run for office is motivated in part by a desire for greater legislative oversight of state agencies.
Henderson filed for bankruptcy in 2011, which he blames on the commission. He has had other legal battles and has unpaid property taxes.
The Shawnee County District Court judge’s November decision against Henderson lays out a timeline of his disputes with the commission.
After Henderson became the subject of a commission audit for code infractions in 2008, he sent threatening e-mails to commission members, saying he would “clean house” and warning them to “stop screwing with me,” according to documents The Eagle received through an open records request.
Henderson was physically removed from a 2009 commission meeting, according to the testimony of a Kansas Highway Patrol officer.
“Mr. Henderson’s confrontational behavior escalated to the point that I had to physically intercede between him and the chairperson, and I asked him to voluntarily leave multiple times,” Sgt. Jeff Lee of the highway patrol’s Capitol Police division said in a sworn affidavit quoted by the commission in a March 2012 document. “Mr. Henderson refused, so I escorted him out of the office and down to the parking garage.”
Henderson disputes that his e-mails were hostile and that he was physically removed from a meeting.
Henderson said the commission has abused its power.
Jim McIntyre, Henderson’s attorney, said the commission punished Henderson for having a “difficult personality.”
“He was not diplomatic. He was not polite. He was occasionally rude,” said McIntyre, who also is treasurer of Henderson’s campaign. “But I don’t think if you go through the actual documents, he ever advocated anything he didn’t have a legal right to, which was to take it to the Legislature, take it to the governor. He wasn’t threatening to kill them, blow them up or burn down KREC. Those weren’t the type of threats that were made.”
In 2011, Henderson filed for renewal of his license and was denied.
He e-mailed The Eagle a copy of a conversation he recorded with Sherry Diel, the commission’s executive director, shortly after he received notice that his license would not be renewed. Henderson did not tell Diel he was recording the conversation.
On the recording, she informs him that he can have a hearing to appeal the decision if he submits a request.
He said that he was not given a hearing before the commission and accused Diel of lying to him.
He did receive a hearing through the Office of Administrative Hearings after making an additional appeal, but he said Diel’s husband, Tracy Diel, director of that office at the time, used his influence to manipulate the process against him.
The administrative officer upheld the commission’s decision, as did a district court judge when Henderson fought the commission in court.
“I gripe and complain about being railroaded because I was. It’s obvious,” Henderson said in an e-mail. “Sure I was annoying to Diel. Disrespectful even. Wouldn’t you be a little annoyed after being told for years you’re doing something wrong but they don’t tell you what?
“Is my emotional response and outward display of lacking respect for that person really that unwarranted?” he said. “Sure I could grin, smile and bite my tongue as they lie about my business, call my past clients, put unbelievable pressure on any brokerage I hang my license in addition to those I owned to get rid of me or fear similar levels of Gestapo scrutiny. ... Yeah I could have shut my mouth and they would have railroaded me faster.”
‘Never been convicted’
Sherry Diel responded by citing the court decision.
“The Shawnee County District Court reviewed his allegations and found in favor of the commission,” she said in a phone call. “It’s something that he’s alleged that’s been found to have no merit. It’s been put to bed for a long time.”
In making his ruling, Shawnee County District Judge Larry D. Hendricks wrote: “Henderson has a history of dishonesty, deceitful, threatening, and untrustworthy behavior. Henderson lied to Park City Police, threatened members of KREC, misstated facts in e-mails and online, and deceived former clients. There is nothing in the record that demonstrates any rehabilitation from this behavior.”
In July 2010, Park City police visited Henderson’s home after receiving a call from his mother, who was concerned about the well-being of her grandchildren.
“It was my mother, yeah,” Henderson said. “And that’s why we don’t speak to my mother very often anymore.”
Police said Henderson told them he did not live at the residence. He was charged with obstructing the official duty of a law enforcement officer. The charge did not result in a conviction but was used by the commission as evidence of dishonest behavior.
McIntyre said it was improper for the commission to use this charge against Henderson because it was unrelated to real estate and because he was not convicted. He also said that the commission members, as real estate brokers, were Henderson’s competitors.
“He never stole from his customers. All the allegations are based on his personality,” McIntyre said. “He’s never been convicted of a crime.”
Court documents in the license case state that Henderson tried to pressure a couple who had filed a complaint against him to drop it.
The complaint – for making final offers to prospective buyers without the sellers’ consent – resulted in a fine. Henderson appealed this and other fines in a separate lawsuit against the commission, which he lost.
Henderson blamed that loss on his former attorney, Vern Jarboe, whom he accused of purposely failing to submit evidence on his behalf. Henderson has filed a complaint against Jarboe with the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator.
Jarboe would not comment.
McIntyre said fighting the commission has exhausted Henderson financially.
“This was a man who was making a quarter of a million dollars a year back in ’05, ’06, ’07 with a discount (real estate) brokerage, who’s now basically lost everything,” he said.
Henderson filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in November 2011 with $101,900 in debts; under this filing, a person can pay off debts over time.
The bankruptcy case was dismissed in February 2014.
Henderson owes Sedgwick County $15,628.51 in unpaid property taxes, according to Rich Euson in the county’s legal department. That amount includes his 2013 taxes, which have yet to be paid, and taxes that went unpaid between 2008 and 2012. At one point, he owed the county nearly $25,000 in unpaid taxes.
He said the commission is to blame for his tax troubles.
“I’m repaying and settling everything now. It’ll probably be another couple months before I get everything squared up,” Henderson said in an e-mail. “I’m rebuilding after being railroaded.”
Henderson told The Eagle in June that he had decided to leave his real estate business to finish his degree at Wichita State University. He did not say that he no longer held a valid real estate license. He later said the omission was not an attempt to mislead.
“Almost everybody who knows me knows that I went through that. I did sell my brokerage,” Henderson said in a phone call last week. “And I did go back to school.
“It’s so embarrassing. I hate it. I hate that I had to go through that,” Henderson said.