A Sedgwick County District Court judge has signed orders to seize the assets of a candidate for the state House of Representatives.
Chris Brown, a Republican candidate in District 96, owes former business partner Mike Lies nearly $675,000, stemming from three judgments in a battle for control over their property management company, Prestige Management, according to court documents. Judge Mark Vining signed off on orders to seize Brown’s assets on Wednesday.
Brown said he has been severely wronged by the court system and is running on a platform to reduce the judicial branch’s power. He faces Rick Lindsey in the Republican primary Aug. 5. The winner will take on Rep. Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita, in the general election.
Brown has had several drawn-out court battles that have strained him financially. He says all of his legal and financial challenges can be traced to his 2004 divorce — and that he would not have agreed to a divorce if the state had a law requiring someone seeking a divorce to show valid cause.
“I would have played a hand differently than what I got dealt with,” he said. “Because what I got dealt with is I got forced into the system, into the judicial system. And I lose, any individual loses, total control of their children. They’re not yours anymore. They’re the state’s. They’re the court’s. Because they get to dictate and tell you how you’re going to do with your children.
“And if you think otherwise, you’re a fool.”
Brown, a frequent visitor to the Statehouse, said he worked with Rep. John Bradford, R-Lansing, to write two pieces of legislation this year: a bill to restrict judges from sending testimony on bills and another to require that a spouse show valid cause — such as physical abuse, adultery or conviction of a felony — in a divorce, unless both spouses agree to sever without fault.
“That’s Chris Brown. It’s control. It’s all about being in control,” said Robert Brown, the candidate’s estranged brother, upon hearing about his brother’s idea to restrict the reasons for divorce. “One person should not have the power over another one if one wants to get out of a relationship. That’s holding a person hostage.”
The divorce bill caused controversy and never received a hearing.
Former business partner sues
Brown was sued in 2006 by Lies, his former business partner, with whom Brown co-owned a property management company called Prestige Management. Brown tried to dilute Lies’ share of the business by issuing himself 99,000 new shares, according to court documents.
Brown initially won the case, but the court found in favor of Lies on appeal.
“Brown’s actions were self-serving, self-dealing and benefited no one else but himself,” wrote Judge Terry Pullman in his 2009 decision.
Brown said he disputes the validity of the ruling and has not paid Lies.
He accused Lies of conspiring with his ex-wife to ruin him professionally. He said that he could not afford the attorneys’ fees to continue fighting Lies in court.
Lies also pointed to Brown’s divorce as a turning point in their partnership, but said it was during this period that Brown tried to dilute his shares and other problems arose.
Brown also unsuccessfully sued the city of Maize and its police department, accusing them of violating his civil rights after an officer threatened him with arrest in 2005. The officer was responding to a call from a tenant of a strip mall, which Prestige Management owned, about Brown changing his locks. The case was dismissed.
Brown was charged in 2004 for allegedly breaking into his ex-wife’s home and assaulting her. She said Brown had hid in a closet, attacked and bound her and threatened her with a knife.
A jury found Brown not guilty on all counts due to insufficient evidence. Brown accuses his ex-wife of lying.
Brown said that battling his ex-wife in court has cost him more than $1 million.
The ex-wife has custody of two of the couple’s three teenage sons; Brown has visitation rights. The oldest son, Zach, 18, has chosen to live with his father and accompanied Brown to an interview to show his support.
As recently as 2012, the ex-wife filed for a restraining order against Brown. The case was dismissed in April 2013.
Brown has repeatedly been found in contempt for unpaid child support, according to court documents.
He said he has worked a series of jobs that he has lost in recent years, including a position as a basketball coach at Wichita South High School. He accuses his ex-wife of harassing employers to get him fired.
Brown said that he is a property developer and manager with two projects under development right now. He would not tell The Eagle details about the projects, claiming that his ex-wife would try to disrupt the projects if he made them public.
When Brown filed to run for office, he listed as his address a house owned by Craig Gabel, president of the tea party group Kansans for Liberty, who previously lost to Lindsey in a primary election. Brown said he moved into the house about two months before the election filing deadline. Gabel said Brown is a close friend, but that he is not actively involved in the campaign.
Debts to family
Michael Brown, another brother of the candidate, said Chris Brown owes him and his father a combined $20,000 for debts resulting from property that was ultimately foreclosed upon. Brown said he does not owe them money.
“All I asked them to do was sign the loans,” Chris Brown said. “They decided they didn’t want to be part of the foreclosure and went to the bank and asked to be bought out of the foreclosure.”
Michael Brown said his brother’s finances should make voters pause.
“He’s running for office and I’m like, you’ve got a half a million in debt just in attorney’s fees, you have the money you owe me and your father,” Michael Brown said. “You don’t work yourself. You don’t pay your child support. How in the world can you run for political office and think that you’re going to balance a budget and spend other people’s money? It just blows my mind.”
Chris Brown believes that the judicial branch wields too much power. He does not believe that the courts should be able to rule on school funding, for example. He accused judges of trying to set social policy.
If elected, he would introduce legislation to move domestic cases to civil court after a divorce has been finalized.
“That way you can get a jury. That way you can get – at the end of the day you cannot have these judges, one person, making these rulings and force you into these settings,” he said.
Contributing: Amy Renee Leiker of The Eagle