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Mayoral hopeful in Wichita banned from City Hall

Mayoral candidate Paul Rhodes is banned from City Hall, and a district court judge has a protection from stalking order against him.

The banishment has its roots in a 2008 Easter service put on by the River Community Baptist Church at the Hyatt Regency Wichita downtown.

Rhodes said he went there hoping to talk to his estranged daughter. He was asked to leave, refused and was later arrested for trespassing. Rhodes said he was minding his own business with God.

"The charge was trespassing, even though the only reason they wanted me to leave was they thought I was 'disturbed,' " he wrote in response to a question in The Eagle's online voter guide.

Rhodes pleaded no contest and was found guilty, said City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf.

Upset with the ruling, Rhodes tried to address his concerns with a prosecutor during his municipal court date and later with Rebenstorf. Rebenstorf said Rhodes confronted him.

Rhodes told a city security guard that he supported a man who months earlier had driven his car through City Hall's first floor, causing thousands of dollars in property damage and prompting the city to place huge concrete blocks around the 13-story building as a preventive measure, Rebenstorf said.

Security officials reported that Rhodes was out measuring the distance between the concrete blocks. Rhodes said he was simply pointing out the absurdity of city security and that the blocks were spaced widely enough apart to still let a car through.

The city saw the actions as a potential threat.

"The implication of Rhodes' comments and actions was that he personally might attempt to commit a similar offense," Rebenstorf wrote in response to The Eagle's questions.

The city issued a trespass warning in January 2009, requiring Rhodes to be escorted by a security officer when he has legitimate business at City Hall.

Rhodes said he was escorted when he filed for mayor in the city clerk's office on the 13th floor, which also houses the legal department.

Protection order

In March 2009, Rhodes and another man who was upset with the handling of family court cases sat behind a district court judge and prayed for him at a church service, Rhodes said. The judge perceived a threat.

Eventually, the judge was granted a protection from stalking order that bans Rhodes from contacting him or his children, Rebenstorf said. It has been extended through June of this year.

Rhodes acknowledges that he pressed the judge to speak with him. During an interview, he said he felt the judge should take off his robe and come out and talk like a man — though Rhodes said he had no violent intent and only wanted to talk.

He says conflicts help

Rhodes said he feels he has a good relationship with security officials at the county courthouse.

He said he has been diagnosed as bipolar and still occasionally displays symptoms. But he said he feels healed.

Rhodes says he has no grudge against City Hall officials. He thinks his experience with the city's legal and security staff give him insight to problems in local government.

Too many people have been mistreated by local officials, he said.

Rhodes said his real passion is to create unity in city government, advocate free speech and help the city create an effective recycling program.

He says his conflicts at City Hall and in district court help him.

"What I learned, is that power and authority are really (two) different things, and most do not know the distinction," he wrote to The Eagle. "I am confident that (this) has made me a more courageous leader."

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