Crime & Courts

ACLU files suit for ousted Leavenworth mayor

LEAVENWORTH — The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of ousted Leavenworth Mayor Shay Baker.

The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri believes that Baker's free speech and due process rights were violated when she was removed as mayor. The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in federal court, names the city of Leavenworth and four Leavenworth city commissioners.

Leavenworth city officials declined to comment.

Baker was removed as mayor on Sept. 17, 2009, after she wrote a letter to a federal judge asking for leniency for a friend and convicted drug dealer. Police had earlier hailed the drug dealer's arrest as a major victory against crime in Leavenworth.

Baker's letter outraged many residents because she identified herself as the city's mayor in the letter.

The ACLU said Baker wrote the letter as an act of compassion.

"Removing Mayor Baker because of her exercise of her right to speak out on matters of public concern violates the First Amendment. Such retaliation threatens to restrain the speech of elected officials, who — in the words of the Supreme Court —'have an obligation to take positions on controversial political questions,' " said Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

Baker later apologized to residents.

Kansas Attorney General Steve Six issued an opinion that said the City Commission did not have the legal authority to take away Baker's title.