Politics & Government

On criminal convictions, House candidate Jim Price has ‘nothing to hide’

An east Wichita candidate for the state House has two criminal convictions on his record, one for participating in a 1990 gas station robbery and the other for interfering with law enforcement officers investigating his son’s small marijuana growing operation in 2012, according to court records.

The candidate, Jim Price, also has had unpaid debts and bad checks related to a failed construction business. Many of those debts were discharged when he filed for bankruptcy in 2004, although he has had at least two judgments against him since then.

Price, a small-government-oriented conservative, is running against former state Rep. Joseph Scapa in the Republican primary for House District 88. The winner in Tuesday’s primary will face Rep. Pat Sloop, D-Wichita.

Price said he doesn’t have a problem defending his record and that he filed for office to try to change systems that he thinks wrong ordinary citizens. He said he’s not running away from his record.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said. “That’s just it, I would not be running for office if I felt like I had to hide from it.”

In June, early in the campaign season, Price gave The Eagle his Kansas Bureau of Investigation background report, which included his misdemeanor conviction in the marijuana case and a misdemeanor prosecution for writing a worthless check for $20.

Butler County Court records indicate he disposed of the check case by paying restitution and court costs.

But the KBI report did not include the 1990 conviction in the Texas gas station robbery.

Price said Texas officials had assured him that case was sealed and would not “haunt” him.

However, the case remains on record in Jeff Davis County, where the crime occurred. The Eagle filed a request for the records.

The file shows that Price was one of three men charged and convicted in the holdup, which was accomplished using a Marlin .22 rifle.

The other two men were given 14-year prison sentences, according to local news reports.

Price pleaded guilty to one felony count of robbery and was sentenced to 120 days of “shock” followed by five years of probation. So-called “shock probation” is a common Texas punishment for first-time offenders, designed to give them a taste of prison life and, it is hoped, “shock” them into not going back.

Price said he didn’t take an active role in the robbery, hence the lighter sentence.

“They were two hitchhikers, that I knew they were going to do it and I didn’t stop them,” Price said. “I was 18 years old. … The way the state of Texas works is if you don’t stop them or turn them in, then you’re as guilty as they are.”

Probation and a $500 fine

Eagle research didn’t uncover any other criminal matters until the May 2012 arrest in the marijuana case.

In that case, officers raided Price’s home and reported finding marijuana plants and a small quantity of the drug, along with paraphernalia for smoking it.

The court record shows that Price was initially charged with possession and distribution of marijuana. Those charges were dropped, leaving only the charge of interfering with officers, to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 12 months’ probation and a $500 fine. The son pleaded guilty to cultivating marijuana and also was placed on probation, court records show.

Price said he was unaware that his 17-year-old son was growing marijuana in a spare storage/bedroom at home because he was traveling back and forth between San Antonio on business and spending only weekends at home. During the week, his parents supervised his son, he said.

Of the day of his arrest, he said: “I get home, I’ve driven nine hours straight to get home. It’s been a long week. I got another long week ahead. I get in at 2 o’clock in the morning. I’m dog tired. At 7 o’clock in the morning, there’s 15 police officers at my house.”

He said Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet went on TV later and characterized him and his son as a father-son drug ring, overblowing the incident for election publicity. “Probation and a $500 fine,” Price said. “Not exactly the drug bust of the century.”

Herzet did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

In August 2013, Butler County District Court Judge Jan Satterfield ordered the return of personal property that was seized in the raid, including $430 cash, five firearms, two air purifiers and three fans.

‘Part of the business’

Price also had problems in civil courts. He filed for bankruptcy in 2004, according to court records.

At the time, he had about $98,000 in assets and $277,000 in liabilities. Most of his unsecured debt, $189,655, was for materials and subcontractor services related to his construction business.

After the bankruptcy, dissatisfied customers and creditors continued to win judgments against Price:

• In July 2013, a Butler County couple got a $40,000 judgment for what they alleged was a botched siding job on their house. They said in court records that Price had “improperly installed the siding, broke the siding and did not use rust-resistant nails.” In addition, they alleged Price misrepresented to them that he was licensed, bonded and insured, which they found out later he wasn’t. Price said the couple’s claim has been paid.

• A marketing company sued Price several times in Sedgwick County for unpaid advertising bills. Those cases ended when the company got a judgment for about $2,300 and the sheriff’s office seized Price’s boat and other property and sold it to satisfy the debt. Price disputed owing the money, saying the company had continued running commercials after he told it to stop and that the owner changed invoices so it looked like the debts had come after Price filed bankruptcy.

Price said he finally quit the contracting business because he was spending most of his time either trying to collect from people who owed him money or fending off lawsuits from creditors he owed money to.

“It has to do with just doing the best you can,” Price said. “There’s people out there … that things happen. I’ve always done the best I can for everybody I ever worked for, and things happen. I don’t know of any contractor who can tell me he’s never had any type of litigation or mediation … it’s just part of the business.”

Political platform

Price said he hopes people can see past his past and will judge him on his political platform.

He is a strong supporter of state sovereignty and eliminating the government’s role in welfare or health.

“It (government) has no business trying to help people up,” he said. “That’s what churches and charities do a great job of every single day and they’re there to do it, so let them do it.”

He also wants full school choice and competition to replace the current education funding system, and to eliminate income taxes, eliminate property tax for the elderly and eliminate sales tax on Kansas-made products.

“There’s nothing here that I’m a radical or anything; I’m not doing anything that’s way out of the box,” he said. “These are all basic things that everybody I talk to says this is what they want in their government.”

Contributing: Amy Renee Leiker of The Eagle