Politics & Government

DCF says investigation found lawmaker was emotionally abusive. He calls allegations false

Kansas House candidate Michael Capps, left, answers questions after the State Objections Board upheld his candidacy on June 11, 2018.
Kansas House candidate Michael Capps, left, answers questions after the State Objections Board upheld his candidacy on June 11, 2018. The Wichita Eagle

An investigation by the Kansas Department for Children and Families found that a Wichita Republican lawmaker had emotionally abused boys, the agency said Friday.

Rep. Michael Capps came under extraordinary pressure to resign and the Kansas Republican Party severed its ties with him after allegations became public.

Capps called the allegations “categorically false and untrue” and said they were made in retaliation after he told DCF a foster parent was putting children at risk by allowing a registered sex offender in her house. He gave no indication he would resign.

The Kansas Republican Party said the allegations against Capps are “beyond troubling.” The party said Capps had been asked to withdraw from his House race earlier in the week but refused.

The allegations center on Capps’ time as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer. DCF said Friday that the agency had investigated Capps and that it affirmed he had been emotionally abusive. It didn’t say when the abuse had occurred.

Capps appealed the decision to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which reversed the finding because of a technical error, DCF spokeswoman Taylor Forrest said.

“The reversal did not address the underlying facts of the finding. However, absent new information or a new event, the agency cannot issue a new finding to correct the error,” Forrest said in a statement.

Sedgwick County CASA director Anna-Maria Fouad said the organization suspended Capps as soon as it became aware of DCF’s investigation and that he resigned as a volunteer soon after. She said Capps will not be allowed to return as a volunteer.

In a statement, Capps criticized DCF as well as the Republican and Democratic parties.

“The real problem is that we have two political parties and a DCF system that values covering their own backsides politically over the safety and well being of children in their care,” Capps said. “They value protecting convicted sexual predators over those in the system that are falsely accused every day, such as me. I will not allow them to slander me, I will not run and hide, I will continue my fight for Kansas Children.

Republicans moved quickly Friday to distance themselves and condemn Capps’ decision to remain in the race.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said holding public office requires the public trust. The allegations are serious, he said.

“I pray for everyone involved and hope this situation is resolved swiftly. In the meantime, for Mr. Capps to serve in the Kansas House would be entirely inappropriate. Public trust matters far more than political gain,” Ryckman said.

Capps’ time as a political figure has been marked by controversy.

In June, he survived an attempt to remove him from the ballot. Democrats said he didn’t live in his House district and said his home had been foreclosed on. A Republican-controlled state board ultimately dismissed the challenge.

Capps had previously filed to run in House District 97 using a South Chase address in Wichita, but filed on June 1 in District 85 using a Governeour address after Rep. Chuck Weber withdrew his re-election bid there.

Weber resigned to become director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. Republican officials in the district then selected Capps to serve out the remainder of Weber’s term in office — making Capps a lawmaker, though the Legislature has not met since he has been in office.

House District 85 — which includes parts of north Wichita, Bel Aire, Kechi and Benton — is solidly Republican. Weber won in 2016 with 61 percent of the vote.

On Friday, Weber said that upon learning of the allegations, he withdrew his support and demanded Capps’ resignation.

Capps is running against Democrat Monica Marks. She didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday.

It is unlikely Capps could be removed from the general election ballot, after Kansas law was changed in 2015 to make it more difficult to drop out.