Wichita sales tax ad investigation won’t conclude before election

The Sedgwick County district attorney’s office won’t conclude its investigation before Tuesday’s election of a complaint that the group opposing the proposed 1-cent sales tax violated state law with its political advertising.

“These things usually take awhile,” said District Attorney Marc Bennett, adding that the office’s comment last week that it would investigate the complaint expeditiously did not mean to imply it would finish the investigation by the election.

The office has one investigator and one deputy attorney on the case, Bennett said.

The complaint was filed by Moji Fanimokun, attorney and co-chairman for Yes Wichita, which backs the sales tax. It alleges that opposing group Coalition for a Better Wichita or its chairman, Trent Sebits, have run advertisements that don’t meet state requirements to identify the name of the chairman of the organization paying for the ads.

Violation of that statute is a Class C misdemeanor. If someone is found guilty of violating the state statute, the maximum penalties can be a month in jail and a $500 fine per violation, Bennett said. However, Bennett said he hasn’t heard of anyone going to jail for a campaign advertising violation in Kansas.

“The goal for these kinds of things is not to put people in jail but to encourage compliance,” Bennett said.

The intent of the state statute is to add transparency for elections and to let people know who is paying for advertisements and fliers, he said.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.