Editorials

Michael O’Donnell showed poor judgment bringing beer

Kansas lawmakers reacted with surprise and disappointment Friday upon learning that Sedgwick County commissioner and former state senator Michael O'Donnell had been indicted.
Kansas lawmakers reacted with surprise and disappointment Friday upon learning that Sedgwick County commissioner and former state senator Michael O'Donnell had been indicted. File photo

At best, state Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, showed extremely poor judgment in bringing what he acknowledged were two cases of beer to a recent 21st birthday party attended by members of a Wichita State University fraternity.

It will be up to the Wichita Police Department to decide whether he did worse than that, and in fact provided alcohol to individuals too young to drink legally.

O’Donnell first told The Eagle he had contributed money to buy alcohol and thought everyone at the party was 21. Then he said he bought the two cases of beer as a gift for a campaign supporter, because “that’s what she had asked for for her birthday.” But the recipient told The Eagle she doesn’t drink beer.

In a Topeka Capital-Journal story, O’Donnell denied the allegation of Matt Conklin, a former president of both Phi Delta Theta and WSU’s student body, that he’d seen the senator provide alcohol to underage individuals last year. Conklin also said: “He’s using that (fraternity) chapter as a political asset. It’s like he’s courting them. He wants his circle of guys.”

O’Donnell said: “The Young Republicans, the College Republicans, I hang out with them.”

But the propriety of a 31-year-old elected official partying with fraternity members and other college students is questionable, whether or not they are campaign supporters or alcohol is on hand.

Voters can draw their own conclusions if O’Donnell runs for re-election to the Kansas Senate or, as he’s indicated he might, pursues a Sedgwick County Commission seat instead.

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