Former county commissioner admitted to wrongdoing
By Travis Mounts
Former Sedgwick County Commissioner and state legislator Michael O’Donnell is facing $25,000 in fines for campaign finance law violations.
The fine was handed down by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. O’Donnell, 36, admitted to nine campaign finance law violations during two separate campaigns – one for the Kansas Senate and the other for the Sedgwick County Commission, to which O’Donnell was elected in 2016.
The former lawmaker said he wanted to rectify things, during a Jan. 27 hearing in Topeka.
“I want to take responsibility for my actions,” he said.
O’Donnell admitted to using campaign money for personal use. He also paid others for campaign staff work that they did not do, mixed campaign donations with his personal money, and filed fraudulent campaign finance reports.
Many of the same accusations were at the heart of O’Donnell’s federal trial in 2019, when he was charged with 26 counts that included money laundering, wire fraud and bank fraud. He was acquitted on 21 charges. Five other charges were eventually dismissed after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
O’Donnell resigned from the county commission in November, after the general election but before the final results were known. That move ended an effort by Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett to have O’Donnell removed from the commission. There had been multiple calls for O’Donnell’s resignation, including from fellow Republicans and from the other four county commissioners.
O’Donnell had already committed to not serving a second term if he won the election, because of his alleged involvement against a smear campaign targeting Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, who was then a candidate for that office.
Newcomer Sarah Lopez narrowly defeated O’Donnell in the county commission race for District 2, which includes Haysville and Clearwater along with south Wichita and southern Sedgwick County. Whipple has filed a civil lawsuit against O’Donnell, former Wichita City Council member James Clendenin and former State Rep. Michael Capps. Clendenin resigned from the city council, and Capps lost an August primary election.