Correction: 7:30 a.m. Friday, April 29. The superintendent's email said he would provide lunch for building staff who voted but did not specify what that lunch would be.
By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays USD 489 superintendent is being investigated for election bribery after he sent an email to staff telling them he would buy lunch for employees if they voted in the ongoing school bond election.
The email from Superintendent Ron Wilson, which can be seen in its entirety at the end of this story, told staff members he would purchase lunch and possibly dessert for the staff of any building if all the staff members in that building voted in the election.
It did not tell the staff members specifically they had to vote for the bond in order to receive the lunch.
Ellis County Attorney Robert Anderson said Thursday an anonymous tipster presented the email to courthouse security.
He sent the case to the Ellis County Sheriff's Office, which is currently investigating the case.
Anderson said he had no idea of the timeline of when that investigation would be concluded. Anderson said he will review the case after a report is returned from the sheriff's office.
"When I read [the email], my first thought was this isn't illegal," Anderson said. "It would be illegal if he would be incentivizing or giving anything of value for a particular vote.
"However, upon review of the election bribery statute, it looks like it could be illegal simply to entice people to vote, regardless of how they vote."
Election bribery is a level seven non-person felony. It can be punishable from 11 months to 34 months on the sentencing grid. Most of the sentencing boxes for this crime fall under presumptive probation, based on a variety of factors, including previous criminal history, Anderson said.
"I want to make it clear that no one has been charged at this time, and if they were charged, it would only be allegations," Anderson said.
Anderson said if someone is charged, they are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Bobbi Dreiling, Ellis County clerk and election official, said she consulted the Kansas Secretary of State's office regarding the email.
The Secretary of State's office said local law enforcement has the responsibility of investigating alleged criminal activity. Dreiling referred all of the complaints to the county attorney's office.
In the meantime, early voting continues in the bond election through May 9. Election Day is May 10.
Dreiling said as of Thursday morning almost 700 people had advanced voted in the bond election.
Andreson said the law enforcement investigation and his review of the case will be independent of the outcome of the election.
"I know this is a very polarizing issue amongst people in our community," Anderson said. "A lot of people are calling my office about this. The bottom line is that it's an open investigation. Until it's a report on my desk, there's nothing that I can even do about it.
"Once it's on my desk, it doesn't mean that charges will get filed. It means it's time for me to evaluate it and decide what to do."
Hays Post contacted Wilson on Thursday, and he said he did not wish to comment on the investigation at this time.
The $143.5 million bond issue includes building a new high school, and remodeling the old high school into a middle school and the middle school into a new elementary school. Roosevelt and O'Loughlin elementary schools also would be renovated.