The Kansas Meadowlark

July 3, 2006


Sebelius appoints wife of "dean of Ellis County Democratic politics
to Supreme Court Nominating Commission.
Is Sebelius Concerned about Qualified Justices on the Kansas Supreme Court?


On July 1 the Kansas City infoZine reported the appointment of Carolyn Bird to the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.  The KC infoZine said this about the appointment:

To ensure an impartial and independent judiciary, nominees for Kansas' highest courts are selected by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Governor Kathleen Sebelius announced the appointment of Carolyn Bird, Hays, to the commission.

"Kansans expect judges who are professional, objective and impartial, and it's the job of the nominating commission to find individuals who meet these qualifications. I appreciate Carolyn's willingness to serve our state by helping to select nominees for our highest courts," said Sebelius.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission is responsible for recommending qualified individuals for appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court and the Kansas Court of Appeals. The Governor then selects from a group of nominees recommended by the commission.

Is this Sebelius appointment about impartial courts and justice for all Kansans, or is this cronyism and a political payback for big political donors?   Left out of this story was the fact that Sebelius replaced outgoing Republican Debbie Nordling with Democrat Carolyn Bird.   And a lot more was left out of this story ...

In July 2005 the Lawrence Journal-World suggested Sebelius'

Donor rolls often hold clues on regent picks 
Board members usually have supported governor who names them, but job not considered ‘reward’

By Terry Rombeck (Contact)
Monday, July 25, 2005

In the next few weeks, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will appoint three new members to the Kansas Board of Regents.

She hasn’t tipped her hand as to who her appointments will be. But if past trends continue, the new regents can be found on Sebelius’ list of campaign contributors.

In fact, 17 of the 19 people appointed to the Board of Regents in the past decade contributed money to the governor who appointed them.

Would political contributions play any part in Sebelius' nomination to the Supreme Court Nominating Commission?  Sebelius list of donors for 2005 is a bit huge (221 MB), but reveals this about PO Box 727, Hays, KS:

 

p. 29

p. 476

Box 727, Hays is the address for Democrat John T. Bird at his law firm, Glassman, Bird, Braun & Schwartz.  He serves as the Hays City Attorney.  

It's unclear why Democrat Carolyn Bird used this address since she is an employee of the athletic department at Fort Hays State University as the "SWA/Associate A.D./Compliance/Stud-Ath Serv."  Carolyn and John T. Bird's home address is on Noose Rd in Hays, which was not listed as their address on their political contributions. 

Here's a more complete list of the political contributions by the Birds"

From the Kansas Governmental Ethics Campaign Finance Data online:

Date

Contributor

Dollars

Recipient

Contest

District

4/23/2002

BIRD, CAROLYN

150

SEBELIUS, KATHLEEN

Gov

9/25/2003

BIRD, CAROLYN

1000

LEE, JANIS K.

Senate

36

11/29/2005

BIRD, JOHN

1000

SEBELIUS, KATHLEEN

Governor

11/29/2005

BIRD, CAROLYN

2000

SEBELIUS, KATHLEEN

Governor

12/21/2005

BIRD, JOHN

2000

MORRISON, PAUL

AttorneyGeneral

From Open Secrets:

BIRD, JOHN T
HAYS,KS 67601

SELF/ATTORNEY 

3/15/2004

$2,000

Kerry, John

BIRD, JOHN T
HAYS,KS 67601

SELF/ATTORNEY 

8/1/2003

$1,000

Kansas Democratic State Cmte

BIRD, JOHN T
HAYS,KS 67601

SELF/ATTORNEY 

8/2/2004

$1,000

Kansas Democratic State Cmte

 

With all these political contributions, are the Birds involved in Kansas politics?  A search of the Hays Daily News archives reveals several interesting political connections:

The granddaughter of John T and Carolyn Bird served as the legislative page for Democrat State Rep Eber Phelps.  

Legislative pages
Hays Daily News
March 1, 2004

Legislative pages for Rep. Eber Phelps were … They are pictured with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Phelps.  … Her grandparents are John T. and Carolyn Bird, Hays

This political column by Glenn Staag, Democratic Party chairman for Ellis County, is revealing:

Curious decisions by the attorney general
Hays Daily News
by Glenn Staab
August 4, 2005

. . .

Congratulations to Rep. Eber and Joni Phelps as they tied the knot last Saturday at the Catholic campus center. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Lt. Gov. John Moore were among those at the packed church. Several of Eber's friends from the Statehouse along with Sen. Janis Lee and Rep. Dan Johnson honored Eber and Joni with their attendance.

. . .

I received word Monday afternoon that my first political hero had passed away. Norbert Dreiling was an icon. Not only in Democratic local, state and national politics, but an icon in this community. ...

My relationship with Norbert was political. 

It is no secret that my political mentor is John T. Bird. His hero and mentor is Norbert Dreiling. John and I sat down Monday afternoon and visited about Norbert and the stories he had shared with us. John is now the dean of Ellis County Democratic politics.  ...

Glenn Staab, a lifelong Hays resident and former city commissioner, sells insurance and real estate and is the Democratic Party chairman for Ellis County.
[In 2003 Sebelius appointed Glenn Stabb to study legalized gambling issues.  See Wichita Eagle, 8/8/2003, "Sebelius taps 15 to study legalized gambling issues"]

While John T. Bird was described as the "dean of Ellis County Democratic politics," and wife Carolyn donates to Democratic candidates occasionally, none of the news accounts indicate any direct involvement in politics by Carolyn Bird.  One article gives details about her work at Fort Hays:

Bird oversees women's sports
Hays Daily News
September 29, 2002

There has never been an obstacle too big or too small.

Or too high or too low.

Whatever the challenge, Carolyn Bird is going to rise up to meet it.

Bird, who is in her 13th year as the Senior Women's Administrator and Academic Coordinator at Fort Hays State University, has seen a little bit of everything in her tenure at the NCAA Division II school.

As the school's Senior Women's Administrator, Bird has seen changes over the years due to Title IX, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year

...

Bird is the highest ranking woman in the FHSU athletic department.

However, I find these accounts of how Carolyn Bird helped a convicted rapist receive an unexpectedly light sentence for his crime to reveal how soft she might be on crime, which is not a desirable characteristic for a member of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating committee.  How can a senior women's administrator of the athletic department help a male get a lighter sentence for a crime where a woman was the victim?  This is especially disturbing since according to the KC infoZine Carolyn Bird previously served on the commission from 1991 to 1996.

Jury returns guilty verdict in rape trial
Hays Daily News
August 3, 2001

After deliberating for an hour Thursday afternoon, an Ellis County jury found John Y. Green, 24, 1011/2 Ash, guilty of rape.

The charge stemmed from an incident in December 1999 when a then 18-year-old university student reported to police she had been raped after acquaintances left her at Green´s residence.  ...

Defense attorney Paul Oller called Carolyn Bird as a character witness. Bird is assistant athletic director at Fort Hays State University. She testified she had counseled Green while he was a football player for the university. His grades fell, and she called him to meet with her about the problem. Green always has been respectful, Bird said. When she heard he was arrested, she volunteered to vouch for him.  ...

"Respectful" qualifies for a lighter sentence?  What about the rape victim here?  

Hays man given light sentence for rape
Hays Daily News
October 2, 2001

The sentence given Monday afternoon to a man convicted of rape surprised both the prosecution and the defense attorney.

Ellis County District District Judge Tom Toepfer sentenced John Y. Green, 24, 1011/2 Ash, to four years in prison followed by four years of post-release supervision. The sentence is a departure from state sentencing guidelines, which would indicate a sentence of 12 years in prison.

. . .

Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees, who had argued vigorously against Green getting a reduced sentence, also expressed surprise.

"While I believe the longer sentence was called for, the important thing to remember is the victim had the courage to come forward and report the crime and the courage to testify. The jury believed that testimony and convicted the defendant. The defendant is going to prison," Drees said.

Fort Hays State University assistant athletic director Carolyn Bird, Green´s mother, Ethel Green, and his girlfriend, Mandy Vromaugh, testified on his behalf. Bird said Green had been a good student until his sister died, then his grades dropped and he lost his athletic scholarship. Ethel Green testified Green only got in trouble one time in grade school. Vromaugh testified Green had been a good father to their son.

Does a light sentence make the rape victim  feel good about receiving justice?  Is the rape victim now a victim of the "system" too?  Did the news stories leave something out about why such a light sentence was fair to the victim?

Was this Sebelius' appointment more about seeking impartial courts and justice for all Kansans, or more about $5000 of contributions to Sebelius in 2005?  Can Sebelius claim she's tough on crime with this appointment?  Can Carolyn Bird's judgment be trusted to nominate judges that will be tough on crime? 



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