June 24, 2024

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Prosecutor considers election bribery charge against Hays superintendent

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Ellis County Attorney Robert Anderson, Jr. is reviewing the results of an investigation into election bribery by Hays USD 489 Superintendent Ron Wilson.

As reported on the Hays Post news service, the allegation surrounds an email sent by Wilson to district staff on April 22nd concerning the May 10 bond issue election, which included this offer:

“Here’s my challenge to you. If 100% of the eligible voters in your building vote before May 10th we will bring lunch for you one day before the end of school. Yes, we’ll know if you vote (and no we can not see how you vote) The first building in our district to get 100% also gets dessert with their lunch! My expectation is to buy lunch for every building in our district!”

Wilson’s email makes it pretty clear that he is asking employees to vote for bond issue.  He writes, “If we want to change the spaces we work in, we must be willing to take the time to vote and change our teaching and learning environments. It doesn’t cost us a penny to vote! Simply, by not voting really registers as a NO vote when it comes to our school staff.”

His email also referenced a video encouraging people to vote in favor of the bond issue, writing, “if the video…doesn’t move you a little bit then I’m not sure you have a heartbeat!”

An anonymous tipster reported the offer to law enforcement. Sheriff Scott Braun completed his investigation and forwarded the findings to Anderson, who told The Sentinel in a phone interview there is no timeline for a decision on the filing of charges.

Kansas Statute 25-2409 on Election Bribery reads:

a) Election bribery is conferring, offering or agreeing to confer, or soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept any benefit as consideration to or from any person either to vote or withhold any person’s vote, or to vote for or against any candidate or question submitted at any public election.

(b)This section shall not apply to a business or organization that provides a product of value less than $3 to any person who asserts that such person has voted, without regard to such voter’s vote for or against any candidate or issue.

(c)Election bribery is a severity level 7, nonperson felony.

The sentence for a conviction ranges from 11-to 34 months in state prison.

We reached out to Superintendent Wilson for comment, but none was provided.

The $143.5 million bond issue was approved by district voters 53%-47%. A half-cent sales tax increase to help pay for the construction of a new high school and renovations to other school buildings was also approved, with 60% voting in favor.

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