(Updated to include history of complaints and comments from House leadership)
Kansas House Democrats on Tuesday filed a much-anticipated complaint against Democratic state Rep. Aaron Coleman, seeking a censure and possible expulsion from the chamber.
“I believe that everyone should be given a second chance, sometimes even a third chance, but Rep. Coleman continues to show time and time again that he is unfit to serve in
office,” Minority Leader Tom Sawyer said in a statement.
“We continue to condemn his actions and believe that there is sufficient evidence for the Legislature to begin an investigation into Mr. Coleman’s actions.
“He is a danger to women. His removal is necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of
legislators and Capitol staff,” Sawyer said.
The state constitution allows for the impeachment of legislators if they’re convicted “of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
House rules also potentially allow for a lawmaker to be expelled for “any misconduct.”
While there have been complaints filed against lawmakers in the past, state historical librarians have not been able to find an instance where a lawmaker has been expelled from the House or the Senate.
Most recently, Republicans filed a complaint in 2015 against Democratic state Rep. Valdenia Winn for using “inflammatory language,” including accusations of racism against supporters of a bill repealing a law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Kansas colleges and universities.
Nearly nine years ago, 26 House Republicans filed a complaint against former Democratic state Rep. Jim Ward, who was accused of misleading House members about an amendment he proposed for a bill imposing a cap on local property taxes.
Neither complaint went anywhere, but they didn’t have the same gravity as the allegations against Coleman.
The House speaker will now have to appoint a special committee of six members — three Republicans and three Democrats — to investigate the complaint.
Ultimately, two-thirds of the House would be required to expel a member under chamber rules.
Late Monday, Coleman sent an an email to Democratic and Republican leadership declaring himself as unaffiliated because of efforts to ostracize him from the Legislature by denying him committee assignments, office space and even a phone number at the Capitol.
Coleman said in an interview that the Democrats are out of line.
“Apparently, the Kansas House Democrats are full of a bunch of people that have no problem with wasting other people’s tax dollars,” he said.
“It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of money,” Coleman said. “It’s a waste of tax dollars when we have real legislative issues that we need to be tackling.”
House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said he couldn’t tell how his caucus might vote on whether to expel Coleman.
“I think you can probably talk to 86 different people and probably find several different opinions about that,” Hawkins said, referring to the number of House Republicans.
“Some people think one way, some people think another,” he said.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said in an interview Monday that there could be concern about overturning the decision of voters to send Coleman to Topeka, especially if they were aware of his background.
“One of the things that we do caution is the folks of his district did elect him twice, in the primary and in the general,” Ryckman said in an interview with Steve Kraske on KCUR’s “Up to Date.”
“We’ve talked to Democrats and others that are concerned with his past behavior to look at things that are new, things that possibly the folks who elected him didn’t know about or the things that have happened since the election.
“It’s a slippery slope when legislatures start deciding who their legislators are and not allowing the people to make that decision,” he said.
Kansas City Sen. David Haley, whose district overlaps with Coleman’s, defended his fellow Wyandotte County legislator.
Haley questioned whether the Legislature has any right to oust Coleman for anything that occurred before he took office.
“Where do we get off as a Legislature impeaching someone for preexisting conditions that the electorate considered and decided?” Haley said.
The complaint is the latest in a string of events involving Coleman, some of which surfaced after he narrowly upset Frownfelter in the Democrat primary last summer.
Coleman has been under fire from his own party after he acknowledged allegations of online bullying, blackmail and revenge porn when he was in middle school.
A former girlfriend also accused Coleman of slapping and choking her last year.
And in October, The Kansas City Star reported that Coleman was arrested for threatening to shoot a student at a school in the Turner School District when he was 14 years old. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge.
A Coleman tweet from November sparked more talk about his removal.
Coleman went on Twitter and used the term “hit” in the context of criticizing Gov. Laura Kelly for not supporting Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
“Laura Kelly is a Republican and unfit to serve. She doesn’t support #M4A or #GND She needs to be humble towards progressives and adopt some of our message, or I and other radical progressives will guarantee she’s a one-term governor,” he tweeted.
“I’m SICK of playing nice with neo-liberals.”
It didn’t stop there.
He added a tweet that said: “I’m not playing around. People will realize one day when I call a hit out on you it’s real. The Democratic gubernatorial primarily will be extremely bloody in 2022. This will allow the third-party progressive candidate a chance to win.”