Top Republican leaders in the Senate on Thusday said they were “deeply” disappointed in Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop after reading what transpired the night he was arrested for driving the wrong way on Interstate 70.
“While we continue to respect due process, there are many aspects of the alleged behavior that are deeply disappointing, and severe consequences will be unavoidable,” Senate President Ty Masterson and Vice President Rick Wilborn said in a joint statement.
“With just a few days in the session remaining, we will finish up our work with Sen. Larry Alley fulfilling the duties of the majority leader. Any decisions regarding
the future will be made in due course,” the said.
Alley will continue to fulfill Suellentrop’s duties as majority leader although those responsibilities do not transfer under law to the senator’s seat on the Legislative Coordinating Council or the State Finance Council.
There has been increasing pressure for Suellentrop to step down from his leadership post after he was arrested shortly before 1 a .m. on March 16 heading the wrong way on Interstate 70 near downtown Topeka.
A probable cause affidavit released Thursday revealed how the Wichita lawmaker conducted himself after he was arrested.
He smelled of alcohol, stumbled and faltered, refused to take a breath test and suggested he could take the police officer in a fight while calling him “donut boy.”
A blood sample taken the night of the arrest revealed that Suellentrop had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17, more than twice the legal level of 0.08 in Kansas.
The affidavit said Suellentrop was arrested shortly before 1 a.m. March 16 near the Fourth Street Bridge on I-70 after narrowly avoiding collisions with vehicles headed in his direction.
The officer said in his report that Suellentrop didn’t obey several commands to turn off the ignition in his sport utility vehicle and had to be helped from the SUV.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes issued a statement saying he needs to be held accountable.
“While Sen. Suellentrop deserves due process and appropriate consequences for his irresponsible behavior, he also deserves to be held to the same level of accountability as the Kansans he has been elected to represent,” she said.
“I am disappointed that he has not come to this conclusion himself.”
Suellentrop has been charged with driving under the influence, attempting to elude police, reckless driving, speeding and driving the wrong direction on a divided highway.
Eluding police is a felony, while the DUI and reckless driving charges are misdemeanors.
The felony charge presents the most serious threat to Suellentrop’s political career, which started in 2009 as a member of the Kansas House.
The state Constitution requires a legislator to be a “qualified elector.”
If Suellentrop is convicted of a felony, he would lose his right to vote and would no longer be a qualified elector and would lose his seat.