Rep. Coleman to receive informal letter of warning; complaint dismissed in House

The Kansas House Select Investigating Committee on Friday dismissed the complaint filed against Rep. Aaron Coleman, 37th District.

The committee stated that Rep. Coleman, who represents the Turner area of Kansas City, Kansas, will be given an informal letter of warning and an admonishment. He also will be given recommendations from the committee.

Rep. Coleman, a progressive who is not affiliated with a party, faced several questions from committee members.

He apologized during the hearing. He said that he apologized for what he said and also for the impact toward the persons to whom they were directed. He said that prior to becoming a legislator, he had not always lived up to his ideals of treating others with dignity and respect. He said that if his words and actions don’t match his ideals in the future, this committee could hold him accountable in the future.

A group of several Democratic women legislators, along with the House minority leader, had filed the complaint. They had urged Coleman to resign before the legislative session started over allegations involving alleged abuse toward women. More than one instance was mentioned at the hearing.

One committee member asked him about his past social media post using the word “hit” against the governor. Rep. Coleman said it was just metaphorical, and he apologized for his inappropriate word choice.

Since then, Rep. Coleman told the committee that he has acquired a team of persons who handle his social media for him. He said he has learned to write out his comments in advance, send it to someone he can trust and let them make the final decision of what needs to be said and whether it is appropriate for the context. He said he has requested a mentor in the Legislature.

Rep. Coleman, at age 20, is the youngest person ever elected a state representative in Kansas. Coleman upset long-time Rep. Stan Frownfelter, a Democrat, in a very close primary vote, then Coleman won easily against write-in candidates in the general election.

The committee went into a closed session for part of the hearing, then reconvened.

Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, chairman of the committee, noted during the hearing that there wasn’t a past example of punishing a legislator for actions before he became a lawmaker. The allegations against Rep. Coleman happened before he was sworn in as a legislator.

Rep. Tom Sawyer, Democratic minority leader, stated in a news release after the hearing that there were more people who wanted to testify, but they were not allowed to testify.

“I am disappointed with the committee’s decision. Representative Coleman has shown time and time again that he has not learned from his mistakes,” Rep. Sawyer said in the statement. “His continued presence in the Statehouse will continue to threaten the safety of legislators and Capitol staff. This is, frankly, an insult to women and victims of abuse – that someone who has admitted to harassing, abusing and threatening their peers is allowed to serve in a position of power. I don’t believe this dismissal and issuing an informal letter of warning is enough, but I respect the committee’s decision and the due process here today.”

To view the committee hearings, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl_XE-5GSEw and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKCWQ2vmErc.

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