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Friday, September 18, 2020

Kansas Highway Patrol Announces Leadership Changes

Governor Laura Kelly’s Office announces conclusion of internal and independent investigations conducted at the Kansas Highway Patrol

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids, and graduated from Valley Heights High School in May of 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications.After stops at KFRM and KCLY radio in Clay Center, he joined KNDY in 2002 as a board operator and play by play announcer. Derek is now responsible for the digital content of Dierking Communications, Inc. six radio stations.In 2005 Derek joined the staff of KCFX radio in Kansas City as a production coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, which airs on over 94 radio stations across 12 Midwest states and growing. In 2018 he became the Studio Coordinator at the Cumulus Kansas City broadcast center for Kansas City Chiefs Football.

Related Story: Kansas State Troopers Association Responds To KHP & Gov. Kelly’s Termination Of Two Majors

TOPEKA – Today, the Kansas Highway Patrol announced Majors Scott Harrington and Josh Kellerman are no longer employed at the agency. The staff changes are part of Superintendent Colonel Herman Jones’ efforts to make the Kansas Highway Patrol as effective as possible in achieving the agency’s mission.

“Since my appointment last year, I have prioritized building a culture and a structure within our agency that will help our troopers best serve the people of Kansas,” Colonel Jones said. “I’m confident that the Kansas Highway Patrol will continue to grow stronger as an organization and improve our ability to carry out our mission.”

As a result of Governor Kelly’s and Colonel Jones’s commitment to a successful and transparent Kansas Highway Patrol, the Governor also released summaries of an internal and an independent investigation into complaints against Colonel Jones. The first investigation was conducted by the Department of Administration. The firm of Fisher, Patterson, Sayler & Smith, LLP was then retained to conduct a thorough and independent investigation, to ensure a review of the complaints that was separate from the Kelly Administration.

The investigation conducted by the Department of Administration provided an assessment, rather than a judgement of the accusations. The independent investigation, which was concluded this week, found the complaints of sexual harassment against Colonel Jones were unsubstantiated.

“My administration has a responsibility to make sure the agency and leadership are living up to the values that Kansans expect,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “The Kansas Highway Patrol is our state’s premiere law enforcement agency, and they have a responsibility to meet the standard that comes with this position. While my confidence in the men and women who make up our force of troopers has never wavered, there is no question that there were cultural issues and a lack of accountability that go back years. I believed when I appointed him, that Colonel Jones was the right man for the job and my belief has been reaffirmed. He has my full support.”

Three primary complaints regarding Colonel Jones were raised and investigated. In order to protect the identities and privacy of the complainants in the investigation, who are valued employees still serving at the Kansas Highway Patrol, the investigations have been summarized below.

  • Complaints of sexual harassment in the form of unwanted/unwelcome physical contact and verbal comments.
    • These complaints were raised by three KHP employees and generally alleged that Colonel Jones greeted the employees by slapping their backs, shaking their hands, patting their shoulders, hugging, standing close to the employee, and sometimes making awkward comments that were not of a sexual nature.
    • Investigators interviewed the complainants, other witnesses, and Colonel Jones. The employees did not allege that the physical contact or comments were of a sexual nature. Colonel Jones was interviewed and indicated that he did not know the physical nature of the greetings made the employees uncomfortable and would avoid such contact in the future.
    • The investigation exonerates Col. Jones with respect to the complaints of sexual harassment/discrimination.
  • Complaints of misuse of a state aircraft.

    • Another complaint alleged that Colonel Jones misused a state aircraft for his family to travel on vacation.
    • Investigators interviewed witnesses, obtained flight logs, and interviewed Colonel Jones.
    • The investigation determined that Colonel Jones has used a state aircraft only twice. In Spring 2019 he flew to Pratt for a funeral of a law enforcement officer in Greensburg and flew back to Wichita for a graduation ceremony. This was state business and an appropriate use of the aircraft. Colonel Jones also used a state aircraft in July 2019 to return early from a vacation in Eagle, Colorado, so that he could attend a Governor’s Cabinet meeting. The vacation had been scheduled and paid for long before Colonel Jones was appointed KHP Superintendent, and the Governor’s Cabinet meeting was mandatory for all Cabinet members. Colonel Jones left his vacation several days early to return to work and none of his family accompanied him on the flight. This was also an appropriate use of the aircraft for state business.
  • Complaint of gender discrimination.
    • Another complaint involved a KHP employee arising from a number of unrelated administrative actions. The employee did not initially feel any of the actions were motivated by gender discrimination. The employee raised the issue to Human Resources after another employee suggested an action may have been the result of gender bias.
    • The investigators interviewed the employee, Colonel Jones, and other witnesses.
    • The investigation determined Colonel Jones’ administrative actions and decisions were not motivated by gender discrimination but were instead consistent with various KHP policy and accountability priorities.

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