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"If I had to put money on it, I would have bet on it happening exactly the way that it played out," Hattrup says of the deal. "Phill's goal is to make sure Phill Kline gets what Phill Kline wants."
Finally, Kline offered Hattrup a part-time job prosecuting traffic cases. "I considered it an insult," Hattrup says. "I considered it him trying to cover his promise." However, Hattrup considered the job. He wouldn't have a chance to make a decision. The next morning, Kline called Hattrup and told him the job was off the table.
The broken promise is one example of the skullduggery that has plagued the first six months of Kline's two-year term as district attorney. Kline has fired or run off nearly every experienced prosecutor in the District Attorney's Office. Of the 32 prosecutors who served under Morrison, 18 have resigned or been dismissed. Many of Kline's handpicked replacements lack experience, and a number of his experienced prosecutors come with checkered pasts. Kline has been accused of alienating anyone who won't support him politically. A top prosecutor has charged that Kline bugged her office. Most significantly, his prosecutors have fumbled several important criminal cases.
The Pitch made several requests for interviews with Kline and his assistant district attorneys. Kline declined to comment. At a press conference last week, the Pitch asked Kline to assess his six months in office so far. "We've done some good things," he said. Kline claimed that his office has done more to cooperate with federal prosecutors, has improved the process of prosecuting DUI cases and has cut payroll costs. "But I don't anticipate that much of that will get out," he added.
Meanwhile, several former and current employees have detailed for the Pitch the many alleged missteps of Kline's office.
Bryan Denton's first and last duty under Phill Kline was to set up Kline's January 8 swearing-in party. Denton, the office's chief investigator for 15 years, was sent to a Hy-Vee store with Sheila Fanning, a supervisor in the juvenile unit. They bought sandwiches, veggie trays and cake. They took the food to a meeting room on the third floor of the Johnson County Courthouse.
Denton set up the reception and photographed the festivities. Afterward, he returned to the office, where his letter of termination was waiting.
"We didn't know that we were going to get your last meal, did we?" Fanning asked Denton.
"No, we didn't," he said.
That morning, Kline's hatchet man, Chief Deputy District Attorney Eric Rucker, moved through the office handing out letters of termination. "Your employment with the Johnson County District Attorney's Office is terminated as of 11:00 a.m. today, January 8, 2007," the letters read. "You should turn in all County-issued property and remove your personal items from your space before 5:00 p.m. today. Thank you for your service."
The letters weren't signed by Kline. They were signed by Rucker.
The eight fired were Denton; Mike Allen, a prose-cutor for two and a half years in the sex-crimes unit; Jennifer Barton, a member of the domestic-violence and sex-crimes units; Norah Clark, a prosecutor in the traffic unit; John Fritz, a 20-year prosecutor and an expert in juvenile law; Steve Howe, an 18-year prosecutor and the head of the intern program; Kristiane Gray, a prosecutor in the juvenile unit; and Kendra Lewison, a prosecutor for five years.