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The fired employees, dubbed the "Olathe Eight" in newspapers and on television, sued Kline on January 16. The suit, now in federal court, alleges that Kline denied them their due-process right to hearings with the county to contest their firings.
As Rucker delivered pink slips, Kline's lead prosecutor, Stephen Maxwell, poked his head into the offices of the surviving prosecutors. Assistant District Attorney Jenifer Ashford had just finished helping Lewison clean out her desk when Maxwell arrived.
"Ashford?" Maxwell asked.
"OK, you're fine," he told her before walking away.
"That's how I found out that I wasn't fired," Ashford recalls.
Kline stripped assistant district attorneys of their discretion to plea-bargain felony cases. All deals had to run through the section chiefs and then be approved by Kline or both Maxwell and Rucker.
Rumors of hidden video cameras near the break room circulated through the office. An atmosphere of distrust grew between the Kline hires and the surviving members of Morrison's staff.
The defections resumed in late April. Five more experienced prosecutors bolted: Ashford, Brent Venneman, Vanessa Riebli, Erica Schoenig and Kathryn Marsh. Riebli, who led the unit that handles economic crime, would have been 100 percent vested in her retirement account if she had stayed two more months. She couldn't wait. She resigned April 23.
On March 19, Assistant District Attorney Jacqie Spradling sent Kline, Rucker and Maxwell a memo expressing concern "that dysfunction in the D.A.'s Office is creating a public safety crisis." The letter continued: "Criminals are walking the streets of Johnson County because this office has botched cases that would have been routine successes in the past.... We cannot wait for the new hires to learn their jobs — we have a crisis that needs to be addressed now. I respectfully suggest that you arrange for the temporary assignment of experienced prosecutors from the A.G.'s office to our office."
Spradling also filed a complaint March 19 with the county's human resources department. The complaint claimed that female attorneys in the District Attorney's Office were being discriminated against and that anyone who complained was threatened with retaliation. And Spradling alleged that her office had been bugged. Johnson County's human resources department began an investigation into Spradling's allegations. The county requested additional information from Kline's office. On April 20, Kline's office replied that it would not cooperate with the investigation.
On April 24, Kline fired Spradling over the phone. Spradling says Kline didn't specify the reason.
Spradling spoke to a packed room of Johnson County women Democrats on May 22. Spradling explained that being an outspoken woman in Kline's office was unacceptable. "As a whole, women are not viewed as folks that should be expressing opinions," Spradling said. "Turns out, I've got some. I was not supposed to express them, and the fact that I expressed them frequently I think they found annoying."
Spradling also explained what led to her allegations that Kline had spied on her. In March, a person not affiliated with the District Attorney's Office came to Spradling's office and began writing on a piece of paper. The person wrote that they needed to talk away from the office. Spradling and the person met outside. The person told Spradling that a senior member of Kline's staff had revealed that surveillance equipment was set up in the District Attorney's Office.
Spradling claimed that she scanned her office four times with a device that detects radio frequencies from wireless eavesdropping devices. Three times, she says, the sensor detected a radio frequency signal emitted by wireless eavesdropping devices. "No one should work under those circumstances," Spradling said. "And there's no place for that nonsense in the prosecutor's office."