A Republican Kansas House member from Wichita rejected a state agency's determination that he emotionally abused boys in foster care and rebuffed bipartisan demands to resign from office and withdraw from the general election.
Republican Rep. Michael Capps, who was appointed in July to replace a GOP legislator who chose not to complete his term, said Friday that he rejected conclusions of an abuse investigation by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The agency indicated Capps engaged in improper behavior with children in foster care while serving as a volunteer court-appointed advocate in Sedgwick County.
"The allegations leveled against me were and are categorically false and untrue," Capps said. "The real problem is that we have two political parties and a DCF system that values covering their own backsides politically over the safety and well-being of children in their care."
KAKE-TV first reported the controversy involving Capps and said a woman alleged Capps hugged and kissed two boys in foster care and allowed them to sit in his lap and rub his chest.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, and House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, agreed Capps shouldn't serve in the House. Ryckman, the top Republican in the House, said it would be "entirely inappropriate" for Capps to be part of the Legislature.
"Public trust matters far more than political gain,” Ryckman said.
"I think the speaker is right," Ward said. "Michael Capps' conduct and behavior is below the standard of what we expect from a state representative."
Kelly Arnold, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, said the state GOP would sever all support for Capps' campaign in House District 85. He said the Republican Party also asked him to withdraw from the race.
"Unfortunately, he has chosen to remain a candidate," Arnold said. "Because of the nature of this accusation, Mr. Capps has been made aware that his decision to stay in the race is not supported by the Kansas Republican Party."
Reforms adopted in 2015 make it unlikely the investigation could lead to removal of Capps from the November ballot. If he were to win the election, the House could take the extraordinary step of refusing to allow him to take his seat.
Capps said allegations against him surfaced after he complained a foster parent had allowed a registered sex offender into her home.
"I will not allow them to slander me. I will not run and hide. I will continue my fight for Kansas children," Capps said.
Capps appealed DCF's decision to the Kansas Office of Administrative Hearings, which reversed the agency's conclusion. DCF officials said the hearing panel's decision was based on a technical error that didn't reflect underlying facts of the case against Capps.
Capps was appointed by Republican officials in the House district of Rep. Chuck Weber, a Republican who stepped down to take a job at the Kansas Catholic Conference.
Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka, unsuccessfully tried to have Capps removed from the primary ballot based on a challenge of his residence. He remains on the ballot and will compete against Democratic nominee Monica Marks. If he loses the November campaign, he could remain the district's representative until January.