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Kansas Rep. Aaron Coleman has been banned from Kansas Department of Labor property after a top state official says he berated a police officer while trying to enter the agency’s headquarters in Topeka last month.
Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Amber Shultz notified Coleman of the ban on Oct. 12 in a letter Coleman sent to reporters this week.
The letter explains that if Coleman, a freshman Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat with a history of abusive behavior toward women, violates the ban the department will ask law enforcement to pursue criminal trespassing charges.
According to Schultz’s letter, a police officer confronted Coleman outside KDOL on Sept. 30 as he was repeatedly hitting a handicap access button for an employee-only door that required badge access.
Coleman, the letter said, attempted to go around the officer and insisted he be let into the building in a “loud demanding tone,” asserting he had access as a member of the Legislature.
The officer eventually directed Coleman to a public entrance where a KDOL employee took his information.
The letter did not specify which police agency the officer worked for.
In an email to The Star, Coleman said he had gone to the building to advocate for constituents still waiting on unpaid unemployment benefits. Kansas has struggled since the beginning of the pandemic with decades-old technology that severely delayed payments to hundreds of Kansans.
Coleman disputed Schultz’s description of his behavior but didn’t respond to questions about what he believed occurred.
“Secretary Shultz’s letter is nothing more than Bullying Tactics,” Coleman wrote. “This is unfair and unjust to all Kansans navigating the agency’s confusing and endless procedures that end in failure.”
KDOL on Monday confirmed they had sent the letter but declined to provide any additional information.
Pattern of behavior
While Coleman cast the letter as the Department of Labor’s attempt to quiet him, other Kansas Democrats pointed to it as only the latest evidence of disturbing behavior from the Representative.
“The letter speaks for itself,” said Joseph Le, House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer’s Chief of Staff. “The House Democratic Caucus doesn’t support any kind of violence or aggression, in any situation. No legislator is above the law.”
Democrats in the Kansas Legislature sought to have Coleman censured or removed from office in January because of an alleged pattern of abusive behavior predating his election in 2020.
Coleman has been accused of hitting, choking and leaving violent messages with an ex-girlfriend. He has also suggested he wanted a former Republican lawmaker to die of COVID-19 and promised to arrange a “hit” on Gov. Laura Kelly.
A committee that investigated the claims found sufficient evidence to believe the pattern existed but opted only to issue a letter of reprimand because the abusive behavior occurred before he took office. The panel advised him to find a mentor.
Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican who chaired the investigative committee, said that if a member of the Legislature filed a complaint against Coleman over the allegations in the letter the outcome from an investigative committee may be different.
“The difference here in my opinion, and only my opinion, is now he is a member of the Kansas Legislature and they would have to make a determination of whether or not he violated our ethics,” Barker said.
Rep. Jo Ella Hoye, a Lenexa Democrat and one of seven Freshman Democratic women lawmakers who pushed for Coleman’s expulsion, said a renewed effort to expel Coleman may be necessary if he had acted against the requests of the letter of reprimand.
“I think he should have resigned and at the very least if he chose not to I believe that he should be doing everything in his ability to improve and represent his people respectfully,” Hoye said. “Clearly he’s shown time and time again that he’s unfit to serve.”
In an email, Coleman rejected the criticism against him as bullying and efforts to gain favor with the governor’s office by attacking him.
“It’s unacceptable that a select group of Kansas Democrats would rather bully me rather than help me provide answers and service to my constituents,” Coleman said.
Another Kansas Democrat, however, has already announced plans to run for Coleman’s seat next year.
Faith Rivera, a community activist and domestic violence survivor, filed paperwork indicating plans to run in July.
In a phone call Monday Rivera said behavior like what’s alleged in the KDOL letter motivated her to run.
“He never has any consequences to his actions,” Rivera said. “Why is he held to some other standard than other people?”