Protection from stalking order against newspaper publisher dismissed by Lyon County judge

EMPORIA – A Lyon County judge Friday dismissed a protection from stalking order filed against Garnett newspaper publisher Dane Hicks by a former Garnett city employee seeking an employment settlement against the City of Garnett.

         District Judge Jeffry Larson’s decision came after a 90-minute hearing on Friday in Lyon County District Court which was continued from earlier this month, after former Anderson County Development Director Sherry Harrison filed the protection from stalking order against Hicks over questions Hicks asked her regarding her settlement demand and the possible filing of a lawsuit against the city.

         Harrison worked for about six weeks in the ACDA position starting in October, but left the post after alleging numerous affronts and belittling treatment by past ecodevo director Julie Turnipseed in a letter to city manager Travis Wilson. In the letter, Harrison demanded the equivalent of four months salary and benefits in exchange for not divulging her treatment by Turnipseed and what she termed a lack of action by city management to remedy it, and inferred legal action against the city if the issue was not resolved satisfactorily.

         Hicks, who is an owner of The Kansas Informer, told the court he obtained a copy of the letter and repeatedly asked Harrison if she wanted to comment for a series of stories the Review published about the issue. Harrison testified at the hearing that Hicks’ past actions and published material and the email conversation requesting comment made her fear for her safety, which prompted her to pursue the stalking order.

       “His articles are intentionally harassing and they have tormented me to the point that I am unemployable,” Harrison said in her petition for the order. “The man is unwell, unstable, and one scary dude.”

         In his decision, Larson found Hicks’ requests for comment for the news stories did not rise to the threshold in the Kansas stalking statute, namely “recklessly engaging in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person which would cause a reasonable person in the circumstances of the targeted person to fear for such person’s safety, or the safety of a member of such persons immediate family and the targeted person is actually placed in such fear.”

         Meanwhile, Garnett City Manager Travis Wilson said the city/county economic development post remains vacant with discussions among city, county and ACDA members that it may be adapted to a grant writing position. District court records through last week show no civil filings made against the City of Garnett.

Dan Thalmann is the owner/publisher of the Washington County News and is a Past President of the Kansas Press Association. He has won numerous journalism awards in many categories over the years, including multiple awards as the best mid-sized weekly newspaper in Kansas.

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