DA investigating concerns about Mayor Jeff Longwell

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Chance Swaim says he spent months investigating how the city ended up awarding the contract for a new water treatment plant to Wichita Water Partners. Chance Swaim says he spent months investigating how the city ended up awarding the contract for a new water treatment plant to Wichita Water Partners.
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

The Mayor of Wichita Thursday said he has not heard from the Sedgwick County District Attorney's office about an ongoing investigation into him.  The DA confirmed the investigation to KAKE News Thursday afternoon.

District Attorney Marc Bennett released a written statement about the investigation saying his office got several emails on Tuesday, all from the same person, laying out concerns related to Sunday's Wichita Eagle article about Mayor Jeff Longwell.

That article alleged ethics violations on Longwell's part, saying he used his influence as mayor to steer the contract to build a new water treatment plant for Wichita  in the direction of some of his friends.  The Eagle based this on Longwell's communications with members of one of the two teams vying for that half a billion dollar contract and his official schedule as mayor.

The DA said about the emails his office received, "The concerns expressed are being investigated by the office of the district attorney."

When KAKE News spoke briefly with the mayor as he was leaving his office at City Hall, he said he didn't have time for an interview because he was late for an event.   Later, in a text message, he said he has not heard from the DA's office at this time.  When asked what his response would be when or if he does hear from the DA, he texted, "I don't know."

On Sunday Longwell told KAKE News he did nothing wrong, saying he had friends with both companies and that it's his job to lobby for what he thinks is the best outcome for the city.

"We do that on every vote that we make.  I mean when we are up there in a position to discuss potential business with the city, we always state our position and where we would like the city to go," Longwell said.  As for working with friends, he said, "The reality is we could never vote if you just go on the strictest terms of friends.  You know, you build relationships.  When you've lived in the city as long as I have you've got friends all over the place."

KAKE News has also reached out to the other members of the city council.  So far we've only heard back from James Clendenin who said, "Officially, the only thing I can say is that he (the DA) is required to look into issues that are brought to his attention. And we're just going to wait and see."

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