Lawyer’s letter puts JoCo Sheriff on warning for ‘baseless’ election probe

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A lawyer representing the Michigan-based voting software company frequently cited by Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden as the missing link in his years-long probe into local election procedures has sent a warning letter to Hayden.

Overland Park attorney Rick Guinn has been retained by Konnech, on whose behalf he penned a sharply worded letter this week warning of the potential legal ramifications of Hayden’s investigation and urging him to be cautious going forward.

“Sheriff Hayden should be very careful about making public statements concerning (Konnech Inc., and its CEO, Eugene Yu) to somehow justify his obvious waste of taxpayer dollars,” wrote Overland Park attorney Rick Guinn.

Guinn’s letter does not directly threaten a lawsuit, but it takes a tough stance towards Hayden’s probe, noting that Konnech and Yu were recently awarded a $5 million settlement in Los Angeles and exonerated “based on very similar allegations.”

Hayden has placed himself in an “awkward position of conducting a baseless investigation for the past several years into nonexistent election fraud in Johnson County,” Guinn wrote. “Los Angeles County’s recent million dollar payout should send a strong message to Sheriff Hayden of the serious consequences that result from a baseless investigation into nonexistent election fraud.”

The letter, addressed to Hayden, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and county Chief Legal Counsel Peg Trent, further directs communications about Konnech to be forwarded to Guinn, and any future affidavits for search warrants or subpoenas to include information about the Los Angeles case.

Hayden declined comment through a spokesperson Tuesday.

Below is a copy of the full letter.

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Charges dropped against Konnech in another election case

Konnech and Yu received national attention in 2022 when Los Angeles prosecutors brought a criminal case alleging that Yu had connections to the Chinese government and was illegally storing poll workers’ personal information on servers outside the U.S.

The case, which drew praise from former President Donald Trump, was based largely on a tip from election conspiracy group True the Vote.

However, the group’s claims were never substantiated and the case was dropped less than six weeks after it began.

Yu then sued the Los Angeles district attorney’s office alleging civil rights violations that he said dealt a near-fatal blow to his business.

Guinn’s letter to Johnson County officials echoed that, saying the actions of Hayden and “other election deniers have effectively destroyed Konnech and its founder,” a first-generation migrant to America.

The Konnech case is another win for election equipment companies claiming damages from the repeated attacks of conspiracy theorists.

Last April, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million for false statements about the company.

Konnech makes software that manages poll worker data

Konnech makes PollChief, a suite of software designed to organize and communicate with poll workers who staff elections. It is not involved in voting tabulation and does not collect voter information.

The Johnson County Election Office used some functions of PollChief but transferred its election management system to isolated servers when concerns about the company arose in 2022.

At that time, county officials feared poll workers’ Social Security numbers and drivers’ license numbers had been exposed.

Hayden has been investigating local elections since 2020

Hayden opened his investigation into the county’s election procedures shortly after Trump lost the 2020 election. Locally, President Joe Biden won historically Republican Johnson County.

In speeches to alt-right and conservative groups, Hayden has frequently related his suspicions about the usually faithful Republican county voting blue and about increasing Democratic voter rolls.

However, after more than a year, Hayden had only referred one incident to prosecutors for possible charges. And that incident alleged voter intimidation on a date in which there was no in-person voting in the county.

The district attorney’s office did not pursue any criminal charges related to that incident, citing a lack of evidence.

Hayden at the "Determined Patriotism" conference. Screenshot via Rumble.
Hayden at the “Determined Patriotism” conference in Kansas City, Kansas last year. Screenshot via Rumble.

Hayden suggested Konnech is a focus of his investigation

More recently, Hayden has identified the Konnech case as the focus of his investigation.

He spoke at an event billed as a “Determined Patriotism” conference in Kansas City, Kansas, last fall, opining on a number of topics, among them his investigation. (His remarks can be found on video-sharing platform Rumble at 5:05:07.)

During that speech, he said he has been trying to get Los Angeles officials to release computers they seized in connection with their case so he could determine next steps in his Johnson County case.

He incorrectly identified Konnech as a Chinese company, and noted that they were working with election officials in large suburban areas full of swing voters.

He also implied corruption when, among other things, the former Los Angeles County lead prosecutor was placed on administrative leave.

County chair also warns Hayden

Johnson County Commission Chairman Mike Kelly responded to Guinn’s warning letter Tuesday, saying a similar legal judgment is “something Johnson County can’t afford.”

“There is no doubt that Sheriff Hayden continues to use Johnson County taxpayer dollars to further perpetuate the lie of election fraud,” he said. “I’m disappointed that this has divided our country, and it threatens our democracy and our government operations.”

The investigation “is the exact kind of extremism that has no place in Johnson County,” he said, adding it damages the county’s reputation and standing in the metro area.

So far, Hayden has not provided specific numbers on how much of his budget is going to the investigation, although commissioners asked during preparations for the current budget last year.

But Hayden’s continued comments do put the county at a legal risk, Kelly said.

“You saw what happened in Los Angeles County,” he said. “It’s a huge disservice to the people of the county that one of our elected officials would put us at that kind of risk.”

About the author

Roxie Hammill
Roxie Hammill

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who reports frequently for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at roxieham@gmail.com.