Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, shown here during a June speech about election fraud, said he was prepared to deploy deputies to thwart zealous IRS agents and was struggling to find probable cause to issue warrants that might help him build an election fraud case in the county. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden said a federal law allowing the Internal Revenue Service to add 87,000 employees posed a threat to people in Kansas’ most populous county and could require deployment of deputies to repel tax investigators.
Hayden, who described the IRS as a “spooky, spooky entity,” generated applause from a group of about 30 people during a two-hour open meeting at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department headquarters with a promise to protect their homes as if they were castles.
The sheriff, who is leading a criminal investigation into alleged election fraud in the 2020 elections, said the IRS problem resulted from the Inflation Reduction Act approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden. The law earmarked $45 billion for enforcement activities over the next decade to help close the gap between what Americans owed in federal taxes and what they paid.
“That’s why it’s important for us to have an army that you can depend on,” said Hayden, referring to department’s 500 employees. “Because, I will tell you, they’re going to have to have every IRS agent in the United States come to Johnson County, Kansas, before they start doing the crap they’re doing. We’re going to be 500 strong, and we’ll do what we need to do.”
Hayden said he had authority to order the FBI to leave Johnson County, but he claimed to have less control over the IRS. He asserted IRS agents could enter homes of U.S. residents without a warrant.
The sheriff spoke to the group Aug. 30. Video of the gathering was posted to the online platform Rumble.
‘Arrest them all’
Hayden said he had welcomed the opportunity to order 100 deputies to cities in Johnson County as well as Kansas City, Missouri, and Lawrence in response to “mutual aid” requests related to street protests. He said he found the picketing so irritating it left him with “Formica under my fingernails.”
In Lawrence, the sheriff said he wanted “nothing more than go down Mass. Street and arrest them all.” He was prepared to make arrests in Prairie Village if protesters did so much as “break a pencil.”
Hayden said he wasn’t afraid his approach to law enforcement could make him target of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
He said future elections in Kansas would likely foster social unrest. That possibility, Hayden claimed, ought to compel the Johnson County Commission to approve funding to add dozens of deputies to the department’s payroll. He said he would file a lawsuit against the commission if members didn’t approve his budget request to hire a minimum of 20 deputies.
The sheriff offered a pre-emptive warning to protesters: “You’re not going to hurt one twig in Johnson County.”
Hayden said his investigation of possible election fraud remained open in Johnson County despite pressure from public officials to wrap up the inquiry. He said the work was essential because neither Secretary of State Scott Schwab nor Attorney General Derek Schmidt were committed to investigating election misconduct.
Schwab and Schmidt have repeatedly expressed confidence in security of Kansas elections and integrity of voting results. Schwab, the state’s chief elections officer, said counts from the Aug. 2 primary election demonstrated accuracy of the 105-county system. Both Republican elected officials have said they were willing to consider amendments to state law that promoted public confidence in Kansas elections.
“I think they’re afraid,” Hayden said. “So, my county, my crime. People are railing at me for even looking at it. I don’t care. It’s important.”
He said the criminal investigation forced Johnson County election officials to preserve voting records that otherwise might be destroyed. He told the group during the taped meeting that he couldn’t delve into “all the secret stuff we’ve been doing” to build a case, but confided he was struggling to establish probable cause to justify search warrants that might help him gain traction.
“We’ve got tons of reasonable suspicion. I mean, tons of it. But I’ve got to have probable cause for a search warrant, to swear that I know a crime has been committed,” the sheriff said. “You’ve got to have a bad guy. We have to have a bad guy.”
Hayden said the investigation was hampered by an inability to identify people who could move beyond conjecture or theory about how fraud was allegedly perpetrated in Johnson County. In addition, he said, building a case could be undermined if the corruption was traced to China because he couldn’t arrest operatives overseas.
‘I can’t prove it’
The sheriff said he was convinced evidence would surface Johnson County was among about 60 counties nationwide that worked with “nefarious” companies or groups that conspired to undermine election security. He was most concerned about security of electronic voting machines.
“I’m not sure that they have gotten into our machines. I can’t prove it,” Hayden said.
He expressed gratitude to community volunteers who served as observers in recent elections in Johnson County. During the meeting, he was asked whether a poll worker could legally take photographs of suspicious election documents that might be useful to the sheriff’s fraud investigation.
“Be slippery about it,” the sheriff said, “if you do it.” He cautioned that county election officials would get “touchy, crazy if they see you doing it.”
Hayden said he assigned deputies to observe ballot drop boxes in Johnson County ahead of the August primary election and predicted the 2023 Legislature would ban use of the ballot deposit boxes in Kansas.
He said state lawmakers could go as far as prohibiting use of voting machines, leaving the state to count paper ballots by hand. The sheriff complained about lack of the “chain of custody” of ballots moved from polling locations to county offices for counting. He also said penalties for violating state election laws were lame.
Hayden, who began his Kansas law enforcement career in 1981, said he supported a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution on ballots in November that would block counties from abandoning the practice of electing sheriffs.
“The politicians want to get rid of the sheriff’s position,” Hayden said, “because we’re in the way.”
If the amendment received a majority of those voting Nov. 8, it would alter the state Constitution to require election of county sheriffs in counties that hadn’t abolished the office before January 2022. Rejection of the amendment would enable counties to continue electing sheriffs or adopt an alternative model whereby the county’s chief law officer was appointed. Riley County is the lone county that appoints that officer.
Hayden objected to the idea raised last year by Johnson County Commissioner Janee Hanzlick and others who preferred appointment of the county’s sheriff. Hanzlick said she’d fielded complaints about Hayden’s extreme partisanship.
“We’ve got an answer for her, and that’s called the constitutional sheriff’s amendment in November. Just vote yes,” Hayden said.
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