WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Operation Rescue filed a formal complaint Thursday with Wichita officials about ongoing renovations at the former clinic of slain abortion provider George Tiller, allegations that the building's new owners called meritless.
The latest dustup at the embattled clinic comes amid claims by the anti-abortion group's policy director, Cheryl Sullenger, that the clinic did not obtain required city permits to resurface the parking lot, do landscaping and remodel the clinic. She wants the city to issue a cease-and-desist order to stop construction. She asked officials to hold "the perpetrators" accountable to the fullest extent of the law — subject to all fines, penalties, and jail time.
When Operation Rescue bought another former abortion clinic as it headquarters, the group needed permits to remodel it, Sullenger said.
"We know what it takes to refurbish a building and for that they need permits," Sullenger said. "They have no permits."
Tiller's shuttered clinic was bought last August by the abortion rights group Trust Women Foundation Inc., which plans to offer a full range of reproductive health care services, including abortions, at the site.
"The anti-choice clique is certainly entitled to make their complaints. All I would ask is that they would use a little bit of good sense and discretion and make complaints that have merit if they are going to do so," said Robert Eye, the attorney for Trust Women.
As an example, he cited the complaint's "evidence of violations" such as completion of architectural plans for clinic redesign and meeting with construction contractors.
"We can speak with our contractors and work with our architect and not have the government's permission or Operation Rescue's permission to do that," Eye said.
Sullenger's complaint also lists as violations the landscaping of the clinic's exterior, but when pressed about specifics all she could say was that the owners planted "a bunch of plants" on the backside of the building where people couldn't see them. Her complaint also included photos of the newly resurfaced parking lot — work she insisted required a city permit.
Eye said he considered the complaint "in the category of mischief."
"The people we are working with are experienced and knowledgeable in that regard," he said. "I am confident if a permit is required they have taken the steps to acquire a permit, and if no permit is required they have proceeded without a permit."
Asked for comment, city spokesman Van Williams said a city building department official would respond Friday after meeting with staff.