County Commissioner Jim Skelton and Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie trade insults over financial dispute

WICHITA — Payment for what was supposed to be a joyous wedding in July is now cause for an acrimonious court date instead.

At issue is almost $3,000 that County Commissioner Jim Skelton says one of his daughters paid to the Grand Chapel to reserve wedding space. He says she decided to hold the event elsewhere and now can’t get back the money, some of which he says is from her savings and some of which he says he paid.

“This guy’s an idiot,” says Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie. “He’s trying to wiggle out of this.”

Wilkie says he would have been willing to work with the bride if her father hadn’t been so rude.

“He was trying to use his political office to … try to strong-arm me to give him all his money back,” Wilkie says. “The minute somebody starts trying to bully me, I take a pretty firm position myself.”

Skelton says a small claims court already sided with him but that Wilkie appealed to district court.

“He made some statements that I will look forward to him clarifying in court,” Skelton says.

He calls Wilkie’s comments “pretty weird” and “disappointing,” and Skelton says he particularly takes exception to Wilkie’s claim that he’s abusing his elected office.

“That just sounds crazy and unreasonable,” Skelton says. “I guess if that’s his best defense on this matter, then I look forward to winning twice, which is better than winning once.”

Both men say they’d prefer this battle not to be public.

“I mean, I’m an elected official,” Skelton says. “I’m not looking to jump in and take people to court.”

Wilkie says none of the publicity his business has received in recent years for its financial and other challenges has been helpful.

“Anything you print really kicks me in the butt no matter how kind you’re trying to be,” he says. “I’m just working my tail off to try to get things turned around.”

There is one other thing both men appear to agree on.

“I just feel sorry for his daughter,” Wilkie says, “who’s kind of stuck in the middle.”