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KBA Gone Wild: Shine the Light On Those Who Defended Kansas Bioscience Authority

January 23, 2012 J

“Tom Thornton has raised the Kansas Bioscience Authority to its status as one of the shining lights in Kansas, a program that has become the envy of other states,” added Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton. “We will always be grateful for his leadership and vision that has elevated the KBA to its current level of excellence and success.” (Wichita Eagle, 4/16/11)

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said the “witch hunt” was the work of political operatives in league with Gov. Sam Brownback. The goal appears to be political power, he said. (Topeka Capital Journal, 4/09/11)

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Thornton’s demise ought to convince Brownback and other conservatives to “abandon their witch hunt against this independent agency.” (Topeka Capital Journal, 4/15/11)

The above quotes from three legislative leaders are especially interesting, not to mention troubling, now that the Kansas Bioscience Authority audit has been released. It was obvious that they were more than upset regarding the efforts of Governor Sam Brownback, State Senator Susan Wagle, and others to simply find the truth about allegations surfacing at the KBA. It is taxpayer money after all…

In case you haven’t heard, here are some of the key findings of the audit:

1. Former KBA head, Tom Thornton, deleted files from his state-issued desktop computer on a drive where his most sensitive files were stored.
2. After resigining from his post and being told numerous times to turn in his state-issued laptop computer, Thornton effectively destroys all of the information on the laptop.
3. Then there’s this paragraph from today’s Topeka Capital Journal story, “The assessment by KBD offered evidence Thornton authorized inappropriate personal expenditures, engaged in a secret romantic relationship with his administrative assistant, presided over issuance of more than 100 contracts in violation of KBA policy and misled the agency’s board of directors about his travel, at state expense, to land a new job.”
4. KBA board member Angela Kreps inappropriately voted to approve her own organization, Kansas Bio, at least $100,000 in 2008. That’s a violation of the organization’s conflict of interest policy.
5. Thornton purchased a work of art with KBA funds that was displayed in his home.
6. The audit found multiple violations of the KBA contract policy. Further detailing 301 payments without a contract, including 102 that violated KBA’s contract policy. The total cost involved was $1,219,271.81 for payments without a contract, including $571,828.20 which violated Contract Policy.

Deleting files on a taxpayer funded computer, buying works of art for personal use, board members voting to give their organization money, hundreds of contracts improperly issued.

Clearly this is a case of an out of control entity that treated taxpayers with little to no respect. Who knows what was on those files that Thornton deleted but I’ll go out on a limb and assume the information wasn’t “taxpayer friendly”.

Now that we have some insight as to just how bad things were at the KBA the attention should also turn to those key legislative leaders mentioned before that went out on a big limb to protect this entity.

Why did they attack Brownback and Wagle the way they did? Why did they try to prevent the audit from happenign in the first place? Were they that naive regarding the KBA?

These are important questions that need to be answered. We look forward to hearing from the KBA and just as importantly, the elected leaders that had their back.

It may sound corny but it’s true, Kansans deserve an answers from Morris, Hensley, Davis and others that went to the mat for the KBA. If they issue statements, we’ll put them on our website.

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