There was enough money in the budget for a $135,000 "fellowship" for a friend of the governor.
Two weeks before frail and elderly Kansans were told they would have to wait for services because of a budget squeeze, Aging Secretary Thelma Hunter Gordon quietly gave her former deputy secretary a $135,000 consulting grant.
The former aide, Terry Glasscock, 51, now of Boston, is a longtime friend of Gov. Bill Graves and brother of House Majority Leader Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan.
Kent Glasscock's wife, Joyce, is Graves' chief of staff.
"Neither my wife nor I knew anything about this or had anything to do with it," Kent Glasscock said. "I knew he had a consulting relationship of some sort with the department, but that was about it."
The yearlong grant, or "fellowship for innovation in government," already paid to Terry Glasscock in full, was not subject to competitive bids.
It's unclear whether Gordon has the authority to hand out grants without first soliciting bids or counterproposals.
"Generally, grants have to be in compliance with state purchasing laws unless they're exempt -- that's in the state statutes," John Houlihan, head of the state's Division of Purchases, said. "But I've never seen one like this, so I'll have to check with our attorney."
News of the grant dumbfounded legislators and apparently shocked the governor.
"This doesn't pass the smell test," said Rep. Tony Powell, a Wichita Republican who served on the House Appropriations Committee during the past session.
"What is this? A Halloween trick-or-treat prank?" Rep. Henry Helgerson, D-Wichita, asked. "More and more, it seems like that department and its secretary have gone off the deep end."
Joyce Glasscock provided the Journal-World a prepared statement from Graves.
"This situation, which we have just recently learned of, is very troubling," the governor said. "While we don't know all the facts yet, we are going to get all of the principals in a room as soon as possible next week and get to the bottom of it and come up with a solution."
Even Terry Glasscock's brother called for a swift review of the fellowship.
"In light of the (budget) difficulties we are going to be facing in January, this contract ought to be reviewed for its appropriateness and the value to the agency and to the people it serves," Kent Glasscock said. "And if it is not appropriate or not of adequate benefit, then it should be terminated."
The "fellowship," as it is called, requires Terry Glasscock to develop a reorganization strategy for the Department on Aging.
Terry Glasscock says he was a consultant who specialized in helping banks adjust their operations to rapidly changing demands before he took the job as Gordon's deputy secretary in August 1997.
He held that post through May 1999. He received the fellowship grant in June.
Glasscock said he got his job at the agency after telling Graves he was interested in applying his expertise to government reform.
"I've known the governor for years," he said.
Weeks later, Gordon hired Glasscock to oversee the department's budget as well as its daily operations. His annual salary at the department was about half the $135,000 fellowship amount he was awarded in a lump sum in June.
Glasscock said he told Gordon "last spring" that he was getting married in the summer and moving to Boston.
"I told her it wasn't feasible for me to commute to Boston, but that I was interested in continuing my focus on transforming the department into a more efficient, more effective and more responsive government agency," Glasscock said.
Glasscock said when Gordon asked how she could retain his services, he suggested resurrecting an earlier proposal to use short-term fellowships to entice "people who are outside of government to share their expertise with government."
Days later, Gordon awarded Glasscock the department's first "Fellowship for Innovation in Government" grant.
Since moving to Boston, Glasscock said, he's rented an apartment in Topeka.
"I'm in Boston about half the time; the other half I'm in Topeka," he said.
Glasscock defended the fellowship.
"My feeling on this is that the state spends hundreds of million of dollars developing data systems but practically nothing on developing alternatives to a bureaucracy that's been in place for 100 years," he said.
"I would be more than happy to sit down with anybody at any time and show them what we're doing at Aging and how it could change the way government works in a very positive way."
Speaking for Gordon, Sandra Moran, her press secretary, said the contract had nothing to do with Glasscock's brother being the second most powerful man in the Kansas House nor his friendship with the governor.
"There is no connection," she said.
-- Dave Ranney's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail is email@example.com.
- A copy of the contract spelling out the "Fellowship for Innovation in Government" grant between the Kansas Department on Aging and Terry Glasscock can be found online by pointing your Web browser to www.ljworld.com.