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Archive for Saturday, December 13, 2003

First things first

December 13, 2003

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Where David Wittig and Doug Lake are concerned, get the money!

First, get the money -- all of it that's available in the disgraceful incidents involving two former executives of the Westar Energy fiasco. Then there will be time to decide how to disperse the funds.

The evidence is quite convincing that David Wittig and Doug Lake made off in various ways with many millions while they were wheeling and dealing as top-level operatives for Westar. A 40-count indictment has been filed against the pair. Federal prosecutors have lodged a forfeiture count seeking real and personal properly traceable to criminal activity. This includes some $25 million from Wittig and more than $7 million from Lake in salary, compensation and benefits paid the two while they were employed by the company.

Some people, including Westar retirees wondering how all this will affect their entitlements, have begun to speculate publicly how the money will be handled. They fear, with good reason, that attorneys, the government and other "sideline" individuals and agencies will drain the amounts that can be regained.

The company, of course, has been in disarray for some time with the Wittig-Lake shenanigans figuring in the struggle. And there is the issue of benefits to workers, present and past, and how the return of the loot can help them.

The new leaders at Westar have indicated they will be open and above board with all that occurs and that they will do what is best for the company and its people. All well and good, and it is hoped they have some solid plan to prevent new rip-offs by greedy lawyers, for example.

But first, get the money in any form possible. There is no way to tell how much has been wasted or squandered. But it stands to reason that if Wittig and Lake were as crafty in their shielding efforts as they were in gaining the funds, there is quite a bit of the $32 million-plus still to be had somewhere.

Before you make rabbit stew, first you catch a rabbit. Before Westar can settle some of the accounts in the red, they need to get as much Wittig-Lake money as possible. No avenue of recovery should be overlooked.

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