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Archive for Friday, February 7, 2003

Kansas lawmaker proposes bill that would keep lid on excessive salaries

February 7, 2003

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— Some state lawmakers say they want to rein in the salaries of high-dollar executives at Westar Energy and other public utilities.

State Sen. Stan Clark, R-Oakley, chairman of the Senate Utilities Committee, said Thursday his bill was in part driven by what he said were excessive salaries, benefits and golden parachutes given by Westar's board of directors to former Westar chief David Wittig and other former executives at the electric utility.

"This seeks to make sure that customers of electric utilities will not have to pay for compensation unrelated to the electric utilities," Clark said.

Wittig's pay has been controversial for years. Wittig and Westar parted ways in November after Wittig was indicted on federal charges involving a bank loan. He has pleaded innocent, and his trial is scheduled to start in April.

In court filings, it has been reported that Wittig had a net worth of $31.67 million, much of it earned while he led the company during its economic tailspin. Clark's bill would require the KCC to review compensation of a public utility's employees as part of any proceeding that might result in a rate increase. The salaries, benefits and severance plans could not be excessive and merit increases would have to be tied to company performance.

Karla Olsen, a spokeswoman for Westar, said Clark's bill was not needed because KCC already had authority to exclude from rates any cost it deemed imprudent or excessive.

A hearing on the bill, Senate Bill 51, will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in room 231-North of the Capitol.

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