Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Advocacy group ‘rebuilding’ after board resignations

September 17, 2003


— Big changes are in the works at Kansas Advocacy and Protective Services, a troubled agency that receives federal funds to fight for people with disabilities.

"We're rebuilding KAPS from the ground up," said Rocky Nichols, a former state legislator who's been the embattled program's executive director since July.

Federal agents in March seized records and computers at the agency's office in Manhattan after the Journal-World reported that KAPS' governing board had entered a $65,000-a-year consulting contract with its then-Chairman Robert Ochs, a former pardon attorney for Gov. Robert Docking and a former vice president at the Lawrence-based Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Ochs resigned his position in June.

Two other board members had similar contracts for lesser amounts. They, too, have resigned.

Nichols said he planned to use money from the ex-board members' contracts to hire additional staff, including a third, full-time attorney.

He's also reshuffling the agency's administration, creating assistant-director positions to be in charge of litigation, advocacy, finances and communication.

"Over the next 12 to 18 months, we'll be taking applications for each of these positions. We want the best-qualified people we can find," Nichols said, noting that current employees are expected to apply for two of the four positions.

After the four positions are filled, Nichols said he and his four assistants would figure out how best to reconfigure the agency.

"(KAPS) hasn't done as good a job as it should have," Nichols said. "I tell people that upfront, but that's the past and this is the future."

KAPS receives about $1.15 million in federal funds each year.

Nichols recently completed a statewide listening tour aimed at letting KAPS' constituents critique its past performance.

"The No. 1 complaint was that KAPS wasn't responsive to people's needs. I heard that everywhere I went," Nichols said. "We're going to change that."

KAPS' finances remain under investigation by federal officials.

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