Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson is forwarding a new round of complaints about the controversial Deciphera Pharmaceuticals deal to the Kansas Attorney General's office.
Branson announced this afternoon that he's asked the Attorney General's office to investigate alleged conflicts of interests involving Mayor Sue Hack and County Commissioner Bob Johnson. Both Hack and Johnson own more than $5,000 worth of stock in the Lawrence-based start-up company, but a local citizens group alleges that they illegally participated in the crafting of an incentives package designed to keep Deciphera in town.
This will be the second investigation the Attorney General's office has conducted in regard to the Deciphera deal. Earlier this month, Attorney General Paul Morrison found that the City Commission had violated a portion of the state's open meetings act by conducting a closed-door executive session to discuss the deal.
Those open meeting complaints originally were sent to Branson's office, but he forwarded them to the Attorney General's office because he wanted the investigation to be free of any questions of impropriety or favoritism. This afternoon, Branson said it made sense for the Attorney General to continue the investigation.
"When I initially forwarded concerns about violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act to the Attorney General's Office, they agreed to accept responsibility of all related questions," Branson said in a statement.
Both Hack and Johnson ultimately abstained from voting on the incentives package, which could be worth about $1 million to Deciphera over a 10-year period. But members of Grassroots Action, a Lawrence political advocacy group, have alleged Hack and Johnson still participated in discussions they should have recused themselves from.
Hack and Johnson have both denied they did anything to try personally enrich themselves, and have said their only interest in the deal was to keep a promising employer in the city.
An attempt to reach a spokeswoman at the Attorney General's office to determine a timeline for the office to deal with the matter was unsuccessful.