Archive for Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Commission contrite on Deciphera decision

November 14, 2007


Citizens speak out against the way city leaders handled tax incentives deal

City Commissioners apologize tonight for the way they handled a tax refund package for a growing pharmaceuticals company - a deal members of the public call a violation of the public trust. Enlarge video

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City commissioners Tuesday evening received a tongue-lashing from members of the public about the way they approved a controversial package of incentives to keep a start-up biosciences company from leaving Lawrence.

Several commissioners offered an apology for how they handled the approval of a deal with Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, but they did not agree to rescind their votes that approved the $4 million package of local incentives

"I apologize," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "I screwed up. I did not fulfill my responsibilities as a commissioner."

At issue for a crowd of about 50 people was whether the City Commission failed to adequately discuss the incentives package in open meeting by hammering out much of the deal in a closed-door executive session. Questions also have been raised about whether Mayor Sue Hack violated conflict of interest laws by participating in the closed-door meeting despite having an ownership interest in Deciphera.

Members of the crowd were largely indignant about how the deal was done.

"The deal that has been drafted may be a great deal for the city," said Laura Routh, a Lawrence resident. "But I don't know. The public wasn't privy to it. But the manner that it was crafted was unconscionable. It has spoiled it for me. It just looks rotten."

Several commissioners said they recognized the flaws in the process, but tried to assure the crowd that the process was not designed to avoid participation by the public.

"Our intentions are all good here," City Commissioner Mike Dever said. "It is difficult for me to be accused of doing anything other. If it means gaining back the public trust, I would be willing to rescind our vote. I'm very concerned about some of the comments that have been made about commissioners here."

The three other commissioners participating in the discussion - Hack abstained from all matters related to the item - weren't yet willing to rescind the vote. Instead, they said they wanted to wait until a pending investigation by the Kansas Attorney General's Office was completed. If that investigation finds that the city violated open meeting laws or that commissioners violated conflict of interest statutes, they would consider rescinding their previous votes.

Setting new rules

But commissioners also said that regardless of the outcome of the attorney general's investigation, the city needed to have serious discussion about the process it uses to approve future economic development incentives. Commissioner Rob Chestnut said the commission needs to have a public discussion about when executive sessions are appropriate, who should be included in executive sessions and other related matters. Discussions also need to be held on when economic development incentive programs should go through a formal cost-benefit analysis, which is the norm for tax abatements.

"I can't stress enough the need for process improvement," Chestnut said.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx also apologized to residents for how the deal was handled and said he was willing to take the blame for not questioning the deal more in public. Several key provisions of the deal, such as a tax refund provision, were never publicly discussed in a City Commission meeting.

Amyx said he did not do so because he was confident he had a firm understanding of the details of the agreement. He also said he was confident the interests of the public were being protected because the deal requires the company to meet several employment goals before it can receive many of the incentives.

Commissioners said they hoped the public would not view Deciphera negatively because of the way the deal was handled. The company is working to develop cancer-fighting drugs, and has been hailed by leaders outside of Lawrence as the most promising start-up biosciences company in the state.

"This company is doing some incredible work," Amyx said.

Procedural issue

Tuesday's meeting also shed some light on how $4 million package of incentives ended up on the commission's Oct. 23 consent agenda, which is normally reserved for routine items that are not expected to generate discussion.

City Manager David Corliss said that Lavern Squier, president and CEO of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, suggested that it be placed on the consent agenda. But Corliss said it ultimately was his decision, with the mayor's approval, to put it on the consent agenda. He said there was a strong desire to limit the number of items on the regular agenda that evening because the commission was expected to have a lengthy discussion about the South Lawrence Trafficway. Corliss also said he was confident commissioners had a good understanding of the information. He said he now realizes that putting the item on the consent agenda was a mistake.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday evening why Squier suggested that the item be put on the consent agenda. Squier is Hack's boss at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. Hack is the director of the chamber's Leadership Lawrence program.

A spokeswoman with the attorney general's office confirmed Tuesday that the Attorney General's Office will be investigating both open meetings and conflict of interest complaints against the City Commission. The spokeswoman didn't offer a timeline for when the investigation may be complete.

Highberger wanted to address some of the concerns about the open meetings and conflict of interest issues at Tuesday's meeting. But the city's attorney advised him against commenting on the matter because of the investigation.


Richard Heckler 10 years ago

It is unclear to me why any small business would belong to this Chamber of Commerce. The chamber works so hard puutting existing business out of business. The chamber has certainly been a supportive arm of over retailing Lawrence and should(?) know full well the negative impact it brings to the business community. Economic displacement is not healthy when the objective is economic growth.

Why was the Chamber of Commerce allowed to sit in on the executive sessions with city commissioners? Since Mayor Hack became employed by the Chamber it seems the Chamber received a healthy increase of tax dollars to $190,000 if my memory serves me well. Has their performance been outstanding enough to warrant such an increase? I say it is not good use of tax dollars.

It is my preference to bring economic development in as a department of city hall in an effort to promote transparency and focus to what exactly Lawrence should have on its' table. Lawrence truly needs to stick with a plan and forget the flexible talk which means screw the plan.

The Dicephera deal needs to be brought back as a new project and start over. Our mayor should resign out of principle.

ohjayhawk 10 years ago

Commissioner Rob Chestnut said the commission needs to have a public discussion about when executive sessions are appropriate, who should be included in executive sessions and other related matters

I thought that executive sessions are mainly for dealing with personnel matters (hiring, firing, disciplining, etc) and not much else.

blackwalnut 10 years ago

It was really unconscionable for Sue Hack to leave the room for this meeting. She didn't recuse herself from the discussions making the deal, but she fled the room rather than face the discussion about her actions. What a coward.

ashmole 10 years ago

Some heads need to roll because of this. Hack is the most obvious choice, and close behind is Squier. Corliss's role in this needs to be scrutinized very carefully too.

We also need to be looking closely at Deciphera itself, which has just been keeping its head down. Do we want a dirty company like this one in town? They should have wanted openness too, if they intended to be a good corporate citizen in Lawrence. There is a scent of Enron here.

blackwalnut 10 years ago

There's something wrong with the Mayor being an employee at the Chamber of Commerce. Shouldn't there be a separation of the Chamber and the city government, so that there will never be this kind of blatant conflict of interest?

blackwalnut 10 years ago


Great post. Agree with you on all points.

Noweigh 10 years ago

At least this commission has the guts to actually apologize......something the previous collection of clowns never did. The process needs to be examined thoroughly without a doubt. Again, something rarely suggested by the rundle bundle.
Sue Hack made a major error in judgement. She has also contributed in countless, untold ways over many, many years. Logorithmic, other than produce potentially slanderous, libelous statements on an anonymous chat board, what have you done specifically to improve the lives on anyone in this town?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

"At least this commission has the guts to actually apologize::something the previous collection of clowns never did."

The previous commission never displayed this level of corruption, so there was no need to apologize.

cowboy 10 years ago

Hacks resignation is in order , Corliss , your honeymoon is way over , your incompetent management of the city in your brief term is obvious at each turn. your continuous a$$ kissing of the powers that wannabe has destroyed what little credibility was left in the city. When everybody is in charge no one is in charge. This stuff isn't that difficult , its takes discipline , clear thought , and the ability to set short and long term agendas , follow the processes and limit the interruptions. This commission and city operate on the "last minute louie" method of running in eight directions and getting no where.

And the Chamber of Commerce is an absolute joke , a bunch of amateurs drawing nice salaries and getting nothing accomplished .

alfie 10 years ago

The commission will not change their vote until the AG tells them they have to. As for us taxpayers asking them to do so, you heard what they told us. And they represent and work for us?

blackwalnut 10 years ago

alfie says "And they represent and work for us?"


Richard Heckler 10 years ago

Why should Lawrence want a new company that will not disclose its' investors in light of the controversy? If there is nothing to hide what's up?

jayhawklawrence 10 years ago

Let's try to stay rational. Not all the commissioners are incompetent. They just made a mistake. I think we need to get rid of Hack and give the others a second chance.

Jackalope 10 years ago

so, let me get this straight. Boog, et al, acknowledge they were wrong, yet will not resend unless the AG gets ready to sue them or prosecute them. What else has Boog and company done that he needs to be forced to correct?

KsTwister 10 years ago

This is starting to take on an appearance of a rather different pyramid scheme. Public instead of private money to start it off?

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

How many other well known movers and shakers are invested in this and other projects on the table? Past projects? Wal-Mart? More specifically city staff,Chamber members and other elected officials. How about planning commissioners?

Are any of the same invested in First Mamagement, 6 WAk LLC etc etc.

How many of the same might have financial interests in East Hills over and above Bob Johnson who is a founding member of DCDI aka East Hills Business Park? How can tax dollars be funneled to East Hills where transparency seems to be not available? What is there to hide?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

"What else has Boog and company done that he needs to be forced to correct?"

No, the question is what have Hack and company done. Boog is the lone hope we have of this commission doing the right thing.

toefungus 10 years ago

Every time I see Hack I will recall she is an elitist and a hypocrite. I too overheard her conversation during the break. She gives teaching a bad reputation the same as these predator teachers do. I want to know the name of all LLC members. Does anyone know if litigation can require this, or since this company is publicly funded, would the freedom of information act apply? Hacks new campaign slogan? "Hack, a name I live up to!"

Mkh 10 years ago

Hack is a total coward. If she was going to leave for that public comment section she should have taken the next step and left for good. Apparently the CC wants to play cover-up and pretend they were acting in the best interests of the community. However, I think it's fair to say that Everyone is seeing through the BS this time! If they wanna do this the hard way then fine.

But the CC will answer for this corruption! Hack will go down along with the rest of her cohorts!


Ceallach 10 years ago

Flaws in the process? Try, circumvention of the process!

"I can't stress enough the need for process improvement," Chestnut said . . [maybe we could just use the process in place.]

"This company is doing some incredible work," Amyx said. [and will reap some incredible benefits from anything developed . . . we are NOT their partners in this!!]

"Squier is Hack's boss at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce." [and the beat goes on!]

Anyone else sick to their stomach?

ilovelucy 10 years ago

Give me a break, ashmole. Enron? Toefungus, "predator" teachers?
Maybe I'm being naive, but I was taught that giving second chances is important. I'm not in any way excusing what the Mayor did and how this situation has been handled, but enough is enough! The conspiracy theories abounding on this thread are insane. I agree that Sue should have spoken up regarding her role in the whole mess last night, but you can't tell me that she wasn't following the advice of her attorney, the city's attorney, or whoever. Can any of you honestly say that you would flat ignore advice and stand firm to set the record straight? I sincerely doubt it.

nobody1793 10 years ago

I hope the company relocates and becomes a huge success. They've done nothing wrong and yet are getting bashed and dragged through the mud.

rhd99 10 years ago

Following the advice of the City attorney is one thing. Going AGAINST the public by holding a closed door meeting when it regards economic development that is supposed to benefit the community without public comment is SHAMEFUL. Sue HACK works for Squier & yet owns stock in Deciphera. Smells like conflict of interest to me. If any one in Lawrence believes in these crooks' snowballs, don't come crying to me when the stuff hits the fan. I hope Morrison throws the book especially at Hack!

laughingatallofu 10 years ago

Yet another reason why I don't live in a city whose populace routinely elects buffoons to lead them. You reap what you sow.

rhd99 10 years ago

The Lawrence City Commission: A government not of for or by the people, but of for & by the Squirrelley Squires & Hack Henchmen paid for by Laverne & Sue.

Keith 10 years ago

Anonymous user

"its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says:

ok logicsound, merrill, and others you have each had your multiple bites of the apple today. You can move on.

There really ought to be a maximum number of posts per person per thread in my view."

There really ought to be a maximum number of posts per person per thread that don't support my view.

I corrected it for you.

Godot 10 years ago

Agree, Hawk. The one thing that is constant between the two "deals," (the one approved by the prior city commission in January, and the revised deal sealed by the new commission in October) is that each one enables a consortium of banks to unload an unoccupied, unsellable building they built on speculation, by granting sizeable taxpayer subsidies to the buyer.

Forget the measly, undisclosed, highly speculative investment by Hack; the other, bigger, crime here is use of taxpayer dollars by the city commission/county commission/DCDI and KBA to bail some banks out of a bad investment.

I can just imagine the conversations that went on: "this is a win-win for everyone...."

...everyone, that is, but the citizens of Lawrence and Douglas County.

alfie 10 years ago

When do we start the petition for a commission recall?

rhd99 10 years ago

alfie, as soon as we know when the petition can start, sign me up! These five commissioners are the weakest link of Lawrence. BYE BYE!

plainspeaking 10 years ago

Squier is an old hand at "managing" city commissioners and knows how to get things "done." IN fact, in his previous job, Squier referred to himself as "the sixth commissioner" out of the 5 elected.

ralphralph 10 years ago

Sack the Hack!

It was no mistake -- she was using her position of public trust to line her pockets. Period. In a town with a law school, is there no one who knows how to petition for recall?

Sack the Hack!

blackwalnut 10 years ago

ilovelucy (Anonymous) says: Give me a break, ashmole. Enron?

It appears the only comment in here begging for forgiveness for the mayor is from the mayor herself.

pace 10 years ago

Since Sue Hack has been on the commission for years. I wonder how many times she has failed to inform us of her investments in issues she has voted on. She claimed she didn't know she was suppose to. I hope the state AG looks at more than just this scheme.

blackwalnut 10 years ago

Godot says: "Forget the measly, undisclosed, highly speculative investment by Hack;"

The amount of the investment is irrelevant. It wasn't so speculative, with Hack pushing taxpayer money into the company's coffers. It wasn't so speculative, with the insider knowledge Hack had about what the city commission intended to do for the company.

Gimme a break, Godot.

Godot 10 years ago

blackwalnut, come on, I said, "forget that" to point out that, in the end, the break given these banks pales in comparison. The remark was rhetorical in nature.

We also need to be asking, "who has an ownership position in these banks that were bailed out on their property-speculation-gone-bad as a result of both configurations of this Deciphera deal?"

Godot 10 years ago

Correction: I should have written:" Hack's interest in Deciphera pales in comparison to the relief given the banks. " I wish I knew which banks are the recipients of the largess of this deal, but I do not.

Ralph Reed 10 years ago

God, ya gotta love anonymity. It lets people say things without fear of reprisal or without having to own up to what they said. It also lets people say things they otherwise wouldn't say if they did have to own up to what they said.

A few comments.

Recall vote. The taxpayers in Lawrence pay for that, it's not free. So, check out how much it's going to cost if you want a recall election. Don't complain if you get one and then you have to pay for it.

Amyx assuming blame. I've known Mike for more years than many of you have lived in Lawrence (or probably lived for that matter). He assumed blame because nobody else would, everyone else waffled around or recused themselves because of the subject being discussed. Talk to him if you want to complain about his assuming blame.

City Commission. The CC (and people here if you've read my posts) knows what I think of them. The last time I wrote them I didn't pull any punches. I got replies from four of them, one being, "I just love sarcasm the first thing in the morning." The other three offered to talk. I got no reply from the last one (I'm not wealthy and don't have a lot of investments, so I'm not important enough for him to worry about). I still have all that correspondence and will bring it out during the next election during any debates they have. I want to see what they say when they're put on the spot.

Mayor. I've long held that Lawrence needs districts for the CC with a full-time mayor instead of 5 "at large" commission members. I want to know that the person for whom I voted is representing me and will represent my neighborhood's interests first, rather than those of some developer who cares little about the neighborhoods in Lawrence. Anybody know how we go about changing our current "small town" system of government?

Deciphera closed door meeting. I don't condone the closed door meeting and I definitely do not condone Sue Hack's failure to disclose her holdings in the company. If laws were broken, then action should be taken. The whole mess leaves a bad tase in my mouth, but somehow I am not surprised. However, just because it ain't right doesn't mean you can do something about it. If you want to change things, run for the CC.

Deciphera company. I missed the articles on what the company does. Would somebody please post the links to the articles or point me to some information abou the company. I would really like to know who the officers are. If you follow the money you'll find a lot of answers to questions.

blackwalnut 10 years ago

nobody1793 (Anonymous) says: I hope the company relocates and becomes a huge success. They've done nothing wrong and yet are getting bashed and dragged through the mud.

They probably will. With or without a huge gift from Lawrence. According to the Journal-World, the way this deal works, the company could relocate AFTER receiving the huge giveaway from Lawrence taxpayers, and be a huge success elsewhere, leaving Lawrence taxpayers paying the tab without reaping any benefit.

We don't know if the company has done anything wrong. That's precisely the problem.

blackwalnut 10 years ago

RalphReed asks: I would really like to know who the officers are. If you follow the money you'll find a lot of answers to questions.

That's another problem. According to one of the folks who spoke at the city commission meeting Deciphera is an LLC, which means it does not have stockholders but members and we cannot find out who those members are.

That stinks to high heaven.

Ceallach 10 years ago

Lucy, I feel you are being a bit naive. There are many types of second chances, however, the list grows very short when people are getting a second chance with my money.

"I put my hand in the cookie jar, I am sorry, I want to make it right with you" = second chance to get public input and make recommendations. "I have been caught with my hand in the cookie jar, I am sorry, I feel it was the right thing to do and will only change my vote if forced to by the AG" = NO second chance.

Sue Hack is a big girl who knows more than many of us about conflict of interest issues. The time to seek and adhere to counsel's advise was before this fiasco. That not being done, their being duty bound to follow counsel is more than a little self-serving.

We have been given a glimpse of how little regard this commission has for their constituents. We can choose to believe it or play the perpetual victim and chant, "they didn't realize they were hurting us, they were doing it for our own good." As a woman that sounds waaaaaayyyyy to familiar to me.

igby 10 years ago

Fletch: The University can be held responsible. These LLC's could be doing anything without supervision. Profit sometimes and always rules them not ethics.

ilovelucy 10 years ago

C: she DID seek and adhere to counsel's advice, in the form of the City Mgr. Has everyone forgotten about him? He's an attorney! You can't tell me that he wasn't aware of the danger of the commission's actions. His problem is that he lets his very large ego get in the way of common sense. So, you think that the last commission had regard for their constituents? In the form of expensive roundabouts and the T? (BTW, a little bird told me that the T was pushed into existence by none other than Mr. Compton, who was hoping that there would be transportation to and from his apt complexes--that could be a new topic). The last commission had absolutely zero regard for their constituents. Maybe that is the way of politics...

blackwalnut 10 years ago

ilovelucy says: BTW, a little bird told me that the T was pushed into existence by none other than Mr. Compton, who was hoping that there would be transportation to and from his apt complexes-that could be a new topic

Well, a little bird told me that doug compton gives a lot of insurance business to Mayor Hack's husband and that in the past she has been pressured to vote as compton wants her to, with the threat of compton withdrawing his business. Should that be a new topic?

ilovelucy 10 years ago

I remember you covering that thread ad nauseum last year BW. Wanna go for it again? Be my guest!

As far as an elected position being one of trust? I couldn't agree more. I'd be interested in hearing just what politicians you have trusted in your life time.

Amy Heeter 10 years ago

Oh geez you guys have it all figured out about the giant conspiracy. That's right Sue Hack is really not who she says she is, her real name is Lex Luther and she has plans to take over the Metropolois of Lawrence Kansas. She controls everything through her husband's insurance company. Once she has gained control of our fair city she will take the world.

fetch 10 years ago

My, my, my. After scanning this thread, I can tell someone has a new supply of mushrooms in town.

If the paranoid psychosis continues of the mayor and the chamber flying a black helicopter around, just call 911 and ask for the little white van, you all.

You recall people would recall everyone except who you see in the mirror in the morning. All show, no go.

fetch 10 years ago

spywell fantasizes: "I have a concern regarding LLC's doing Bio-research with in the city limits. There's no watch group or government agency looking over their shoulder to make sure they don't screw up and contanminate our community with a bio-hazzard."

Why not just shut the University down too. After all, what ARE they doing up there in Mallot Hall?

WWoftheW 10 years ago

Wasn't East Hills Buisness park a Chamber /city project back in the 80's. Isn't East Hills owned by DCDI?

Godot 10 years ago

The building was deeded to Douglas County Development, inc., in 2002 by Douglas County.
The mailing address for DCDI is "attn: Bill Skepic, c/o Lawrence Chamber of Commerce."

This may explain why the Chamber's Laverne Squire was privvy to the closed door meetings, and he used this access to influence the decision to offer tax incentives in order to further the sale of a privately owned building, one in which the Chamber had some interest. It looks like the motivation for the tax incentives may have been as much, "help DCDI and the Chamber" as much as, or more than, "keep Deciphera from leaving."

Who are the persons behind DCDI?

Sigmund 10 years ago

To those on the Commission that apologized and offered their explanations, I accept. I have never been a fan of the Mayor but I am willing to wait and see what action is taken by the AG and her response. I can understand the eagerness Commissioners to approve a deal crafted by the previous Commission and also believe they improved it by changing the up front tax abatements for reduced tax rebates only after certain targeted conditions were met.

However, this deal has the flaw that many other giveaways, grants, abatements, rebates, and City contracts have. The real flesh and blood people who benefit from these deals are hidden behind their business structures. It doesn't matter to me if the legal entity is MV Transportation, 6th & Wak, Deciphera, or any of the private holding companies that own land downtown the question is, "Who are the real people who benefit from taxpayer dollars?" Everyone at the City Hall seems to know these people, but when the taxpayers try to find out we are told, "it's a secret, you're just a little person, pay more in taxes or we won't maintain your streets."

Corliss pointed out that doing business with the entities that hide the flesh and blood owners is perfectly legal, true enough. But this doesn't mean the City can't require they fully disclose their partners and owners names if they want to benefit from taxpayer dollars. Any entity unwilling to do so should be excluded from any grants, abatements, rebates, or contracts with the City. Such a rule probably would have prevented the Mayor from getting into this position in the first place.

Sigmund 10 years ago

And while we are about requiring fewer secrets from private beneficiaries of tax dollars we should consider doing the same for all of the Cities finances. Any public corporation the size of Lawrence, Kansas Inc would require regular independent outside audits of their operations. There is no reason why the taxpayers/investors of Lawrence should not expect the same. While there was some talk of hiring an "auditor" at last nights meeting, this is not the same. We need an outside, independent audit of the last five years of Lawrence finances. It is time to clear the air. If the City leadership refuses or offers less than a full independent outside audit, citizens can ask a legislator to request that the State of Kansas Division of Post Audit be contacted and engaged.

In light of the accusations against the Mayor, the City Commission, and the City Manager; the widespread concern on how, when and where our tax dollars are being used; and the constant insistence the last five years that Lawrence is in financial "crisis" requiring increased taxes and even brand new taxes -- anything less than an outside independent audit leaves the impression that there is something else to hide. These audits should then be required every year and be made available to the public.

Don't believe the ideologues on either side of this issue. It would be a mistake to believe the Deciphera deal is the whole problem or that 'scapegoating' the Mayor will make everything better. Hiring a city auditor or city economist isn't the answer. Neither is replacing the new bums with the old bums we threw out last election. The City of Lawrence's operations must become much more transparent no matter who is in power. If the Deciphera deal leads to more openness in government and more accountability from the City then it will be the best one Lawrence has made in years.

thedrawl 10 years ago

Folks, all of this info is fairly simple to find. All LLCs are required to register with the Secretary of State's office, which requires annual listings of all of the company's members. It would take a fairly simple record search to find out who founded the company and how the membership has changed. I believe the incorporation forms and yearly filings include finances and property as well.

As for the DCID, I'm assuming that is a non-profit corporation. If so, all directors and executives, income and expenditures, etc., will be included in its annual 990s, which are filed with the IRS. All are online and searchable and

All of these are public records any citizen, newspaper or investigator can easily access.

Sigmund 10 years ago

Giuidestar is interesting, but it deals only with non-profits. If this information is so easy to track down, why not require applicants to simply attach a list of partners, investors, owners with every application for abatements, fire-sprinkler grant, rebates, or contracts?

That would be a tad easier than contacting every Secretary of State in all 50 states and there is usually a charge associated with the search and copies. Many times you then have to track down LLC's, LLP's, S-Corps, etc who are listed as owners of the partnership. All this may be available but it requires significant work. Be honest, one of the motivations of some of these nested structures is it makes it more difficult to follow the money.

A simple rule requiring the applicants, those who are in the best position to know who is a owner or beneficiary, is not really that onerous. Simply attach it with other paperwork and make it available in one location Lawrence City Hall. If they refuse, the City should not be doing business with them.

igby 10 years ago

These LLC's are sometimes formed to do specifically what Universities are not allowed to do ethically. They don't care about getting sued because they will go bankrupt if they screw up.

Godot 10 years ago

If DCDI is, indeed, a not-for-profit, then it is odd that is pays property tax. The property tax DCDI paid for that property in 2007 was over $88,000.

blindrabbit 10 years ago

Dear theDrawl: If this (LLC Ownership) is easy for you to find why don't you or some other computer savvy individual provide a "Public Service Announcement" in this forum as to who/whom the members are! Would save a lot of speculation, but would take out some of the mystery fun!

14er 10 years ago

OK, realty check...Hack is guilty of not completing the appropriate paperwork, but she did disclose her interests... +++++++++++++++++++++++++ ""I think it would have been tragic to have lost Deciphera," said Mayor Sue Hack, who technically abstained from Tuesday's 4-0 vote because she has a financial interest in Deciphera." - Oct 25,2007 story from LJ World. +++++++++++++++++++++++++ We also don't know how much she owns, but probably somewhere between $5,000 and less than 5% of the company (whatever that amount might be).

"Highberger wanted to address some of the concerns about the open meetings and conflict of interest issues at Tuesday's meeting." We don't know what he was going to say...he may have been ready to throw Hack to the wolves,...or defend the fact that she didn't participate. We simply don't know at this time.

Highberger and Hack may not agree on many issues, but they have a mutual respect for one another. Clearly, this deal could have and should have been done differently with public participation, but don't lose sight of the fact that within the "right wing commission" Highberger also voted in favor and did not object to having the close door meeting. Mistakes go all the way around on this deal.

Bob Forer 10 years ago

thedrawl: With all due respect, I believe you may be mistaken. Dicephera LLC is not the same as a public corporation. A major difference is that public corporations solicit investors from the community at large, and subject to strict and detailed securities regulations. An LLC is much like a closely held corporation. Since it does not offer it stock to the public, but instead seeks out individual venture capitalists, it is not subject to the same scrutiny and accordingy, the names of the indiviudals or groups who contribute to the venture capital is not public information. However, that does not mean an entity like Lawrence cannot make full disclosure a requirement before applying for public tax incentives.

mick 10 years ago

This is the type of thing the FBI should investigate.

Godot 10 years ago

From the minutes of the Douglas County Commission meeting, 1/8/2007:

"AGREEMENTS & BIOSCIENCE 01-08-07 The Board discussed entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority, Inc., City of Lawrence, Douglas County Development, Inc., and the Lawence Chamber of Commerce, for the purchase, financing of improvements, and management of the spec building at East Hills Business Park (3813 Greenway Drive). Beth Johnson, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce was present for the discussion.

McElhaney questioned whether using the spec building for bioscience related initiatives would limit the use of the building and therefore limit the amount of return to the owners. Beth Johnson stated that the term "bioscience" is far reaching and will yield a wide range of opportunities. The primary need of the KBA is wet lab space, but the space will be adaptable.

Jones stated the Bioscience Authority will not seek tax abatement and has the liability for making tax payments. A property of this value will have a substantial return in taxes and hopefully a bigger return in employment opportunities for the community.

LaVerne Epp, President of Lawrence-Douglas County Biosciences Authority, expressed his appreciation for the collaborative effort by the all parties involved.

Jones moved to enter in to an agreement with the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority, Inc., City of Lawrence, Douglas County Development, Inc., and the Lawence Chamber of Commerce, for the purchase, financing of improvements, and management of the spec building at East Hills Business Park. McElhaney seconded the motion and it carried unanimously."

Hmmmmm. Just last January, there was no mention of Deciphera in this deal, and there was a clear understanding that the building would continue to generate property tax.

Godot 10 years ago

This enlightening LTE from 2004 may be off-topic, because it is about Farmland, but it does illustrate the workings of DCDI, and illustrates that, at least once upon a time, there was a company who wanted to establish a plant here, without asking for incentives:

"To the editor: Though it is admirable that Douglas County Development, Inc. (a nonprofit joint venture by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Douglas County, and the city of Lawrence) is investigating a possible purchase of the Farmland site to expand the East Hills Business Park, they should step aside and allow a visionary private developer to manufacture hydrogen fuel cells there.

DCDI's mission is to attract new industry to the county by offering good building sites. Since 2000, when DCDI was effectively blocked from expanding the business park eastward into prime Kaw Valley farmland for the American Eagle warehouse, they have been trying to acquire property near Farmland.

But if Roger Billings is eager to build a hydrogen fuel cell factory there with his own money, no "carrot" is needed to attract him. As fossil fuels inevitably get costlier, fuel cells to power electric autos and stationary ones for building electricity will be the future. This is exactly the kind of clean high-tech industry the Chamber is looking for. DCDI should be grateful one such ship has come in and work with Mr. Billings to assure that he meets other community and environmental standards.

And if Mr. Billings buys Farmland, this does not mean that DCDI needs to revert to building in the 100-year floodplain. They can work anywhere in Douglas County, not just near East Hills Business Park. I hope DCDI continues searching for the higher ground, both literally and figuratively.

Michael Almon,


fetch 10 years ago

Godot posts:"If DCDI is, indeed, a not-for-profit, then it is odd that is pays property tax." . Not odd at all Godot. Many not-for-profit corporations which own real estate pay state and local property taxes, despite what you assume.

fetch 10 years ago

Godot posts:"If DCDI is, indeed, a not-for-profit, then it is odd that is pays property tax." . Not odd at all Godot. Many not-for-profit corporations which own real estate pay state and local property taxes, despite what you assume.

Have another mushroom.

Godot 10 years ago

Fetch makes personal attacks because she/he/it cannot contribute anything substantial to the discussion.

In the case of DCDI, it truly is odd that it pays property tax, considering that the source of its funding is other taxpayers' money.

The taxpayers paid to build that spec building, then provided funding to DCDI so that it could turn around and pay property tax; now DCDI is selling the building below what it cost the taxpayers to build it, and the city is committing to help fund renovations, and forgive future property taxes and offer cash payments in exchange for nebulous, future, high paying jobs.

It seems it has been very strenuous for all involved - the city, the county and the Chamber - to keep DCDI from being exposed as the complete and utter failure that it is.

We tax-weary citizens should be on the lookout for new expenditures to purchase property to turn over to DCDI to manage in the name of "economic development," and very vocal in saying, "no."

Government sponsored economic development; now that is an oxymoron if ever I saw one.

fetch 10 years ago

Godot says: "Fetch makes personal attacks because she/he/it cannot contribute anything substantial to the discussion."

I provided something substantial to the discussion. That you are wrong. Many not-for-profit corporations which own real estate pay state and local property taxes. If this makes you feel attacked, I am so sorry.

Mkh 10 years ago

I hardly ever listen to the talk radio on KLWN, but I happened to tune into the "Voice of Merrill" program today right as they were discussing this issue. For those that have never heard the program, it's basically Lawrence's version of fake conservative talk radio in the vain of Rush/Hannity/Bill'O, inwhich the world revolves around problems that only crazy "communist liberals" are responsible for.

According to the "Voice of Merrill" program poor Sue Hack is being completely victimized by the Communist Citizens Coup, the "Geeky Bloggers" on this forum, and the "Yellow Journalism" of LJW.

Of course the propagandist forgot to mention the entire issue of Hack sitting in on the closed door meeting as a stockholder. His rational for the citizens' concern over the matter was that the LJW had brainwashed them into believing Hack might have done something wrong inorder to sell "1,000 more papers on a Friday". At this point I lost all control with laughter at the notion that the LJW and the wealthy Simons family had orchestrated this entire plot in order to make an incredible profit of $500. Unbelievable. First of all I think it's obvious they don't need the money, and they are certainly not smart enough to contrive such a plan. But the spin spewing from the Hack Inc. crowd is laughable yet shameful.

Not that I expect anything more from the programming on KLWN however.

Ralph Reed 10 years ago

Pilgrim (if that's who you are), writes sarcastically,

Party pooper. Not only have you skewered most of the conspiracy theorists with this knowledge, you have also shockingly suggested that they do some of their own research instead of expecting it to be spoon fed to them. B-O-O, H-O-O.

I don't think asking for a link is being a conspiracy theorist. I did go to Guidestar, and the free information returned a POC who's not listed on the IRS Form 990.:


Not wanting to spend $1K a year for a premium membership to get more information, That's all I could find there.

The Kansas Secretary of State has the DOUGLAS COUNTY DEVELOPMENT INC with an agent of the Chamber of Commerce.

In the end, it boils down to a closed meeting, non-disclosure of vested interest in a company benefitting from city business, and a distinct lack of transparency; essentially confusion and obfuscation. It's either how lucky do you feel playing three-card monty, or "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." (

I digress a bit, but on that note, you might want to take a look at this article by Henry Littlefield. Sounds remarkably like today's local and national politics.

blackwalnut 10 years ago

Sigmund says: It would be a mistake to believe the Deciphera deal is the whole problem or that 'scapegoating' the Mayor will make everything better. Hiring a city auditor or city economist isn't the answer. Neither is replacing the new bums with the old bums we threw out last election. The City of Lawrence's operations must become much more transparent no matter who is in power. If the Deciphera deal leads to more openness in government and more accountability from the City then it will be the best one Lawrence has made in years.

I could not agree more.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

"The City of Lawrence's operations must become much more transparent no matter who is in power."

Well, the old bums tried to do precisely that.

blackwalnut 10 years ago

We need to elect people who have proven that they have the interests of Lawrence at heart. That would be people with a track record of public service, volunteerism, activism. Business experience is not enough. Intent is everything.

lunacydetector 10 years ago

we all mustn't forget that our mayor is a closet progressive.

Sigmund 10 years ago

Sven, perhaps once she is charged let alone convicted of a crime? On a related note, when are you going to stop interrupting Commission meetings with your meandering nonsense and meaningless Roberts Rules of Order? Do you even live in Lawrence anymore?

blackwalnut 10 years ago

What difference does political persuasion make?

Godot 10 years ago

blackwalnut, you just described our mayor. And, intent is impossible to discern in advance.

rhd99 10 years ago

Intent on the campaign trail is one thing, doing something else (WRONG) while in office, well, let our imaginations run wild, especially with the Hack job we got from Sue Hack & Co.

Julie Jacob 10 years ago

Another waste of taxpayer funds...

Copied from my E-updates email....

Cost estimates for Airport Business Park released

(LAWRENCE, Ks) The City has released the preliminary cost estimates for the extension of necessary infrastructure to the proposed Airport Business Park development. The staff memo and related estimates have been posted online at .

City staff has been working over the past several weeks to develop cost estimates. Our next step is the release of this information to allow for public review and comment, said City Manager David Corliss. The City Commission will consider a number of important policy issues regarding this proposal. I encourage public comments and questions about the information. Citizens can e-mail or call me.

Cost estimates include sewer and water, $1,873,200; stormwater, $385,050; streets, a range of $912,000 to $6,082,000, depending on the construction phasing.

These infrastructure issues and the Planning Commission recommendation on annexation and rezoning requests for this project are scheduled for consideration at the December 4, 2007 City Commission meeting at 6:35p.m. at City Hall, 6 East Sixth Street.

City Manager David Corliss can be reached at or (785) 832-3400.


Godot 10 years ago

A potential cost of $10,000,000 to support a speculative business park; add to that the property tax rebates that will be offered to the prospective tenants, cash payments for jobs created, plus possible TIF, and we are starting to look at some real money. (sarcasm)

Sigmund 10 years ago

Bozo, I see no point in electing the proven incompetent well intentioned bankrupt people of the past over the alleged corrupt of the present. The results are the same and the taxpayers pick up the costs. We need this group of Commissioners to change the current system so can can easily identify both types of bums and track their progress with outside independent audits.

Amy Heeter 10 years ago

plumberscrack (Anonymous) says: One would take from your response that you condone what Sue Hack has done?

What do you think should happen to Sue Hack if found guilty of breaking any laws?

In any case, you both will have alot to talk about at the next family gathering huh?


Not sure how you arrived at the idea that I condone anything.

My response to thaat would depend on the finding of the AG in the matter.

I have never even met the woman.

Since I moved here there have been several places close due to ffinancial issues. There is no guarantee the company in question would succeed much less make a profit for investors. I do agree that the community should have been involved in any meeting about the venture though.

coneflower 10 years ago

"Commission contrite" the headline says.

That doesn't mean much if they do not rescind the deal.

Saying sorry doesn't cut it.

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