Archive for Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AG won’t prosecute mayor

Hack’s verbal disclosure of Deciphera holdings deemed adequate to note conflict of interest

November 20, 2007


No prosecution for Hack

Lawrence Mayor Sue Hack will not be prosecuted for violating the state's conflict of interest laws. Enlarge video

Mayor Sue Hack won't be prosecuted for violating the state's conflict of interest laws, although the state attorney general's office said today she technically violated portions of the act and created an "appearance of impropriety."

In a letter released Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Paul Morrison's office said it was declining to prosecute Hack for a failure to properly file a document listing her ownership interest in Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, a company that city commissioners have agreed to give more than $1 million in economic development incentives.

Hack on Tuesday said she was pleased with the decision and said she never intended to hide her interest in the company from the public. Instead, she said she simply didn't understand the requirements of the law.

"I've thought a lot the last few weeks about how many times I told my students to read the directions," said Hack, a retired junior high school teacher. "Ms. Hack should have followed her own advice."

Verbal disclosure

Investigators with Morrison's office said Hack didn't properly fill out a state-mandated Statement of Substantial Interest form showing that she owned more than $5,000 in stock in the Lawrence-based company. But Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney said the violation was technical in nature and would not be prosecuted.

Disney wrote that because Hack had verbally disclosed her ownership interest in the company, she had mitigated the damage of mistakenly not filing the form. She also abstained from the vote to give Deciphera up to $125,000 a year for 10 years in city money.

But Hack did participate in a closed-door executive session where the Deciphera deal was discussed. Allegations had been made that Hack's participation in that meeting constituted a violation of the state law prohibiting elected officials who have a substantial interest in a company from participating in the making of a contract with that company.

The attorney general's office, however, said it didn't have the necessary evidence to prosecute Hack on that issue. Disney wrote that "there is no evidence that Mayor Hack participated in this meeting in any way other than by her attendance."

'Appearance of impropriety'

A spokeswoman with the attorney general's office said city officials provided a description of what took place in the closed-door meeting, and that description indicated that Hack did not offer any opinions or participate in any discussion regarding the matter.

But Disney said Hack's participation in the closed-door meeting was questionable.

"I do believe her attendance created an appearance of impropriety," Disney wrote.

If Hack had been convicted of violating that portion of the state's conflict of interest laws, she would have been required to resign her office.

Hack said she now wishes she had not gone into the meeting.

"Knowing what I now know, I absolutely would not go into it," Hack said. "But I went in there with the right intentions."

Executive session investigated

It is not clear why Hack went into the meeting and did not discuss the issue in any way. But Hack said that was the case. Investigators are relying on information provided by city leaders to confirm that. The city does not make any recording of the closed-door executive sessions and does not keep any written minutes.

The city is not required to do so by law, and Hack said she would be against adopting a policy that would require the city to tape record the meetings to provide to investigators when open meetings violations are alleged.

Hack said she wouldn't support the idea because she would be concerned such tapes could fall into the wrong hands and reveal personnel information or other matters that the law allows to remain private.

City Manager David Corliss said he does expect the City Commission to have an open conversation about how executive sessions should be used in the future.

All five city commissioners could still be prosecuted for violating the state's open meetings law. The attorney general's office is investigating whether the closed-door executive session on the Deciphera matter violated the state's open meetings act. That investigation is ongoing.


Ceallach 10 years, 7 months ago

snap, merrill is still a valid user name when using the search engine.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 7 months ago

Side question, did merrill get disappeareded?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

"Why is it ok that your boys bankrupted the city?"

Have you stopped beating your wife?

blackwalnut 10 years, 7 months ago

How much of a stake in Deciphera does Mayor Sue Hack own?

Is she ever going to fill out the required paperwork and disclose this which is required of her by law?

lawrencemom 10 years, 7 months ago

Why anyone would run for public office in this town is beyond me. It's a no-win.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 7 months ago

Disney wrote that "there is no evidence that Mayor Hack participated in this meeting in any way other than by her attendance." -- Aside from notes, did they even bother to interview or get testimony from others at the meeting? Did they ask Hack what she said at that meeting? I don't know about you, but I don't attend a meeting unless I am participating in some way. A recall seems appropriate, if there is that option. And I would extend the recall to include every sitting commi$$ioner.

Susan Mangan 10 years, 7 months ago

So who wants to start the recall? I'll volunteer to be one of the three sponsors. Here's the paperwork necessary.

SteelHorseRider 10 years, 7 months ago

Not even basic notes were taken for closed session meetings that decide hirings, firings, reprimands, let alone the awarding of taxpayer dollars for 7-figure multi-year contracts, etc.?

That part of this process doesn't wash with me!

Doesn't wash to the point it stinks to high heavens!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

"Why anyone would run for public office in this town is beyond me."

Well, for Sue it's been a profitable venture. Seems like a definite win for her, if no one else.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 7 months ago

If you download the document, Mayor Sue's financial disclosure form obscures the fact that "Decipehera" and "Biochenomix" are the same company -- which they are.

The two listings have different addresses, and are listed on separate lines -- 7 and 10 -- separated by listings of mutual fund holdings. Thus, it looks as if she owns 5K or 5% of two different entities. But they are the same company.

I read this as: she owns at least 10K or 10% of the company to which commission is funneling our tax money.

Morrison dropped the ball badly on this one.

Bob Forer 10 years, 7 months ago

Mayor Hack,

Douglas County Commissioner Johnson understands one of the profoundly important principles of American Democracy--openness and honesty. While technically, the rules may not have required him to reveal the amount of his investment in Decipehera, his behavior, in volunteering the amount (approximately 8K, I believe) is beyond reproach.

You, on the other hand, are a different story. Have you no decency? Given the public's outcry and justifiable suspicions, you could have allayed the public's anger and mistrust--and restored your credibility and reputationby following Commissioner Johnson's lead. Instead, the information you provide in your Statement continues to veil the controversy in a shroud of secrecy, which, mind you, is all your making.

My request: Come clean, Mayor Hack.! Reveal the amount(s) and dates of your investment in Decipehera, or face of wrath of a public clamoring for a little democracy and decency.

monkeyhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

"Instead, she said she simply didn't understand the requirements of the law."

When confronted with a document required by the state, it only makes sense to present it to one's own accountant. Preferably, an enrolled agent. Unless, of course, the Hacks prepare their own federal and state filings, which seems even more foolish.

That aside, I tend to lean towards VOM's opinion.

Seems like the regular suspects are leading the recall chants, while some of us see bigger fish to fry.

This issue is done ... let us move on to a demand for accountability for the millions of our tax dollars wasted, abused or fraudulently squandered in the name of "smart growth". That is far more criminal than what has recently transpired.

BTW, I can't wait to see my new appraisals .... we should all expect them to accurately reflect market conditions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

"This issue is done : let us move on to a demand for accountability for the millions of our tax dollars wasted, abused or fraudulently squandered in the name of "smart growth"."

No, one of your own got caught at the corruption that is the basis of all you all stand for. What you're asking for is for this to be swept under a rug, and you're squealing over a red-herring as a distraction.

monkeyhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

"No, one of your own got caught at the corruption that is the basis of all you all stand for."

Smoking that K this early, boozo? She is hardly one of my own. Many of us understand that Ms. Hack is a democrat, with much higher aspirations than local office. She is the stealth progressive, so she is far more one of yours.

But, why is it that when talk comes to an investigation of what your boys did with our money, you want to change the subject? Is that what Soros wants you to do? I thought he fired you after you botched the attempt to get your boys reelected. It should allow you to sleep a little longer after those long nights in the basement with the dudes.

I take it you support your boogie man reaching into our underwear drawers to suck as much spare change from us as possible. Why don't you care that he depleted our rainy day fund? Why is it ok that your boys bankrupted the city?

blackwalnut 10 years, 7 months ago

It's official:

In Lawrence, elected officials are above the law.

When is Hack going to file the required paperwork? My guess: never.

blackwalnut 10 years, 7 months ago

lawrencemom (Anonymous) says: Why anyone would run for public office in this town is beyond me. It's a no-win.

I think Mayor Hack has done quite well for herself. For the citizens of Lawrence, it's a total loss.

tweetybird2 10 years, 7 months ago

Having worked for a city before I know that no notes are minutes are taken in executive session. Executive sessions can only be called for certain reasons. One is discussing employees and another is discussions with their lawyer. If it doesn't fall under one of these they are in violation of the open meetings laws. It sure sound questionable to me.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 7 months ago

Cea, thanks, I saw VOICEOFMERRILL & wondered if that was like the Mouth Of Sauron.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 10 years, 7 months ago

While you're at it, recall Morrison. That goof can't seem to figure out how to prosecute anyone.

Chris Biggs, for a real Democratic office holder. Send the corrupt Republicrats packing.

fetch 10 years, 7 months ago

You all need to get over it. I told everyone how inconsequential the information is in an SSI. She made her potential conflict known. End of story.

working_momma 10 years, 7 months ago

Isn't there a thing in this country like innocent until proven guilty???? So, she made a mistake, albeit a rather impressive one, but I think she has learned her lesson and will refrain from any Deciphera/commission dealings in the future.

fetch 10 years, 7 months ago

Get out your recall forms if you want you weenies....but you won't, and you know it. Heck, have a grand jury. Put Hawkbytheriverfront on it.

But I guess even that wouldn't shut people up here. Oh, maybe Bozo can get Chavez to investigate this for the poor Lawrence people... yea. thats it. Chavez can save us.

justthefacts 10 years, 7 months ago

P.S. Barry Disney is the same prosecutor who got a death penalty verdict in the Cherokee county case involving the murder of their county sheriff. His conviction rate is way above most prosecutors. So you cannot call him a bad prosecutor and should probably not blame him that the facts did not support filing a criminal charge to seek class B misdomeanor penalities.

fetch 10 years, 7 months ago

Justthefacts explains much better what I have been saying for some time....about how frequently SSI filings are not made, rarely "corrected" and not understood. You would have to prosecute dozens if not hundreds of state employees annually to be consistent. Of course, most here thought i was condoning fraud and murder.

Especially if the sin here is "correcting" a previous made annual filing. That is almost never done.... people wait for the next annual filing to list what is then currently correct.

justthefacts 10 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for the praise (all too rare).l I do try to stick with "just the facts." In part b/c name calling and half-truths do not foster civil debate. Civil debate is a hallmark of a democracy and free society. But civility in public discourse appears to be an endangered concept.

I try not to interject personal bias too often - that is so subjective and not very convincing. But I am constantly suprised and saddened over how many people simple do not want any facts that do not support their already arrived at conclusions. I prefer to form my opinions only after I have gathered a lot of facts first.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

"Oh, maybe Bozo can get Chavez to investigate this for the poor Lawrence people: yea. thats it. Chavez can save us."

More red herrings to distract from the very real corruption involved.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 10 years, 7 months ago

These SSI forms are a joke. Go read John Vratil's, the Leawood Republican Senator. About the only thing he refers to is his job at his law firm. It says nothing about the gambling and other interests he represents, and yet take a look at his legislation once you know who he represents and it sticks out like a sore thumb.

If Chavez could get that schmuck out of the senate, we'd all be better off.

ralphralph 10 years, 7 months ago

Sometimes, you've gotta clean your own house. Sack the Hack! Recall!

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

momma, the operative term here is "guilty, admitted it, confirmed by the AG, but not charged because the AG has taken on the role of judge and jury."

lounger 10 years, 7 months ago

An ordinary citizen would be in trouble-so should Hack!

Bob Forer 10 years, 7 months ago

could someone ? LJW perhaps reveal the dates of the investments ?

There is a downloadable version of Hack's Statement of Substantial Interest on this LJW website, which Hack filed on the 16th. Unlike Johnson, the mayor played it close to the chest and volunteered the minimially required information, leaving out what we all have a right to know. How much? And when?

pace 10 years, 7 months ago

Recall is worth the trouble. She skated.

Kontum1972 10 years, 7 months ago

Definition of the word "Hack"----->one who forfeits individual freedom of action or professional integrity in exchange for wages or other assured REWARDS....or to make trite and commonplace by frequent and INDISCRIMINATE use....or working for hire esp., with loose or easy professional standards. (right out of the Websters Dictionary)

nuff said..!

Kontum1972 10 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Noweigh 10 years, 7 months ago

"bigger questions yet to be answered about Deciphera. Why does Deciphera want to be in Lawrence?" No kidding Hawk.....Absolutely correct question to ask any company trying to succeed. Ask American Eagle, who wisely(for them) decided to locate and bring 300 jobs to Ottawa instead of Lawrence...and now getting ready to add a couple hundred more. Ask lots of companies who knows how tough Lawrence has always been to work with. Ask them what a laughing stock this town is thought of amongst many "quality" national companies. Deciphera should take their "high quality" jobs to a community that would actually support and encourage their success. Lawrence is simply a home for complainers who do little to improve anything. Did commissioners make a mistake on how this was handled? Yes. Will we learn from this and get better. Most defiinitely. I'd much rather have Deciphera's than trust my local economy to "unique" restaurants, used record stores and over-priced specialty stores.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

How can anyone bring themselves to support corrupted polticians,developers,chamber leaders and some among the real estate industry?

I've heard time and again how little to nothing the chamber does for small business from owners so why belong?

They get into YOUR tax dollar wallets and increase their financial bottom line sooo how is that acceptable?

Most of the tax dollar real estate projects on the city and county agendas are neither timely nor necessary yet tax and fee increases are being pushed in an effort to support personal financial does that improve the overall quality of life?

blackwalnut 10 years, 7 months ago

Most ironic is the paper's report that Hack objects to requiring these secret executive sessions to be recorded. If the executive session privilege had been used as intended - to discuss personnel issues or meet with attorneys - no one ever would have suggeste such a thing.

Hack cannot be the decider when she is the one who violated the rules and abused the executive session privilege.

It remains to be seen what the AG will have to say about the commission using the executive session privilege other than as it was intended.

Susan Mangan 10 years, 7 months ago

My question is why the anti-PLC people don't care that their elected officials are publicly corrupt. I NEVER supported the PLC. I am a endangered species in this town. I support business and industry and I absolutely believe in the value of abatements. But I don't care what party a candidate is from when they play corruption with my tax's WRONG.

The AG said, yes, she committed a violation. But he isn't going to prosecute. Thanks. It is still wrong and illegal.

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

Hack has been on the city commission since 2001. The JW needs to clarify whether the form filed on 11/16/2007 is the first form, or a form correcting previously filed forms. If this is a corrected forms, we would like to see the forms filed previously.

This form is not only late, is it still incomplete.

blackwalnut 10 years, 7 months ago

The Journal World did a good job reporting Mayor Hack's lapse. Now they need to follow up and report how much of Deciphera she owns.

justthefacts 10 years, 7 months ago

  1. Hack's first failure was in not properly updating a substantial interest form that is filed with the county clerk. That failure has been corrected; her form is now updated and complete. MANY local officials do not know and/or properly follow the substantial interest laws. As far as I can tell, there has never been a prosecution (by any county/district attorney or any AG) seeking to impose the class B misdomeanor penalty that is possible for violation of this law. The Kansas Ethics Commission (which helps police state level filings) has more information on this topic.

  2. The Ethics Commission issues advisory opinions on these laws. One of them (from 2000) said that discussing the topic constituted the prohibited "participation" in a contract with an entity with which the official had a substantial interest. While everyone assumes Mayor Hack discussed this contract with other city commissioners, in executive session at least, there have been no witnesses who would admit to it. Thus, there is currently no evidence that a prosecutor could use to prove that this portion of the conflict of interest laws were violated.

  3. The taping of executive session discussions is currently not required by any law. There have been approximately three attempts to make it the law. None has ever been passed by the Kansas Legislature.

  4. Even if Mayor Hack was not in the executive session where this contract was discussed, it was openly discussed and approved by the other commissioners. There does not appear to be any evidence that without her around, this deal would not have been approved. So those who think the contract is a bad idea need to wake up and realize that Mayor Hack's participation did not make the difference in this deal. Punishing her will not make it go away after the fact.

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

This situation is the poster child for why there should be minutes, at the least, and, preferably, audio recordings, of closed door executive sessions. The excuse, "we don't want them to get in the wrong hands," is absurd. This is not a matter of national security. And as has been made painfully clear, this commission will use executive sessions for matters other than they were intended, but the lack of minutes shields them from discovery and enforcement.

There is nothing that requires legislative action to correct this. Lawrence can enact stronger protections against abuse of executive sessions, and it should. It is apparent that not only do the commissioners and city staff not understand or respect the letter of the ethics rules regarding closed sessions, they haven't any concept of the ethical considerations behind them. Further, we cannot expect the State to enforce its own ethics provisions as the AG appears to view them as mere technicalities that can be easily overlooked (wink, wink, nod, nod).

The citizens of Lawrence deserve much better.

By the way, it is naive to assume that the form submitted by Hack, over a year late (it was to have been submitted as soon as she announced her candidacy for re-election), is complete. Even a junior high teacher would agree that the entries are quite vague. However, since the form is merely a technicality, and no one is going to check it for veracity, who cares? In fact, why have the form at all?

fetch 10 years, 7 months ago

Godot says: "but the lack of minutes shields them from discovery and enforcement."

The Prosecutor is able to interview all participants, and review all documents, just like any meeting of a few people in any activity. I would hardly call this a "shield against discovery and enforcement" No, it doesn't make it easy, but it isn't a bar.

If you want to start with open meetings, you ought to start with drafting the Law to actually work regarding the State Legislature. Because as written, 30 legislators (even more) can get together in secret, totally discuss an issue, and draft a bill with a deal cut with a special interest..and nobody would know. And it doesn't take 30 legislators to actually do this. And these deals are often times tens of millions of dollars. And yet it is illegal for 2 members of a 5 person city commission to meet and discuss whether or not Road X needs to have a pothole filled.

fetch 10 years, 7 months ago

Godot: " Further, we cannot expect the State to enforce its own ethics provisions as the AG appears to view them as mere technicalities that can be easily overlooked (wink, wink, nod, nod)."

And it is obvious you have no respect for the justice system when the appropriate independent officials render an opinion you disagree with. Or perhaps a legal opinion you are incapable of understanding. So western-styled governments really aren't going to make you happy. Try Bozo's friend in Venezuela.

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

Fetch, not enforcing ethics rules is precisely what Bozo's friend in Venezuela speciazes in.

Amy Heeter 10 years, 7 months ago

Sue Hack has ties to Venezuela now? Wow, I think there was something in someone's turkey.

devieh 10 years, 7 months ago

i'm all for a recall who wants to be the other two registered electors?

Terry Jacobsen 10 years, 7 months ago

I love Sue Hack. I think she is a good Mayor. Let him who has never sinned cast the first stone.

a2thek 10 years, 7 months ago

Sue Hack is an honest person. I think Sue just made an honest mistake if that's possible. I guess there is no such thing anymore of making any errors without everybody thinking you are either dishonest and corrupt or tied in with the mob. I thought I saw Sue talking to some Italian guy the other day.

toefungus 10 years, 7 months ago

Teachers. No wonder they get no respect. They are really into doing as they say, not as they do, instruction.

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