One of the consistent criticisms of Tracy Taylor, who has resigned as president and CEO of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., was his lack of communication, even secrecy, about the agency’s operation.
Unfortunately, it seems that KTEC is choosing to continue that mode of operation.
On Friday, the KTEC board reportedly agreed to a separation deal worth $318,000 for Taylor, who is scheduled to leave the agency at the end of the month. That amount apparently represents the salary remaining in Taylor’s KTEC contract, which runs through June 2010. The board also agreed to name Kevin Carr, KTEC’s chief operations officer, as the interim CEO.
That’s all the public really knows about the KTEC leadership transition. That information came from a board member who also is a state legislator and perhaps understands something about the public’s right to be informed about the workings of a state-owned agency. The discussions took place in closed session, and although the KTEC’s board chair indicated that a news release would be issued later in the day about what was decided, that didn’t happen. A news release later posted on the KTEC Web site addressed only the appointment of Carr.
So much for the change many state officials have indicated is needed in the way KTEC does business.
KTEC was created in 1987 to promote advanced technology development in Kansas. Millions of dollars in Kansas taxpayer money has been channeled to the corporation to achieve that goal. In the current fiscal year, that amount was more than $12 million; for the coming fiscal year, that was cut to $7 million. The decrease should have sent a message to KTEC and its board that something was amiss. One now wonders if that message was received.
Is there any way for KTEC to avoid spending another $300,000 on Taylor? Was that kind of severance pay guaranteed in his contract with the agency? Should that salary be paid if he is able to find another well-paying position?
The board apparently hasn’t agreed on a salary for Carr. Naming an interim CEO is a good move if it delays the board’s intended “nationwide search” for a permanent replacement long enough for the state at least to decide whether KTEC should continue to exist or if its work could be handled more efficiently by another agency. In the meantime, KTEC’s diminished funding and the subsequent diminished mission of the agency certainly should be considered during salary negotiations with Carr.
Several KTEC board members also met with Gov. Mark Parkinson later on Friday to discuss KTEC issues. There also hasn’t been any public statement about what occurred in that meeting.
By all indications, KTEC is in real danger of ceasing to exist as an independent agency. The only way to avoid that fate is for KTEC to prove to the state and its taxpayers that the money they contribute to the agency is well spent and producing significant benefit for the state. KTEC staff and board members need to understand that the best way to do that is to open their operation to public view and quit acting like they have something to hide.