Topeka The former secretary of the Kansas health and environment agency, who was ousted after refusing to issue a permit for a coal-fired plant in western Kansas, has been getting payments from the state since he left office in early November, according to a newspaper report.
An attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told The Kansas City Star that Roderick Bremby has received about $18,000 since he left office Nov. 2.
Gov. Mark Parkinson’s staff and department officials told the Star that state law allows them not to disclose why Bremby was still receiving state payments.
Bremby abruptly stepped down after refusing a request from Parkinson to leave the agency and become transition director until Gov.-elect Sam Brownback is sworn in.
The departure attracted particular attention because Bremby had refused in 2007 to issue a permit to Sunflower Electric Power Corp. for a coal-fired plant in western Kansas, saying it was a health risk.
His replacement, John Mitchell, issued the permit this month, allowing the utility to begin construction on the $2.8 billion project outside Holcomb without having to comply with new federal rules on greenhouse gases that take effect next week.
KDHE spokeswoman Kristi Pankratz said Thursday that the agency has disclosed all the information on the subject that it is required by law to release. Parkinson spokeswoman Amy Jordan Wooden did not return telephone messages Thursday from The Associated Press.
Bremby has never commented on his departure and past attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful because phone listings for him have not been in service.
Parkinson has denied that Bremby’s departure was linked to the coal plant project.
Environmentalists on Wednesday were skeptical, saying the paychecks and the lack of an explanation from Parkinson raised more questions about the process of issuing the air-quality permit review for the coal plant.
“There has never been a clear explanation why Secretary Bremby was removed,” Stephanie Cole, spokeswoman for the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, told the Star. “The lack of transparency surrounding this issue is unacceptable.”
Scott Allegrucci, executive director of Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, wondered if Bremby had been required to sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep his salary.
“News that Bremby is still being paid and that the governor’s office won’t comment sounds to us like there is some kind of severance or nondisclosure agreement in place to keep the public ... from discovering the facts,” Allegrucci said.
Sherriene Jones-Sontag, spokeswoman for Gov.-elect Sam Brownback declined to speculate about whether the payments would continue once Brownback takes office Jan. 10.
“We have no knowledge about anything with Mr. Bremby or the Parkinson administration,” she said.