Archive for Monday, February 8, 2010

Kansas Secretary of State resigns to take private sector job

February 8, 2010, 9:45 a.m. Updated February 8, 2010, 4:40 p.m.


— Kansas’ top elections official announced Monday that he’s resigning to take a top job at a Kansas City-area company that builds and manages government Web sites.

Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh said his last day in the state office will be Feb. 15. He’ll become senior vice president of sales and marketing for NIC Inc., based in Olathe.

Thornburgh, a Republican, already had decided against seeking a fifth term as secretary of state this year and abandoned a campaign for governor last year. He said he’d begun searching for a job in private business a few weeks ago when he started talking with NIC’s chief executive officer.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, will name a new secretary of state to serve until Thornburgh’s current term ends in January 2011. Three Republicans and two Democrats are running for the office this year.

Thornburgh has long been an advocate of providing government services and information electronically and received an award in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his efforts. His office launched an online voter registration system last fall.

“That is a groundbreaking movement around the country,” Thornburgh said.

NIC manages Web sites or Web portals for 23 states — including Kansas — and for hundreds of local governments. Founded in 1992, it now has about 600 employees and reported $133 million in revenues for 2009.

Company spokeswoman Nancy Beaton said NIC had created the vice president’s job to help attract business from additional states and look for other business opportunities.

Neither the company nor Thornburgh would disclose what he’ll be paid at NIC. The secretary of state has an $86,000 salary.

“We’re extremely thrilled,” Beaton said of Thornburgh’s decision to join the company. “We’ve been conducting a nationwide search.”

Leaders of both political parties praised Thornburgh, saying he modernized the secretary of state’s office and made state government more accessible.

Parkinson hasn’t set a deadline for replacement Thornburgh as secretary of state. But spokeswoman Beth Martino said the governor will move quickly because, “Obviously this is an important position heading into an election year.”

In the Republican contest for secretary of state, Thornburgh already has endorsed Shawnee County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley, whom he appointed.

Also running are J.R. Claeys, of Salina, a former CEO of the National Association of Government Contractors, and Kris Kobach, of Piper, a former Kansas GOP chairman.

On the Democratic side, state Sen. Chris Steineger, of Kansas City, has filed, and Securities Commissioner Chris Biggs, of Junction City, has appointed a campaign treasurer.

Martino said Parkinson hasn’t ruled out naming one of the potential candidates. Thornburgh said he’s not talked to the governor about the appointment.

“I will expect the governor will let me know and ask my opinions,” Thornburgh said. “I clearly understand that’s his choice and not mine.”

If Parkinson appoints a Democrat, it would be the first time in 59 years one has served as secretary of state. In GOP-leaning Kansas, only one Democrat has held the office in the past 100 years, Frank Ryan, who served from 1949 to 1951.

Thornburgh, 47, was first elected secretary of state in 1994, after having served as assistant secretary of state and as the deputy assistant secretary overseeing elections. He was re-elected in 1998, 2002 and 2006.

In June 2007, Thornburgh appointed a campaign treasurer and began raising money for a run for governor this year. But U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback entered the GOP race, and Thornburgh dropped his own campaign in June.

In regular trading Monday on Wall Street, shares of NIC closed at $7.13, down 25 cents, or 3.4 percent.


Kontum1972 8 years, 2 months ago

there's no business like web-business .....

tolawdjk 8 years, 2 months ago

Is it just me or shouldn't people elected to office have to serve out the extent of their terms?

Steve Jacob 8 years, 2 months ago

You are right, tolawdjk, but he put in 15 years, so I will give him a break, I am sure the guy had his heart set on being governor, and would have been favored to win without Brownback running.

Never really heard of a problem with him, and never heard a peep about elections being messed up, so he must have quietly did his job well. Plus the guy is only 47, so he can pop-up again.

KU_cynic 8 years, 2 months ago

Among the responsibilities for the Sec. of State are supervising elections. Given that we have a doosey of state-wide elections set for this fall (governor, secr. state, AG, treasurer, senator, congress, etc.) it does seem to be a poor sense of timing on Thornburgh's part.

flux 8 years, 2 months ago

Lets just elminate the position and save some tax dollars. Its not really all that important of a position anyways

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

tolawdjk (Anonymous) says… Is it just me or shouldn't people elected to office have to serve out the extent of their terms?

Yup, and just like with corporations if you die you get three days off and must return to work on the 4 day otherwise your pay is docked.

Seriously, it sounds like he took directions right out of Sara Palin's play book.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 2 months ago

So, as SOS, he hires NIC to manage their web-based voter registration, and in turn they give him a job. Why not look for a job that doesn't reek of conflict of interest?

kugraddc 8 years, 2 months ago

This means that four of the five current statewide officeholders were not elected: Gov. Parkinson (Sebelius) AG. Six (Morrison) Treas. McKinney (Jenkins) Sec. of State Thornburgh (?)

The total is five out of six if you count the Lt. Gov., but Kansas elects its Governor-Lt. Gov. on the same ticket.

Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is the only one who will have braved all four years!

Bob_Keeshan 8 years, 2 months ago

tolawdjk (Anonymous) says…

Is it just me or shouldn't people elected to office have to serve out the extent of their terms?

At the very least, if they are going to leave for a private sector job it shouldn't be with a firm they've been doing business with for the last 16 years as an elected official.

This is seriously the equivalent of George W. Bush leaving office 11 months early to take a job with Halliburton.

diplomacy205 8 years, 2 months ago

Captain K, I agree with you that there should be a law preventing that, but unfortunately it is a long established tradition for both political parties at all levels of government.

MyName 8 years, 2 months ago

Well the guy served for 15 years, which is more than alot of people spend in a private sector job anymore. I think he did a good job as Sec. of State, FWIW. Of course, that's the kind of job where you only hear about it if something is going really wrong.

Bob Forer 8 years, 2 months ago

Even though he's a republican, I really can't complain about his 15 year job performance. So, he left early under and accepted employment with a slight appearance of conflict of interest. In the slimeball world of state politics, if that's the worst he has done, I say give him a bye, as most of the Topoeka gang, dems and rebubs alike, are more often than not slime down to the bone. .

mellyandthejets 8 years, 2 months ago

I understand about Thornburgh wanting to leave a public office to take a job in the private sector. What I don't understand is him not waiting until November to do so. For 15 years he has worked in the public sector and now 9 months before election, he has suddenly decided to leave. Sounds a little sketchy to me.....Does it have anything to do with him not being selected as a Lt. Gov. for Brownback? Will he run as a conservative democract for the governor? Only time will tell.....

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 8 years, 2 months ago

Thornburgh is taking a position with a company that did business with the state. There needs to be an investigation into their relationship while he was SOS to see if NIC benefited from any decisions made by Thornburgh.

ralphralph 8 years, 2 months ago

Hey, it's so untidy to take kick-backs and such ... much better to leave office and then they can pay you as much as they want for the business you've steered to them, and no one will ever know. Slick.

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