Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is ordering an internal review of allegations that Athletics Director Lew Perkins improperly accepted free use of rehabilitation equipment at his Lawrence home.
Gray-Little appointed two senior KU staffers — Vice Provost Mary Lee Hummert and Allen Humphrey, an investigator in KU’s human relations department — to “fully review and bring closure to the allegations that have been made.”
The allegations, from former Kansas Athletics employee William Dent, are that Perkins accepted $15,000 worth of rehabilitation equipment from Medical Outfitters for use at his home, in exchange for providing the company’s owners with access to premium seating at Allen Fieldhouse.
Perkins has maintained that he’s been a victim of blackmail, a case he had reported to Lawrence police in April. Gray-Little said that the university had been aware of the blackmail case before it came to light this weekend in media stories.
Gray-Little, in London to meet with alumni and supporters, said that “although originating from a questionable source,” the allegations deserve to be looked into. She expects the review to be complete within 10 working days.
“I urge that there not be a rush to judgment in the absence of facts that support the allegations,” she said.
Retroactive rent paid
Perkins has reported having returned the equipment more than a year ago and having paid the company, providing it fair rental value for its use.
In April, Perkins paid Medical Outfitters $5,000 to cover the usage costs, said Lynn Bretz, a university spokeswoman. The payment came after Perkins had determined who actually owned the equipment.
Mark Glass, who is one of the company’s co-owners, has denied that his company either sought or received favorable treatment regarding basketball tickets.
Gray-Little also noted that Perkins has reported the matter to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Perkins’ attorney confirmed Tuesday that the government agency had been asked to determine whether Perkins had violated a state ethics law that prohibits state employees from accepting many types of loans and gifts.
Gary Sherrer, vice chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, said that Gray-Little’s decision to “bring closure” to the matter by ordering an internal review was a “good, strong approach” leading up to the regents’ next meeting, set for June 23 and 24 in Topeka.
Report to regents ahead
Regents expect to be updated on operations within Kansas Athletics, the job status of Perkins and other matters related to ongoing investigations regarding a tickets scandal — and, in recent days, rehabilitation equipment.
“When that stuff is spinning around out there, you have to get some control,” said Sherrer, a former Kansas lieutenant governor. “This is one way to exercise that — by having an independent look, and report back.
“It also helps keep everything in perspective: We all know that collegiate, Division One athletics is big-time stuff. We always enjoy the good stuff of it. But, at the end of the day, it is still a part of the university, and it is most appropriate that the chancellor would address this like she would address an issue in any one of the academic areas.”
On Wednesday, questions also emerged about whether Perkins had violated ethics provisions included in the Athletics Department’s employee policy manual. The department’s employee handbook states: “Kansas Athletics personnel may not accept gifts, payments, entertainment, privileges or other favors which might influence future decisions made by Kansas Athletics.”
A separate portion of the employee handbook also spells out what constitutes a conflict of interest for athletic department employees. That definition says an employee may have a conflict of interest if the employee does anything that even creates the “appearance of competing or compromising with the interests or concerns of Kansas Athletics.”
The handbook also requires any employee with a possible conflict of interest to disclose the potential conflict to the Kansas Athletics’ Board of Directors.
Danny Anderson, interim provost for KU and a member of the board of directors, said Perkins had not disclosed the exercise equipment issue to the board during Anderson’s tenure. Anderson said it was too early for him to determine whether Perkins had an obligation under the policy to disclose his free use of the equipment to the board.
Circumstances surrounding Perkins’ use of the equipment create questions about whether it put Perkins in jeopardy of violating the conflict of interest provision.
Perkins’ attorney has said in previously published reports that Perkins believed the $15,000 worth of exercise equipment was owned by William Dent. At the time the equipment was installed in Perkins’ home, Dent was an employee of KU Athletics. As athletics director, Perkins had the sole authority to provide monetary bonuses and other compensation bonuses to Dent, according to the department’s policy handbook.
It later was learned by Perkins that the exercise equipment actually was owned by Medical Outfitters. Medical Outfitters is a company that has served as a vendor for Kansas Athletics, according to a statement made by one of its co-owners in a previously published report.
Perkins’ attorney, Steve McAllister, did not return a phone call seeking comment on this story.