Archive for Friday, April 1, 2011

State senator alleges Kansas Bioscience Authority leader has conflicts of interest

April 1, 2011


— State Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, on Friday released copies of legal records, letters and Facebook pictures in alleging that Kansas Bioscience Authority leader Tom Thornton has conflicts of interest.

“I have found some information that alarms me,” said Wagle, who is chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and has held previous hearings into KBA operations.

Commerce Committee member Chris Steineger, R-Kansas City, agreed, saying, “There are lots of problems with this agency. This investigation has to be larger and made more public. What we presented here is just the tip of the iceberg.”

But there was a strong push back from supporters of Thornton and the KBA. They accused Wagle of an ambush.

Former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, who now serves as chairman of the KBA board, said Wagle’s public accusations threaten the state securing government funding of the $650 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, and the future of the KBA, which was created in 2004.

“You were brilliant in 2004, and we are about to screw it up,” Carlin said during a sometimes-heated Commerce meeting.

Several committee members said they were upset that Wagle gave the documents to KBA officials at the start of the meeting, not giving them time to get answers to the allegations before making the allegations public.

“This is getting a little bit ridiculous,” said Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe. “It’s like we’re trying to shotgun them. Let’s give them questions. Let’s give them time to answer.”

Sen. Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, said, “This hearsay back and forth, I am really uncomfortable with.”

At the start of the meeting, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, and Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka sat in the front row in the audience to show their support for the KBA. Thornton was not present at the meeting. Carlin said Thornton was in Florida on vacation. A woman answering the phone at the KBA said she didn’t know when Thornton would return to work.

Morris said the KBA “was an icon for the state of Kansas.”

The KBA is in charge of investing $581 million in tax funds to attract high-tech bioscience companies to Kansas.

Hensley said the attack on Thornton was part of a plan by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, to get rid of Thornton and replace him with his own pick. Brownback has denied trying to interfere with the KBA but has given his blessing to Wagle’s inquiries.

Wagle said her records show that Thornton had steered KBA funds to companies that were run by his business associates from Illinois.

She said he also served as president of a Chicago-based Internet company that had lost $421 million in 18 months and has been under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Carlin said he would answer all questions about Wagle’s allegations but would need time. Wagle said the committee will meet again to discuss the KBA on April 27.

In the packet of information handed out by Wagle, there were three pictures of Thornton at an office staff party. In one he is photographed with his wife, Lindsey, who had worked for Thornton at the KBA.

Wagle has criticized the salaries and bonuses at KBA. Thornton earns $265,000 per year and last year received a $100,000 bonus. His wife, Lindsey, was making $107,500 per year as director of special projects, but recently left the KBA.

In another photo, Thornton is signing checks. David Vranicar, president of Heartland BioVentures, a program of the KBA, said those were KBA business checks that had to be signed the day of the party.

There also was a photocopy of a $100 bill with Ben Franklin’s face replaced with Thornton’s. KBA officials said that was simply a joke.

Committee members also had questions about a couple of investments by the KBA into companies that eventually failed or didn’t get off the ground. KBA officials said it was the nature of the business that some investments would be better than others.


Phillbert 7 years ago

I am shocked - Shocked! - that Susan Wagle of O'Reilly Factor fame would use half-truths and innuendo as part of an ambush to advance her agenda.

But at least it is good to see that new Republican Sen. Steineger is fitting right in with the crazies on the right.

Sparko 7 years ago

Clap louder! Minimum wage for all! Part time minimum wage benefit free jobs! Yay for the Plutocrats. Yay!!

justajoe 7 years ago

"But then, simple fact, she represents Wichita, nothing more to be said."

Mind-blowingly brilliant and to the point, seeker_of_truch. Where do I go to enter your simple little world.

Tell us something, anything, you know about Wichita and Wichitans. Oh yeah, that's beside the point, right. They live where she lives, some of them voted for her, so they all have to think like she does and take responsibility for everything she says or does because she's one of their state legislators.

For the record, I have never lived in Wichita. There are things I like and dislike about Wichita. Just like Lawrence. And Tonganoxie. And Kansas City. Some of the smartest and some of the dumbest people I've ever met live in Wichita. Same goes for people I've met from Lawrence, Tonganoxie and Kansas City. (By golly, I do believe I detect a trend here.) I live in Lawrence but am originally from New York. Do I really have to tell you what some of my fellow New Yorkers think of your city and state, and more to the point, the people who live there? After all, you all think alike because you all live in the same place, don't you, you Fred Phelps-loving, abortionist-shooting, manure-pitching hicks.

Like you, I despise Susan Wagle's politics. The difference between us is that I choose to assess people as individuals, not as members of groups or, even more pathetically, as collective residents of a piece of real estate. But I do envy you. My world is complicated and sometimes tragic, colored with countless shades of gray. I admit I occasionally long for the simplistic security that comes with a cozy, black and white blanket. Care to share?

We had to endure similar such nonsense from you and your kind (see, I can lump folks together based on geography too) several weeks ago during the Virgil Peck, shot-em-from-a-helicopter episode. Suddenly, everyone from Southeast Kansas shared Peck's views because, after all, he said so and, after all, they live along side him in Southeast Kansas.

If we're going to do it your way, then you and yours have to share responsibility for everything anyone from Lawrence says or does, or has ever said and done. Pardon me, but shame on you for living in a city that used to only allow those dark-skinned children to swim in the pool the day before they drained it at the end of summer. And shame on you for living in a city that, notwithstanding recent, self-aggrandizing efforts to name its schools and businesses Free State this and Langston Hughes that, used to occasionally haul a colored or two to the Kansas River bridge for a good ole, hoe-down lynching. Tell me, when are they going to erect the marker that commemorates that piece of your city's sordid racial history? Using your logic, you live where it happened, so we must assume that you condone it. Birds of a feather, I think they say.

TopJayhawk 7 years ago

Why on earth would anyone care about what New Yorkers think of us. Just how insecure are you?

justajoe 7 years ago

You just made my central point, TopJayhawk, even if you don't realize it. You (we) are right. Who cares?

Good grief, go back and read my response to seeker_of_truth again, but with the mindset that people occasionally make their point by taking their opponent's view and following it to its illogical or misguided conclusion. To spell it out for you, I was mocking those New Yorkers who resort to stereotypes to denegrate Kansans, and I suspect many of them do so in a desperate attempt to battle their own insecurities.

I am from New York but I'm a citizen of Lawrence, and Kansas, and darn proud of it. I choose to live here, not there. I would have taken on seeker if he would have launched his broadside against everyone in Tonganoxie, or Topeka for that matter, rather than Wichita. People are people, the rest is just geography. I find it sad that, based on experience, the further west I travel in Kansas, the more insecure and apologetic people seem to be about who they are based on where they live. And I find it troubling that, the further east I travel in Kansas, the more likely I am to encounter someone who puts down people who live west of them simply because those people live west of them.

You asked me how insecure I am. We'll, probably no more or less than most people. I still battle the demons from time to time. I confess that in my younger, more arrogant days I occasionally played the New York card. I still feel ashamed.

Let's admit that, stereotypes northwithstanding, it does appear that based on the posts routinely found at this website that there's a little more of this intrastate geographic arrogance in Lawrence than the rest of the state. I suspect the same's true in Madison, Wisconsin and Iowa City, Iowa. Perhaps we'd all do well to remind ourselves that our college educations and sophisticated study of red state, blue state demographics are useful in handicapping the outcome of elections, but entirely inadequate in understanding the hearts and minds of individuals, regardless where they live.

capitolobserver 7 years ago

Let's trust the former Governor on this one- after all he did take a KPERS fund in excess of $700 million and manage to nearly bankrupt while in office.

As for the KBA, if it's in such good shape why no outcry when the House looted and pillaged its' budget yesterday? Millions of dollars from the annual KBA transfer went right out the KBA door and into various budget amendments (see: Colloton, Pat). This is why you have a lobbyist, to keep things like this from happening- oh wait, Thornton (on vacation in Florida) married his lobbyist, who quit the KBA earlier this week. Obviously all just a coincidence. Notice King Morris has changed his tune from supporting Thornton (the focus of the hearing) to supporting the KBA. When you get screwed over as bad as Wagle and WSU did with CIBOR, you'd be out for blood too. A good legislator looks out for their constituents and gets pissed when their district gets back-stabbed. This would be an excellent time for Governor Brownback to "interfere". The purpose of the KBA is outstanding- but it's time for all of Kathleen's Mafia to leave town.

Phillbert 7 years ago

Thanks for signing up and joining us, Chris and/or Susan!

Bob_Keeshan 7 years ago

"She said he also served as president of a Chicago-based Internet company that had lost $421 million in 18 months and has been under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Not only does Susan Wagle say this, so does Tom Thornton. In his official biography. That is all over the googles.

Given that, seems like it probably isn't as bad as Ms. Wagle wants people to believe. Most people don't publicize such damning items.

Joe Blackford II 7 years ago

A careful audit of the KBA would reveal Dr. David Franz, KBA voting member; KSU's one-time chief of the National Agro- Bio-terroricm Center; Dept. of Homeland Security Science & Technology Advisory Committee; VP of Midwest Research Institute, KC, MO; selected his alma mater to get the NBAF & soon his employer (MRI) will be getting contracts from the NBAF. I'd imagine the KBA spent $ on Franz' travel from MRI's Maryland lab @ USAMRIID to Manhattan while he represented both KSU, MRI & DHS. Evidently has to travel with 3 hat boxes.

MRI has an office at NISTAC, where Wefald, K. Glasscock & Bob Krause skimmed $ off the top of KSU's sale of NutriJoy to CocaCola. The KSU Wefald departure audit questioned their ethics. Wefald appointed Krause's wife, Martha Vanier, to head KSU's NABC following Franz' departure.

Col. Dr. David Franz THE INSIDE MAN:

Col. Franz is a member of DHS committee which advised the NBAF site-selection official, Jay Cohen, on where to place NBAF.

Col. Franz sits on a NIH committee responsible for "dual use" research, as in my employee dual used USAMRIID anthrax to kill 5 people in 2001 AND win an award in 2003.

Col. Franz joined up with Midwest Research Institute, KC, MO, in 2003. He actually runs MRI's lab in Fredrick, MD, a contractor for USAMRIID (infamous DoD "revolving door" job).

Col. Franz is a member of the KS Bioscience Authority, which authorized tax $ for NBAF & paid Thornton & wife >$478K in salaries & bonuses in 2010.

Here are some FACTS KSU Media Services has kept behind the NBAF Curtain of Transparency:

Colonels Nancy K. & Jerry Jaax & Col David Franz, former Commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), enabled & armed the 2001 ANTHRAX MAILER. The FBI found several plausible scenarios for how the USAMRRID employee of 19 years, Dr. Bruce Ivins, could have removed Anthrax due to lax security & safety protocols at USAMRIID. In 2003, the Army gave Ivins its highest civilian honor.

The individuals involved in Kansas' campaign to get the NBAF (unnecessary, as DHS's Franz picked KSU); the employees & members of the KS Bioscience Authority; and the employees & members of KSU's National Institute for Strategic Technology Acquisition and Commercialization (NISTAC); are a close circle of co-conspirators who take Kansas taxpayers $ & redistribute it amongst themselves. Nothing more, nothing less.

Joe Blackford II 7 years ago

NISTAC, KBA & The NBAF in Kansas Task Force

The Usual Suspects! See if you can find more than 3 individuals who serve on at least 2 of these 3 tax dollar ratholes:

NISTAC "team members"

Kent Glasscock, President

NISTAC Board of Directors

Kansas Bioscience Authority Board of Directors

John W. Carlin, CHAIRMAN

David Franz, D.V.M., Ph.D.* Vice President and Chief Biological Scientist Midwest Research Institute

Administration and Operations

Heartland BioVentures

Marketing and Communications

The NBAF in Kansas Task Force

Co-Chairman: Dan Glickman

Vice Chairman: John Carlin, Visiting Professor and Executive-in-Residence, Kansas State University

Vice Chairman: David Franz, DVM, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Biological Scientist, Midwest Research Institute

Bruce Snead, Mayor, City of Manhattan (employee of KSU)

Joe Blackford II 7 years ago

^^^ My goal is clearly to stop NBAF ^^^

The "billions in economic growth for Kansas" is propaganda. Who will be spending those $ Billions? Go look in the mirror = we, the taxpayers.

The KBA has shelled out $3.55 Million in KANSAS tax $ to Uncle Same to bring Juergen Richt from the USDA National Animal Disease CenterAmes, IA; and to relocate the USDA's Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Laboratory (ABADRL) from Laramie, Wyo., to Manhattan.

IF KSU had any credibility in the agro- & bio- terrorism defense biz, Uncle Sam would have transferred its scientists to Manhattan.

You do know that Pat Roberts Hall aka K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute is costing us taxpayers $1 Million/year just to operate the building? It comes out of KSU's general operating budget, so instead of improving the academics of Kansas students, we're keeping a building pressurized in support of ~ 15 scientists on USDA's payroll. The avg student can't work in the area of bioterrorism defense because the Colonels woke up to find it's 'DUAL USE" research & a TOP SECRET - SENSITIVE COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION FACILITY clearance is required:

Joe Blackford II 7 years ago

^^^ What's sad is the deception ^^^

sold to Kansans that the NBAF could be safely operated without endangering Kansas agriculture.

Since the FBI fingered USAMRIID's Colonels Franz, J. & N. K. Jaax as the enablers of the 2001 Anthrax Mailer, who as Dr. Franz says "killed 5 people, but put $6 Billion into the bio-terrorism defense budget," that lab has become part of a TS-SCIF campus @ Ft. Dedrick, MD

The Colonels want congress to authorize the NBAF to study Foot & Mouth Disease, something currently banned from the US Mainland.

My ancestors brought the first steam-powered thresher W of the Mississippi to Kansas. I'm determined to prevent the NBAF from destroying KS agriculture for a few hundred jobs, while risking ALL Kansans, both those who make a living in agriculture, and the rest, including you , (look up "NBAF + zoonotic" to see what the lab will be playing around with).

At the NBAF plat approval by the Manhattan City Commission, Sept 2010, the DHS spokesperson stated the NBAF would be built to only withstand a F-3 tornado. Manhattan was hit by a F-4 on June 11, 2008. The KSU campus had $20 Million in damages, but DHS wants to bet agriculture & human lives that a tornado won't hit Manhattan twice.

justajoe 7 years ago

My God, please, somebody help me talk seeker back from the edge. He's obviously in a desperate way. He's been terribly wronged by a Wichitan. Or, based on his earlier post to this story, quite possibly all 382,368 of them.

OK, friend, try to stay calm for a moment. Forget seeking the truth, for now, and concentrate on seeking help -- immediately. It's only a phone call away; trained, caring counselors ready to talk, 24-7. In the meantime, can you please give me the number of a friend or family member. You know, the ones who live in Wichita.

Good luck, man. And please visit us again after you've finished that long journey back from the abyss.

justajoe 7 years ago

I do not live, nor have I ever lived, in Wichita, but apparently you do, or you have. I've visited Wichita and found it to be pretty much like every other city or town I've ever been to. I do know they have a very fine opera, and the people I've encountered have struck me as grounded, reasoned and friendly. Pretty nice place, all in all. Guess I missed my slap "by reality." Apparently not so with you. It must be awful living in a place you despise. Sort of like hell, I guess.

Keith 7 years ago

Wagle is a nutjob plain and simple.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

My initial reaction is that Wagle is just pissed that she's not part of this particular conflict-of-interest loop.

But if she keeps carrying water for Brownback, that will be rectified.

LegisHater 7 years ago

Wagle and Steineger are pathetic! Since when is an ambush, innuendos and distortions the work of the people? This is a thinly disguised effort by Wagle to get more money for her pet projects. And everyone knows this is about Brownback trying to control one more thing. Toss the bums out!

Sharon Aikins 7 years ago

Nice to see some posters have such a casual interst in this matter. How many of you, like me, made it past the first paragraph of the first of many posts before losing interest and wondering if it was a plant? Too convenient to have all that info at hand at the drop of an article in the paper. Ah well, nice to see our Senate and governor at work to further the image of Kansas.

We are supposedly 5th in the country in the biotech industries so I'm guessing not all that money is coming from state coffers? I try to stay uninvolved in politics but this looks like a staged ambush to me. I cannot speak in favor of or against KBA as I'm not that informed. But even if I hated them, I would despise the way this is being handled. Children, can you say the word AH GEN DUH?

BigPrune 7 years ago

We are picked by some obscure magazine as 5th in the country because the KBA bought a high dollar ad in their publication - of course, they wouldn't pick a state who spent thousands on an ad, in a magazine full of ads for other states. Surely it wouldn't go to the highest bidders.

Joe Blackford II 7 years ago

"Too convenient to have all that info at hand at the drop of an article in the paper."

I actually live 1.6 miles (as the germs fly) from the N B A F site. I initially wasn't against it, until I saw it propagandized as an open, student-learning, environment operated at a Secret security level. I knew it needed to be a Top Secret - Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

When the F B I started accusing U S Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases' scientists & I knew the K-state Colonels came from there & that their lab had since become a T S - S C I F, I started adding up all the links to propaganda & truth. Take a look at this Google search .,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=787946b8a14e6151

& read the statement I made by searching for Ivins

I have voted for N O N E of the politicians involved in the look under the K B A carpet. I'm just dead set against risking our lives & Kansas agriculture on some inept Army scientists who enabled the only successful act of bio-terrorism & now want to bring N B A F to their alma mater for profit & recognition.

BigPrune 7 years ago

The state House stripped the Kansas Bioscience Authority of control of roughly half its state funding during budget deliberations Thursday. It opted instead to send the money directly to state bioscience projects, including two in Wichita. I'm surprised I didn't see this kind of article in the JW. Let's talk agenda or editorialized reporting.

For those who claim to have an open mind:

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

"It's time to close the KBA down." Absolutely!!!

This would be a measure of prevention. Preventing future acts of corruption under this umbrella.

So Sen Wagle and Chris Steineger how about we clean house across the board aka legislature?

In spite of the fact I fully agree these high salaries demonstrate abuse of tax dollars this Wagle thing is politically oriented not moved by demand for ethical behavior.

Nonetheless close down the KBA today. Move the money to public education and grants for 2 year JCCC Vo Tech training. The best bangs for the tax buck.

And while were at it how about a recall of RINO Sam Brownback?

Jimo 7 years ago

When Wagle ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

igby 7 years ago

I am satisfied that a foul government eats it's own self like a hungry snake when it is shut up in a box gasping for air. All snakes get the heel when it's their day and it's their day today.

Bob Reinsch 7 years ago

If the Wichita projects had received all of their funding up front, instead of on a year-by-year basis (where they supposed to produce actual results), Wagle would've never got her dander up. She's a tool of the Koch brothers, as is Brownback. All they want to do is replace the existing KBA leadership with their own puppets and direct money straight to Wichita's research centers (effectively quantum singularities). They don't know how to get an NIH or NSF grant approved to generate their own funding, so they have to resort to political strong-arm bullying. Wagle is a rabid poodle, and the Koch brothers have her on a leash... just not a short one.

melott 7 years ago

Regardless of the merits of this case, Wagle has a problem with anyone who has half a brain.

Cynthia Schott 7 years ago

I really can't even stand reading about Kansas politics anymore. They are embarrassing.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

“I have found some information that alarms me,” said Wagle, who is chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and has held previous hearings into KBA operations.

Commerce Committee member Chris Steineger, R-Kansas City, agreed, saying, “There are lots of problems with this agency. This investigation has to be larger and made more public. What we presented here is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Witch hunt. How does this create jobs and help the economy? Oh, yeah. It does the opposite. Instead of trying to make the KBA work better as an economic engine, Wagle and Steineger attack it and its leadership in a witch hunt.

justajoe 7 years ago

Do you live in Kansas? Do you vote? Oh no, I think you just got yourself tangled, again, in one of those insipid, blanket assessments you keep tossing at us. Darn those blathering black kettles, too.

I will agree there's certainly a joke in Kansas; we've already had to endure four of your posts to this story alone. Either give it a rest or come clean and tell us what it is about Wichita that always has you in such a tizzy. I really want to help you with your issues.

justajoe 7 years ago

Please do yourself and all of us a favor and learn to read, then comprehend, then think before you post.

My only posts have come in response to your posts. My only "agenda" has been made quite clear time and again -- to try to understand why you despise the entire city of Wichita because of what Susan Wagle says or does. You just wrote that my posts "defended Wagle." Please pull and post any passage I wrote to back up that claim. In fact, my only reference to Wagle was to write the following: "Like you, I despise Susan Wagle's politics." If you have a shred of evidence to the contrary, post up or shut up.

You are becoming quite tiresome, and I'm losing my patience in trying to help you. I'd really like to watch the basketball game if you have nothing constructive to say. UConn's up by seven points now. How about those Butler Bulldogs? I love those over-achieving mid majors, especially Wichita State. And how about those Shockers rolling through the NIT? Oh, sorry about that.

justajoe 7 years ago

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

Cynthia Schott 7 years ago

It makes you wonder just how far Kansans are willing to take their ignorance, and how badly it has to hit their pocketbooks, before they educate themselves and find out exactly what is behind, oh, say a conservative message of Christianity?

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