Archive for Friday, April 29, 2011

Brownback wants more oversight of the Kansas Bioscience Authority

April 29, 2011


Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday pushed for more oversight of a state economic development agency that is under investigation.

“I have a number of concerns,” Brownback said of the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

“I support the mission of the KBA,” Brownback said at a news conference, but added, “it has to be done right.”

The KBA is responsible for investing tax dollars to lure bioscience companies and research to Kansas.

In recent weeks, state officials have said the agency is under investigation by the Johnson County District Attorney’s office.

Prosecutors, however, have refused to say what they are looking into. Brownback said he met with the Johnson County district attorney and said he is “concerned,” although Brownback refused to say what his concerns were.

In the past month, the KBA’s president and chief executive officer Tom Thornton resigned and took a job with the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. Prior to that, Thornton had been accused by state Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, of conflicts of interest. Thornton and KBA board chairman, former Democratic governor John Carlin, denied he had any conflicts.

Legislative leaders — Republican and Democratic — have also defended Thornton, saying he was a good leader at KBA and was integral in helping the state land the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, to be built in Manhattan.

Brownback had requested that KBA hire auditors to go over the agency’s financial records. The KBA complied, but Brownback has since said that he didn’t think the audit would be independent enough.

Wagle, who is chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said while the investigation and audit are going on, there has been talk of re-structuring the KBA board to allow university leaders, who currently serve as advisers, to be voting members of the board.

Wagle said the proposal would be temporary and is aimed at making “sure we have oversight of the finances.”

Brownback said he supported such a plan, calling it a “prudent move” for perhaps one year.

Democrats have alleged that Brownback, a Republican, is seeking to get control of the KBA, but Brownback has denied that is the case.


thebigspoon 7 years, 1 month ago

Of course Brownie is concerned about the KBA. They might just create industry and jobs for the state, jobs peopled mostly by folks who think in terms of scientific inquiry, and wwe know that line of reasoning is foreign to this administration. Get control of the KBA? The issue here is getting control of the minds of the people of the state. Talk all you want to about expenses--and there are probably some unneeded and undesirable expenses--but you have to recognize that an authority such as this has to have a high profile in order to attract the money people. The steamrollering that's going on now is simply another method of this administration for the dumbing down of Kansas.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 1 month ago

That's not "oversight," that's "control".

Jan Rolls 7 years, 1 month ago

All he wants is to find a way to pay off campaign contributions by hiring his friends. Hey sam it's almost may and you haven't created one job yet. All you've done is cut them.

Thunderdome 7 years, 1 month ago

Wagle wants to make university leaders voting members as a method of gaining oversight of finances? That's like hiring Charles Manson to babysit. Do we really want to rely on BGL or Provost Vitter to provide financial oversight? They can't handle their campus duties let alone complex economic development duties.

Michael Throop 7 years, 1 month ago

Take note that Thornton did NOT go to the Cleveland Clinic. The Kansas City Star reports Thornton is actually heading up the for profit arm,the research area of the Clinic. That for profit section has already gotten grant money from the KBA and one of the board members at the Clinic's for profit section has past ties to the KBA. And, we should not be suspicious of this arrangement to send our money out of state?

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

I can't believe I am saying this, but Wagle's idea to have university leaders as voting members is a good one.

The KBA has not been as supportive of university research as they should be. They are ignoring the fact that great biotech industry starts with great research universities. This could be a positive.

However, I am still concerned that the basis of this is political. The KBA has lots of democrats involved now (e.g. Carlin and Glickman). I'm sure Brownback wants to get some of his cronies in there.

KIDBA: the Kansas Intelligent Design Bioscience Authority.

They could fund a program called the St. Augustine Initiaitive, whereby "science" is conducted through navel gazing rationalization of the natural world with the bible, and no new studies or empirical experimentation are conducted.

Bradley Kemp 7 years, 1 month ago

More of the bioscience authority's commitments have gone to the research universities than any other sector. The state's one comprehensive research university -- KU -- is the single largest recipient of KBA funds to date.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

If true, that surprises me. Does that include the "incubator" built at KU? If so, this building really doesn't aid KU research, but rather facilitates space for private start ups.

Much of the funding to KU has come in the form of joint business ventures, possibly with KU faculty.

In terms of supporting research on going at KU, the KBA has not done enough (such as recruiting scientists and building infrastructure).

Bradley Kemp 7 years, 1 month ago

It does not include the incubator. It includes more than $20 million for recruitments, more than $25 million for infrastructure, and $2.5 million for individual research projects.

Bradley Kemp 7 years, 1 month ago

Sure. All the KBA's investments are listed on their website. It's a little clunky -- they are sorted by year, not by recipient or in a way that distinguishes research investments from commercial investments. But the recipients are listed, and you can discern the other useful details from the descriptions of investments. From there, it's just a matter of doing the math.

verity 7 years, 1 month ago

Another power grab.

My question is: Is this just about Republican power or do they really want to destroy the economic fabric of Kansas or are they just stupid?

I can't wrap my brain around the stuff they're doing. Can anybody else?

Thunderdome 7 years, 1 month ago

Like you, I can't figure out what they are trying to do, buy I think there are far too many decisions being made based on politics and cronyism. There should be some former biotech industry representation on the board and if we want to involve the universities directly, let's be specific. Instead of Chancellor/President/Provost types, let's take advantage of directly relevant experts say from the Pharmacy, Medical, and Veterinary Schools. Val Stella comes to mind as someone who would provide solid, real-world technical expertise on the KBA.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 1 month ago

The only "research" university upset with KBA is, surprise, Susan Wagle's own Wichita State.

And they are only upset because they just want the money, they don't want to prove results. Meanwhile, both KU and KSU have received millions from the KBA and justified every penny.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

Not a bad idea. In a larger sense, it is foolish to pit the interests of the Kansas biotech industry against those of the research universities. They are one and the same.

Biotech in the Bay Area, Boston, San Diego, and North Carolina didn't just happen overnight and in isolation. A vibrant and well-funded group of public and private research universities was present in each case, and in each case drove the basic research and innovation.

You cannot have a vibrant biotech industry without vibrant, well funded research universities.

nativeson 7 years, 1 month ago

KBA has had great success, but a public/private organization is always on the knife's edge regarding accountability. Having employed a spouse at over $100K certain attracts attention when you are using taxpayer dollars. I am hopeful the mission of KBA is funded, and that the right leadership is found to continue this work that has more transparency to the legislature.

susieparker 7 years, 1 month ago

Check the facts. Brownback called for a forensic audit of the KBA ... not that the KBA hire their own auditors. But the KBA (seeing the writing on the wall) quickly hired their own auditors (BKD - the same group that bungled the KU ticket scandle). Have the KBA employees been offered immunity as they are being questioned by BKD/ the auditors that are getting their paycheck FROM the KBA? Also,the KBA did little to help land NBAF. Ron Trewyn at KSU and his staff did all the heavy lifting, hard work and research to get this done (whether we want it or not). Senator Pat Roberts worked his "magic" behind the scenes to get this done. Tom Thornton and the KBA provided some funding, that was handed to them on a silver platter.

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