Topeka — Greg Valentine, who on July 1 was in charge of two state mental health facilities, said that on that day he was paid a visit by two high-ranking lieutenants of Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr.
Valentine said SRS Deputy Secretary Pedro Moreno and SRS Chief Counsel Bob Corkins told Valentine he could resign or consider himself fired or laid off.
They said Valentine had done a good job as superintendent of Osawatomie State Hospital and manager of the Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City.
Valentine said that Moreno and Corkins said the decision wasn't personal. Valentine said they said, "We want people loyal to the secretary and governor." Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, appointed Siedlecki as SRS secretary.
Valentine's remarks were made Tuesday in an interview with the Lawrence Journal-World.
Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for SRS, denied that Moreno or Corkins said that. "They did not say anything like that," she said.
She added, "This is obviously a disgruntled former employee who has used you for his own personal purposes." Valentine said the conversation did take place, and added that he was not disgruntled at all.
On the same day of Valentine's departure, Larned State Hospital Superintendent Robert Connell was also dismissed by SRS.
De Rocha said SRS cannot comment on specific personnel matters other than to confirm employment or departure.
July 1 was also the same day SRS announced the closure of nine agency offices, including the one in Lawrence.
Valentine, an 11-year veteran of SRS who has worked under Republican and Democratic administrations and been a part of SRS administrative cost-cutting, says he was stunned by the decision to close the Lawrence office.
"I was shocked that Lawrence was chosen because it is so large," he said.
Brownback and Siedlecki have said the office closures are needed to comply with a legislative mandate to reduce SRS administrative costs by $1 million. They have said people served by the Lawrence office will be able to access services online or travel to nearby cities, such as Topeka, Overland Park.
But local advocates and law enforcement say this approach isn't reasonable and will result in many people losing needed assistance, increasing costs on non-profit organizations, and more crime.
And some legislators have said Siedlecki mis-read the Legislature's intent and wanted cuts in administrative expenses, such as salaries, instead of shutting down offices.
Valentine also said the Brownback administration has gone much farther in removing veteran SRS workers than previous administrations.
Typically in a change of administration, Cabinet-level secretaries and some top agency chiefs will change, he said. "You just don't see it going to the levels that it is going," said Valentine, who said he is registered as a Republican voter. He said there have been approximately 30 people that he knows of who have been forced out at SRS.