Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Faulty SRS plan

As the cost-saving justifications for closing the Lawrence SRS office crumble away, state officials should admit their mistake and revisit their decision.

July 27, 2011


It is becoming increasingly apparent that officials of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services hadn’t done their homework before deciding to close the Lawrence SRS office.

Secretary Rob Seidlecki and his staff owe it to Lawrence and the state to revisit that decision based on real, accurate figures of how much the closing will save the state.

Several pieces of information that have come to light in the last several days should call into question Seidlecki’s leadership and competence as the SRS chief.

• On Monday, the Journal-World obtained a memo from a Kansas City SRS official indicating that Lawrence SRS workers could not be transferred to the Topeka office because it would be unmanageable to have staff members from the Kansas City SRS district working in an office in the Topeka SRS district. On Tuesday, another Kansas City SRS official sent another memo saying Topeka was still an option for displaced Lawrence staff members. However, according to yet another SRS spokeswoman, this one in Topeka, the question of whether Lawrence cases could be transferred to Topeka “is still undergoing review.”

Now it looks as if Lawrence workers can move to Topeka but, if they do, they may not be able to take their Lawrence cases with them. So who will handle those cases? Apparently Seidlecki didn’t even talk to his own staff people enough before announcing the Lawrence closure to figure out how this part of the transition would work.

• About half of the $400,000 the state SRS office said it would save from closing the Lawrence office was federal reimbursement funding that now will be lost, so the state savings is down to about $200,000. An SRS spokeswoman tried to soften that blow by saying, “It’s all taxpayer money, so we are saving money.” Yes, it is federal taxpayer money, some of which came from Kansas taxpayers, that now will go to states other than Kansas where it was supporting a key SRS office in Lawrence.

• State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, points out that while Seidlecki is closing SRS offices across the state on the pretext of cutting administrative costs, he has created several new high-level administrative positions on his own staff. The salaries for the people filling new positions for a chief of staff and a deputy secretary handling faith-based initiatives alone add up to just under $200,000 — the entire amount that it now appears will be saved by closing the Lawrence office.

• Among the greatest local concerns about closing the Lawrence office is how to provide SRS coverage for child-in-need-of-care cases. Although state officials have offered assurances that those workers would be available whenever needed, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson reported at a recent public meeting that the state SRS office had no plan for how that would be accomplished.

In addition to all of these factors, uncertainty remains about whether the state will be able to break its lease on two buildings at 19th and Delaware streets. State SRS officials say their attorneys have told them that a “financial hardship” clause in the lease will allow them to break it. However, even if that is the case, that clause may be overridden by a four-year “guaranteed lease period” that won’t run out until December 2012.

Local government or nonprofit entities may be willing to offer money or other benefits as part of a negotiation to save the local SRS office, but the inept handling of this matter by state officials raises questions about whether local taxpayers should offer such a bailout.

The better option would be for Gov. Sam Brownback and Seidlecki to simply admit that the decision to close the Lawrence office was based on faulty and incomplete information and should be reversed.


none2 5 years ago

Do we know that they didn't do their homework? What if their homework was not about saving money, but penalizing parts of the state that do not support Radical Republicans?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Or maybe their homework indicated that the Lawrence office had higher rates of fraud. Or maybe their homework indicated that the Lawrence office used services at a higher rate than might be expected for a city the size of Lawrence (suggesting that while serving eligible people, Lawrence was less reliant on private organizations). And therefore the closure was intended to encourage Lawrence to behave more like other cities. Or maybe.... Or maybe.

chootspa 5 years ago

Those reasons should have been listed upfront if they were indeed factors. Instead, we got something about saving money on the lease that it turns out they probably can't break and proximity to other offices.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

"penalizing parts of the state that do not support Radical Republicans"

This part is probably true, but we are going to do our best to make them own up to it.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

You might be correct. But your explanation doesn't explain all the other closures throughout the state. What's your reasoning for those closures?

Scott Drummond 5 years ago

The mob boys want their money and the right wingers have to do what it takes to keep their knees from being broken, or worse, ending up in several pieces of a Wichita oil pipeline?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

A monkey, a typewriter and an unlimited amount of time and you get: "The mob boys want to keep their money and the right wingers have to do what it takes to keep their knees from being broken, or worse, ending up in several pieces of a Wichita oil pipeline?"

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

" But your explanation doesn't explain all the other closures throughout the state."

As a cover for all the apologists for the closing of the Lawrence office.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

What was the number of closures, nine? They would close eight other offices in Republican districts, causing hardships there, just as a cover to close this one office? That just doesn't sound right.

aryastark1984 5 years ago

Oh, they don't care about poor people in any of the counties, Republican or not. Closing the Lawrence office was just icing on the cake.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Of course, If they had targeted the office in Wyandotte Co., then they would have been going after an even larger office in a heavily Democratic county. By your logic, that should have been their target. I'm not saying you're wrong, but I'm not convinced you're correct either. And all those other closures, in heavily Republican counties?

Scott Drummond 5 years ago

Lawrence has largely been converted in to a western Johnson County in the last generation. The pick up of Douglas County is a far easier target.

couldBmeorU 5 years ago

I soooooo agree scott! Just the JoCo car tags are enough for this homemade Hawker to cringe.MY Vehicle is a 1999 and I get flipped off for pulling into Gas Pumps before a 2011 make/model STUCK UP Hurry Worry REbpigs,Sorry I have heard soo much about all this .In 1990/1998 We were still A liberal cultural and outstanding city sitting under the radar,I wish for the old days when we embraced our less fortunate and had pride in this free state .Oh well I hope ya all forgive, don't take offense but,Someday it may U

LH3867 5 years ago

Great editorial. These are the facts we, the taxpayers of Kansas, need. God knows we are not getting them from Brownback and his sidekick. Thank you. It's time for a BIG change in Kansas. We cannot tolerate any more of the politics this administration brings. Move on already. We all know there are bigger political aspirations and all the Brownback cronies think they will be in Washington. At this rate - they will all be going somewhere much warmer.

lunacydetector 5 years ago

the jw's lease 'controversy' is poppycock. 'subject to fiscal necessity' trumps 'guaranteed four year lease period'

Cait McKnelly 5 years ago

So, your law degree came from what Cracker Jack box?

deec 5 years ago

Like. He keeps flinging pooh, but none of it sticks. Refuses to acknowledge that the addendum postdates the original lease. Tried to say a law that only applies to municipalities applies to the state, etc.

lunacydetector 5 years ago

an amendment is a change after the fact so the post date is all make much ado about nothing. ignorance is bliss.

deec 5 years ago

I think the judge will decide differently when Schwada sues. So by your logic, if someone rents an apartment for $200/month, and when they renew their lease, the rent is raised to $400/month, they actually only have to pay $200/month because that is on the original document? Oh, and why have you quit claiming the Cash Basis Law governs the lease?

jafs 5 years ago

It would depend on how "fiscal necessity" is defined and interpreted.

Since we have money to pay all of the new administrative positions, it's hard to make the case that we couldn't have afforded the rent, since the figures are virtually identical.

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

STANDING OVATION!!!! (((((((((clapping))))))))))

Phillbert 5 years ago

Good thing the LJW told everyone to vote a straight Republican ballot in the last election. Otherwise what else would it have to write about?

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

Go Get 'em Paul!!! By Tim Carpenter Copyright 2011 . All rights reserved. THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

Confusion about personnel and financial ramifications of consolidating offices of the state's social welfare agency continued Tuesday to plague a process driven by a legislative mandate to cut costs.

Officials at the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services confirmed a memorandum distributed to about 85 agency employees in the likely-to-be-closed Lawrence service center mistakenly declared none would be eligible for transfer to the Topeka office of SRS.

Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for SRS, said a central office staff member transmitted an "unauthorized" document declaring Lawrence staff members could only make themselves available for jobs in the agency's offices in the Kansas City area.

That ran counter to previous comments by SRS officials suggesting transfers would be considered statewide as consolidation progressed.

"The Topeka office remains an option," De Rocha said. "There is no ban."

SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki, hired by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, said merger of nine local offices was necessary due to action by the 2011 Legislature requiring a $1 million reduction in administrative expenditures.

However, budget projections from SRS tied to shutting down local offices were challenged by legislators in the Democratic Party who also questioned whether consolidation represented good public policy.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said SRS officials' statements didn’t properly account for the loss of $200,000 in federal funding triggered by closure of the Lawrence SRS office. That reality would significantly diminish touted savings to the state of $433,000, he said.

Davis also suggested cancellation of an office building lease in Lawrence might not accurately be included in projected savings because of how the state divided SRS administrative expenditures.

"The numbers don't work out," Davis said.

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

(CJ Online Article Cont.)

De Rocha said $590,000 initially presented by SRS to be saved by consolidating the local offices was incorrect because the transition couldn't be completed immediately upon start of the fiscal year July 1. That reduced savings in the initial year of the plan to about $410,000, she said.

The difference will have to be made up by rollbacks in other areas of the SRS budget, she said.

Another point of contention centers on whether SRS' central office reorganization under Siedlecki had, so far, resulted in higher overall spending on administrative personnel.

On Tuesday, SRS produced a chart suggesting administration payroll had been cut $116,000 below the level when Democrats controlled the agency last year under Gov. Mark Parkinson.

Davis countered with a spreadsheet indicating SRS' payroll for top staff was $386,000 larger than when managed by Parkinson's secretary. He said his summary of expenditures under the six-month leadership of Siedlecki was prepared by the Kansas Legislature's nonpartisan research staff.

"It was meaningless information," De Rocha replied. "It's not accurate."

She accused Democrats of massaging statistics in an attempt to discredit Republican officials at SRS.

"We didn't do anything with the numbers," Davis said.

The House Democratic leader said SRS central administration shouldn’t be immune to budget cutting required at the agency's satellite offices.

Both sides agreed Siedlecki created new positions in the SRS hierarchy, including the hiring of Anna Pilato as deputy secretary for strategic development and faith-based and community initiatives at a salary of $97,500.

Chief of staff Jeff Kahrs is earning $100,000 in that new position. Steve Ashcraft, the new director of state hospital coordination, was added for $70,000. Siedlecki earns $115,000, about $2,200 more than his predecessor.

Davis said he remained concerned about loss of SRS personnel and facilities in Lawrence, which typically serves more than 25,000 walk-in clients annually.

He said SRS defended closure by noting Lawrence consumers had access to computers at the public library to apply for aid or could take advantage of a quality highway system leading to agency offices in Topeka, Ottawa and Kansas City.

"The argument SRS consumers in Lawrence should get in their cars and drive to a surrounding city ignores who these people are," Davis said. "Some do not have access to transportation."

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

I especially like this part .. "Both sides agreed Siedlecki created new positions in the SRS hierarchy, including the hiring of Anna Pilato as deputy secretary for strategic development and faith-based and community initiatives at a salary of $97,500."

Cait McKnelly 5 years ago

Interesting to see the Capitol Journal jumping into the fray. I doubt, however, that the Wichita Eagle will touch it with a ten foot cattle prod.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years ago

Dear Ms. De Rocha -- perhaps you should tag out and let the former "reporter" Ms. Whitten have another crack at it.

Dear Mr. Siedlecki -- looks like you're going to need to hire a third PR person. The one you hired from the Bush administration to "augment" the one you hired from isn't working out.

It is unprecedented to see a state agency prepare information for the legislature's research division and then try to claim the information is false. The legislature's research division has but one source of information -- the state agency.

SRS giveth, so SRS cannot taketh away.

chootspa 5 years ago

Facts have a known liberal bias. They'll be immediately asked to resign and replaced with facts from Florida.

chootspa 5 years ago

Good editorial. Too bad Brownback is more likely to just double down on the incompetence than admit he made a mistake. Look at the "saving taxpayer money" spin his office already tried to put on it.

Orwell 5 years ago

Exactly. The federal dollars we lose won't be "saved" at all – they'll just be spent in some other state where the legislature is a tad less malicious.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Our state is being run by a bunch of incompetent, right-wing driven buffons. To those of you who voted for Brownback, all I can say is "you get what you pay for."

concerned_kansan 5 years ago

Don Jordan and Tanya Keys were paid to cover up what was going on in the SRS agencies and all of their regions. Jordan was aware that there was falsifcation of documents to illegaly remove children and place them in the custody of the state to receive federal funds (only problem was - how they did it - not following the requirements - the children weren't eligible for federal funding and the Kansas tax payer had to pay - out of the general fund - for the crimes against the children and families)....By the way - the legislators were also aware this was going on - Better to have a higher paid Secretary of SRS and staff that doesn't allow vioaltions of law and the stealing of children - less cost to the state and tax payer - less pain and trauma to the children and parents. I'm all for the higher pay if the laws, regs, policies, procedures and guidelines are followed... If they aren't - then maybe Paul Davis needs to be apprised of what is being done - that old policies haven't been fixed........I'm sure he would run with it...............

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

No one has any problem with eliminating fraud. But eliminate real fraud, not imagined fraud. And eliminating the Lawrence office is not a good way to do that.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

Think of how much easier fraud will get when "welfare kings and queens" are using computers to access services.

lunacydetector 5 years ago

s.r.s. closes their lawrence office, the homeless move out of town. news at 11

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

Maybe. But to where? Will they be any less homeless? Do you have a final solution for those who aren't?

Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

It takes lunacy to detect lunacy. I guess you missed the recent NEWSFLASH . They are already in the process of building a new homeless shelter. I'm guessing your projections, like that of the SRS officials, could be a bit unfounded and uneducated, either way it goes!

notanota 4 years, 12 months ago

Don't worry. If that actually happened, we'd soon have replacements. They'll be replaced by the disabled people, foster children, recently jobless, and families without cars that made up the actual SRS clientele.

Alceste 5 years ago

concerned_kansan noted: "Don Jordan and Tanya Keys were paid to cover up what was going on in the SRS agencies and all of their regions. Jordan was aware that there was falsifcation of documents to illegaly remove children and place them in the custody of the state to receive federal funds (only problem was - how they did it - not following the requirements - the children weren't eligible for federal funding and the Kansas tax payer had to pay - out of the general fund - for the crimes against the children and families)...." and earlier had noted:

"Ask Rep Paul Davis about the findings of the KS Post Legislative Audits - falsifications of documents to wrongfully remove childlren - the cost for those children coming out of the general budget. And Guess what - the outcome of foster care is such that these children become adults that are still a drain on the tax payer."

concerned_kansan is stating fact with respect to the fraud being perpetrated on the families of the state of Kansas by SRS in the past relative to how children are torn from their caretakers and placed in a disgusting process of foster care drift to fill the coffers of our good friend B. Wayne Sims and the Dante's Inferno place known as Kaw Valley Center here in Kansas thanks to the privitization of foster care services in Kansas.

The facts have been out for almost four years that Kansas has been and continues to destroy families and the future of children in the way it "does business". These facts were all outlined by Richard Wexler and the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform's report:


Why Kansas Child Welfare is Broken – and ^ Ten Ways to Fix It

which may be read here:

How quickly we forget and take our eye off the ball.....if it ever was on the ball. All this caterwallering when, in the final analysis, it has nothing to do about children and everything to do about "ME FIRST!!!". Incredible....well....sort of.... is a press release that needs to be re-read.

Here's a reminder when that woman SEBELIUS was the Gov. and quoting from the press release noted above: "NCCPR also has joined Citizens for Change in calling on the federal Administration for Children and Families to investigate whether Jordan’s statements indicate that Kansas is violating federal law or regulations, though he warned that this same federal agency has ignored Kansas’ evasion of federal regulations concerning reporting the number of children taken from their parents." (cont.):

Alceste 5 years ago

(cont.): SEBELIUS is now in Washington and "leading" HHS!!! Now, don't get Alceste all wrong: Brownback and company which includes his puppet from Florida and these "faith based" mumbo jumbo bible thumbing mess over little kids bullbutters ain't going to be any different from the fraud Jordan was putting down. And as for the Fed's....that is Health and Human Services compelling Kansas to follow the rules and regulations.....who is it that is head of HHS in Washington now??? shrug

George Lippencott 5 years ago

Interesting. If I follow the logic here we could never cut services to anybody (in favor). If the feds reduce funding then we expect the state to pick up the loss. If the state cuts something then it becomes a local responsibility. What is wrong with setting priorities and simply not funding something that does not make the cut?? If we cut SRS offices should we not expect the funds for the avoided costs to be redirected to something else like maybe K-12 education?

Let’s face it, Kansas does not have all the money we would like and it must (unlike the feds) balance the budget. We have already raised taxes and cut services. Nobody seems interested in taxing the wealthy!!! That does not leave a lot of options. We cut SRS or education or health or what?? Maybe my “renters” tax looks good at this junction??

Alceste 4 years, 12 months ago

Problems do exist here- problems that have been ignored for a long time - Now it's time to pay the piper thru budget cuts. Ask your legislators why they have allowed children to be stolen by SRS in the previous administrations - and by the way - since the judges DON"T follow the law - you as a tax payer are paying for the children - no matching dollars from the federal govenrment - there are requirements that have to be met by law for the children to be eligible for federal funding- the judges aren't meeting those requirements and the legislators are writing laws that don't require it. Ask Rep Paul Davis about the findings of the KS Post Legislative Audits - falsifications of documents to wrongfully remove childlren - the cost for those children coming out of the general budget. And Guess what - the outcome of foster care is such that these children become adults that are still a drain on the tax payer.


Lana Christie-Hayes 5 years ago

"Maybe my “renters” tax looks good at this junction??" yep!

JayhawkFan1985 5 years ago

I am not a fan of Governor Brownback. However, if he reverses course on the decision to close the Lawrence SRS office, I would applaud the strength of character that would take. It takes a strong person to admit when a mistake has been made and then correct that mistake. Weak people offer more and more excuses and try harder and harder to justify what they did. This is why I doubt the office will remain open. Brownback has surrounded himself with "groupthink" type people. "None of us is as dumb as all of us."

notanota 4 years, 12 months ago

Yes, this. He didn't man up and admit his mistake with arts funding, so I really doubt he'll do it here. He's such an a$$.

deec 5 years ago

Actual facts to ponder, rather than hyperbole: "Type of Household. 32 percent of our food assistance cases are composed of 1 adult with children. 11 percent are two parent households with children. 5 percent are other family situations with children. The elderly and disabled make up 32 percent of the caseload and other kinds of cases with no children make up 20 percent. The average household size of a food assistance case is 2 persons." Caseload Growth. The food assistance caseload in Kansas has steadily increased over the last 7 years to 187,029 recipients in July 2008. Approximately 65% of estimated eligible persons receive Food Assistance. There are no death panels except in the fevered imaginations of teapartiers and fox "news" vviewers.

George Lippencott 5 years ago

And this proves what? That there are people who need assistance. Not an issue. It does not answer the question as to those who can work and do not. It does not address that US gov data that shows that only about 3% of the poor are actually deprived of food (before assistance).

We need assistance. We need personal responsibility. We need to make sure that a LACK OF THE LATTER Does NOT limit the former. Is an SRS office in Lawrence desirable - you betcha. Is one in almost every town desirable - you betcha. Can we afford all of that - No - not without depriving hard working people of the fruits of their labors and reducing them to little more than what we provide on public assistance.. Not without liniting money for education and health care. Where is the balance? What are the priorities? More is not a useful argument.

George Lippencott 4 years, 12 months ago

Not bad- good ideas. Perhaps the only way to actually have a discussion about the social safety net is to cut it in order to get the attention of those who blindly support the status qua.

Alceste 4 years, 12 months ago

But, by golly.....we sure got a lot of driver's license outfits in this state! We love our cars and our driving! Hungry little kids are a distant....if even.....2nd......

Alceste 4 years, 12 months ago

104 out of 105 counties in Kansas offer some sort of driver's license and/or ID card service. On the map below the countiesin blue represent those where there is a full service station, and the counties in green represent those where there is a limited servicestation. In some Counties we have both. Click on a county for more details about the services they offer, and days they are available.

Why does the state of Kansas need 104 out of 105 counties with a driver's license operation?

notanota 4 years, 12 months ago

I prefer starting conversations with lines from Dickens novels instead of reenacting them.

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