Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday said there would be “zero tolerance” if any improprieties are uncovered at the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
Brownback made the comment during his economic summit on the animal health industry held in Manhattan.
The KBA is under investigation by the Johnson County District Attorney’s office, although Brownback and Johnson County officials have refused to say what the probe is about. In addition, the agency is undergoing a detailed audit.
The KBA is funded through tax dollars collected from the payrolls of existing bioscience companies. It is responsible for spending $581 million to lure bioscience companies and research to the state.
During the animal health summit, Wayne Carter, a vice president at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center, said the KBA has been a valuable agency in helping grow research and lure investment.
Carter said the recent controversy surrounding the KBA has been a setback, and he told Brownback the state needs to “make sure we have an organization moving forward.”
Brownback said he supported the mission of the KBA but that he would have zero tolerance of anything untoward or unethical.
“That is a basic Kansas standard,” he said. “My hope is we get through this investigation and start moving this thing on forward.”
Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, held committee hearings during the recently completed legislative session in which she raised allegations of conflicts of interest and complained about salaries of KBA leaders. KBA officials have denied any wrongdoing. The agency’s former leader, Tom Thornton, left in April to work for the Cleveland Clinic.
On animal health in general, Brownback said his goal was for Kansas to be the “global center of the animal health industry ... and we have every potential of doing that.”
He said the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine must increase its national ranking. Others at the summit recommended investing in higher education to produce skilled animal health employees and removing regulatory hurdles.
Brownback also said state leaders must continue to fight to get federal funding of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. He said although the state was chosen as the location for the $651 million biodefense lab, it must continue to work in Congress to get the needed federal funding during tight budget times.
This was Brownback’s fourth economic summit following ones on aviation, tourism and life sciences. His fifth one will be on the defense industry Wednesday in Leavenworth, and one more is planned on renewable energy.