Archive for Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kansas ag secretary blasts KBA board of directors

January 26, 2012, 4:01 p.m. Updated January 26, 2012, 11:59 p.m.


— A key member of Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration said Thursday that the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s board of directors shared some of the blame for problems identified in a forensic audit of the agency, including questions about the spending decisions of its former CEO.

Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman, a leading figure in the administration on audits, told legislators that issues about spending and perceived conflicts of interest resulted from a lax board.

“If the board had done its job we wouldn’t be here today,” said Rodman, a Brownback appointee who spent 37 years working in management for Cargill Inc.

The audit by BKD Forensic and Valuation Services released Monday found issues with the KBA’s operation, including the activities of its former president and CEO Tom Thornton. Rodman said the KBA’s spending on overhead and what he called inflated figures on job creation were troubling.

He said figures in the audit show that the KBA invested $200,000 per job created before Thornton became CEO, but jumped to $700,000 per job during his tenure. There also questions raised about the $18 million investment in an office building in Olathe to house the KBA, which is also used by tenant companies in what is frequently called an incubator facility as the companies grow.

The chairman of the authority’s board, Dan Watkins, who hasn’t been asked yet by legislators to speak on the record about the audit, took exception with Rodman’s comments.

“He’s impugning the integrity and ethics of a good group of people, and it’s apparent that he and I read different audit reports,” Watkins said. “I think it’s obvious that the governor’s pursuing a scorched, you know, take-no-prisoners approach until he has control of the operations and the investments of the KBA.”

Watkins is a Lawrence Democrat who was appointed to the board by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. His term expires in March 2015.

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the governor’s spokeswoman, responded to Watkins’ statement, suggesting the issue with the board was financial, not political.

“It’s troubling to see that the KBA spent more than $700,000 per job it ‘created’ while Tom Thornton was its CEO,” she said. “Clearly the audit shows that those who said they had no concerns about Tom Thornton were wrong. It is in every Kansan’s interest in seeing that taxpayer money is well-spent and Kansas laws are upheld.”

Brownback has two political associates on the board already, Commerce Secretary Pat George and Kenny Wilk, a member of the Board of Regents and member of the governor’s transition team.

Wilk, a non-voting member of the KBA board, is a former Republican state House member who helped write the Kansas Economic Growth Act with Nick Jordan, a former Republican state senator and Brownback’s secretary of revenue.

The governor will have two more appointments this spring with the expirations of terms by former Gov. John Carlin and Sandra Lawrence.

Auditors were asked to probe how the authority was making its investments, potential conflicts of interest, personnel decisions and how job creation figures were determined. The KBA’s purpose is to distribute millions in state tax dollars to emerging bioscience companies.

The audit concluded that the KBA had policies in place to safeguard its investments, but did suggest that there may have been the appearance of conflict of interest over two financial commitments by the board to organizations involving two members.

Other findings found fault with Thornton’s management style, his destruction of documents on his state-owned laptop and misuse of some $4,700 in KBA funds, which he later repaid. Rodman said the audit suggests that “intellectual property” of the KBA was taken by Thornton to his new job with the Cleveland Clinic

Legislators from three committees spent three days reviewing the audit and asking questions. Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Susan Wagle, whose committee’s hearings in 2011 led to the audit, said more hearings would be held in the coming weeks.

“This is to be continued,” said the Wichita Republican.

Legislators also have been critical of expenses related to the KBA’s involvement with the state’s winning bid for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The Department of Homeland Security awarded the state the project to be built in Manhattan to conduct research on deadly plant and animal pathogens.


tolawdjk 6 years, 4 months ago

Here's the smoke and mirrors to repoint the 1 million dollar audit that found $5000 dollars of inappropriate purchases.

haggisgirl 6 years, 4 months ago

Well, Rodman and Brownback have to blame someone since they were the ones dictating the scope of the audit. If they didn't like the results, they have no one to look to but themselves.

Liza Pehrson 6 years, 4 months ago

From a previous article in the J-World, it sounded like the audit didn't produce anything horrible. . . so now B-back's folks are just fishing. . .?

Joe Blackford II 6 years, 4 months ago

The audit found ~ 100 KBA contracts improperly award. The KBA's "expert' on agro-terrorism advised the KBA to award his company $200K & then recused himself from voting on the award = meeting KBA "ethics."

Many of you have a very positive outlook on a man who took > $1 Million in salary in just a few short years; while he connected friends w/ideas to our money. I looked up a KBA awarded company (2009); only to find they'd already been bought up a couple times over. Still no product on the medical shelves. One has to wonder IF that money is still with the remaining entities in Kansas; or was it stripped off during one of the friendly takeovers?

Thornton has been lining his pockets with pharma payola since his days as a staffer with Denny Hastert; only the KBA more than doubled what he would have got from the House Speaker:

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s perk costs taxpayers $1 million

Frist and Hastert Let Vaccine Industry Write Its Own Multi-Billion Dollar Giveaway

Thorton & KBA's Executive Committee Director/ DHS Homeland Security Science & Technology Advisory Commitee/ NIH Dual Use Research Committee/US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases Commander Col/Dr. David R. Franz had to have had intimate knowledge (advised the pharma drafters what would "hide & fly") of this late night rider giving carte blanche to the vaccine industry while Dr. Bruce Ivins, USAMRIID scientist of 19 years, aka the Anthrax Mailer, had been slaving away on a less-toxic vaccine so that soldiers wouldn't balk over the dangers (real & imagined, recall Desert Storm?).

Thornton was working with a company developing a new Anthrax vaccine AT THE SAME TIME HE WAS CEO OF THE KBA. Read that again.

Joe Blackford II 6 years, 4 months ago

I don't care what the audit found ethical. I'm mad as **** that this group of cronies plotted to land their next little hazardous lab here in my state.

My ancestors brought the first steam-powered thresher West of the Mississippi to Mulvane, KS, in the 1880s. Do you have such a connection to KS agriculture? Or are you just here to hope the KBA spews enough jobs off that your sales tax can drop to 5.3%?

There IS a 70% chance (read sure-thing) that the NBAF will leak Foot & Mouth Disease, 2018-68. That will cost $5 Billion in 2010 $. What do you suppose the cost will be in 2025? Who will pay for it? FEMA?

I can turn a blind eye to the KBA bankrolling pie-in-the-sky biotechnology ideas. Just don't risk turning Manhattan into a Pandora's Box suitable for the EPA to name as a SuperFund site.

This lab will only operate as safely as what the KSU USAMRIID Colonels (Franz, Jerry & Nancy K. Jaax; Jerry has been paid >$1 Million as KSU "University Veterinarian") can think of the day it is completed. The day after a mishap, it will need to be new & improved to prevent the same accident from happening again. Never mind its dual use research. The employees for those 50 years will always be the first suspects in any bio-terrorism threat.

DoD has TS-SCI Facilities on islands in the S. Pacific. No one can fly in & land that doesn't have a TS-SCIF clearance. Mostly they're contract-employees monitoring communications. Something as dangerous as Plum Island needs to be located on such an island, where the danger is limited to the inhabitants of the island who are paid to work under such danger.

Is that really that difficult to comprehend?

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 4 months ago

Dale Rodman is an executive with a long history of employment with Cargill which is now the largest privately owned international corporation in the US in terms of revenue. Cargill represents International Agribusiness and they are very active politically.

When we look at Brownbacks associations over his political career I think it is clear who he works for.

Anyone who harbors the idea tha Brownback and the Republicans are somehow protecting our moral traditions is just completely brainwashed.

These folks are not happy unless they completey control and dominate everything in the state of Kansas and they use these resources as they like for their own profit and gratification.

We have to assess the damage that has been done when politiicians literally become salaried employees of wealthy and powerful corporations and we need to ask ourselves if we think that is a good thing for our future.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 4 months ago

Appointing Dale Rodman as Secretary of Agriculture is the same as appointing Cargill to be in charge of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Why would you do that?

I guess because nobody seems to care anymore about where the money goes.

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