Archive for Friday, January 27, 2012

KBA restart

Although a forensic audit revealed some past problems at the Kansas Bioscience Authority, it also may give the KBA a fresh start.

January 27, 2012


Now that the forensic audit of the Kansas Bioscience Authority and its former president and chief executive officer has been completed, it is time for a fresh start for the KBA.

The audit exposed the phoniness and deceit of former KBA President Tom Thornton and the unwillingness of KBA directors to blow the whistle on him. Some directors were negligent for not speaking up while others were wrong in covering up for the leader and his actions and policies.

The audit reported Thornton engaged in document destruction and numerous other ethical violations, as well as other highly questionable actions. All of this time, his directors were singing his praises, defending his actions and ridiculing those who questioned his work.

The results vindicate Gov. Sam Brownback’s call for the audit, as well as the effort of Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, to expose Thornton’s wrongdoing. Without the audit, chances are, Thornton still would be KBA president and his supportive board members would be riding high, engaged in questionable, if not illegal or unethical actions.

Unfortunately, the audit only tells half the story of Thornton’s role in the KBA, leaving out how partisan politics entered the picture and brought about substantial changes in the way the KBA operated and used millions of dollars intended to improve the Kansas economy.

The authority was created by the Kansas Legislature in 2004. During its first several years, new businesses and industries were attracted to the state, and existing businesses expanded. It is estimated that, in the first several years, those businesses encouraged to come to the state or expand their operations with KBA assistance now employ about 3,500 people.

The KBA operation was a success in every respect. In fact, it was so successful that then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and her insiders realized they wanted to be part of the operation, hook their star to KBA and take control. That’s when Thornton and several directors started to play hardball politics. They and Sebelius finessed the removal of then-Chairman Clay Blair, who had been so successful in guiding the KBA in its startup and in recruiting new business and industry to the state. Thornton, Sebelius and others have tried to claim credit for attracting the highly prized National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to Manhattan and Kansas State University, but it was under Blair’s leadership that the effort was organized and launched. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts also played an extremely important role.

The KBA is a unique creation of former state Rep. Kenny Wilk and former state Sen. Nick Jordan. It has great potential, but it has been severely damaged and handicapped by the efforts of Thornton and Sebelius to inject their own egos, self interests and political aspirations into the operation.

The state and its taxpayers deserve better. It’s good Brownback has called for more oversight, holding back funds until there is evidence the KBA has gotten its house in order. Changes must be made so the authority can resume its intended position as a highly respected, nonpartisan body that can help Kansas grow through bioscience research, innovation and commercialization.

There is every reason to be optimistic about the future if the KBA can regain the respect and performance record it enjoyed before it became a political football. Merely handing out gifts or grants of millions of dollars may win friends and admirers, but far more effort needs to be devoted to the hard work of attracting new businesses to Kansas from throughout the country and abroad.


Phillbert 5 years, 10 months ago

I can't decide which is more hilarious: That Dolph decries political influence while praising a witchhunt whose sole purpose is to give politicians control over the KBA, or that he holds up his good friend Clay Blair as a paragon of virtue.

The audit found no problems with how the KBA makes its grants based on merit, yet the now-departed Thorton's misdeeds will be used by the governor and his allies like Wagle to take it over and make it a purely political agency.

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 10 months ago

One thing I have learned about politicians is that they tend to be very vindictive.

In this case, the governor had no qualms about spending $1 million of tax payer money unnecessarily in a sensationalized witch hunt in order to get back at his opponents, in this case, a shot at a former Governor.

Of course, Dolph is all in on it.

Who do you trust when it comes time to vote.

Certainly not the writer of this editorial.

cato_the_elder 5 years, 10 months ago

On the subject of bioscience, sixteen prominent scientists have signed a detailed statement debunking global warming:

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

There's absolutely nothing new in here-- just the same ole grasping for any scrap of doubt to push a political agenda.

Not to mention that it has absolutely nothing to do with the KBA. How did you make the apparently random choice to attach this POS to this article?

cato_the_elder 5 years, 10 months ago

I stated that it had to do with bioscience, Bozo, just as the column does.

It took me a while to figure out why the standard abbreviation for "point of sale" was in your typically vapid response, but then it came to me. The sixteen internationally eminent scientists who signed this statement are hardly worthy of your exceedingly vulgar reference.

Bob Reinsch 5 years, 10 months ago

If you take away the scientists that have or are currently receiving funding from energy companies, how many do you have left?

cato_the_elder 5 years, 10 months ago

Why don't you tell us. Be my guest. Please offer proof that is conclusive, not the kind of bogus "proof" that, for example, allegedly supports anthropogenic "global warming."

quetzal 5 years, 10 months ago

Not surprising that Dolph calls out misguided politics in this article, when that is EXACTLY what his role has been in all this. Dolph and his buddies have been championing the effort of a Brownback takeover of the KBA long before this investigation got started. In fact, this was the reason it all came to be from the beginning. Tactic: Throw out baseless attacks on the KBA and its leader and claim them to be "concerning" and "troublesome." Then call for a forensic audit, that no doubt $1 million spent would find something, in this case $4,600 in expenses by Thornton that have been paid back. Next up - blame the board and manipulate the findings of the audit to have reason to go in and take control, because that is just what Kansas needs - for the Gov and his friends to be controlling an independent bioscience agency. I predict Brownback friendly appointments coming forward to take over the KBA Board. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Dolph and his friend Blair were put back on the board. Political manipulation at its best. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

WilburM 5 years, 10 months ago

+1 To say nothing of the criticism over the KBA's allegedly palatial building, which was planned and begun during the Blair (sic) administration.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 10 months ago

From the audit, how Tom Thornton was hired:

Interviews of these five candidates were conducted in Kansas City on May 1 – 3, 2006 by KBA Directors Clay Blair, Dolph Simons, Jr. and Bill Sanford, all members of the Search Committee as well as the Executive Committee. Messrs. Blair, Simons and Sanford narrowed the five candidates to the final two, Tom Thornton and Mark Wdowik. Additional interviews of Thornton and Wdowik took place on May 25, 2006 in Washington, D.C. with Directors David Franz, Dan Glickman and Clay Blair. Mr. Blair indicated that Director Jim Barone interviewed Thornton during the process as well


Incredible 5 years, 10 months ago

The Legislature would be doing Kansas taxpayers a big favor if they would dig a little deeper to see what connection there is between Thornton and the fact that Manhattan was selected for the site of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF).

Bradley Kemp 5 years, 10 months ago

The connection? The connection is that Thorton is largely responsible for the state's having been selected as the site of the facility. Not wholly responsible but largely. Think what you will about putting the facility here, but the decision to do it is widely viewed as one of the state's biggest recent accomplishments -- and we successfully drove away the guy who deserves at least as much of the thanks as any other person, including Sen. Roberts.

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