Archive for Friday, June 8, 2012

No charges to be filed in KBA investigation

June 8, 2012

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After an investigation that took longer than a year, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe has decided not to file criminal charges against the Kansas Bioscience Authority or its personnel.

The office had been looking into whether the state-funded authority responsible for growing the bioscience industry misused public funds since receiving complaints in March 2011.

In a written statement on Friday, Howe said his office determined that while expense and credit card policies were in place at the KBA, they weren’t always followed by its management.

“The investigation revealed policy violations related to travel expenses, personal expenses being charged to KBA credit cards, and a lack of supporting documentation for purchases made with KBA credit cards,” the statement read.

The statement identified Tom Thornton, the authority’s former president and CEO, as being in violation of those office policies.

The KBA also hired BKD, LLP, and Meara Welch Browne, PC, to conduct an internal forensic audit of its finances.

In the statement, Howe noted that “violation of office policies does not always equal criminal conduct. Further, the actions of the KBA management and the board of directors directly impacted the ability to charge individuals with criminal acts in that questionable expenditures were approved on several occasions either prior to the expenditure or shortly thereafter. Acquiescence to this behavior makes prosecution of individuals virtually impossible.”

Dan Watkins, a Lawrence attorney and chairman of the KBA’s board of directors, said the authority is continuing to take the recommendations of the forensic auditors seriously and has already implemented some new policies as a result of the audit.

“It’s good to have this process concluded,” Watkins said. “The DA had complete access to the forensic audit and did his own investigation. I’m pleased that we can move on and concentrate on growing the biosciences in Kansas.”

— Higher education reporter Andy Hyland can be reached at 832-6388.

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