Topeka Kansas Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee said Thursday that she was removed from her job by Gov. Sam Brownback, suggesting they disagreed about how well her department has been operating.
Brownback's office announced Brownlee's abrupt departure in a short statement without giving a reason and said Rep. Lana Gordon of Topeka would serve as interim secretary. The statement did not thank Brownlee for her service or highlight accomplishments, something common when even controversial appointees leave voluntarily.
Brownlee told The Associated Press her departure wasn't voluntary and that she didn't sign a resignation letter. She said Caleb Stegall, the governor's chief counsel, told her she was expected to step down.
"I think the governor and I measure performance in different ways," Brownlee said. "It's hard to understand."
Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag declined to discuss the reasons for Brownlee's departure, adding, "It's a personnel matter."
The Department of Labor's most visible job is determining when out-of-work Kansans are eligible for unemployment benefits, distributing those benefits to them and ensuring that they are actively seeking new jobs. The agency also releases monthly reports on unemployment and the state's labor market.
Brownback and Brownlee are both conservative Republicans, and she served in his administration since he became governor in January 2011. In recent months, Brownlee and her supporters have touted her work in reducing the department's administrative expenses and said it was done without sacrificing services.
"I was very, very pleased with what we were able to accomplish," she said. "The governor would have to comment on why he felt it was best that I not continue."
Brownlee, 57, had served in the Senate for 14 years when Brownback, then the incoming governor, named her to be his labor secretary. First elected to the Senate in 1996, she was chairwoman of its Commerce Committee before her appointment to the Cabinet.
Gordon, 62, also a Republican, has served in the House since 2001. She decided against seeking re-election this year. After three federal judges redrew the state's political boundaries in June to ensure equal representation, Gordon was in a district with two other incumbent House members.