Topeka Patti Petersen-Klein is no longer executive director of the Kansas Corporation Commission, but agency officials would not say whether she resigned or was fired.
The commission on Thursday also reversed a decision made last week and opted to seek an external consultant's opinion about various KCC processes that have come into question.
Petersen-Klein's departure comes on the heels of news stories that cited a confidential report in which she criticized the agency as "inefficient and overstaffed."
KCC spokesman Jesse Borjon said today that during a public meeting on Thursday Commissioner Tom Wright made a motion to relieve Petersen-Klein of her duties, but that motion died for lack of a second.
However, on Friday morning, Borjon said Petersen-Klein "is no longer employed by the Kansas Corporation Commission."
The corporation commission is a three-member body that regulates public utilities, the trucking industry, common carriers and the oil and gas industry in Kansas. That group hires the executive director, who supervises the agency staff.
Petersen-Klein was hired as executive director in June 2011. Before that she had served as a staff attorney for the KCC since 2005. She was promoted about the same time that newly elected Gov. Sam Brownback made two new appointments to the three-member commission, Chairman Mark Sievers and Commissioner Shari Feist Albrecht.
In May, a report by an external consultant who was hired to evaluate the agency's operations was leaked to the media. In that report, Petersen-Klein described herself to the consultants as a "clean-up" person whose job was to overhaul the agency and prevent it from causing political problems for Brownback.
She also said that dysfunction at the agency had compelled her to use "Theory X," a management approach that uses rigid control systems to hold employees in line, based on the assumption that they are lazy and unreliable.
Meanwhile, employees described the work environment under Petersen-Klein's management as "hostile," "unhealthy," "combative," "confusing," "closed" and "unproductive."
Many employees suggested the atmosphere would not change unless Petersen-Klein was removed.
The KCC contracted with Gerald E. Johnson and Associates, of Lee's Summit, Mo., for $5,000 to conduct that review.
Last week, following the leak of that report, Commissioner Wright, who was appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, called for a second independent audit to examine Petersen-Klein's allegations further, but his motion died for lack of a second. However, at Thursday's meeting the commissioners agreed to direct the agency's staff to prepare a recommendation on an independent consultant to examine various KCC processes.