Archive for Thursday, September 21, 2017

State workers at site of shooting had guards, security until Kansas’ privatization push

In this Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 photo, police investigate the shooting of a Kansas Department of Revenue employee in Wichita, Kan. (Fernando Salazar /The Wichita Eagle via AP)

In this Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 photo, police investigate the shooting of a Kansas Department of Revenue employee in Wichita, Kan. (Fernando Salazar /The Wichita Eagle via AP)

September 21, 2017, 2:18 p.m. Updated September 21, 2017, 5:33 p.m.

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— The head of Kansas’ state employees union and a local lawmaker say a push by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to privatize state office space left employees vulnerable during a shooting this week at a Department of Revenue office in Wichita.

The workers were moved three years ago out of the now-vacant Finney Office building, which had guards and security, to a strip mall office that provided no security, The Wichita Eagle reported. On Tuesday, tax compliance officer Cortney Holloway was shot. The suspect, 51-year-old Ricky Todd Wirths of Wichita, owed nearly $400,000 in outstanding tax warrants.

Wirths was charged Thursday with attempted first-degree murder. Holloway was upgraded to fair condition Thursday at a Wichita hospital.

“I think this is ridiculous that we’re allowing guns on college campuses but we’re requiring them and other city buildings to have metal detectors, but then we privatize and we’re allowing just an open house (at the Department of Revenue office),” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat. “It’s a madhouse.”

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the larger Finney building with armed guards likely would have deterred a shooting.

“Somebody would have been, ‘Oh, I don’t think I’m going to get away with this. I’m going to get killed or shot,'” he said.

The department is working to improve security at its offices after the shooting, said Rachel Whitten, a spokeswoman for the state agency and Brownback.

“Instead of engaging in speculation, we are reviewing agency-wide security procedures and policies already in place,” she said. “We have always been mindful of security, and the track record of employee and customer safety with zero incidents up until the unique shooting event involving our KDOR tax agent demonstrates that.”

Whitten said she didn’t know if a security review was done when the tax office moved to its current location, which happened before she and Revenue Secretary Sam Williams came to the agency.

The Brownback administration has sought to cut costs and improve government efficiency by reducing the number of public buildings and renting from private landlords.

Until 2014, the Revenue Department’s tax compliance unit and eight other state agencies were housed at the Finney Building. Employees were protected by armed guards hired for the Department for Children and Families. The building was also the regional headquarters for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

When the Finney building was closed, the security detail went with the Department for Children and Families. The tax compliance officers were moved to a storefront office in a strip mall.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, who wanted to keep state offices in the Finney Building, said it shouldn’t have required a shooting to get a risk assessment done.

“And it should have been done at the time when (Brownback) moved people out of the state office building and moved them all over town and the county,” said Ward, a Democrat who is running for governor.

Comments

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 weeks, 4 days ago

So the Finney Building belongs to the state, but no one was making a profit from it, so Brownback moved them out? A strip mall? Who owns this strip mall. Who is getting our tax dollars?

Bob Summers 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Sponger's in government confiscate a guys livelihood and he gets upset.

Sponger's are shocked.

Priceless.

William Cummings 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Wow. Summers has hit an all time milestone of stupidity, but I guess that it is no surprise. He evidently thinks that it is OK to shoot government employees when they enforce the law.

Susan Mayfield 3 weeks, 3 days ago

He owed SALES TAX from what I understand. He charged the sales tax to his customers then did not pay the state but pocketed it. So he committed fraud on his customers as well.

Ray Mizumura 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Doesn't surprise me at all. If this is true, he's the kind of guy that is hailed as a smart patriot these days. He cheats on taxes, he games the free enterprise system, and he commits violence against state employees. Kobach will probably consider him for a job if he wins the Governor's office. Trump will probably pardon the hero if he gets convicted.

Paul Youk 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Bob also seems to be implying that if you get upset about your taxes, shooting government employees that work for tax agencies is perfectly reasonable.

Irony is that they weren't even his taxes--they were sale taxes his customers paid. I get that Ayn Rand style idiocy has poisoned enough American minds that people think that infrastructure, essential services, police and fire departments, etc., are "theft"(even though, in this case, the business owner was the theif), but its rare to see someone affected by such idiocy be so honestly permissive about the use of violence as a potential solution to these imaginary problems.

Cille King 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Is it really more efficient to put a profit-making aspect to doing the government business? I'd like my taxes to be as low as possible - while still maintaining effective and efficient tax collection, business records, election data, health and human services, prisons, public safety, transportation, courts, education, environmental protection, and all the other services that we rely on for shared communities. Investment in our people and infrastructure is just that - an investment.

Richard Heckler 3 weeks, 3 days ago

How much more did this cost the taxpayers?

Is the strip mall owner a contributor to the Brownback political campaign or any other conservative political campaign?

"The Brownback administration has sought to cut costs and improve government efficiency by reducing the number of public buildings and renting from private landlords.

Until 2014, the Revenue Department’s tax compliance unit and eight other state agencies were housed at the Finney Building. Employees were protected by armed guards hired for the Department for Children and Families. The building was also the regional headquarters for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

When the Finney building was closed, the security detail went with the Department for Children and Families. The tax compliance officers were moved to a storefront office in a strip mall."

How much did it cost to set up the new location as opposed to continue using the state owned Finney building?

Radical conservatives have never been about lower taxes or tax dollar spending though this talk is always in their rhetoric.

Privatization is all about the private banks accounts of campaign contributors.

Larry Sturm 3 weeks, 3 days ago

I put the blame directly on Brownback and the GOP legislature for passing unsafe gun laws and privatizing government offices with no security. and costing the taxpayers more. Time for Brownback and company to leave.

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