Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): October 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Yowsers! Borchers, Basement dwellers, Budget Directors and Loyalty

So, there's a showdown about to go down in T-town. The Topeka Capitol Journal has finally pulled its head out of its collective behind long enough to inquire exactly why Gov. Sam Brownback has SUCH trouble keeping cabinet members. Actually, it's a series of stories in which a reporter attempts to play psychologist. Shorman probably shouldn't quit his day job.

Unfortunately, the Cap-J barely scratches the surface on the reasons, but I suspect those reasons are about to come screaming to the surface. I'll simply say this: in the article, the only person who comes close to full admission of the slow moving train wreck that is Gov. Brownback's cabinet, is a Democrat. 

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said past internal conflict among administration officials could be explained by Kim Borchers. Borchers is currently the deputy chief of staff but for much of the administration served as appointments director.
Ding! Ding! We have a winner. The article makes mention of former cabinet member Rob Siedlicki and Karin Brownlee being summarily given the boot. You can find my take here and here

My take goes something like this: When you board the Brownback train, you sit in your seat and keep your mouth shut. You do not attempt to help read the map or offer suggestions for more direct routes. This is, perhaps, a character flaw in our ambitious Governor. I suspect he likes to be surrounded by 'yes' men and women rather than trusting the judgment of those around him. 

That's what I wrote then. I think I got a small part of that wrong. Gov. Brownback absolutely, with no questions asked, trusts Borchers. If Borchers likes you, you get a seat at the table. In return, you agree to attend Borchers' church and you agree to shut your mouth when and if you disagree with her assessment of anything.

This, by the way, is how we end up with inexperienced youngsters -- one who LIVES with Borchers -- serving as the Governor's deputy communications director. 

Since the dawn of the Brownback Administration, Borchers has served as transition coordinator, appointments coordinator and now, deputy chief of staff.

Steve Anderson, a former Brownback budget director, speaking of the former chief of staff, Dennis Taylor, described it this way in a Facebook post:

"I soon learned that if you were a member of the close circle of friends and campaign volunteers incompetence was overlooked and often rewarded," Anderson wrote.  

I'll be honest: Brownback's unquestioning faith in Borchers, and apparently, Taylor, makes me question some things. Clearly, Borchers has been a major supporter and campaigner for Brownback since the beginning of his political career. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with forming loyalty and friendships in those situations. But it's weird -- really, really weird -- that Brownback seems to take her advice and counsel above and beyond almost anyone elses'. 

There, I said it. I do not mean to imply anything immoral or untoward, but his behavior where Borchers is concerned -- trusting her beyond people with absolute expertise, people he himself appointed for their specific skills -- is not normal human behavior. 

Borchers' experience, other than as a frequent Brownback campaigner, is almost a dozen years as a district manager for a pharmaceutical company. I do not know how that translates into a hiring or appointment expert. But then, this is how we do things. Campaign for the right person, find yourself the lead executive of a state department. Sigh.

It's no big surprise in T-town that Brownback is having trouble finding a Secretary of Commerce.  Anyone with a lick of sense knows it's unwise to trust your professional future to the whims of Friends of Brownback (FOBs).

So the Cap-J series sparked some Facebook tell-all. Well, almost tell-all. I am waiting with baited breath for the rest of it.

Anderson took to his Facebook page after reading one article. In one article, "The Inner Circle," former secretary of administration, Dennis Taylor (FOB), throws Anderson under the bus.

Anderson, for what it's worth, is one of the few former Brownback staffers who actually has professional experience in the area in which they "administrated." Anderson is a CPA.

Taylor says Anderson proposed a budget plan that would have required cutting 2,000 state staffers.

On his Facebook page, Anderson essentially said, um, no. That's not what happened. In his post, Anderson said the plan he presented would have sustained the tax cut without cutting state worker staff.

"I am going to release the document that was given to the Chief of Staff (then, Taylor) and Governor in 2012 after the tax cut passed," Anderson writes. "It includes all the changes needed to sustain the tax cut which did NOT include firing anyone by the way. The Governor at least did me the courtesy of reading it and returning it with a few comments where as the Chief of Staff never commented after tossing the five page document on his desk when it was handed to him."

Anderson writes that Taylor helped hang two fine public servants -- Siedlicki and Brownlee -- out to dry "while Taylor continued to make work misery for his employees while coasting to a retirement paid for by the citizens of Kansas."

That enough, Anderson wrote, would not be enough for him to break his silence on the Brownback administration mess, except "It is clear that this administration intends to raise taxes on citizens in order to cover their lack of management skills in the next session."

That "lack of management skills" is trusting your friends over experts in the field. I guess you can call it a fault of loyalty, if you're a glass half full kind of person.  

But it appears Brownback's loyalty may cost small businesses and Kansans. I've long been upset about how the Kansas Legislature and the Brownback Administraion handled Brownback's plan to eliminate Kansas income taxes. (Remember that slide down the income tax scale to zero? We're still waiting, and it looks like we're going to just have to keep waiting.)

I long said spending cuts should have been made BEFORE lowering income taxes. Of course, that would have required the possibility of upsetting someone. So budget cuts never happened. In fact, many departments got to spend even more. (This is rarely if ever reported. We're just supposed to go on believing FOREVER that the sky is falling. Children are suffering. Old people are being tossed off cliffs, etc., etc.)

Anderson writes that he had a plan to make the tax cut work for the long term. The former budget director says he intends to release a document that he gave to Chief of Staff Taylor and the Governor in 2012 -- the year the tax passed.

"It includes all the changes needed to sustain the tax cut which did NOT include firing anyone by the way," Anderson wrote" The Governor at least did me the courtesy of reading it and returning it with a few comments whereas the Chief of Staff never commented after tossing the five page document on his desk when it was handed to him."

Wise, educated readers of this blog, you're going to have to choose which side of the story you believe. I, for one, am inclined to buy what Anderson is selling. I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention that Siedlicki commented on Anderson's post: "I spoke highly of my time in the administration. Shame not everyone did..."

So Siedlicki, who also made kind remarks in the Cap J story isn't saying that Anderson is wrong, just that he isn't loyal to his friends, I suppose.

Here's the thing about loyalty: If your friends require absolute fealty to their opinions with no room for disagreement, they aren't really your friends. This is a lesson our Governor should heed. You should be able to count on your friends to tell you the truth, even when it hurts. And if you find yourself firing people because Taylor and Borchers don't have thick enough skin to handle a debate, maybe Taylor and Borchers aren't actually your friends.

This story has legs friends. Stay tuned. Anderson has yet to release his documents verifying his statements, however I suspect those are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Taylor is sitting pretty at the Kansas Lottery, prepared to eventually collect a full pension from the state of Kansas. And members of the Kansas Legislature are quaking in fear about how they're going to fill anticipated budget shortfalls.

One hot mess coming right up.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Uh. Wut, Johnson County?

Johnson County is doing something really weird.

The county is hosting a free Cyber Security Conference and Expo on Oct. 6, because it's Cyber Safety Month or something.

According to a press release, this is an "annual" event. I'm kind of confused. I'm fairly tuned in to these sorts of things, and I've never heard of the annual Cyber Security Conference and Expo, and I'm baffled at how teaching "the public about staying safe in Cyberspace," as the press release suggests, is the government's job or interest. 

The expo will feature Steve Seigler, the deputy chief information officer for operations for Missouri and Gene Turner. Turner is a certified identity theft risk management specialist who "mixes in some sleight of hand tricks and comedy with his expertise." I'm tempted to go see Turner's presentation, because that sounds hilarious, in a ridiculous way.

Usually, when a government does something like this -- hosts some weird group for some strange purpose -- there's a point. Usually the point is a quiet initiative to spend more taxpayer money on something in the future. For example, a sudden health expo that focuses on exercise will morph into a "need" for more county funded trails or parks. But this cyberspace thing? I am completely lost.

What am I missing? 

Anyway, if you're so inclined the big event is 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 at the county administration building in Olathe. Free registration includes breakfast and lunch, so it may be worth a day just for the free food.