TOPEKA – A Democratic leader on Monday decried the appointment of a former Republican Party official to the state’s board of regents.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said that Gov. Sam Brownback’s nomination of Shane Bangerter circumvents state law that allows no more than five members of the nine-member board of regents to be from the same party. Regents oversee programming and finances of state universities.
With Monday’s confirmation of Republican Helen Van Etten, the board had five Republican members.
Bangerter, who was also confirmed Monday, is a former GOP county party official in Ford County who changed parties to become unaffiliated in February, Hensley said. Bangerter said he couldn’t recall the specific date of his party change, but confirmed that it was recent.
“I think he’s got an adult lifetime of service and leadership positions in the Republican Party and I would consider that he is a Republican,” Hensley said. “If we’re not violating the letter of the law, I think we are certainly violating the intent of the law.”
Hensley said it appears the process is a sham.
Bangerter, a lawyer and Dodge County Community College trustee, said that if he and Hensley sat down they’d probably find they have more similar views than Hensley might expect.
Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, said former Gov. Mark Parkinson, a former Republican leader, changed parties shortly before running as a Democrat alongside former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in an election.
“I’m embarrassed that we would call that choice a sham,” King said, responding to Hensley’s remarks.
The Senate confirmation oversight committee, where Hensley is the only Democrat, approved Bangerter’s appointment 5-1.
The committee voted 5-1 to appoint Van Etten, a native of Taiwan who is the chief audiologist for Topeka public schools. She said the state must find ways to streamline its education system and lower costs while protecting it. She also said state finances are tight and that schools must “retool” their programs to offer more technical degrees that reflect the demands of the marketplace.
The board unanimously appointed Ann Brandau Murguia, a Democrat who is executive director of the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association in Kansas City, Kan.