KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The TV cameraman shooting footage of Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins as he was headed into the men's room was the tipping point.
Perkins would speak on his terms.
While other officials from Big 12 schools at their annual meetings discussed the league's future in light of Big Ten expansion talk, Perkins addressed his personal troubles first.
"I couldn't get from one meeting room to the bathroom without someone following me in there," Perkins said.
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Thus the impromptu news conference, less than a week after Perkins sat before another media gathering to take most of the blame for the school's ticket scandal. Tuesday, at the InterContinental Hotel on the Plaza, Perkins spoke only generally about a Lawrence police investigation into a former KU employee's alleged blackmail attempts.
"I think it's very clear that if you take some decent and logical thoughts you can figure out what this is all about," Perkins said. "I hate to use the word, but I'm the victim. I've turned everything over to the police department."
The alleged blackmail centers around a free loan to Perkins of $15,000-$35,000 in exercise equipment from the now-defunct Lenexa-based Medical Outfitters from 2005-09, calling into question whether Perkins had violated Kansas Athletics Inc.'s code of business ethics by accepting such an offer from a vendor.
The code states: "Kansas Athletics personnel may not accept gifts, payments, entertainment, privileges or other favors which might influence future decisions made by Kansas Athletics. All gifts and payments received or disbursements made on behalf of Kansas Athletics must be fully and accurately reflected in Kansas Athletics records."
KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who was visiting alumni across the Atlantic Ocean in London on Tuesday, was unable to respond through KU officials on whether her office was looking into the loan.
Mark Glass, a co-owner of Medical Outfitters, said that Perkins was not expected to pay for the loaned equipment, which he was using at his home to recover from surgery.
Former KU director of sports medicine William Dent told the Topeka Capital-Journal that Glass and fellow co-owner Patrick Carpenter were awarded premium KU men's basketball tickets in exchange for the loan of the exercise equipment. Dent, who was Glass' primary contact in his company's business with KU, threatened to go public with the alleged ticket swap unless he was compensated for the cost of storing the equipment, which he had taken back from Perkins in April 2009 for unknown reasons.
Glass refuted Dent's account of the alleged ticket swap, telling The Star that he and Carpenter went through the Select-a-Seat process like all Williams Fund donors and that their seats were far from premium — near the baseline and high into the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.
Because Perkins receives a portion of his $900,000 salary from state funds, he could also be in violation of a Kansas law that prohibits government employees from accepting gifts. The law states that "no person subject to the provisions of this section shall solicit or accept any gift, economic opportunity, loan, gratuity, special discount or service provided because of such person's official position."
The law states that punishment for a breach of ethics could range from up to a $5,000 fine for the first violation to job termination.
The question of ethics is the latest topic to emerge in a week that many Kansas alums and fans would like to forget. A week ago, KU released a report detailing the results of its two-month independent review of the Williams Fund and the KU ticket office. The report revealed that five former KU employees and a consultant sold nearly 20,000 men's basketball and football tickets worth $1 million to $3 million for personal profit during 2005-10.
Perkins has accepted responsibility for the scam happening under his watch but not for any criminal wrongdoing. A federal investigation into the ticket scam is ongoing.
KU alum Ronald Wasinger, a San Diego resident who considers himself a small-time donor to the Williams Fund, plans to write a letter to Gray-Little expressing his displeasure about the loan. Wasinger, who is on the advisory board of KU's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, has usually given to the academic side and the Williams Fund.
"This year I'm planning to donate it all to the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences," Wasinger said. "They have a strong ethics program in place.
"I work for Sony. I know the type of ethics policy we have. If you receive anything over 50 bucks, you report it to the ethics office. The sense I get, they don't have any of those type of controls in the athletic department, and with the type of money that runs through that place, something needs to be done. It just smells."
After talking about his own troubles, Perkins spent the majority of the 20-minute news conference discussing the future of the Big 12, which is the focus of the meetings.
"What's gone on the last couple of weeks is no way as important as this stuff," Perkins said.
More than the recent controversies.
"To be very honest with you, I wish I could spend more time on it," Perkins said. "I've had some distractions over the last couple of weeks. But I have to get refocused.
"I love this university, this is a great university, a great state, and at the end of the day and I'll do everything humanly possible to do what's right for this university."