Rodman named to Kansas Bioscience Authority

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday named Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman to the board of an agency set up to nurture bioscience companies.

Rodman was the Republican governor's second appointment to the Kansas Bioscience Authority in recent days. Rodman replaces Sandra Lawrence. Brownback cited Rodman's nearly 50 years of experience in agribusiness as a factor in his appointment, which must be confirmed by the Senate.

"His expertise and his willingness to take on further responsibilities speak volumes about his dedication to serving the people of Kansas," Brownback said. "He will be an asset to the Bioscience Authority and to the state of Kansas."

Officials with the Kansas Bioscience Authority declined to comment on Rodman's appointment.

The Kansas Bioscience Authority was established in 2004. It has come under scrutiny from Brownback and other Republicans over its management and investments under former CEO Tom Thornton, who resigned last year for a job in Ohio.

Rodman led the administration's oversight of an audit of the KBA's activities dating to its creation. The audit raised questions about perceived conflicts of interest and misuse of funds by Thornton.

Legislators have responded by drafting measures to prevent individuals from serving on the KBA who could benefit from investments made by the agency. In addition, legislators have proposed reducing the amount of state revenue transferred each year to finance the KBA's operations.

The selection of Rodman follows Brownback's appointment on Monday of Manhattan resident Lee Borck to the KBA to replace former Democratic Gov. John Carlin. Borck is chairman of the Beef Marketing Group Cooperative and Innovative Livestock Services, a farming and cattle-feeding company. Both have offices in Great Bend.

Carlin was governor from 1979 to 1987 and had served on the Bioscience Authority since July 2006. Carlin has defended the agency and said he hadn't expected to be reappointed.

The Johnson County District Attorney's office has been conducting its own investigation of the KBA. No charges have been filed to date. District Attorney Steve Howe did not return messages left Thursday by The Associated Press.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said he considers the Rodman appointment "disturbing."

"I certainly believe he comes in with a less-than-objective perspective," Hensley said. "In reality, when I look back at the controversy surrounding the KBA, I always viewed Mr. Rodman as being the governor's hatchet man."

In addition to Rodman and Borck, Brownback appointed Commerce Secretary Pat George to the KBA last year. There are 11 members of the KBA's board of directors, two of which are non-voting members appointed by the Kansas Board of Regents.