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Consultant's frustration evident in e-mails

A consultant hired by Sedgwick County to reduce the jail's population called a county official "Mr. CYA" and the county a "boys' club" in e-mails expressing frustration to some commissioners.

The e-mails, obtained by The Wichita Eagle under the Kansas Open Records Act, shed light on Nancy Insco's relationship with the county.

Insco's Justice Concepts Inc. has come under fire for not following through with reports and missing its project deadline and goals. It had agreed to reduce the jail population by 25 percent by last June 4 in its $124,616 contract.

But twice last month, a majority of commissioners — Gwen Welshimer, Kelly Parks and Karl Peterjohn — voiced support for allowing it to finish its work and pay some of the rest of its contract. The board has not voted to do so.

In several e-mails, Insco spoke of the importance of leaders in the criminal justice system cooperating with Justice Concepts' work. She also expressed concern about not having enough data from the jail and courts to better assess inmates for alternative programs such as work release. The county is adding a new software program that marries information from several databases to get a more comprehensive picture of an inmate's past.

In a June 26, 2008, e-mail to Welshimer, Insco said she had had a "very difficult situation with Mr. CYA yesterday. I will have to constantly watch my back. To say that he is very threatened and clearly irritated is understated."

"To solve the issues, we must have the participation of staff — who I believe has no intention of participating," Insco wrote in a Sept. 27 e-mail to Welshimer and copied to Parks. "So, maybe that is the pathetic story here. It literally sickens me. They are so angry that the (commission) reversed a decision of the CJCC that the manager and Lamkey/Masterson want to screw us over and run us out of town. While I am tenacious, I am starting to lose my optimism."

County manager William Buchanan and Bob Lamkey, director of public safety for the county, declined to comment. Mark Masterson, director of corrections, could not be reached for comment.

'Boys' club' mentality?

Asked about the e-mails, in which she also criticized The Eagle's reporting about her firm, Insco said, "Maybe they weren't always professional."

But she said there are some people with whom you are more formal and people with whom you are more informal in e-mail.

She said that there's a "boys' club" mentality at the county and that leaders weren't willing to work with Justice Concepts and be open to new ideas.

"There is a club. It's the way it is," Insco said. "We have done a lot of work. This is a system that doesn't want to change. We very delicately tried to push and push and push them toward change."

Asked who she was referring to when she mentioned "Mr. CYA," Insco said, "I have no idea. I think a lot of people are Mr. CYA. I think everybody in government is Mr. CYA." CYA, which stands for cover your ass, is a term for protecting yourself from criticism.

Insco also said: "Naively, I didn't think there was anything in those e-mails that a reporter would want. I've obviously learned differently.

"I was never told that in Kansas that if a reporter wanted access to e-mails between staff and contractors, they could have them."

The Eagle requested e-mails between Justice Concepts and commissioners Parks and Welshimer because both had said Insco had mentioned a backlog of journal entries as a problem affecting jail overcrowding.

Journal entries are a report that is required to transfer an inmate to state prison. The Eagle reported in January that the turnaround time for the reports was 60 to 90 days. Sedgwick County District Court Chief Judge James Fleetwood began tracking completion times for the reports and a committee has recommended that the county hire a third staff person to work on them. The turnaround time has declined.

The Eagle found no specific mention of journal entries in e-mails it received dating back to 2007. Welshimer and Parks have said, however, that Insco told them that the turnaround time for journal entries was a problem.

Sheriff Bob Hinshaw said he and his staff had "bent over backwards" to be cooperative with Insco.

"I'm not sure who she thinks is a member of this boys' club and why she thinks we're being uncooperative," he said. "But we were working on this problem long before JCI came along, and we will work on it after they are gone."

Fate of contract

Justice Concepts is a Kansas City, Mo.-based consulting firm. Its principals are Insco and Allen Beck. It contracted with the county in August 2008.

The county has paid Justice Concepts $78,449 of its original contract. Commissioners agreed to pay Justice Concepts an additional $28,511 last year for work deemed outside the contract, but the county has withheld $7,200 of that amount pending reports about whether it would make sense to use former Kansas Department of Corrections facilities in Labette and Butler counties to house inmates.

In November, Justice Concepts requested an 18-month contract extension with a price tag of about $228,000. It withdrew its proposal in December and said it would work to finish its original contract.

Welshimer, who has been Justice Concepts' biggest supporter, said Insco has been instrumental in expanding pretrial services.

Pretrial service workers delve into defendants' backgrounds to determine whether they should be kept in jail while awaiting trial.

But, Welshimer said, some in the county would "never give her credit. On the other hand, I'm not happy we don't have some of those reports."

Commissioner Dave Unruh said he thinks it's time to end the county's relationship with Justice Concepts.

"I may be in the minority, but I do not think we have received value for our dollar," Unruh said.

Welshimer had wanted the county to allow Justice Concepts to complete its work, but last week said, "I don't know we should do that. We'll probably just have to call it good."

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