Politics & Government

Ex-KDHE chief still on payroll

Two months ago, departing Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson abruptly ousted his health and environment secretary, who had been accused of delaying a proposed coal plant.

But since then, Roderick Bremby has continued to collect a paycheck from the state, said an attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Bremby, who makes $107,990 a year, has received about $18,000 since he was ousted Nov. 2, the attorney said.

But if you want to know why, good luck.

Parkinson's staff and department officials said they thought the law allowed them to keep the reason Bremby was being paid a secret. The Kansas open records law, however, says compensation contracts and agreements are public.

Bremby could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Since Nov. 2, he has not spoken publicly about his ouster.

In 2007, Bremby denied Sunflower Electric Power Corp.' s permit application for the coal plant in western Kansas on grounds that it was a health risk. Sunflower later said he was slowing down a review of a new permit.

On Nov. 2, Bremby was called to a meeting at the governor's office, where he was asked to step down and take the position of cabinet transition director until Gov.-elect Sam Brownback was sworn in on Jan. 10.

Bremby refused and was dismissed immediately. An acting secretary, John Mitchell, was announced a couple of hours later. Mitchell this month granted Sunflower its permit.

Parkinson denied that Bremby's ousting was linked to the coal plant project. But he has not explained why Bremby could not have remained in that position until Brownback became governor.

Environmentalists on Wednesday said the paychecks as well as Parkinson's lack of transparency surrounding them was further evidence that the air-quality permit review for the coal plant had been perverted.

"The lack of transparency surrounding this issue is unacceptable," said Stephanie Cole, spokeswoman for the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Scott Allegrucci, executive director of Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, questioned whether Bremby had been forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep his salary.

"News that Bremby is still being paid and that the governor's office won't comment sounds to us like there is some kind of severance or nondisclosure agreement in place to keep the public...from discovering the facts surrounding the governor's firing of the secretary," Allegrucci said.

On Wednesday, Brownback was asked if he planned to continue paying Bremby's salary after he is sworn in, but a spokeswoman referred questions to Parkinson's office.