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June 7, 2014

Kancare inspector general resigns amid questions about his appointment

Phil Hermanson, a former state representative from Wichita, had not been confirmed to his post, so he was collecting a $77,000 salary but not performing the job.

The state’s appointed inspector general for KanCare resigned Friday amid questions about his qualifications and concern about his ability to serve without being confirmed.

Phil Hermanson, a former state representative from Wichita, was appointed to the post by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in late April. The department did not officially announce the appointment.

The inspector general serves as a watchdog over the state’s privatized Medicaid program, performing investigations and ensuring accountability of the $3 billion KanCare.

Democrats questioned Hermanson’s qualifications for the job and pointed to financial issues and a DUI in his past.

And the health and environment department said earlier this week that Hermanson was not legally allowed to serve in his position because he had not yet been confirmed by the Senate. Lawmakers did not take up the issue before adjourning in early May and do not reconvene until January. A committee could have granted temporary confirmation until then.

The health and environment department had said Hermanson was serving as “acting” inspector general pending his confirmation. He was not exercising any of the power of the job but was receiving his full salary, which is $77,000 annually.

“He’s been focused on obtaining the knowledge needed to properly exercise the duties of inspector general following committee approval,” department spokeswoman Sara Belfry said in a phone call several hours before his resignation.

Belfry sent a brief e-mail to The Eagle late Friday afternoon that said: “As of this afternoon, Phil Hermanson has resigned from his position with KDHE effective immediately.”

Belfry would not offer more details, and Hermanson would not comment when reached by phone.

The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported concerns about Hermanson’s qualifications and lack of confirmation.

Democrats had questioned the unusual way the appointment was handled.

“I think it’s an absolute waste of taxpayer money if you’re paying him a $77,000 a year job for not doing his job,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. “It’s very unusual that they appoint a guy to a job and they don’t pursue a confirmation by the Senate.”

Hensley theorized Friday afternoon that Republicans did not want to hold a confirmation hearing. He questioned the choice of the Wichita Republican for the post when he does not have a background in insurance or law.

He also pointed to Hermanson’s legal and financial troubles.

Hermanson filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and was hit with a warrant for unpaid income taxes in 2009. He also pleaded no contest to driving under the influence after a traffic accident in Wichita in 2009.

“This is a bizarre appointment to say the least — because he has no qualifications to do this job, I mean, none that I can think of,” Hensley said.

Belfry had defended the appointment earlier in the day, saying that Hermanson had the ability “to gain that specialized knowledge.”

“Phil has had issues in his past that he has acknowledged and tried to correct the best that he can and tried to move forward from,” she said then. “We look forward to Phil going through the confirmation, and he has a good amount of knowledge because of his service on the Health and Human Services committee.”

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