Kansas Corporation Commission will not seek outside inquiry into staff

The Kansas Corporation Commission will not seek an outside review into complaints from the agency’s executive director that the corporation’s staff is disorganized, lazy and inefficient.

Tom Wright, a member of the three-member commission, proposed Wednesday that an independent consultant be asked to investigate remarks from executive director Patti Petersen-Klein contained in a confidential audit that was obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal.

The newspaper reported last week that Petersen-Klein severely criticized the staffers in the audit, saying they are capable only if relentlessly driven by superiors. The employees strongly complained about Petersen-Klein’s confrontational management style, leading the auditor to conclude that the relationship between Petersen-Klein and the KCC staff was so damaged that it probably could not be repaired.

Wright’s motion on Wednesday died after commissioner Shari Feist Albrecht declined to second it. The third member of the commission, Mark Sievers, did not attend the meeting.

Wright argued that a review by a neutral organization would answer questions about whether there was “evidence of lazy employees or irresponsible employees” at the agency, which is responsible for regulating utilities in the state. And he said public confidence in the corporation could be shaken after the highly critical audit became public.

“There’s also the allegation that we are not fulfilling our duties,” Wright said. “That, I believe, requires some kind of public response. I think that kind of response should come from outside auditors.”

Albrecht said she wouldn’t support Wright’s request but didn’t give an explanation.