Kansas Democrat criticizes Regents appointment

A Democratic leader on Monday decried the appointment of a former Republican Party official to the state’s board of regents, saying it puts too many Republicans on the board that governs higher education in Kansas.

The concern did not keep Shane Bangerter from being confirmed to Kansas Board of Regents, along with Ann Brandau Murguia of Kansas City, Kan., and Helen Van Etten of the Topeka area,

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said that Gov. Sam Brownback’s nomination of Shane Bangerter circumvents

state law that allows

no more than five members of the nine regents to be from the same party.

With Monday’s confirmation of Republican Van Etten, the board had five Republican members.

Bangerter is a former GOP county party official in Ford County who changed parties to become unaffiliated in February, Hensley said. Bangerter said he couldn’t recall the specific date of his party change, but confirmed it was recent.

“I think he’s got an adult lifetime of service and leadership positions in the Republican Party, and I would consider that he is a Republican,” Hensley said. “If we’re not violating the letter of the law, I think we are certainly violating the intent of the law.”

Hensley said it appears the process is a sham.

Bangerter, a lawyer and Dodge County Community College trustee, said that if he and Hensley sat down they’d probably find they have more similar views than Hensley might expect.

Senate Vice President Jeff King, a Republican from Undependence, said former Gov. Mark Parkinson, a former Republican leader, changed parties shortly before running as a Democrat alongside former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in an election.

“I’m embarrassed that we would call that choice a sham,” King.

The Senate confirmation oversight committee, where Hensley is the only Democrat, approved Bangerter’s appointment 5-1 and Van Etten by the same margin. She is the chief audiologist for Topeka public schools.

The board unanimously appointed Ann Brandau Murguia, a Democrat who is executive director of the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association in Kansas City, Kan. She also is a member of the Unified Government Board of Commissioners and ran for mayor last spring.