Kansas legislators and candidates for governor are calling for investigations and firings after a report that the state’s former disability services commissioner engaged in sexual misconduct.
The article from the Topeka Capital-Journal states that Brandt Haehn sent sexually explicit messages and videos to the director of a disability services facility in Newton, and offered her a state job in exchange for sex. Haehn resigned in June, but now works for Amerigroup, one of three private companies that have state contracts to administer Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare.
The sexual misconduct allegations got Haehn temporarily suspended, but not fired, from his position at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. That has raised questions about what KDADS Secretary Tim Keck knew about the situation and when he knew it. Haehn, hired in 2015, reported directly to Keck in his position as commissioner of home and community based services.
“Brandt Haehn should be removed from his position at Amerigroup and undergo (an) independent investigation,” former Wichita mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Carl Brewer posted on Twitter. “Those who chose to ‘look the other way’ at KDADS who allowed Haehn to return to his position should lose their jobs as well.”
Josh Svaty, a former Kansas agriculture secretary who is also running for governor as a Democrat, called the report “troubling” on Twitter and raised the possibility of “a corrupt conspiracy” between KDADS and Amerigroup “to protect the perpetrator & themselves at the victim’s expense.”
Haehn did not respond to a phone message left with a receptionist at Amerigroup. An Amerigroup spokeswoman said the company would not comment.
KDADS spokeswoman Angela de Rocha released a statement from Keck.
“Although we usually don’t respond to inquiries regarding personnel matters, we’ll make an exception in this case to say that as soon as we became aware of these allegations, KDADS put the employee in question on administrative leave,” Keck said. “Mr. Haehn is no longer employed by the state.”
Jennifer Gill, who worked for a day services provider for adults with developmental disabilities called Equi-Venture Farms, told the Capital-Journal she had met Haehn years earlier when the two worked together at another disability service provider in Wichita.
They reconnected last year when Equi-Venture was seeking KDADS’ help in resolving a dispute with its local Community Developmental Disability Organization, which refers people with disabilities to service providers.
Gill told the Capital-Journal that starting in September 2016, Haehn began sending her pornographic images, including a masturbation video, and soliciting sex from her. She said she resisted all his advances and ultimately reported them to Equi-Venture owner Ben Swinnen in December 2016. She told the Capital-Journal that Swinnen subsequently fired her.
Swinnen, one of the few disability service providers in the state to publicly praise KanCare, was working with Keck and KDADS at the time on a pilot program to help Kansans with disabilities transition out of state hospitals. Gill told the Capital-Journal that Swinnen chose to side with Haehn rather than her.
In a phone interview Monday, Swinnen disputed the timeline of events Gill provided to the Capital-Journal and said her termination was not related to her reporting Haehn’s misconduct.
He said he took action soon after she made the report.
“I called Brandt and told him to cease and desist,” Swinnen said.
Swinnen said he didn’t immediately tell Keck what was going on. He said he made that report after Gill’s employment was terminated, but didn’t remember exactly when and couldn’t divulge what he told Keck about the situation.
“I informed Mr. Keck of what I knew at the time,” Swinnen said. “And I will not go into details as this is in litigation.”
De Rocha said Keck would not comment “other than to say categorically that he did not know about this situation in December.”
“Immediate action was taken once the agency was made aware of the situation,” de Rocha said.
Ruth Glover, the executive director of the Kansas Human Rights Commission, said the commission is investigating an employment complaint by Gill against Equi-Venture that references the position Haehn held but not Haehn himself.
But some legislators want more action.
Rep. J.R. Claeys, a Republican from Salina, posted on Twitter that “enabling a sexual harasser” should be added to a “list of fireable offenses” by Keck. Earlier this month Claeys called for Keck’s firing following a Star report that KDADS employees at Larned State Hospital had been told not to talk to their lawmakers. KDADS has since rescinded the gag order, which Keck said he had nothing to do with.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican from Overland Park, said in a phone interview that her constituents have no patience for sexual misconduct on the state’s time and dime.
“As a legislator, knowing these are taxpayer-funded positions, I want our government to be run in a professional, zero-tolerance manner when it comes to these types of issues,” Clayton said. “And I feel like the people and I tend to agree on this.”