TOPEKA – Gov. Sam Brownback’s nominee for Kansas commerce secretary withdrew from consideration Tuesday over what the governor’s office described as potential conflicts of interest involving a family member.
Brownback’s office said George Hansen, a Leawood businessman, asked the Republican governor not to submit his appointment to the state Senate for confirmation.
The announcement came a day before a Senate committee was to consider whether Hansen could serve as secretary until the full Legislature convened its next annual session in January and all senators considered the appointment. Brownback nominated Hansen on Aug. 21.
The governor’s office said in a statement that a member of Hansen’s “extended family” has “extensive business dealings” with the state Department of Commerce. Brownback’s office declined to elaborate, and Hansen did not immediately return a telephone message Tuesday seeking comment.
“The governor needs a full-time secretary of commerce, not one who would have to recuse himself continuously to avoid perceptions of a conflict of interest,” Hansen said in a statement distributed by Brownback’s office.
Hansen added in the statement that he would not want “even the slightest appearance of any conflict” to affect his work as secretary.
Brownback said he is withdrawing Hansen’s name reluctantly but respects his decision.
“I know him to be a man of integrity who would have served Kansas well,” the governor said in a statement.
Mike Copeland, the department’s deputy secretary for workforce services, took over as interim secretary while Brownback’s office searches for new, permanent secretary.
Hansen has been president and CEO of the Enterprise Center in Johnson County since June 2013. The center is a nonprofit organization that provides support to local entrepreneurs in the early stages of developing their ventures.
Hansen previously led an online company acquired by Google Inc. during a 35-year career in business.
He was to replace Pat George, who became commerce secretary when Brownback took office in January 2011 but stepped down in July to become CEO of a nonprofit group running substance abuse treatment programs in seven states.
The Department of Commerce is the state’s lead economic development agency. It has an annual budget of $113 million and about 250 employees.