A Democratic state senator proposed that the Kansas Legislature’s audit division evaluate whether a former commerce secretary followed state law and procedure in the awarding of agency consulting contracts and when charging business expenses to taxpayers.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said Friday the Legislature’s oversight committee was expected to authorize the review of Antonio Soave, who led the Kansas Department of Commerce for about 18 months until June.
Gov. Sam Brownback, who appointed Soave, praised the secretary’s “great vision” as he left the administration for the private sector. However, the Republican governor later reversed course and confirmed the Cabinet secretary had been terminated for creating a “number of problems.”
“It’s important to look into Mr. Soave’s actions at the commerce department,” Hensley said.
Questions were raised about Soave’s leadership amid a lawsuit filed against him by a former business associate. In addition, a report in the Kansas City Star revealed the agency entered into consulting and marketing contracts with at least nine of Soave’s business partners or friends.
Soave, who has withdrawn as a candidate for the U.S. House in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, said he resigned from the commerce department by mutual agreement with the Brownback administration. He also has defended the agency’s consulting contracts.
Under the review proposed by Hensley, the Division of Post Audit would evaluate whether Soave’s use of state resources during his tenure was appropriate and whether the basis for contracts he approved was reasonable.
The auditors would identify all agency contracts awarded during Soave’s tenure and determine when those contracts were awarded, the financial amounts of each and the recipient of those contracts.