Utility Stalls Inquiry

After the Pitch reported November 30 that officials at the Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Public Utility had been expensing excessive meals, the utility’s Ethics Commission did exactly what it should have done. It began an inquiry.

Mike Price, the chairman of the Ethics Commission, asked the BPU for a copy of the public documents provided to the Pitch. He also wanted a copy of any policy that would govern the use of credit cards for meals. Then Price added an item to the Ethics Commission’s meeting on Tuesday to discuss just how five administrators managed to spend $15,000 over two years. It’s the kind of thing a board of citizens formed to review BPU activities should be doing.

But the BPU didn’t exactly cooperate.

Nobody from the BPU has responded to Price’s two-week-old request, even though the documents have already been handed out to the Pitch and, more recently, to other newspapers. The BPU’s ethics administrator, Michael W. Manske, came to the meeting Tuesday to announce that no documents would be available to the commission. “They were working on it,” he promised.

Price said he was disappointed but that he doesn’t suspect the BPU of anything more than misplacing his request. “I don’t think there’s anything underhanded going on. I think it was just a timing issue.”

Manske acknowledge that BPU rules require the authority to provide the Ethics commission with documents. Asked why the BPU couldn’t give the commission documents that have already been released to the press, Manske had a simple answer. “I don’t know,” he said.

Manske told the Ethics Commission he thinks the BPU can produce the documents by the Commission’s next meeting January 9.

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