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Kansas Lawmakers Question Dual Job Roles For Brownback Appointee

Suzanne Heck
Courtesy Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

Two Democrats in the Kansas Legislature want to know more about why Gov. Sam Brownback appointed the same individual to two high-level positions, allowing him to collect two paychecks since 2014.

In 2011, Brownback appointed Mark Dodd to head the State Gaming Agency, which oversees gaming facilities operated by Native American tribes. Three years later, he made Dodd executive director of the Native American Affairs Office, which is part of the governor’s office.

Asked about the arrangement Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Brownback described it as efficient.

“The two roles share similar areas of expertise,” Melika Willoughby said. “As a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a lawyer, Mark Dodd is well-equipped to complete both, ultimately serving both constituencies well and stewarding taxpayer dollars through this efficiency.”

Dodd is earning a full salary as executive director of the gaming agency and half the listed salary for the position at the Native American Affairs Office.

According to the Legislature’s auditing arm, Dodd will earn an estimated combined salary of $136,000 in 2017. With benefits — which can include costs to the state such as health insurance and Social Security and retirement contributions — Dodd’s total estimated compensation is $177,000.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and Sen. Laura Kelly, both Topeka Democrats, raised concerns about the dual appointments Monday during a meeting of the Legislative Post Audit Committee, instructing auditors to collect more information about how many hours Dodd works per week and whether holding the two jobs is appropriate.

“It seems to me that he gets paid pretty generously,” Hensley said Wednesday. “And if it’s $40,000 for a part-time job, I’d have to question just how many hours he’s actually putting in in that job.”

Dodd receives a salary of $40,000 for the part-time Native American Affairs Office position and $96,000 for his full-time job heading the gaming agency.

“This was the first that we knew about it,” Hensley said. “It certainly caught me by surprise.”

“The two roles share similar areas of expertise.” — Melika Willoughby, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback

When contacted Wednesday by phone, Dodd declined to discuss the issue but said he is working with auditors to ensure lawmakers’ questions are answered.

“Those questions will be addressed with Legislative Post Audit,” Dodd said.

Willoughby didn’t respond to questions about whether the arrangement is in line with state laws and regulations and how many hours Dodd works weekly.

The governor appointed Dodd in March 2011 to head the gaming agency and the Senate approved that appointment in May 2011. Brownback hired Dodd to head the Native American Affairs Office in November 2014.

Dodd is not on the Native American Affairs Office website, which lists an executive director who is no longer in that position. In written testimony to the Legislature as recently as March 2017, the governor’s office letterhead listed Dodd as interim director of the Native American Affairs Office. 

The governor’s office created the Native American Affairs Office, which facilitates communication between state officials and tribal governments. According to its website, it opened in the summer of 2011.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System said Wednesday if a person holds two KPERS-eligible jobs at the same time, he or she only receives credit for one.

The dual directorship caught lawmakers’ attention as they were briefed on the results of a broader audit published Monday, prompting them to request more details. That broader audit was done at the request of Rep. John Alcala, a Topeka Democrat, and Rep. Louis Ruiz, a Kansas City Democrat.

The audit reviewed staffing and spending at three liaison units within the governor’s office: the Native American Affairs Office, the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission, and the Kansas African American Affairs Commission. 

The three liaison offices or commissions each spent less than $100,000 in fiscal 2016, including salary expenses. Each has only one staffer, who serves as executive director.

The auditors said they experienced some difficulty contacting the liaison units but did not determine “what impact these problems might have on constituents.”

Among their concerns, the auditors noted the director on the Native American Affairs Office website left more than two years ago. The voicemail box for one of the other liaisons was full and an email error prevented one liaison from sending or receiving messages, the auditors wrote in their report.

Though some information on the Native American Affairs Office website is not up to date, the phone number is correct.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

I'm the creator of the environmental podcast Up From Dust. I write about how the world is transforming around us, from topsoil loss and invasive species to climate change. My goal is to explain why these stories matter to Kansas, and to report on the farmers, ranchers, scientists and other engaged people working to make Kansas more resilient. Email me at celia@kcur.org.
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