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Labette Community College President reimbursed with tax dollars for political donation

By   /   October 21, 2009  /   4 Comments

KOAM TV's report of accounting record of reimbursed political donation

KOAM TV's report of accounting record of reimbursed political donation

Labette Community College president, George Knox, donated $500 to the campaign of State Treasurer Dennis McKinney according to a report by KOAM TV (Joplin, MO and Pittsburg, KS):  Political campaign donation concerns LCC trustee member.

A donation to a political candidate by a private citizen is not unusual, but KOAM TV reported that LCC trustee Mike Howerter questioned the reimbursement claim for the political donation by the college president.

KOAM’s report said Howerter found a check number missing in the claims register and asked for a complete list of paid items.   Howerter:

I found this check for $500 that was a refund to Dr. George Knox who donated this money to the political campaign of the state treasurer.

We cannot have public organizations donating taxpayer dollars to fund private campaigns.   ..

My contention is I’m the trustee and I need to see every check that they write …

My job is to look out for the interests of the citizens of this county.

KOAM reported a response by the college president’s office that legal counsel was looking into the matter, and corrective action would be taken if necessary.

KOAM’s postscript was troubling.  KOAM reported that Knox had taken the job at LCC after resigning from Cloud County Community College in May 2005 before a grand jury looked at his spending there.

In Nov 2005 the Salina Journal reported 218 people signed a petition for a grand jury to look into Knox’s spending.

A June 15, 2006 Salina Journal article said the grand jury had not indicted Knox but criticized his ‘frivolous’ spending:

Former Cloud County Community College president George Knox charged the college for everything from dog grooming and boarding to teaching a course when he rarely was able to attend class.

He charged computer equipment and digital cameras for his personal use. He traveled extensively and amassed a burgeoning personal library of current popular authors.

It was all “frivolous” spending that a grand jury stated Wednesday “offered no true benefit to the college.” But the grand jury also concluded the expenses didn’t merit a criminal indictment for misusing public funds.

The unsigned statement containing the jury’s decision concluded a six-month investigation concerning Knox ‘s spending habits

The purchases investigated by the grand jury reported by the Journal:

  • An abundance of electronic equipment,
  • $6000 worth of  books and
  • more than $16,000 in travel expenses and meals in one 12-month span for him and his wife, Carol.
  • Repeated boarding and grooming of his dog,
  • national newspapers delivered directly to his home address, and
  • $726 spent in 2004 alone at Jiffy Lube in Salina for car oil changes.

The Concordia Blade-Empire newspaper editor, Brad Lowell, started asking questions in the fall of 2004 about Knox’s trips.  Lowell learned much about Knox’s spending through open records request and asked:

“What value are those books and all these electronic devices to the student body or the advancement of the mission of the college?”

In May 2005 a Kansas Press This Week article said Knox takes actions to avoid open records requests:

The Blade-Empire received a letter of apology from Knox, in which he stated it was his policy to destroy all personal notes after every board meeting. Knox wrote that he believes the notes he referred to at the board meeting were personal, not an open record. Attorney Mike Merriam said when Knox stated his remarks would be available by an open records request, it made them a public record.

A Joplin Business Journal profile described Knox:

Regarding civic leadership in the community, Knox enjoys that role in the community but that funding was an issue. “I wish the college had more money to put back into the community. The board reminds me that there is a delicate balance between on campus and off campus activities, and I guess I don’t necessarily have the ability to say no, so I probably do too much but I have a good time doing it.”

Today the Parsons Sun‘s took Knox to task:  “Wrong is wrong” (requires subscription) .

Mike Howerter and the rest of the LCC Board should continue doing their jobs:  The LCC Board should scrutinize all of Knox’s expenditures and watch the people’s money.

Related:

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