- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Kansas City Star, Aug. 18

Kansas Democrat Barry Grissom’s Senate campaign doomed by tenure as U.S. attorney

Kansas Democrats hoping to elect a U.S. senator for the first time in decades will likely need to look for someone other than Barry Grissom, one of the announced candidates.

Grissom’s campaign suffered a devastating blow last week when federal judge Julie Robinson issued a blistering ruling in a case involving misconduct by federal prosecutors under Grissom’s supervision.

The prosecutors are accused of improperly eavesdropping on recorded phone calls and videos involving incarcerated defendants and their lawyers. They’re also accused covering up their behavior.

The lawyers’ ethical breach during Grissom’s tenure as U.S. attorney is reason enough to reject his candidacy. But the court ruling and testimony in the case also show the office in Kansas City, Kansas, was a dysfunctional mess under Grissom.

Mike Warner was Grissom’s first assistant. “It was essentially an inmates-run-the-jail-type office,” he testified.

“There was no support from the U.S. attorney, (who) basically wanted to stick his head in the sand and go out and get his picture taken and maybe run for office someday,” he added.

Erin Tomasic, a former assistant U.S. attorney at the center of the phone call allegations, testified to fierce infighting in the office. “There was a ‘Lord of the Flies’ mindset, and people were at full-out war with one another,” she told the court.

Was Grissom aware of this? Yes, Warner said.

“I would go to the U.S. attorney, yes, sir, and complain and say we should sanction these people; we need to do something. I did that on a, excuse me, damned daily basis,” he said. “I documented it. I did it verbally. OK? Nothing happened. It was frustrating.”

Grissom’s failure to properly supervise his office seems clear. “Kansas City prosecutors distrusted current and past management, to the point of insubordination,” Robinson found.

In an interview with The Star Editorial Board, Grissom defended his work, insisting he was unaware of the misbehavior in his office. “If somebody’s hiding something from you, how would you possibly know that?” he said.

“I can’t wave a wand and make someone tell me the truth,” he continued. “You have to have some faith in your people that they’re not lying to you, or hiding things from you.”

Grissom, a Democrat, was not a part of the contempt finding by Judge Robinson. He isn’t mentioned in her ruling.

But voters will have serious questions about Grissom’s service anyway. If he didn’t know about the inappropriate behavior of his staff attorneys, he failed as a supervisor and a manager.

If he did know, and did nothing to stop it, he’s complicit in a serious breach of ethical standards. Either way, Grissom’s record suggests he lacks the qualifications and character to serve as a U.S. senator.

He has made his tenure as U.S. attorney the centerpiece of his argument for a seat in the Senate. It’s the first thing you see on his campaign website, and it was a prominent part of his campaign announcement.

We now know the office was egregiously mismanaged. Dozens of criminal defendants may escape punishment or walk away from charges because of the rogue behavior of lawyers under his command.

Next year, Kansas Democrats - and Republicans - need to nominate a serious Senate candidate for these serious times. The evidence is mounting that Grissom simply is not up to the job.


The Topeka Capital-Journal, Aug. 16

Kansas right to hold contractors to account

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s decision to press - and keep pressing - Aetna Better Health on its performance as a Medicaid contractor is wise. Pushing to hold state contractors accountable makes a difference for those served and sends a signal that incomplete or incompetent service won’t be accepted.

The problems identified with Aetna were basic ones. There were questions about what doctors were covered, about authorization of procedures and being reimbursed. These aren’t the kinds of fiddly problems that challenge patients and providers in the private insurance arena. These are the kind of problems that made it difficult for KDHE to know if Aetna was fulfilling some of its most basic duties.

But KDHE didn’t just raise the problem. State agencies have done so with other contractors before, and for years. In previous administrations, that would sometimes result in revised contract terms that were more favorable to the private companies, or even increased payments to them.

Not this time.

When Aetna submitted a plan to fix the issues, the state drew a line in the sand. Sorry, officials told the insurance. The proposal simply wasn’t good enough.

“Upon review, KDHE does not feel that the plan submitted by Aetna adequately addresses the State’s concerns, nor does it present a clear path to compliance,” wrote KDHE spokeswoman Ashley Jones-Wisner.

We trust that the state and the insurance company will work something out eventually. It’s in the interests of both to do so. It’s certainly in the interests of KanCare recipients who depend on Aetna to provide reliable and health-promoting insurance coverage.

But it’s likewise worthwhile to show that a new sheriff is in town and that incomplete or otherwise problematic repair initiatives won’t be rubber-stamped. Simply going through the motions won’t be rewarded. The people of Kansas, including taxpayers and Medicaid recipients, deserve high-quality service, and KDHE has been working to make that happen.

The process of cleaning house in Kansas state government departments has been a lengthy and complicated one. The damage wrought by the neglect of previous administrations - neglect both benign and less so - has permeated agency upon agency, department upon department.

Repairing these issues takes dedicated work by a host of officials. It will likely require serious investments of time and challenging conversations.

KDHE challenging Aetna shows the department has the right approach. All of the state should benefit.


The Manhattan Mercury, Aug. 19

Go figure: Hearing noise from an Army base

It’s all well and good to notify people about noise from Fort Riley. But, I mean, come on. What’s next? Notifying people that marching-band noise might emanate from the corner of Kimball and College on fall Saturdays?

Local city and county officials last week reviewed a proposed measure to address the, uhhh, problem.

The issue is that Fort Riley occasionally blows stuff up. The Army needs to practice that, since it is in the business of killing people and breaking things. So, at an Army training base, they blast away on practice ranges with tanks and cannons and the like.

That means it gets loud here with the booms that reverberate across certain parts of the landscape. People who’ve lived for any length of time in Manhattan, Riley and Ogden have gotten used to this. It’s like living next to train tracks: Pretty soon, you don’t notice the train anymore.

Growing up at the corner of College Heights Road and Elling Drive, I had a beer can collection, back in the day when that was a cool thing for a kid to do. Every now and then, the rumbles from the fort rattled the house enough to send the pyramid on my dresser cascading down in a cacophonous shower of aluminum and steel. A little alarming, but, well, I just rebuilt the pyramid.

(Side note: My little brother, out of pure orneriness, would occasionally upend the pyramid and then blame Fort Riley when cross-examined. He also messed up my football cards, which is another story.)

Anyway, the current idea is to file documents with the county Register of Deeds office so that potential buyers know what they’re liable to encounter when they buy a home here.

Hard to argue with that, since more information is always better than less.

But, you know, so what? Is anybody going to get that document and say, “Hey, Martha, we’ve got to back out of this deal! Did you know that we might be forced to endure the sound of the United States Army practicing its job, here in this town right next to an Army base?”

Best-case scenario: New homeowners will send a thank-you card to the office of the Commanding General. “Hey, Gen! No worries about knocking down my beer cans. Best of luck over there with ISIS and the Russians. Lemme know if I can help!”

Paperwork? Sure. Fine. Whatever.

Meanwhile, Fort Riley, keep blasting away. We’re sure glad you’re here.

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