Despite roundly criticizing the use of no-bid contracts in previous administrations, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly finally admits she hired an attorney to represent her without going through the competitive bidding process. And it took more than two months of pressuring her office to respond to an Open Records requests to get that simple answer.
The initial records request was fairly simple. Kansas Policy Institute CEO Dave Trabert asked if the hiring of attorneys to defend Governor Laura Kelly’s unconstitutional limits on church attendance had been put out for bid. KPI owns the Sentinel.
On April 20, Trabert sent a request via email to Kelly’s Chief Counsel Clay Britton asking for: “All documents related to the hiring of the attorney, including but not limited to, the contract with the firm engaged;” and “All correspondence related to the competitive bids submitted for this hiring, including but not limited to, the request for proposal and all bids submitted.”
Finally, on June 26, Britton responded that no bids were submitted, because state law exempts attorneys from the competitive bidding process, making bidding optional. Kelly could have had the Attorney General’s office put out bids but instead chose to hire her own, including an attorney — Pedro Irigonegaray — who is a Kelly donor.
However, this flies in the face of Kelly’s long-standing opposition to such contracts — indeed she canceled several upon taking office.
“For many years, I have voiced concern about the frequent use of ‘no-bid’ contracts under the previous administration,” Kelly said in a May 2019, release. “This practice bypasses the official state bidding process designed to ensure that contracts are transparent and in the best interests of Kansans.”
Moreover, that ultimately losing fight — over an order her own Attorney General had expressed concerns with — cost taxpayers more than $90,000, according to the subscription-only Sunflower State Journal, which somehow obtained figures from the Kelly Administration KPI had requested as well; but never received.
According to the SSJ, the legal fees were broken up into two separate cases — the governor’s winning lawsuit against the Legislative Coordinating Council for blocking her ultimately unconstitutional order, and the second lawsuit, brought by two churches for violations of the Free-exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The state paid $72,033 to hire two firms and a University of Kansas law professor to represent the governor and the adjutant general in the church lawsuit
SSJ writes that the state paid $25,000 to Irigonegaray, Turney, & Revenaugh and $25,000 to Lumen N. Mulligan, an Earl B. Shurtz research professor at the University of Kansas School of Law who both represented the governor; another $22,033 to the Barber Emerson law firm, which represented the adjutant general in the church case.
The state also paid $15,817 to the Hinkle Law firm in Wichita and Graves Garrett, in the LCC lawsuit.
Kansas taxpayers were billed $4,999 to Graves Garrett to represent the Senate and $10,818 to Hinkle to represent the House.