February 23, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Whistleblower alleges serious fraud, abuse at state agency

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A whistleblower complaint by a former Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM) employee alleges serious misconduct by the division management.

The whistleblower, Jackie Craine, a former branch director of grant management for KDEM, and previous internal auditor for the State of Kansas, says in the complaint, obtained by the Sentinel, that she first tried to handle the issues in-house by requesting a meeting with the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, Major General David Weishaar, whom, she says, declined to meet with her. Weishaar is, in addition to his military duties, also the Director of KDEM, although day-to-day operations appear to be handled by Deputy Director Angee Morgan.

Craine then, on June 29, sent an email to all 125 members of the Kansas House of Representatives, saying; “I am writing this letter in hopes that someone will investigate the Fraud, Waste and Abuse of Power and self-serving management at the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.”

Weishaar, through a representative, however, disputes the characterization that he declined to meet with Craine, noting he had asked for a written statement.
According to a statement from Weishaar’s office, the Adjutant General “requested a third party investigation through the Governor’s office to determine the validity of Ms. Craine’s accusations. 

“Maj. Gen. Weishaar requested that Ms. Craine detail her concerns in writing for his review and he reserved the right to contact her should he have any questions. Instead of sharing her concerns with Maj. Gen. Weishaar, Ms. Crain chose to communicate those concerns to the State Legislators instead.”

The Sentinel reached out to Kelly spokesperson Lauren Fitzgerald for comment on the whistleblower allegations but has received no response.

According to Craine, in March of this year — at the start of the COVID-19 response — Governor Laura Kelly approved a significant pay increase for KDEM salaried managers that increased their base salary by 35-40% on their current salary, including these specific allegations in her email:

  • Deputy Director, Angee Morgan went from a base salary of approx. $93,000 to an increased rate of approx. $140,000.
  • Response & Recovery Branch Director, Jonathon York went from base rate of approx. $83,000 to approx. $124,000.
  • Planning Branch Director, Byran Murdie went from a base rate of $78,000 to approx. $119,000.

Craine says Preparedness Branch Director, Terri Ploger-McCool was not included in the initial pay rate adjustment as she was not actively working in support of the COVID-19 response until mid-May in which she was called in. There had apparently been no intent to give Ploger-McCool a raise “until word got around that she was the only Branch Director who did not receive an increase.” After which she allegedly received a back-pay adjustment in the amount of approximately. $6,700 in June of 2020.

According to Craine, these managers continued to only work Monday through Friday shifts, while mostly remaining on standby on weekends — while most KDEM staff, county/city emergency managers, and agency emergency support officers worked seven days a week with little to no relief, according to Craine.

The whistleblower also alleges management circumvented the usual salary approval process by improperly charging one-third of their salary to a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant — which was apparently not supposed to be used for salaried employees.

She also says management also spent over $100,000 on food catering by the Topeka Country Club and thousands more on snacks, candy, and beverages for all staff working in response to COVID-19. 

Additionally, Craine alleges that Deputy Director Angee Morgan abused her authority by having interns bring catered meals to her hotel “for over three straight months” and would have those same interns deliver groceries to her husband and children.

And, according to Craine, management also used the grant funding to purchase new iPhones, iPads, and new laptops for all KDEM staff — to include staff not involved in pandemic response — as well as Apple ear pods for all KDEM managers and mission-assigned staff, claiming they were a “gift from the disaster grant” because they deemed them a personal item.

“All of these claims are based on my direct knowledge and access to actual salaries and purchases made by the agency,” Craine wrote. “All salary adjustments and purchases can be corroborated through an agency investigation and/or Kansas Open Record Act (KORA) request.”

Exactly when Craine left employment with KDEM — and under what circumstances — is unclear. However, at least as recently as 2018, Craine was, indeed, an internal auditor for the state, but is not currently listed on the KDEM website.

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