The Rundown with Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit

Kansas Highway Patrol Personnel Actions

November 30, 2020 Legislative Post Audit
The Rundown with Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit
Kansas Highway Patrol Personnel Actions
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The Rundown with Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit
Kansas Highway Patrol Personnel Actions
Nov 30, 2020
Legislative Post Audit

Kansas Highway Patrol officials followed state law and regulations when dismissing two majors in July 2020.  Most KHP staff are classified employees, but senior management (including majors) are unclassified employees.  State law and regulations only have a few requirements related to the highway patrol dismissing an unclassified employee.  The highway patrol followed applicable requirements.

Show Notes Transcript

Kansas Highway Patrol officials followed state law and regulations when dismissing two majors in July 2020.  Most KHP staff are classified employees, but senior management (including majors) are unclassified employees.  State law and regulations only have a few requirements related to the highway patrol dismissing an unclassified employee.  The highway patrol followed applicable requirements.

Speaker 1:

From the Kansas legislative division of post audit . And this is the rundown, your source for news and updates from LPA, including performance audits recently released to the Kansas legislature. I'm Brad hall in November, 2020 legislative post audit released a limited scope performance audit determining whether the Kansas highway patrol followed applicable policies and procedures related to the termination of two majors in July, 2020. I'm with Heidi Zimmerman, principal auditor at legislative post audit who supervised this audit. Welcome to the rundown. Heidi. Thanks red . So before we start discussing what you found in this limited scope audit, provide our listeners a little background on why the dismissal of two majors at the Kansas highway patrol in July, 2020 was noteworthy.

Speaker 2:

Sure. Well, governor Laura Kelly announced the dismissal of two majors , uh, this , this past summer , um, they, the highway patrol officials that we talked to told us they were dismissed for work performance issues. Um, but this is no worthy for a few reasons. So first of all, a major has not been dismissed from the highway patrol , uh, in at least 25 years. So let alone two majors being dismissed on on one day. Um, secondly, on the same day that the , uh, that the governor announced that the two majors were dismissed. She also announced that , um, two independent investigations of the superintendent of the highway patrol , uh, had wrapped up and had found , uh, that the claims against the superintendent were , uh, were unsubstantiated. So there were a number of claims made against , uh, against him ranging from , uh, sexual harassment to misuse of state aircraft, to , um, some gender discrimination issues. And two different entities , uh, had independently investigated those claims. And they had both found that the claims against the superintendent were unsubstantiated. Um, but both of those things happened on the same day. The Kansas state troopers association then questioned whether the dismissal of these two majors was , uh , retaliatory. Uh, they claimed that these two majors had provided some support to , um, to some of the women who had made the allegations against the superintendent. And they had questioned whether there was retaliation involved. So the majors now have also filed a claim with the federal equal employment opportunity commission. And , uh , that case is currently ongoing

Speaker 1:

In this audit report. You spend some time making a distinction between classified and unclassified employees. So explain the difference between those two classifications and why it is an important distinction in this audit.

Speaker 2:

So this civil service act , um, as well as some other state state laws , um, set, which employees in the state are classified employees and which ones are unclassified employees . So unclassified employees are a pretty broad range of staff, and it includes people like the governor staff and elected officials, people who are appointed to their jobs , uh , as well as all the staff here at legislative post audit are all unclassified employees. So classified employees are pretty much any other position that law does not say are unclassified. Uh, and , and they are treated a little bit different. So unclassified employees are basically at-will employees and they can be dismissed , uh, for nearly any reason. And they don't have to be told the reason for that dismissal, conversely, classified employees have a variety of protections. So they have to be provided reasons if they're going to be dismissed from their jobs and they can appeal a dismissal to the state civil service board. Um, and this matters because , uh, the majors are unclassified employees. And so that affected the process by which the highway patrol , um, dismissed them.

Speaker 1:

So since the two majors were unclassified employees, what laws or regulations to the highway patrol have to follow to dismiss them.

Speaker 2:

So, as we were just discussing the unclassified employees don't have the same protections, which largely means that an employer really has very few things it has to do when dismissing an employee. But for the highway patrol, we did identify a few things that they still had to do, even though the majors were unclassified. So the first was that , uh, by state law, a major must be returned to his or her previous rank upon termination. So in this case, the majors had to be returned to captains, which would have been their previous rank. Um, and captains at the highway patrol are classified employees. Uh , second we found that state regulations require that when , uh, when an employee moves from an , uh , an unclassified position to a classified position, they must be put on a probationary period of at least six months and third , uh, regulations allow probationary employees to be dismissed at any time during their probationary period. Um, and they don't have the typical protections , uh, that are available to, to regular classified employees.

Speaker 1:

What did you find out about the highway patrol's compliance with these laws and regulations?

Speaker 2:

Well, what we found was, first of all, that both majors were given the opportunity resign , uh , prior to their, to their dismissal. One of the majors , uh, did actually resign as a major , uh, the other one did not. So for the one that did not , um, by law, he had to be returned to the rank of captain. And the highway patrol took this step , uh, as regulations require , uh, he was required to be , uh , placed on probation once he was demoted from an unclassified position to a classified position. And we found that the highway patrol , uh, did, did take this step as well. Uh, last , uh, while he was a probationary employee, the highway patrol dismissed him, which , uh , again, based on regulations, they have , uh, they have the ability to do. And when they dismiss someone during a probationary period , um, that person does not have those, those regular protections. So , uh, they, they did put in writing , uh, that this, this person was dismissed. Um, and they did not state exactly why that dismissal was occurring.

Speaker 1:

Finally, what is the main takeaway of this report?

Speaker 2:

So we found that the highway patrol the officials of the highway patrol, they followed state law and regulations when they dismiss the two majors. Uh , however, this audit does not evaluate the validity of the reasons or the intent behind that dismissal. So while we can speak to the process and say that the process was followed , uh, we, we couldn't say nothing about the reasons behind the dismissal.

Speaker 1:

Heidi Zimmerman is a principal auditor at legislative post audit. She supervised a limited scope performance audit determining whether the Kansas highway patrol followed applicable policies and procedures related to the termination of two majors in July, 2020. Heidi, thank you for taking the time to walk me through the audits findings. Thanks for having me, Brad, thank you for listening to the rundown to hear more podcasts, subscribe to us on Spotify or Apple podcasts. For more information about legislative post audit in our water reports , visit Ks LPA, follow us on Twitter at Ks audit or visit our Facebook.