Senate panel advances governor’s appointments

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The Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee on Tuesday approved nine of Gov. Laura Kelly’s nominees, sending them to the full chamber next year for confirmation.

Among those advancing was newly appointed Corrections Secretary Jeff Zmuda, who’s confirmation was believed to be in trouble earlier this year because a judge said his testimony in an open-records lawsuit in Idaho was “disingenuous.”

As a deputy director at the Idaho Department of Correction, Zmuda was mired in a lawsuit brought by a professor who studies the death penalty.

The professor asked for documents related to the drugs used in the state’s two most recent executions in 2011 and 2012 as well as future executions.

A judge called Zmuda’s testimony in an affidavit “disingenuous” for saying that “all known” documents had been located in the case. The public information officer was fined $1,000 for withholding information.

In that affidavit, Zmuda described difficulty finding documents relevant to the request, noting that they were in various offices and in the possession of various employees.

He acknowledged in the affidavit the department had “previously failed to organize documents properly.”

“We have found multiple copies of the same documents in various places. We have found many draft copies of a document that was later finalized,” Zmuda said in the affidavit.

“Following this experience, we have collected and safely stored all known documents related to the executions,” he said in the affidavit.

The judge criticized the representations in the affidavit.

“The emphasis on the word ‘known’ in a sworn affidavit filed with this Court is disingenuous since the affidavit was filed with the intent to have this court rely on its representation that IDOC had conducted an adequate search at the time it was filed,” the judge wrote.

The judge also criticized Zmuda for not turning over a corrections document requested by BuzzFeed News seeking correspondence with an India-based vendor who sells lethal drugs to prisons in the United States. The document was stored in Zmuda’s files. She called his conduct “frivolous.”

Majority Leader Jim Denning asked Zmuda to explain what played out in Idaho.

Zmuda walked the committee through what happened in Idaho, but was not pressed any further on that issue.

Zmuda acknowledged that not all of the documents were released to the professor in error. He said additional documents were made public as they were found. “We produced them once we realized that we had them.”

Other gubernatorial nominations that advanced include:

Erica Andrade, nonattorney member of the State Board of Indigent Defense Services. She replaces Beverly Gossage.

Michael Birzer, nonattorney member of the state Board of Indigent Defense Services. He replaces Roman Rodriguez.

David Herndon, state bank commissioner. He replaces Michelle Bowman.

Patricia Hudgins, nonattorney member of the state Board of Indigent Defense Services. She replaces Paul Beck.

Kala Spigarelli, member of the Kansas Lottery Commission. She replaces Jeffry Scharping.

Ruth Stevenson, member of the Kansas State Banking Board. She replaces Kurt Knutson.

Brad Stratton, member of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees. He replaces James Cusser.

Donald “Rick” Wiley, member of the Public Employees Relations Board.  He is a senior equipment operator at the Kansas Department of Transportation. He replaces John Bowes