Head of Kansas Bioscience Authority faces ethics violations

The chief executive of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the organization seeking to bring a $650 million facility that will study methods of countering bioterrorism to Manhattan, Kansas, defended himself Friday against ethical violation accusations by a former employee.

CEO Thomas Thornton has been accused of having Melissa Lynch, his former executive assistant, perform personal services for him while she was being paid public money. This comes while the state is looking to avoid financial scrutiny during a tenuous time in the federal government’s budget, the Wichita Eagle reports.

Lynch, who was fired “for cause” by Thornton, believes that her former employer was unethical in his spending and use of her as an employee.

“After 16 months, I left the KBA due to my discomfort about what was going on, how things were being handled and the unethical actions of Tom Thornton or the waste of taxpayer money,” Lynch wrote in a statement, according to the Wichita Eagle.  

Officials worry that the negative press coming from several angles might threaten the state’s current claim as the host of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

“We don’t need any negative publicity, regardless of what it is, on the Bioscience Authority if it’s going to impact (the bioterrorism facility),” Jay Emler, the senate majority leader said, according to the Wichita Eagle.  

The salaries of Thornton and the other employees at the agency have also come under fire by the Senate Commerce Committee. Thornton was given a $100,000 bonus in 2010 as part of his $400,000 total, while 12 out of 21 employees there have base salaries of $100,000 or more.

In addition, a claim has been made by scientists at the Wichita State University’s Center of Innovation in Orthopaedic Research that they are being short changed on a five year, $20 million grant that they were supposed to receive from the KBA, the Wichita Eagle reports.