Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's office has confirmed that he fired the state Department of Commerce's top administrator in June partly over questions about agency contracts — an about-face after weeks of denying that the former official had been terminated.
The statement Friday from the Republican governor's office that former Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave was forced out came less than a day after The Kansas City Star published a detailed story on department contracts with Soave associates, the newspaper reported.
The Star identified at least nine Soave friends or business partners who landed state contracts for consulting and marketing services during Soave's 18 months as secretary. Brownback said in his statement that Soave "did a number of positive things" as secretary but "presented a number of problems that resulted in his termination."
"Among those problems, he entered into several consulting contracts that reflected a lack of judgment and that the Governor felt were inappropriate," the statement said.
Soave said in a statement Friday that he resigned "after mutual accord and agreement."
He also defended the department's contracts for consulting services in promoting Kansas or seeking to attract businesses. He said other officials had been required to sign off on them and the department complied with all existing policies. After leaving the commerce job, Soave launched a campaign for the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas.
He also worked briefly for a charity founded by the owner of a business that had secured a contract from the department worth more than $300,000 but lost the job this week.
Brownback announced Soave's departure as commerce secretary in June as a resignation to return to private business and said Soave had provided "great vision" to the agency.
When questioned again last week about Soave's departure, Brownback said it had been amicable.