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Former Kansas AD pays fine in ethics case

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Former University of Kansas Athletics Director Lew Perkins agreed Tuesday to pay a $4,000 fine to settle an ethics case over allegations that he improperly accepted a gift of exercise equipment while working for the university, but he did not acknowledge intentionally violating Kansas law.

The state Governmental Ethics Commission approved a consent decree signed by its general counsel and a Perkins attorney after a brief discussion about the amount of Perkins' fine. Some members wanted to impose the maximum of $5,000, but others noted that he'd cooperated with the commission's investigation and had himself alerted its staff to the gift and questions about its legality.

A complaint before the commission alleged that Perkins violated a state law barring state employees from accepting most gifts. He was considered a state employee because state funds paid part of his salary.

"I never acted with any intent to violate any laws or ethical rules," Perkins said in a statement issued through his attorneys. "It is time for closure and to move on, and I am glad to have this matter fully and finally resolved."

The commission agreed not to pursue the matter further. The fine is a civil penalty, but the commission could have taken the unusual step of forwarding the case to prosecutors to consider criminal charges.

"Both parties worked very hard to reach this consent decree," said commission Chairwoman Sabrina Standifer, a Wichita attorney. "It is to everyone's benefit. We didn't have to have a full-blown hearing, bring in witnesses, all of those expenses, so I think it's a good resolution."

Perkins stepped down in September, a year before he intended to retire, amid allegations that he improperly accepted perks, including the exercise equipment and free physical therapy sessions from employees of the university's sports medicine department, which is part of the athletics department.

Under Perkins' watch, several athletics department employees were implicated in an alleged scheme to steal tickets to sporting events and scalp them for profit. Perkins was not implicated in that scheme but he acknowledged poor oversight of the ticket operations.

Perkins did not attend the commission's meeting. Todd Thompson, the attorney representing him at the commission's meeting, declined to comment, but in the agreement, Perkins and the commission's staff said they wanted to avoid "potentially costly and protracted litigation."

"I regret that this matter may have detracted from the attention given to our athletes," Perkins said in his statement.

The athletics department declined to comment, and university spokesman Jack Martin would say only that, "We said at the beginning that the ethics commission was the proper venue, and they've done what they were going to do."

In the agreement, Perkins acknowledged that he accepted exercise equipment in 2005, at no cost, from Medical Outfitters, based in the Kansas City area. The equipment stayed in his home until 2009.

Last year, Perkins paid $5,000 as a rental fee on the equipment, something the commission took into account when deciding how much to fine him. The complaint did not mention Perkins' payment or other details about the gift.

Before Tuesday's commission meeting, its staff dropped one of two counts in the complaint against Perkins, dealing with the physical therapy sessions. But the evidence provided by some witnesses was not strong enough to prove the allegation, and the commission had trouble in obtaining the testimony of another, said general counsel Judy Moler.

The unrelated ticket scandal led to federal charges against six former athletics department employees and a former department consultant. Four of the former employees have pleaded guilty -- two to conspiracy and the other two to knowing about but doing nothing to stop the scheme -- and will be sentenced in March. A former employee and the consultant had change-of-plea hearings on a single conspiracy charge later this week, and a former associate athletics director is set to stand trial on a conspiracy charge in March.

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