It Could Have Been Worse

By Lee White

Life is getting back to normal in Butler County government after a ransomware attack essentially shut it down for the better part of last week. Although the damage the attack caused in lost productivity, inconvenience to citizens, and to the county’s image can never be fully remedied, the attack could have been much worse had it occurred during tax season or a natural or man-made disaster.

County Administrator Will Johnson briefed commissioners on the ransomware attack during Tuesday’s meeting. Click here for the El Dorado Leader’s story. Among the revelations:

  • The attack began between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 9 and was first noticed in the 911 dispatch center.
  • The county had an offsite backup, but recovery took so long because of the amount of data stored there.
  • Johnson said he doesn’t know whether the ransom was paid, but county officials had instructions on breaking the ransomware’s encryption by the evening of Tuesday, September 12.

Questions remain:

  • If all data was backed up offsite, why was it necessary to crack the ransomware encryption?
  • How much was the ransom and was it paid?
  • Could the county have moved faster in the early stages of the attack? For example, should an emergency have been declared and county commissioners called into session prior to their regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, September 12?

Indeed, there will be much Monday morning quarterbacking inside and outside county government. That is as it should be. These are, after all, the people’s computers.

It is a testament to the excellent training of 911 dispatchers that the loss of their computer-aided dispatch system apparently resulted in no injury or loss of life to citizens or emergency personnel in the field. Computer-aided dispatch systems not only record dispatchers’ notes about calls, they help the dispatcher choose which responders to send and guide them to the location of the call. To go from 2017 to 1990 in the blink of an eye is difficult and dangerous. That nobody got hurt this time should not lull the county into complacency about next time.

It is imperative that county officials look at ways to prevent a future attack from infecting these vital dispatch computers. Impartial outside consultants should be hired to look into this aspect of computer security and others.

Save for a deductible and possible premium increases, it appears as if taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the ransom paid, if any, or for the law firm that its insurer recommended hiring. This is good news.

As to the question of whether the ransom was paid, I believe it almost certainly was. The amount is in question, but messages and comments to the Watchdog Facebook page fairly consistently peg it at $30,000. It is understandable that the county wouldn’t want to acknowledge paying the ransom. That only encourages crooks to try again. Nonetheless, I don’t think most folks believe the narrative that nobody at the county knew whether the ransom was paid.

Now is a good time to take stock of one’s own cybersecurity. Even individuals can be hit with ransomware. It’s far more profitable to go after a business or government, but such attacks can and do target individuals. Using a paid or free cloud backup system (e.g. Google Drive) is a good way to make sure one can access files in the event of a ransomware attack. Using an online e-mail service such as Gmail, setting up security software to scan e-mail attachments before downloading, and never clicking on links unless one is sure they came from a reputable source are other ways to prevent an infection.

Nameless, faceless cyber criminals brought county government to a standstill and cost its insurer and taxpayers money. It could have been worse, however, and it’ll be up to county commissioners and the people who elect them to ensure that future attacks, if any, are swiftly contained by supporting common-sense upgrades to computer systems and personnel.

#chuckzuck On Inauguration Day

By Lee White

I’m going to tell y’all something that will probably cost me some friendships. At the very least, there will be people I’ve known for decades who will think ill of me and probably speak ill of me either to my face or behind my back.

I voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States on November 8, 2016. So did my wife, Sherri. It wasn’t because we have a great deal of admiration for her character or her economic policies. It came down to her social agenda versus that of the Republicans. Having many close LGBT friends, we just couldn’t in good conscience support a candidate who might gut recent reforms put in place to protect them from discrimination.

But the voters have spoken and elected Donald Trump president. The Democrats, apparently failing to understand that they lost the election because they betrayed large sections of their political base and not just in 2016, have blamed the Russians for costing Clinton the election by conducting a disinformation campaign — in other words, planting “fake news.”

In response, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, has appointed a panel of experts to label certain information as fake and even to keep it from showing up as readily on the site. You’d still be able to post a link to a story deemed “fake,” but the story might be labeled as such. Here’s the more sinister part: The link also might not show up in your friends’ Facebook feeds or in search results, so the only way anyone would see it would be if he or she visited your page directly. That would severely curtail the number of eyeballs on that link.

I’m going to give you two links to read more about Zuckerberg’s plans: This one from the New York Times and this one from Alex Jones’ Infowars. I’m going to let you decide which version to believe and where the “facts” from each intersect. This I’m doing because I believe you, Gentle Readers, are intelligent enough to spot BS on your own and, if not, to suffer the consequences just as I did when I fell for this ruse about a biscuit can exploding in a shoplifter’s vagina.

If all Facebook does is limit access to “exploding biscuit” stories, which are designed to drive traffic to clickbait sites that make their money when visitors click on advertisements, that would be fine. I don’t believe, however, that Facebook will stop there. I know the sting of censorship all too well and so do others.

A Circle High School student told me he was ordered to stop displaying a Donald Trump banner at Tuesday night’s basketball game against Buhler. Flinthills Services also filed a frivolous complaint against me with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services after I reported on a developmentally-disabled client who had signed over his property rights to the county-funded agency. The mainstream media in Wichita and Butler County have failed to report on these stories.

Some readers, particularly Democrats, are probably asking, “What’s the big deal?” They may even believe that Facebook’s initiative is a good thing that will serve their political interests well in the coming years. They fail to consider that censorship will eventually reach their back yard.

Most of my Democratic friends supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. Many Sanders supporters believe he got a raw deal from party leaders, even going so far as to say that the election was rigged against him. What’s to stop Zuckerberg’s panel of experts from branding stories as fake if they support a Democratic primary candidate they don’t like in 2020 or beyond? The answer is, “nothing.”

Facebook is a business. As such, the type of censorship it proposes is perfectly legal because the First Amendment exists to shield the public only from government restrictions on free speech. But those of us who use Facebook also have the right to stop doing business with Facebook if we do not agree with its policies. We grant Facebook a tremendous amount of power over our lives by posting life events, photos, and other personal information to its massive network of servers. It is time to take some of that power back.

Please join me on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, in disabling your Facebook account. Click here for instructions on how to do so. You may also download my Facebook profile picture above and use it as your own. Click here for a direct link to the file, or you Windows users may simply right click on it and select “Save image as.”

Facebook has been a wonderful tool for me to stay in touch with family and with friends old and new. It has also allowed me to get the message out concerning issues I feel strongly about. Although I don’t always agree when others do the same, I don’t want anyone but me telling me what is truth. I don’t trust the news media to do this for me because of the experiences I have had both as a reporter and while blogging. I realize I risk Facebook revoking my user account and maybe even suing me for undertaking this protest, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try.

One of my journalism instructors likened censorship to Carl Sandburg’s poem, “Fog:”

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
It is up to us, my fellow Americans, to be the foghorn.

The Real Reason To Hate The Media

By Lee White

I saw that bumper sticker the other day — the one that reads, “I DON’T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA!” That thing has been around since the Reagan Administration. The first time I saw it, I was a young reporter doing afternoon traffic reports in Wichita. There it was on a dumpy little clunker driven by an older woman near Central and Ridge. The recent encounter made me swear time travel was possible.

After watching bits and pieces of ABC’s Election Night coverage, it is understandable why Republicans believe the media is biased toward Democrats. The commentators seemed positively incredulous at the notion that anyone had voted for Donald Trump — let alone that he was beating Hillary Clinton. She was clearly smarter, better organized, better qualified and all the cool people were voting for her. Except some of them didn’t. A lot of them didn’t. The media came face to face with the reality that their grip on the nation’s collective psyche is slipping away and they weren’t taking it well.

The media probably are biased toward liberals, but they are also biased toward incumbent politicians and the bureaucrats they hire or appoint. Reporters love the status quo and one needn’t venture far from Butler County to prove that assertion. Never in my 51 years have I encountered so many journalists so positively enamored with “the way things are” than I have in the Wichita metropolitan area.

All reporters, to some extent, are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them. Advertisers feed them money. This is why one rarely sees a hard-hitting investigation of car dealers. Public officials feed them information. This is why one rarely sees a hard-hitting investigation of, well, anything.

Reporters have become so afraid that politicians and especially cops will cut off easy access to routine stories and sound bites that they won’t risk running any coverage that might embarrass sources even if the public good demands otherwise.

Time and again during the nearly six months this blog has been in existence, I’ve broken stories that needed to be told. Examples:

  • The whistleblower lawsuit against Flinthills services and the retaliation I faced as a result of reporting on it,
  • A dispute between the Augusta Department of Public Safety director and Rose Hill officials,
  • The fact that the EMS director lives almost as far away from Butler County as I do,
  •  The real reason an Augusta cop left the department and the fact that he continued to work for the chief’s private business long after,
  • Turnover in the EMS and sheriff’s departments, and
  • Questionable donations to Sheriff Kelly Herzet’s campaign.

The only story the mainstream media covered at all was turnover at the sheriff’s department and only after it became the central issue in the campaign. Even when there was little left for reporters to do but make a few phone calls and use this blog as political “cover” for running a story, they wouldn’t pull the trigger.

Granted, I started this blog as a way to help a friend, Walker Andrews, get elected sheriff. I’ve never lied about that or tried to hide it. I also involve myself in stories and offer opinions in ways mainstream journalists wouldn’t. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not and that I never really wanted to be in the first place.

I wouldn’t have a problem with the mainstream media being “liberal,” “conservative,” or refusing to do stories because they don’t want to offend a source or an advertiser. But, for the love of God, don’t pretend to be an unbiased source of information or an occupier of the moral high ground.

You’re not on my side. You don’t have my back. And the only thing anyone should expect more of is the same. And don’t think I’m picking on TV stations. It’s just that most newspapers don’t have catchy slogans. What some papers do have that broadcast outlets usually don’t is people who are capable of investigative reporting and in-depth writing. Unfortunately, they also have editors and publishers who won’t allow those people to use their skills to hold the powerful accountable.

If traditional media are going to abandon their, uh, watchdog role — and sources and advertisers are going to utilize the stick and carrot to make sure they do — something will fill the void. People, corporations, and even government agencies will tell their own stories via social media. Rogue reporters will start blogs. Special interest group “think tanks” such as the Kansas Policy Institute will similarly circumvent the media. Before you know it, there is no more “bubble headed bleach blonde who comes on at five.”

Maybe that’s part of the grand scheme. I mean, how relevant could she be in an age when news breaks at the speed of light on cyber platforms that didn’t even exist until the second Bush Administration? By the time five o’clock rolls around, everybody already knows what’s going to be in tomorrow’s newspaper if the presses even run the next day. And the news comes on at 4 p.m. because the stations that carried Oprah have never found a suitable syndicated replacement.

So hate the lamestream media if you will, but do so for the right reason. Loathe them not for the information they bring you but for that which they do not.

Better still, instead of hating the media — even if the media you hate is me — BECOME the media. Develop a following. Learn how to dig up facts. Write or speak or photograph or shoot video of what you believe isn’t getting enough coverage. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog. Sounds trite, but be the change you want to see in the world.

That’s what we’re doing with Watchdog. I thank you for being part of our growing audience.

Time For New Leadership

By Lee White

It’s time for Butler County EMS Director Chad Pore to go home to Greensburg and stay there.

Pore, who apparently still lives in Greensburg more than two years after accepting the Butler County position, put his foot in his mouth big time during a September 21 staff meeting. During a discussion of how the 2017 county budget affected his department, Pore said, “One commissioner is not going to be back next year. That’s good.”

The only county commissioner who is not returning next year is Peggy Palmer.

Pore had voiced his displeasure earlier in the meeting that a station remodeling project budget was slashed by about 75 percent.

“The whole thing, I’ll be honest, the whole thing is not what we want,” Pore said. “We want a quarter of a million freakin’ dollars to do a damn remodel that we should be able to have and the reality of it is, above my pay grade says, ‘no.'”

As is common practice, someone with EMS posted the staff meeting video to YouTube. Click here for the link. You will notice that it says “this video has been removed by the user.” That occurred several hours after I posted the video on the Butler County Watchdog Facebook page.

There are two issues here. First, a county department head stands up in full uniform in front of his staff and the public and rejoices at the fact that one of his bosses is leaving. That smacks of insubordination. If County Administrator Will Johnson allows a department head to get away with such behavior this time, what is he going to do when it is directed toward a commissioner he likes (e.g. Mike Wheeler, Dan Woydziak, or Jeff Masterson)?

The second issue involves the video and its sudden disappearance. Pore knew the camera was on him. How do I know that he knew? Because at one point late in the meeting, he asked that the camera be shut off, presumably so he could discuss something he didn’t want the folks out in YouTube Land to see. Then after I post a link to it, the video disappears — removed by the user.

The video’s removal reminds me of the new as-yet-unwritten county policy regarding Kansas Open Records Act requests. Those requests now go to County Counselor Terry Huelskamp, who writes letters at taxpayer expense, apparently in an effort to delay release of the records. In other words, if it makes the county look bad, cover it up! I blame Johnson for allowing this culture of secrecy to permeate the county.

Because I’m often called a liar when I report information that tarnishes the county’s image, I’m careful to have a Plan B. In this instance, I used my phone to make audio recordings of Pore’s utterances from the YouTube video because I anticipated its removal. Click here for the remark about Palmer and click here for the quote about the remodeling budget. I apologize for the audio quality, but I think you’ll hear what you need to hear.

No, I haven’t always agreed with Peggy Palmer, but the people in her neck of the woods seem to like her. They have elected her to multiple terms in the Kansas Legislature — both House and Senate — and the county commission. As evidenced by her candor when a citizen questioned commissioners about Pore’s residency at the July 12 county commission meeting, she’s honest and transparent.

Pore exercised horrible judgment by attacking Palmer in front of his staff and in a public forum. Coupled with his reluctance to move to Butler County, it should be abundantly clear to him, to Johnson, and to county commissioners that an exit strategy is in order. Anything less will demonstrate that Johnson has lost complete control of the organization he is paid so well to manage and that his days should also be numbered.

County Funnels Open Records Request Through Attorney

By Lee White

As expected, the woman who last Thursday requested a list of new hires and terminations from the Butler County Sheriff’s Department for the period beginning August 1, 2016, has received a letter from County Counselor Terry Huelskamp. The Andover attorney said he would get in touch with her to discuss how much time and money it would take to supply her with the records.

In May, this same woman received two years’ worth of the same information for both the sheriff’s department and Emergency Medical Service in three days for $39. One wonders how much taxpayer money the county is paying Huelskamp to write letters such as this one. My guess is, more than $39. Perhaps I should file a Kansas Open Records Act request for the bills.

But what do legal fees matter to the Butler County Commission, County Administrator Will Johnson, and Sheriff Kelly Herzet? Not much of the money comes out of their pockets. Besides, they don’t want another blog post like this one to remind taxpayers that the agency apparently continues to have problems recruiting and retaining deputies.

Public access to records is vital to holding elected and appointed officials accountable. The Open Records Act, although often a tool for journalists, is supposed to apply equally to all members of the public. Just because Johnson and Herzet don’t like the individual making the request — just because the information the records contain might prove embarrassing — doesn’t mean that the law and county policy concerning the law should not apply equally. Does every member of the public who requests records get a letter from Huelskamp? That’s fodder for yet another Open Records Act request.

In case you’re wondering why someone wants these records — not that one is required by law to state a reason — there have been reports of more turnover at the sheriff’s department. Records might help answer these questions:

  • Have five deputies recently left the road patrol?
  • Are road patrol deputies being required to work overtime at the jail because it is still understaffed?
  • Did a contract deputy assigned to Douglass recently leave for greener pastures?

By needlessly delaying a lawful open records request, county officials have more or less confirmed that turnover is still a problem. Instead of just handing over the statistics and letting them speak for themselves, Johnson & Co. have generated more negative publicity for themselves by dragging the process out.

While Johnson continues to hide behind his lawyer, the situation at the sheriff’s department becomes even more dire as experienced deputies leave and quality recruits make themselves scarce. County commissioners already approved more money for jail deputies, according to this story from the Times-Gazette. But the jail isn’t the only issue.

Instead of trying to sweep everything under the rug, how about real leadership and real solutions? Yes, it’s going to take money, but money is only part of it. Why not bring in a human resources consultant to conduct confidential interviews with current and former deputies and to study pay, benefits, turnover, and working conditions and draw comparisons with other departments? I’m not usually a fan of spending money on consultants, but this may be the time to do it and it makes more sense than paying lawyers any day of the week.

Andrews Launches Write-In Campaign For Sheriff

By Lee White

With a post on this campaign Facebook page, retired Wichita Police Lt. Walker Andrews launched a write-in campaign for Butler County sheriff. Andrews came in second in a four-way primary race that incumbent Kelly Herzet won with about 40 percent of the vote. Andrews faces an uphill battle to win a write-in campaign as would any candidate. Voters are used to choosing from the “menu” even if there is no choice or the choices really suck (witness the current presidential race).

I suggested a write-in on election night and encouraged Andrews and the other two losing candidates, Mike Holton and Curtis Cox, to come together in support of the effort. That was not to be, which makes the hill Andrews must climb even steeper. So the question becomes, if I lived in Butler County (thank God I don’t!), would I push the button for Herzet, write in Andrews, or simply abstain?

Without a doubt, I would write in Andrews. The sheriff’s department allegedly continues to suffer from deputy turnover — a major issue in the primary. I say “allegedly” because when a local resident requested the same sort of public records referenced in this blog post, she was met with a delay tactic county administration recently adopted. This tactic involves referring Kansas Open Records Act requests to Terry Huelskamp, an Andover attorney, so he can write a meaningless letter at taxpayer expense to the person who requested the records in hopes that individual will drop the matter or not know what legal steps to take.

Those legal steps are clearly outlined right here on the Kansas Attorney General’s website. I have encouraged the woman who requested the number of hires and terminations at the sheriff’s department since August 1 to follow the procedure outlined on the attorney general’s site and not to let Huelskamp and County Administrator Will Johnson off the hook. Whatever she chooses to do — and whatever Johnson, Huelskamp, and the county commissioners who employ them choose to do — will not happen in a vacuum this time.

Playing games with the Open Records Act only lends credibility to the information others and I have received that the revolving door continues to spin at the sheriff’s department. Instead of proposing real solutions (e.g. pre-employment skill testing, a pay-and-benefits study, or focus groups where current employees can speak without fear of retaliation), Johnson, who made $121,953 in 2015, according to kansasopengov.org, hides in his office and squanders scarce resources on legal fees to cover Herzet’s backside and aid his campaign.

Voters should also ask themselves this question: Who becomes sheriff if Herzet retires before the end of his term? If the answer is Undersheriff Tony Wilhite, be afraid. Be VERY afraid. You think turnover’s bad now…

The issue is really larger than the sheriff’s race. It is about a county that was growing and has become stagnant (projected to grow by only 1,400 by 2019). It is about an administrator who believes he is accountable to no one, least of all the public. It is about bright minds who avoid working and living in the county because of the petty, vindictive, inbred manner in which it operates and because they don’t want to pay Johnson County taxes for Greeley County services. Who can blame them?

Writing in Walker Andrews for sheriff may seem an exercise in futility, but it is a simple way voters can thumb their noses at the status quo. It will also make the people bankrolling Herzet’s campaign spend more of their money. That’s key in a war of attrition. Moreover, it’ll send a message to Johnson and the county commissioners that they will join El Dorado City Manager Herb Llewellyn on the plant-watering detail if they don’t clean up their act.

County Commissioners Discuss Sporting Events, Make Board Appointment

By Julie Pots

 

img_20160913_092940959_hdr
Gary Wartick addresses county commissioners

Butler County commissioners on Tuesday conducted a work session on the subject of issuing Gary and Deborah Wartick special permits to continue holding more than two cross country running events per year at their private residence.  Several area citizens voiced their concerns regarding dust, school bus parking, speeding vehicles and the possible damage being done to the township roads.  The commissioners listened to all citizens, including Mr. Wartick, but did not make a decision regarding the granting of special permits to continue this practice.  One access route to the Wartick’s property uses a road maintained by Spring Township, another route uses a road maintained by El Dorado Township.   A different area of concern brought up by a resident not living in the area was the potential for accidents.  The citizen was concerned that although the Warticks operate an insurance company on the premises and purchase insurance for these events, that policy may not protect any participants or attendees, and may cover only the insured.

Several school districts along with the Butler County Community College hold events on the property at several times during the calendar year.  Mr. Wartick is also employed by Circle School District as a cross country coach.

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Flinthills Services CEO Kathy Walter and board appointee Norm Duncan speak to commissioners

Commissioners also appointed Norm Duncan to an at-large position on the board of directors of Flinthills Services and the Community Developmental Disabilities Organization of Butler County. Duncan is branch manager of Bank of the West in Augusta, but lives in Sedgwick County. Commissioners recently amended the Flinthills Services by-laws to allow an individual who resides outside the county but is employed locally to serve on the board. Duncan said he became interested in Flinthills because his son has a disability that includes autism.

Rose Hill citizen Julie Winslow spoke to Butler County commissioners during the public comment period regarding open records requests sent to the county for processing.  She cited three incidents that she wanted to put “on record:”

1) Several months ago she requested statistics from the sheriff’s office, and after passing that request through the county clerk’s office she received a telephone call from Sheriff Herzet and Undersheriff Wilhite explaining that they had a new computer system that they weren’t able to use yet

2) Winslow also stated that six other unrelated requests were made specifically to the sheriff’s office as well – those requests were made recently by the Citizens for a Better Butler County – and all six requests were immediately referred to Terry Huelskamp, the attorney for the Board of Commissioners and were responded to in six separate letters stating that basically the information would take time to gather.  She advised that nothing further had been received nor has the cost of gathering such information been supplied as is required by law

3) Speaking on behalf of a citizen in Pleasant Township, Ms. Winslow also presented several records to the board that were “incident reports” received from the sheriff’s office where much of the information on the reports were redacted before the records were released to the requestor.

Ms. Winslow stated that these were public records containing no personal information such as social security numbers or birthdates.   She also stated that she has received multiple such county records and not once had any information ever been redacted.  Commission Chairman Jeff Masterson, of Andover, said he  did not know why the redactions were done to these records nor was he or other commissioners aware of public records being handled through the board’s attorney, and that he would check it out and let her know.  Ms. Winslow asked if the information would be received at the next commission meeting but Mr. Masterson would make no promises as to when he might have that information for her.

I recently spoke with Ms. Ladonna Johnson regarding questions she asked the commission a few weeks ago (click here for the Watchdog article) on behalf of the Pleasant Township Coalition as to 1) Why Butler County EMS Director Chad Pore is being allowed to live in Greensburg, Kansas 2) Why he is allowed to ‘hotel’ at the Augusta EMS facility three nights per week free of charge  3) When or if he will be moving, to Butler County.   Ms. Johnson also did not understand why the county just gave him a $5,000-per-year raise given the circumstances.  Chairman Masterson has not yet responded to any of those questions either.

Click here to view county commission agendas and minutes and to listen to audio of this and other meetings.

County Loan Program Launches Two Businesses

By Lee White

Note: The above video came from The Wichita Eagle’s YouTube channel and the one below from Goodwin’s channel.

Wichita Eagle reporter Carrie Rengers in her “Have You Heard?” column on Wednesday profiled Johnathan Goodwin’s latest endeavor. Goodwin is best known for building the prototype of rocker Neil Young’s electric 1959 Lincoln Continental known as the LincVolt (click here for the Wikipedia entry). These days, he’s converting Humvees into more powerful, comfortable, and fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the newspaper column.

The story mentions that Goodwin, dubbed “mechanic to the stars,” had been keeping a low profile the past few years, working out of a garage in El Dorado. Goodwin’s company, Clean Futures, LLC, received two loans totaling $125,000 from the Butler County Economic Development Department. According to county commission minutes from February 9, Clean Futures still owed $84,498 at that time and was making “adjusted monthly payments.” Click here to view the minutes.

Although Goodwin has moved his end of the business to Sedgwick County, the company he started in Butler County remains there today and is apparently stronger than ever.

El Dorado businessman Steve Waite, who backed Clean Futures, has purchased Goodwin’s interest in the company and employs five people at 621 N. Star in El Dorado. The company’s name changed to Twisted Conversions, LLC, in March. A new website is in the works, but click here for the company’s current site. Waite said he and Goodwin are still friends, but that he didn’t want to get into the business of completely remanufacturing Humvees, which Goodwin is doing in space he leased at the Kansas Coliseum Pavilions.

Twisted Conversions focuses on H-line conversions — converting engines in H1 and H2 Hummers from gasoline to diesel while increasing both fuel efficiency and horsepower, according to the company’s website. Goodwin performs similar engine conversions on Humvees at his Sedgwick County facility. An original Hummer gets between eight and 12 miles per gallon with a 325 horsepower engine. Once converted, they get up to 25 miles per gallon with a 650-plus horsepower engine capable of running on biodiesel.

Waite said his company continues to make payments on the county loans, the bulk of which came from a fund set up around 2001 when commissioners had designs on taking over the rail line between Augusta and Andover. The Butler County Economic Development Department has loaned money to businesses as diverse as Jacob’s Well, a downtown El Dorado restaurant, and BG Products, a lubricant and automotive chemical maker that relocated much of its operation from Wichita to the El Dorado Industrial Park.

Loans are available to new and existing businesses in Butler County, according to Economic Development Director David Alfaro, who spoke at the February commission meeting. Loans are considered a last resort — businesses must present a letter of denial from a bank — and there had been no applications within the prior two years. Most of the loans come from the Revolving Loan Fund, which had a balance of $33,494. Others come from a micro-loan program, which had a balance of $88,922. Both those programs originated from state grants. Click here for the department’s website.

The railroad project that gave rise to the rail fund eventually morphed into the Augusta-to-Andover rails-to-trails initiative. County commissioners insisted at their May 17 meeting that they are not planning to use the rail fund to pay for the rails-to-trails project. Click here for a transcript of the discussion. As of May, there was $545,000 in the rail fund.

Here’s some impressive video of the fastest Humvee on the road:

Citizen Confronts Commissioners About EMS Director Residency

A rural Rose Hill resident confronted Butler County commissioners at the end of their meeting this morning concerning the residency of Butler County EMS Director Chad Pore. Ladonna Johnson told commissioners she had read on Butler County Watchdog that Pore has been living in Greensburg since he took the director’s job in May 2014. Click on the icon above and turn up your speakers or headphones to listen to the recording of the meeting.

Most of the commissioners who spoke about the issue seemed nervous. One repeatedly promised to look into the matter, but did not give a timetable for doing so. After Johnson stated that Pore lived in Greensburg, Kansas, one of the male voices can be heard saying, “That’s true — three days a week.” In the interest of accuracy and full disclosure of all information that let to this conclusion, the following section of this paragraph was updated at 3:05 p.m. on 7/16/2016 to reflect three days off per week and inclusion of a link to a Facebook screen capture: That would mean that Pore is taking multiple three-day weekends — or at the very least three days off per week — during which he resides 137 miles from EMS Headquarters in El Dorado. Mr. Pore stated in a comment on his Facebook page, which was publicly available to view, that he commutes “two times a week. ” Click here to view a screen capture.

Johnson grilled commissioners about whether Pore was staying at Butler County EMS Station 2 on Ohio Street in Augusta and who was paying for it. She never got a straight answer — just a lot of talk about how EMS stations are typically staffed 24 hours a day.  She also did not get an answer to her question about whether Pore drives a county vehicle to and from Greensburg, but someone on the recording — possibly County Administrator Will Johnson — stated that Pore is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

At one point, Ladonna Johnson said to the county administrator, “Will, it’s disrespectful for you to walk away while I’m talking.”

The only commissioner who offered an informative answer during the nearly five-minute encounter was Peggy Palmer, who is serving her final term.

“My understanding when he was hired and we were told that, yes, he planned to relocate,” Palmer said. “He understood and all of us agreed and all of us talked about it, give him time to move here, but that we would like to have him as a Butler County resident.”

Palmer’s recollection of the situation appears to be accurate.

“The first thing we did in Kiowa County was recognize that we need to be leaders in patient care,” said Pore, in this Butler County Times-Gazette article announcing his arrival in 2014. “My family lives in the community and they will be living in Butler County. It is very important to me that they and everyone else receives the care they need, when they need.”

One question remains: Just when will Pore and his family begin living in Butler County?

Above are the facts. Listen to the recording for yourselves. Click here to read the earlier blog post about Pore’s residency. What follows is my opinion.

It is obvious that most county commissioners and County Administrator Will Johnson don’t like being held accountable to the public they serve. The administrator, in particular, has failed to deal with this issue for lo these past two years. It begs the question: What else has he failed to deal with while drawing his $121,953 annual salary?

I applaud Commissioner Palmer for her candor during the meeting. Although I haven’t always been a fan of hers, I think she’s the only one who’s trying to do the right thing and it’ll be a loss for Butler County when she steps into retirement in January.

Mr. Pore, you need to make a choice: Kiowa County or Butler County. Mr. Johnson and his supporters on the commission apparently lack the courage to make it for you.

Police chiefs, fire chiefs, EMS directors, and top-level managers of most decent public- and private-sector concerns live close to their work — not just because it’s policy most places, but because they want to set an example for their employees, potential employees, and professional colleagues that living and working in their chosen locale is something they value and enjoy.

Although I no longer live in Butler County, there is a huge difference between a blogger and an EMS director, who gets paid around $70,000 a year and is responsible for those who make life-and-death decisions in emergencies. All of you people who grill me about not living in Butler County: Why don’t you ask Mr. Pore why he doesn’t move there? Maybe you’re afraid of the answer you’ll get, much like Mr. Johnson and the county commissioners (with the exception of Palmer) are apparently afraid of people like Ladonna Johnson.

Butler County EMS Director Commutes From Home In Greensburg

By Lee White

Note: This is not intended as an attack of any on the hard-working EMTs and paramedics serving the citizens of Butler County or any other jurisdiction day in and day out. I’m proud of you, I thank you for your service — including transporting my mother about six weeks ago — and I do not want anyone thinking I’m one of the protester types we’ve seen across the nation recently. I just believe someone needs to hold public officials (i.e. county commissioners and administration) accountable. Because I have the skills, the time, and know the history of Butler County government better than most alive today, I choose to do this. 

Butler County EMS Director Chad Pore continues to reside in Greensburg more than two years after taking the job. Pore served as Kiowa County EMS director prior to accepting the Butler County position on May 14, 2014.

Pore is registered to vote in Kiowa County and voted in the November 4, 2014, general election more than five months after becoming Butler County EMS director. Click here for information obtained from Kansas Voter View. Pore states on his Facebook page that he lives in Greensburg. Click here to view a screen capture. Various Facebook posts also confirm his residency including this one where he tells a friend he commutes to Butler County two times a week.

I have sent an e-mail to Pore, County Administrator Will Johnson, and all five county commissioners informing them of the situation and seeking comment. I will publish any comments I receive in their entirety.

According to mapquest.com, Pore’s residence is 137 miles from Butler County EMS Headquarters at 701 N. Haverhill Road, El Dorado. Mapquest estimates it takes two hours and 18 minutes to cover that distance by road. Detractors frequently complain that I do not live in Butler County. That is correct. I live in Harrisonville, Missouri, which is 172 miles and two hours and 54 minutes away from the EMS headquarters by road, according to mapquest.com.

The difference is, I’m a blogger. If I can’t reach the scene of a disaster in Butler County in a timely manner or if I can’t communicate with someone there by phone or radio because communications have been disrupted, it’s really no big deal. Pore, on the other hand, whose gross pay was $69,859 last year, according to kansasopengov.org, oversees a department charged with protecting the health and safety of more than 65,000 residents.

This blog post dealing with turnover at the sheriff’s department and EMS indicates that most of Pore’s staff, including management, is fairly new. Should disaster strike as it did in Eureka last Thursday night and as it almost did at the Butler County Jail on Sunday, one would think Johnson and county commissioners would insist that department heads live in the community in case their services are needed after hours.

Grant Helferich, who was EMS director until shortly before Pore took over, lived in El Dorado, reared his children there, and could frequently be found at major incidents including the 1991 Andover tornado. I know. I was there.

I drove out to Greensburg on Sunday. I’ll admit I was there looking for a Butler County EMS vehicle parked in front of Pore’s house. I did not see one. I also wanted to see what the town looked like since it was devastated by a tornado on May 4, 2007. It was my first trip to Greensburg in probably 30 years.

No doubt about it: Deep scars remain. I found myself wanting to roll up my sleeves and do something even after all these years have passed. And I realize that taking a good family like Pore’s out of Greensburg hurts that community far more than taking a good family out of Butler County does. Greensburg suffered a double whammy: A year after the tornado hit, along came the Great Recession. That the town is doing as well as it is amazes me. I want to return when I have more time, bring my wife, and examine closely the strides the brave people of Kiowa County have made.

Against that backdrop, I can understand Pore’s reluctance to relocate. But the people of Butler County deserve an EMS director who is part of the community just as Helferich was (and still is). If folks are going to attack me for writing about Butler County from afar, well, don’t you think these same people should have an issue with someone who runs a major county emergency service and lives almost as far away as I do?

And I know it would be difficult to sell a home in Greensburg. I don’t know whether Pore owns the house where he and his family live or whether they’ve tried to sell it. I do know there was no “for sale” sign in the yard when I drove by on Sunday. Giving someone a transition period is perfectly acceptable, but two years is too long.

Then there’s the issue of the paramedics and EMTs who work for Pore. I don’t know how it is these days, but in the 1990s, crews were required to live within a certain radius of EMS stations so they could be on call. If there is any sort of a residency requirement for rank-and-file EMS workers, Pore should lead by example and follow suit.

As much as I sympathize with the people of Greensburg and with Pore for his apparent attachment to the place, I believe county commissioners need to insist that he choose one community or the other. Butler County is the largest geographically in the state. In addition to the weather hazards we all face (even those who live 20 miles into Missouri), Butler County has a major refinery, a prison, and a larger-than-average jail. The potential for a major incident is too great to risk having a top manager so far away. There’s nothing illegal about this arrangement — county commissioners could fly an EMS director in on a Learjet from New York City every week if they wanted to — but it is bad public policy and needs to end.