TOPEKA — Four members of the Kansas Board of Regents acknowledged Thursday business ownership stakes or significant financial ties to higher education institutions necessitating recusals to avoid a conflict of interest.
The most extensive potential conflicts involved Dave Murfin, chairman of the Board of Regents and a key donor to Kansas political organizations and candidates. He was appointed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in 2015, and is chief executive officer of Murfin Inc., which features Murfin Drilling Co., as well as one of the largest John Deere construction dealerships in North America.
Murfin, of Wichita, has an interest in companies with “one or more” contracts with Wichita State University and in three companies, including Air Capital Flight and Executive Airshare, with working relationships at Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and WSU.
The Board of Regents voted unanimously to accept staff recommendations that members excuse or monitor themselves when engaged in potential conflicts.
“I need to figure out if I vote or not, since I’m the problem,” Murfin said. “I want to be absolutely as transparent as possible.”
Others members of the nine-person Board of Regents with financial conflicts included Joe Bain, a Goodland resident who possesses a 40-percent share and serves as vice president of Cure & Bain. The law firm’s clients include Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland.
Board member Ann Brandau-Murguia works as executive director of the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association that routinely partners with KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. Shane Bangerter, a Dodge City member of the Board of Regents, owns a law firm that provided legal services to Dodge City Community College.
“The individual would then abstain from voting on these particular areas where they have a conflict?” Bangerter asked.
“Abstain from voting and also from participating in the discussion,” said Julene Miller, general counsel to the Board of Regents.
She said the exception would be if the Board of Regents determined the regent with a conflict could provide information unobtainable from other sources.
“I feel comfortable with our board policy,” Bangerter said. “It appears to be a very thorough process, a very fair process.”
These linkages were discussed during the Board of Regents’ meeting in Topeka following release of a report that also noted membership of four regents on boards that were either required by state law or not likely to raise concerns.
Board member Ellen Van Etten, of Topeka, serves as the Board of Regents’ appointee to the governing board of Washburn University in Topeka. Dennis Mullin, vice chairman of the Board of Regents and a resident of Manhattan, is on Kansas State’s business college advisory council.
Murguia is on the board of trustees at University of Missouri-Kansas City, while Murfin is on KU’s endowment board and the business school’s advisory board.