TOPEKA — The Kansas Legislature’s auditors are proceeding with a review to determine whether a former Cabinet secretary in the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback broke state procedures or laws when handing out consulting and marketing contracts.
Antonio Soave, who stepped down in June as secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, has come under scrutiny amid a lawsuit filed by a former investment partner and a separate controversy regarding issuance of agency contracts to Soave’s associates.
Brownback praised Soave’s “great vision” when the secretary stepped down after 18 months leading the agency, but the governor later confirmed Soave was fired due to allegations of fraud and other financial misconduct.
Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican and chairman of the Legislature’s bipartisan auditing committee, authorized the audit of Soave’s contracts, as well as the possibility the secretary charged personal business expenses to taxpayers.
The auditors are to identify the Commerce Department contracts awarded during Soave’s tenure, the financial amounts of each and the recipient of those contracts.
“We’ve heard news reports of unethical, if not illegal, things he was doing over there,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat who requested the audit.
Soave has defended his participation in decisions to award hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting and marketing deals. He said he did his best to expand the state’s economy in “a way that I felt was appropriate and positive.”
In 2017, Soave launched a campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for the Second District seat in Congress but later withdrew from the race.