Veterinary examiner board director criticized over furlough leave

The Kansas Board of Veterinary Examiners is facing scrutiny over hundreds of unpaid furlough hours allegedly taken by its executive director, Dirk Hanson.

A detailed audit published online by the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit (LPA) claims that Hanson took nearly 1,000 hours of unpaid furlough leave over a seven-month period beginning August 2010.

According to the audit, Hanson said his reduction in work hours was intended to relieve some of the board’s financial concerns because the organization was facing budget problems. Hanson reportedly justified his furlough based on a 2009 analysis predicting that the board might have a cash shortage by March 2011.

After analyzing the board’s finances from the time period following the 2009 analysis, auditors determined that the board had sufficient funds on hand to cover expenses, meaning that Hanson’s furlough was financially unnecessary.

In addition, Hanson’s time away from work resulted in a “relatively small” financial impact, according to the audit: He forfeited $33,000 in pay during that time, but his health insurance coverage was unaffected.

Additional issues that the LPA said it found concerning regarding Hanson’s furlough include:

  • Kansas state law only permits classified employees to receive furlough leave, which means that Hanson is ineligible due to his unclassified designation.
  • Hanson’s leave was not submitted to the Department of Administration for approval.
  • Hanson worked a second veterinary-industry job while on furlough in which he said he helped veterinarians establish an online service where clients could order pet medications from their veterinarians and have them delivered to their homes. According to the audit, Hanson did not first check with the Governmental Ethics Commission to determine whether his second job constituted a conflict of interest.

In its published audit report, LPA expressed concerns that Hanson’s absence appears to have detrimentally impacted the board’s operations. The report says that while Hanson continued to represent the board in front of Legislature, he “was not available to oversee the regulation of veterinarians who need assurance that they are being regulated by someone who is qualified.”

The board’s staff continued to operate sufficiently while Hanson was away, the report said, but there were problems with some complaint investigations and inspections. LPA attributed some of these problems to inadequate management during Hanson’s absence because he was unable to delegate his responsibilities to others within the small organization.

LPA identified other potentially vulnerable areas within the board during the audit, such as careless cash-handling practices that could expose the board to fraud, as well as deficiencies within the board’s inspection process.

Hanson returned from his furlough in March 2011 and has resumed full oversight over inspections and complaint investigations, according to the report.

Read the official audit report on the LPA website