Fired Leavenworth County counselor rehired with raise

David Van Parys hired as contract employee
Posted at 12:25 PM, Sep 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-27 13:55:23-04

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - Insubordination, dereliction of duty and policy violations -- those are the reasons given for the firing of Leavenworth County Counselor David Van Parys late last year.

Now he is working as a consultant for Leavenworth County at a salary of more than $40,000 a year, more money than he was making before commissioners fired him.    

The 41 Action News Investigators went to Van Parys' office to ask him about his firing.

"I prefer not to discuss that," he said.

The 41 Action News Investigators exclusively obtained Van Parys' termination letter from last December.

It states Van Parys was warned multiple times about violating county policy, insubordination, dishonesty, poor job performance, absenteeism and tardiness before he was fired.

The letter states despite counseling and an offer of help Van Parys refused, the county was "at serious risk due to his actions and a number of incomplete projects."

The 41 Action News Investigators also obtained a separation agreement offered to Van Parys.

The offer included a lump sum severance payment of more than $29,000.

Under terms of the deal the payment would be made on December 28.

On Thursday, 41 Action News mistakenly reported Van Parys accepted that severance package.

But Van Parys never signed the deal which also included a clause barring him from seeking or accepting future employment with Leavenworth County. 

Instead, a few weeks later, the newly elected county commission board approved a new contract for Van Parys at $140,000 a year.

His salary was a little over $95,000 a year as county counselor before he was fired.

New commissioner Doug Smith and returning commissioner Clyde Graeber voted for the new Van Parys contract.

The third commissioner, Bob Holland, who signed off on firing Van Parys, said he had no idea Van Parys would be rehired until that meeting.

"This is all about playing the good old boy and that's what I've been trying to get away from," Holland said.

The 41 Action News Investigators tried to ask Smith, the chairman of the Leavenworth County Commissioners, about the rehire.

"I have no comment. You can talk to the county administrator," he said.

"It wasn't on the agenda that day, but the discussion was held during the meeting," Leavenworth County Administrator Mark Loughry said.

The 41 Action News Investigators also asked Loughry if approving the new contract for Van Parys when there was no agenda item for that action constituted a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act or KOMA.

"I wouldn't be able to comment on that," Loughry said.

The 41 Action News Investigators asked Van Parys if his $140,000 a year contract is a good deal for Leavenworth County taxpayers.

"I provide services to the taxpayers of Leavenworth County," Van Parys said.

"I think it's rather incredible because it's purely political," former Leavenworth County Commissioner Dennis Bixby said.

Bixby, who was defeated by Smith in the August 2016 Republican primary, also signed off on Van Parys' termination before he left office.

"He's doing considerably less work, but we're going to pay him 50 percent more and bring him back as if nothing happened," Bixby said.

There's an additional provision in Van Parys' contract that has him set up to make even more county money.

Currently, county commissioners are challenging the contracts of four employees in court.

Two of them are the counselor and deputy counselor who are both on paid administrative leave while the lawsuit is ongoing.

Commissioners are now using Van Parys as the interim county counselor while the suit is pending.

Under terms of his contract with the county, Van Parys is being paid $100 per hour in that role.

That fee is more than double the rate of roughly $45.84 per hour he was making for the same job before he was fired.

"He does get paid extra for that because those are duties above and beyond what he was originally contracted for," Loughry said.

Van Parys' main responsibility under the contract is acting as a consultant on projects approved by Leavenworth County voters in the February 2015 sales tax ballot.

There were three road projects identified in that ballot.

They're currently in various stages of the bidding process.

The money to pay Van Parys' main $140,000 salary from the contract comes from that one cent increase in the county sales tax to build those road projects.

The additional money to pay for his services as interim counselor come from the county's general fund.

Both Commissioners Smith and Graeber declined comment.

The 84-year-old Graeber was just re-elected to a four-year term last November, but is resigning effective after next Thursday's meeting, citing health concerns.


Editor's Note: 41 Action News reported Van Parys accepted that severance package. Van Parys never signed the deal which also included a clause barring him from seeking or accepting future employment with Leavenworth County.