Thursday, March 5, 2009

Obama pick for HHS faces questions about state aid

Politics: Another week and another Obama pick with questions.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama's choice to head the Health and Human Services Department, is facing questions about increased state payments to a social services group whose board includes the chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Last fall, Sebelius' secretary of social and rehabilitation services, Don Jordan, approved an increased rate for Community Living Opportunities, a nonprofit group that provides services to the developmentally disabled, that amounted to $713,000.

The group's board of directors included Larry Gates, a Sebelius friend who has served as state Democratic chairman for six years; Dan Biles, a Gates law partner recently appointed by Sebelius to the Kansas Supreme Court, and Lew Perkins, athletic director at the University of Kansas. Biles left the board at the end of 2008.

Jordan said his decision was based on the severe disabilities of some of the group's clients and that warranted larger payments. Jordan has asked the Kansas Health Policy Authority to hire an outside expert to review his decision. Sebelius said there was nothing improper about Jordan's decision for the group located in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa.

On Wednesday, Kansas legislators said they planned hearings examining the decision and raised the possibility of seeking a legislative audit.

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