TOPEKA — Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities Executive Director Jane Rhys has been placed on administrative leave.
Rhys had held the position for 18 years.
Contacted by KHI News Service on Monday, she declined comment. She was placed on administrative leave on Friday.
Kathleen Brennon, a member of the council’s governing board of directors, also declined comment.
The council’s governing board has the authority to hire and fire its executive director.
The council, which is federally funded, is charged with advocating for home and community based services for people with developmental disabilities.
Earlier this year, Rhys testified in favor of a bill that called for closing Kansas Neurological institute, selling the buildings on the state hospital’s campus, and using the proceeds to fund openings in community-based programs.
KNI is one of the state’s two hospitals for people with severe disabilities. The Governor's Office endorsed the idea of closing KNI, but the proposal faced stiff opposition in the Legislature last session particularly from Topeka lawmakers. The hospital is a major Topeka employer.
Rhys also has been outspoken in her opposition to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Service’s use waiting lists to control spending on community-based services.
But it wasn't immediately clear if her positions on these issues had anything to do with her being put on leave.
“This is very upsetting,” said Barbara Bishop, executive director at The Arc of Douglas County, a Lawrence-based advocacy group.
“The DD council has been very supporting of the self-advocacy movement and we want to see that continue,” Bishop said, referring to efforts to allow and assist people with disabilities to advocate for themselves. “But we don’t know what’s going on. Nobody knows what’s going on.”
Kerrie Bacon, a member of the Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns, has been named the council's acting executive director.
In January, Gov. Sam Brownback proposed moving the Commission on Disability Concerns to his office from the Department of Commerce.
The commission, also federally funded, is charged with promoting barrier-free communities for people with disabilities and recommending legislation to help achieve those goals.
The commission’s four-person staff moved to the governor’s office July 1.