Lew Perkins, the recently retired University of Kansas athletic director, has been fined $4,000 by a state ethics board for violating laws related to the acceptance of gifts by state employees.
This week, Kansas’ Governmental Ethics Board accepted Perkins’ $4,000 settlement offer in response to charges that he accepted exercise equipment into his home without paying for it. While only $194,000 of Perkins’ $800,000 salary as KU’s athletic director originated from state funds, this was sufficient to hold him to a Kansas law prohibiting state employees from accepting most gifts.
Perkins, who was a successful AD at the University of Connecticut from 1990 to 2003 before accepting the job at KU, was not in attendance at this week’s hearing. With this offer, he acknowledged no guilt in the matter, and the ethics board stated it would take no further action on the charges.
In April of last year, former KU Director of Sports Medicine William Dent accused Perkins of accepting the equipment in 2005 from university vendor Medical Outfitters for the purposes of physical therapy. According to Dent, Perkins subsequently allowed the co-owners of Medical Outfitters an upgrade of their Jayhawks basketball tickets to premium level seats. By the time of Dent’s allegations, he had convinced Perkins to allow him to remove the equipment from his home but was asking for compensation for storage charges. Ultimately dissatisfied by Perkin’s lack of response, Dent wrote the April email to Perkins’ attorney, outlining the equipment story as well as charges regarding eligibility issues for KU athletes and lack of enforcement of drug policy in the Athletic Department. The day following the allegations, Perkins accused Dent of trying to blackmail him.
Following news of these accusations, Perkins reportedly paid $5,000 as a rental fee on the equipment, but this did not prevent Kansas’ Governmental Ethics Board from taking up the case. Perkins originally was up on one additional ethics count, that of receiving free physical therapy from employees of the Sports Medicine Department, which operates under the Athletic Department. The charge was recently dropped, however, due to a lack of witnesses. Perkins could have been fined up to $15,000 on the two counts, but with only the charge of accepting gifts, his maximum fine lowered to $5,000. Commissioner Mark Simpson wanted to hold Perkins to the full $5,000 fine, but others on the board disagreed, acknowledging that Perkins himself asked for the matter to be investigated at the time of the allegations.
Dent’s charges emerged at the same time that several athletic department employees were under an internal investigation into the alleged theft and sale of nearly 20,000 KU basketball and football tickets for profit. KU’s investigation, in combination with investigations from both the FBI and IRS, resulted in the November indictment of five former department employees on federal conspiracy charges. Two of the five have cut deals with prosecutors rather than face trial, and later this week, two more are expected to do the same. Perkins, who has consistently claimed ignorance of the scheme, never faced charges in the matter, though he has acknowledged that he should have provided better oversight of his department.
In August of last year, a Kansas City Star investigation claimed that Perkins charged over $150,000 to KU for air travel on university owned or leased jets from 2008 to 2010, as well as racking up over $7,000 in ground transportation during the same period. An internal investigation by KU cleared Perkins, but at that time he was removed as Chair of the Athletic Department’s advisory board.
In June of last year, soon after news of the ticketing scandal broke, Perkins announced that he would be retiring from his athletic director’s position with KU in September of 2011. However, after a summer of controversy, on September 7 he announced that he would be leaving his post immediately. Former Illinois State University Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger will be assuming the role of KU’s athletic director on February 1.