What on earth is Gov. Laura Kelly thinking?
The former state senator was elected to the governor’s office last year with a simple message. Allow us to summarize: I will clean up the mess left by former Gov. Sam Brownback. I will bring a no-nonsense, solutions-oriented approach to state government and work with everyone to make Kansas better.
That’s why news last week that Kelly was asking a court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s treatment of children in foster care is so dismaying. Her lawyers argue that she doesn’t actually run the system and shouldn’t be sued.
The motion reads, according to Nomin Ujiyediin, of the Kansas News Service: “While Governor Kelly generally oversees her appointees’ administration of the foster care system, she does not enforce the statutes or regulations that control the Kansas foster care system.”
That might be true technically. But Kelly ran on assuming responsibility for the state and cleaning up its problems. To avoid it now, on this one particular highly charged issue, is a letdown.
Everyone understands that Kelly wasn’t governor when our state’s foster care problems developed. Short-timer Jeff Colyer was originally named in the suit, and he was scarcely in office. But as the state’s current chief executive, she needs to step up and work to fix the situation. It’s her job, and Kansas voters will hold her to account if she doesn’t.
What’s more, her administration seems to be ignoring a prime opportunity. The lawsuit itself doesn’t seek punitive revenge — it simply calls for the reform of system that nearly everyone in state government agrees is broken. As the News Service reported last year: “The organizations seek no financial damages. Rather, the suit calls for the agencies to put together a plan to fix the churning and mental health problems, and to see that it’s implemented.”
Indeed, why wouldn’t Gov. Kelly or her staff embrace the lawsuit, work with the litigants and craft a settlement in the best interests of state foster kids? Why wouldn’t a governor dedicated to cleaning up messes seize this chance to clean up one of the biggest messes left her?
In other words, the governor should take responsibility, accept her role and work on solutions. We’re not sure about Kelly’s motivations in this case, but they look more political than practical. And that’s profoundly disappointing.