Regents disclose potential conflicts of interest



(Left to right) Kansas Regents Mark Hutton, Helen Van Etten and Ann Brandau-Murguia

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents addressed their potential conflicts of interest at Wednesday’s meeting in Topeka. They then voted unanimously to move forward with each regent’s continued membership on the board.

KBOR serves as the governing body that oversees state universities in Kansas. Gov. Laura Kelly appointed three new regents in July.

Regent policy warns against people with “actual or apparent” conflicts of interest serving on the board.

“If, however, involvement by the Board member would bring compelling benefit to the institution, the Board may approve such involvement subject to any conditions the Board deems appropriate to assure both propriety and the appearance of propriety,” the policy states.

Regent Helen Van Etten serves on the Washburn University Board of Regents. Regent Anna Brandau-Murguia serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, an out-of-state public institution with a certificate of approval from KBOR  to operate in Kansas. Regent Mark Hutton serves on the Board of Trustees of the Kansas State University Foundation. 

Hutton is also partial owner and CEO emeritus of Hutton Construction, which has construction contracts with Wichita State, K-State, and the University of Kansas. His son, Ben Hutton, is now CEO of the company. 

Hutton is also vice chair of Wichita State’s presidential search committee.

This spring, WSU awarded Hutton Construction a $10.4 million contract for the new Student-Athlete Success Center.

The board voted to direct regents to recuse themselves from contracts or transactions related to their reported interests.

Board members’ perceived conflicts of interest have come under scrutiny in the past.

Former Regent David Murfin is a prominent Wichita businessman with 25% ownership of The Flats of Kansas, LLC, which has cornered the market on student housing at Wichita State.

WSU called off plans for more university-owned on-campus housing the same day Murfin was named a regent. Two years later, when Murfin was chair of the board, WSU decided to lease space at the mostly empty private apartment complex developed by Murfin’s company.

The Flats of Kansas, LLC, also owns The Suites residence hall, which opened on Innovation Campus this semester. Murfin recused himself from all board votes related to his company.