Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Westar crooks plead not-guilty

Former Westar chairman David Wittig and executive vice president Douglas Lake pled not-guilty yesterday to the revised forty-count federal indictment against them yesterday in Topeka. This in itself isn't big news - the original indictment was handed down in December of last year and they pled not-guilty then. Yesterday's news is that Lake's attorney has asked the judge to make Westar pay his legal fees. According to the article in the C-J, Lake's contention is that under Kansas law and the company's policies, he was guaranteed advance legal fee coverage when he joined the company in 1998. The US attorney's office contends that such legal protection only goes to those who join the company in good faith, not those who joined with the intent to loot the company in a bust-out scheme (the heart/principle of the case against Little and Wittig).

This is a case that hasn't gotten a great deal of national attention, since Westar was a utility concern in the plains states (formerly called Kansas Power & Light - that's how I grew up knowing them - and later Western Resources, and finally Westar Energy), and a rural, sparsely populated plains state at that. But these guys are just as crooked as the criminals who ran Enron, Tyco, Adelphia and Worldcom into the ground in higher profile cases - and just as buddy-buddy with the GOP. Sam Brownback and others in Kansas used to cuddle up to these guys...and yet Kansas voters are likely to simply give the Republicans a pass this fall. Sad, really. A lot of Kansans lost money on the Westar collapse - but will they punish the party that helped them? Probably not.

I've been harping on Kansas a lot lately, but...I feel it to be something of my responsibility to bring that state's problems to the light. Just because the state is so far removed from just about everything doesn't mean it doesn't have serious problems. They just get ignored in the national media. After all...its only Kansas.


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