The Kansas Chamber is assuming management control of Leadership Kansas' board of trustees as well as the selection of participants, topics discussed and expert opinions shared with the annual class of 40 professionals enrolled in the business development program.
Executives with the Kansas Chamber had expressed concern about the future of a program with more than 1,500 alumni, including former Gov. Bill Graves, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and CEOs of Kroger and Spirit AeroSystems. Differences of opinion between the Kansas Chamber and Leadership Kansas' board prompted an end to the 15-year administrative contract with John Federico, executive director of the program drawing accomplished people together to form relationships and learn about business issues.
The Kansas Chamber's foundation created Leadership Kansas in 1979 and operated it until Federico was hired in 2004. On Jan. 1, management of Leadership Kansas will be done in-house by the Kansas Chamber.
"We wish them well," Federico said. "We're going to walk away after 15 years with our heads held high that we did something good for the state."
Alan Cobb, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber, said Federico and his staff did a good job with Leadership Kansas, but he also said some perspectives of the Kansas Chamber's takeover of the program were "riddled with misinformation."
Cobb said representatives of the Kansas Chamber met with Federico and the Leadership Kansas board to share ideas about reforming the program and getting more members of the Kansas Chamber involved.
"Unfortunately, those conversations were not productive," Cobb said. "Despite clearly stating that the Kansas Chamber owns the intellectual property of Leadership Kansas ... an LK advisory board member attempted to personally establish ownership of the Leadership Kansas program by filing a service mark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office with himself as the owner."
Tony Mattivi, chairman of the Leadership Kansas board and a Topeka attorney, was responsible for requesting patent office approval of a copyright as part of an effort to preserve the organization's identity.
The Kansas Chamber's foundation claimed ownership of Leadership Kansas by virtue of a registration with the Kansas secretary of state's office.
"This inexplicable attempt to take the program away from the foundation board and the Kansas Chamber and make it his own demanded action," Cobb said. "The foundation board made the decision to protect our program and bring it back in house, once again."
Federico said the Kansas Chamber informed the Leadership Kansas board that changes would be made to membership of the Leadership Kansas selection committee, to the actual selection process and to the composition of the annual classes. In addition, he said, the Kansas Chamber sought more control of the discussion topics and presenters at sessions conducted around the state.
"We remained uncomfortable and confused about proposed efforts to change the diversity of the makeup of future classes," Federico said. "We had come to appreciate that the diversity of backgrounds, occupations and opinions of class members ... was easily the best part of the Leadership Kansas experience."
He said an impasse occurred because the Kansas Chamber felt strongly in its right to reform Leadership Kansas and the board of Leadership Kansas was resolute that changes proposed by the Kansas Chamber "were not in the best interest" of an otherwise successful program. The Kansas Chamber notified Federico by voicemail that his contract wouldn't be renewed.
Cobb said criteria for selection of Leadership Kansas participants would "remain the same" with applicants accepted from the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
"LK will continue to bring leaders and future leaders together where they can find common ground to learn and grow from each other. The classes will continue to visit communities across our great state and learn about key state issues," he said.