CAPTION: Kim Qualls, a former Kansas Department of Transportation spokeswoman, says her removal from her job seemed tied to a statement she gave about the department's funding.
A former Kansas Department of Transportation spokeswoman has confirmed she was fired from her job earlier this year and said the decision seemed to be tied to a statement she gave the Kansas City Star that there wasn’t enough money to replace a bridge.
Kim Qualls said she thought her termination was related to her telling the Star in April that KDOT didn’t have enough state funds to replace the Lewis and Clark Viaduct Bridge in Kansas City, the site of several crashes around its tight curves. She said she thought it was also tied to public perception of her as the “face of KDOT.”
Qualls had been quoted anonymously in a Star investigation about transparency before going public about her termination in tweets earlier this week.
In one tweet, she said her world was “turned upside down six months ago by that religious freedom nominee,” likely a reference to Gov. Sam Brownback, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. He awaits a confirmation vote.
“I now stand taller and just as proud, despite it all,” Qualls said.
Current KDOT spokeswoman Nicole Randall said in an email the department couldn’t discuss personnel matters related to Qualls’ employment.
“Reconstruction of the curve was not a project in KDOT’s plans at the time that she was employed at KDOT,” Randall said.
Randall said the curve of the bridge was designed to be used safely by drivers adhering to posted speed limit signs.
Shawn Wheat, an investigative reporter for WIBW-TV, said he communicated with Qualls when he worked at WIBW radio.
“She was always very professional,” Wheat said. “Whenever we called her to get information in regards to things at KDOT, she was always quick to respond. She was always open and transparent and got us the information we needed.”
Wheat said he was not aware of any issues she was having at KDOT at the time. He said KDOT had an active social media presence because of Qualls and he used her tweets for department information.