The Kansas Board of Regents badly bungled the decision to keep paying former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little even after she resigned last summer.

Last week, the Lawrence Journal-World reported that Gray-Little has been drawing a salary of $510,041 to serve as a special adviser to the new chancellor, Douglas Girod, after Gray-Little stepped down in June 2017. The salary is the same as Gray-Little was earning as chancellor. Fifty-five percent of Gray-Little’s salary comes from public funds.

The Journal-World learned of the salary only after a list of state employee salaries was made public and Gray-Little was on it.

A Regents spokesman said Regents “directed” President and CEO Blake Flanders to offer the position to Gray-Little during an executive session in the fall of 2016. No public vote was ever taken to hire Gray-Little for the role or establish her salary. Rather, the deal was made via a letter in which the board expressed appreciation and gratitude for Gray-Little’s “unfailing leadership and service” in her eight years as chancellor. …

Attorney Max Kautsch, who represents the Kansas Press Association and other media companies, including the Journal-World, on matters of free speech and open government, said he believes Regents violated Kansas open-meetings laws. Matt Keith, a spokesman for the Regents, said the Kansas Open Meetings Act allows organizations to discuss personnel matters in executive session and reach consensus. He said Regents did not take binding action in executive session. …

Even if Regents didn’t violate KOMA — and we believe they did — the decision remains an embarrassing moment. This was a half-million-dollar parting gift to Gray-Little that the Regents tried to hide from the public. Regents could have been straightforward and honest. …

It is stunts like the payment to Gray-Little that further strain KU’s already rocky relationship with legislators and make families think twice about the value of paying to send their children to the state’s flagship university.

As Kautsch said of the payment to Gray-Little: “We already know it is unseemly because it took this long for it to become public. It seems like it is a violation of the open meetings act and a violation of the public’s trust.”

— The Lawrence Journal-World