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UMKC organization misused its university name

April 20, 2006
By: Ferdous Al-Faruque
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A spokesman for the University of Missouri - Kansas City said Thursday that an organization accused by a state senator of using university money to protest Medicaid cuts had used the university's name inappropriately.

The organization is called People First of Missouri.

The organization is listed as one of several "Featured Programs" by the Institute for Human Development at the Kansas City campus of the University of Missouri.

On Wednesday, Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Clay County, charged during Senate debate that the organization had sponsored an event at the statehouse last year in opposition to Medicaid cuts.

On its Web site, the organization describes itself as an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities.

"The organization did use the university name inappropriately in a brochure," UMKC Spokesman John Allen said on Thursday.

In Thursday interview, Ridgeway said that for the past 13 years she has watched the organization use state funds for partisan and political purposes.

"Now is the time for there to be a monetary statement, that we in the legislature take this matter very seriously." she said in an interview Thursday.

During Wednesday's Senate debate, Ridgeway had defended the Senate Appropriations Committee's action to cut $285,000 from the committee's overall recommendation for UM as a penalty for the organization's activities.

Although Allen said he did know if university funds had been used by the group in the protest, Ridgeway pointed to the fact that the university name was on brochures and envelopes, and also that the mailing address and telephone number directed people to a university phone and its property.

Allen said UMKC was currently reviewing the group and its policies.

Ridgeway said that she was satisfied with the $285,000 dollar penalty on the university, which she said is the total budget for the Institute for Human Development at UMKC.

"If the university continues to fund them, which they probably will, that's there decision," she said. "But the clear message has to be to the Institute for Human Development and anyone else who would seek to use our tax money for political purposes that there will be consequences and they are risking their jobs and there neighbors job."