Kelly administration’s broadband development director ousted after two years in role

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Piros de Carvalho expressed shock despite saying ‘wrong thing to the wrong person’

TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Commerce confirmed Monday the director of the agency’s broadband development for the past two years in the administration of Gov. Laura Kelly was forced out.


Jade Piros de Carvalho, chief of the commerce department’s Office of Broadband Development, said she was informed of the decision hours after the governor offered praise of her work to high-speed internet administrators at a Johnson County meeting of the National Governors Association. The office’s deputy director, Joseph Le, was appointed interim director pending the search for a permanent appointment.

Patrick Lowry, the commerce department’s spokesman, offered no explanation for the June 5 departure of Piros de Carvalho from her job as director of the state’s effort to improve digital equity. The Kelly administration’s goal is to be in the top 10 states in terms of broadband access by 2030.

“All broadband initiatives geared toward connecting all Kansans are moving forward as scheduled,” Lowry said.

In April, Kelly announced federal approval of the state’s Broadband Equity Access and Deployment plan for distribution of $450 million in grants for high-speed internet infrastructre in Kansas. The competitive application process for grants targeting underserved areas of the state begins in July.

Piros de Carvalho, who previously worked for broadband provider IdeaTek and served as mayor of Hutchinson, said in a social media post on Thursday that she admired Kelly and Lt. Gov. David Toland, who also was her boss as secretary at the state Department of Commerce.

“I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, who made a phone call and I was gone,” Piros de Carvalho said. “My comment was unprofessional and I certainly shouldn’t have made it. But I’m flabbergasted that I was let go because of it. The good news for Kansas is that (Kansas Office of Broadband Development) was never about one single person.”

She vowed not to reveal more details of the episode because she didn’t want to invite a lawsuit.

Piros de Carvalho said in the LinkedIn post that personnel in the commerce department were “some of the brightest I’ve worked with in my entire career. They have a very difficult, thankless job. They will perform great with or without me at the helm.”

“We don’t speak often enough about the perils and scrutiny that public sector employment brings,” Piros de Carvalho said. “Hug a public servant today. Trust me, they need it. We dodge bullets every day.”

She said there was an inaccurate perception she may have left state employment to enter the private sector just as Kansas distributed $450 million in federal funding for high-speed internet projects. She said she wouldn’t voluntarily abandon her colleagues at this juncture of the broadband program.

On social media, people who know or worked with Piros de Carvalho responded to her ouster.

Daniel Friesen, cofounder and chief innovation officer at her former employer IdeaTek, said Piros de Carvalho “embodied innovation so desperately needed in our state broadband efforts.” He said freedom to think differently, push the status quo and make mistakes was missing from government.

The amount of stress per $1 earned by a state broadband director ranged between air traffic controller and explosive ordinance disposal technician, said Jeff Lobotka, former state broadband director for Arizona and the vice president of government for Vivacity.

“Once the initial shock wears off you will not miss this job,” Lobotka said. “Kansas, however, is going to miss you big time.”

Eric Frederick, chief connectivity officer for Michigan’s High-Speed Internet Office, said Piros de Carvalho’s departure in Kansas was heartbreaking.

“Public sector work can be thankless and brutal — if this is how one is treated for a single errant comment. You’re one of the best,” he said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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