Lawsuit Alleges Child Abuse at Hands of "Prominent" Kansas Official Was Covered Up
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KC STAR) A federal lawsuit alleges that Kansas officials covered up the alleged abuse of a child at the hands of her father, a “prominent” state official. According to the Kansas City Star, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of the child Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, does not name the alleged abuser. It alleges that officials with the Kansas Department of Children and Families, formerly known as the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, not only failed to protect the child victim, “but began defending the abuser rather than the child abuse victim. The goal of the agency was to protect their own state of Kansas official and specifically to thwart the purpose of the agency acting contrary to the laws of the United States and Kansas,” according to the suit. The lawsuit also contends that state officials engaged in misconduct by violating laws, regulations, court orders and “any standard expected by a civilized society” to deprive the child of her constitutional rights. Read more in the Kansas City Star.
Agency Secretary: Requirements for Kansas Foster Care Workers Too High
TOPEKA, Kan. (Wichita Eagle) The requirements to work in the Kansas foster care system are too high. That's according to Phyllis Gilmore, secretary for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, after a new audit found the state’s foster care contractors have difficulty employing enough workers. According to the Wichita Eagle, Gilmore called the state’s requirements “overly restrictive and out of step with national trends.” She called on lawmakers to review the requirements. Kansas requires foster care workers to be licensed social workers, and they must hold a bachelor’s degree in social work. Gilmore said nearly every other state does not require licensure, and that a handful of states do not require social workers to have social work degrees, but instead degrees in related fields, such as psychology. Gilmore said, “We believe we can further recruitment in Kansas by loosening restrictions." The report is the last in a three-part series of audits into the foster care system over the past year. A report last summer concluded the Kansas DCF failed to conduct background checks on foster families, some foster homes had inadequate sleeping space for children, and monthly in-person visits to foster homes did not always take place. Read more in the Wichita Eagle.
Top Kansas Lawmaker Suggests Fee on Utility Bills to Help Fund Schools
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's majority leader is suggesting that the state impose an extra fee on utility bills to provide new dollars for public schools. Overland Park Republican Jim Denning said Thursday that he's drafting a proposal to charge residential customers $3 a month on each of their water, electric and natural gas bills. He said he would seek a $10-per-month charge for businesses. Denning doesn't know yet how much money the plan would raise. He outlined his idea as the House and Senate budget committees had preliminary discussions on budget issues before lawmakers return Monday from an annual spring break. Some lawmakers oppose increasing consumers' utility bills. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $889 million through June 2019 and the state Supreme Court has ruled that education funding is inadequate.
Kansas Governor Seeks $24 Million to Ban Guns at State Hospitals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is proposing an additional $24 million in spending over two years on extra security measures to keep concealed guns out of state hospitals. Brownback unveiled the proposal Thursday among other measures he recommended to the House and Senate budget committees. A 2013 law will require hospitals to allow people to bring in concealed guns starting July 1 unless the buildings have extra security such as metal detectors and guards. Some lawmakers want to change the law banning concealed weapons at hospitals. Brownback's proposal includes $810,000 for metal detectors for the state's two hospitals for the mentally ill and two for the developmentally disabled. Most of the cost would be earmarked for hiring 180 new employees including "armed personnel."
University of Kansas Hospital Interested in Topeka Facility
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas Health System is interested in acquiring a financially troubled nonprofit hospital in Topeka. KU Health System President and CEO Bob Page told Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in a letter Thursday that it would submit a proposal for the 378-bed St. Francis Health hospital in Topeka. Page said the University of Kansas system would partner with Nashville-based Ardent Health Services. It operates hospitals in six states. St. Francis is owned by Denver-based SCL Health. It plans to stop operating St. Francis this summer whether it has a buyer or not. The California-based Prime Healthcare Foundation and the rival Topeka-area Stormont Vail Health system also have expressed an interest.
Rival Health System Bids to Operate Troubled Topeka Hospital
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka-area community health system is moving forward with a bid to acquire a financially troubled rival hospital. Stormont Vail Health submitted a letter of intent Friday saying it wants to acquire the 378-bed St. Francis Health hospital. It previously had expressed interest in an acquisition. St. Francis is owned by Denver-based SCL Health. SCL has said it plans to stop operating St. Francis this summer whether it has a buyer or not. Stormont Vail is among three potential buyers. The others are the University of Kansas Health System and the California-based Prime Healthcare Foundation. Stormont Vail operates a 586-bed hospital in the Kansas capital city. St. Francis's possible closure has reignited a debate among Kansas legislators over expanding the state's Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Northeast Kansas Wastewater Injection Well Proposal Triggers Opposition
BURDICK, Kan. (AP) — An application to inject wastewater from oil and natural gas operations into a well in an area that's near an earthquake fault zone and a national park is attracting opposition. Some of the critics demonstrated this week at Emporia State University. The Kansas Corporation Commission is gathering public comment through June 15 on the application from the Quail Oil and Gas. The company's proposal calls for pumping up to 5,000 barrels of wastewater per day into a Morris County well that would be near the Nemaha Ridge-Humboldt fault zone. That's a relatively small amount but concerns have arisen that a new well could trigger earthquakes because the fault zone is among the state's largest.
Kansas Chastised for Not Evaluating Inmates' Mental Health
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A county commissioner in northeast Kansas is chastising the state for not meeting its court-ordered obligations to transfer 12 jail inmates to receive mental health evaluations in another town. Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook tells the Topeka Capital-Journal on Thursday that the state's failure to transfer people being held at the local jail has brought significant financial cost to county taxpayers. Angela de Rocha is the spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. She says the agency is trying to do all it can to resolve the situation. De Rocha says district courts are referring more people for evaluation to the State Security Program at Larned State Hospital, which doesn't have enough clinicians and care staff members to accommodate that amount of people.
Kansas Agency's Dress Code Bans Short Skirts and "Revealing" Attire
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Short skirts and revealing shirts are among the garments Kansas Department of Revenue employees are barred from wearing under a new dress code. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Revenue Secretary Sam Williams authorized implementation of the new rules Monday. Employees who meet face-to-face with customers aren't allowed to expose people to ``obscene or offensive tattoos or facial or body piercings.'' The policy also stipulates clothing with a deep neckline may be worn only with a ``non-revealing shirt underneath.'' Dress and skirt hems more than 3 inches above the knee are banned, as is clothing that reveals undergarments or the wearer's anatomy. Agency spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says the goal is to ``present a professional image'' to customers. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, objected saying the dress code is "over-the-top.''
Videos Reportedly Show Gruesome Abuse of Young Kansas Boy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The maternal grandmother of a 7-year-old Kansas boy whose remains were found in a pigsty says she has seen videos that detail gruesome abuse the boy suffered at the hands of his father and stepmother. Judy Conway, of Emporia, says the videos came from more than 30 security cameras placed throughout the home in Kansas City, Kansas, where her grandson, Adrian Jones, lived with Michael and Heather Jones and six girls before he died in 2015. The Kansas City Star reports some photos also came from social media sites. Michael Jones is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday after he pleaded guilty in March to first-degree murder in Adrian's death. Heather Jones was sentenced in November to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Kansas Man with Backward Murder Tattoo Loses Appeal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of a Kansas man whose case drew attention because of a tattoo spelling murder backward on his neck. The court on Friday rejected an appeal from Jeffery Wade Chapman of his first-degree murder conviction in the 2011 death of Damon Galyardt in Barton County. Chapman claimed that he killed Galyardt in self-defense.In his appeal, Chapman argued he did not get a fair trial because of pretrial publicity, caused in part because of the "REDRUM" tattoo on his neck. He asked to have the tattoo removed but was allowed instead to wear a turtleneck to cover it during trial. The court rejected the appeal, saying the district court made a special effort to avoid jurors affected by the publicity.
3 Charged in Murder of Kansas Man Lured by Craigslist Ad
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three people are charged in the stabbing death of a Kansas man who was lured to Kansas City by a Craigslist ad.The Jackson County prosecutor announced charges Friday in the killing of 29-year-old Michael Luckey of Osawatomie, Kansas. His body was found April 5 near an abandoned home in south Kansas City. Twenty-year-old Tayelor Fitzpatrick, of Quenemo, Kansas; and Micah Dozier and Larry Wren III, both 18 from Kansas City, Missouri, each face first-degree murder and three other charges. Prosecutors say the suspects and a juvenile used Craigslist to get Luckey to Kansas City in order to rob him. After Luckey was killed, the suspects allegedly burned his vehicle and left his body at the home. They then allegedly used Luckey's credit cards to spend several hundred dollars on electronics and other items.
Kansas Day Care Worker Accused of Killing Infant
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An arrest affidavit shows that a Kansas day care worker was the only person with access to the infant she's accused of killing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports 42-year-old Carrody Buchhorn was arrested April 14 and faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of 9-month-old Oliver Ortiz. Buchhorn has pleaded not guilty. She released from the Douglas County Jail on Friday after posting $100,000 bond. Investigators allege the boy was laid down for a nap at Sunshine Kids Group Daycare Home when he died in September after experiencing blunt force trauma. Buchhorn alleges she found Oliver that way after checking on him. Buchhorn is currently under house arrest. She is scheduled to next appear in court on May 17.
Kansas City Woman Convicted of Killing Man During Attempted Robbery
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City woman has been convicted in the fatal shooting of a man during an attempted robbery. Jackson County prosecutors say Monique Ransom was found guilty Thursday of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the December 2013 killing of 33-year-old Eric Harrell. Court records say that on the day before the killing, Ransom threatened to kill Harrell as she was being released from jail for allegedly assaulting him. She told jailers that she was "going to be back.'' Ransom was accused of going to Harrell's home the next day with her brother and boyfriend. Court records say that while the boyfriend was outside, Ransom and her brother pointed guns at Harrell to rob him and shot him when he resisted. Charges are pending against her brother.
Former Missouri Postal Worker Sentenced for Drug Plot
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A former Kansas City, Missouri, postal carrier has been ordered to three years in federal prison for her role in distributing PCP. Sixty-five-year-old Carol Barfield was sentenced Thursday in Kansas City. She pleaded guilty last November to conspiring to distribute the drug. A co-defendant, 57-year-old Michael Garrett of Victorville, California, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to the drug-trafficking conspiracy and using the mail to distribute PCP. Authorities say that Garrett mailed bottles of the drug to addresses on Barfield's postal route and then had her deliver them to others in the area. In exchange, Barfield said Garrett bought her clothes, fixed her car and gave her money.
Emporia State University Faces Child Abuse Investigation
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia State University's Center for Early Childhood Education is being investigated for alleged child abuse. Emporia State spokeswoman Gwen Larson, tells the Emporia Gazette that the Kansas Department for Children and Families is investigating reported child abuse at the center. The center provides early childhood education for children of university students, faculty and community members. It also serves as a practicum and observation site for students training to be early childhood teachers. Parents and staff at the center received an email this week from center director Keely Persinger informing them of her resignation in the midst of the investigation. Children and Families Department spokeswoman Theresa Freed says the agency cannot currently comment on the case. Parents say the agency has told them the investigation will likely finish mid-May.
Fifth Suspect in Pittsburg State Student's Death Pleads Guilty
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A fifth person charged in the shooting death of a Pittsburg State University student pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Darius Rainey agreed to the plea deal Friday in the October 2014 death of 20-year-old Taylor Thomas. The Joplin Globe reports that District Attorney Michael Gayoso said Rainey will be sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years. Sentencing was scheduled for June 19. Thomas was a 20-year-old junior at the school when he was killed during a planned robbery at his home. Authorities allege the intruders were seeking drugs and money, with the drugs belonging to Thomas's roommate. The other four suspects have all pleaded guilty to various charges in the case.
Nebraska: Kansas's Annual Smoke Management Review Not Enough
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Nebraska mayor is pushing for changes in Kansas's oversight of prairie and ranchland burning after smoke from the Flint Hills spurred health warnings in Nebraska's capital city. Lincoln, Nebraska, Mayor Chris Beutler sent a letter Friday to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment pressing for action. KDHE environmental division director John Mitchell says Kansas's prairie-burning protocol will get an annual review this spring. Mitchell was responding to the Nebraska mayor's complaints about the smoke. Kansas farmers and ranchers burn land to help control undergrowth that can fuel wildfires. Burning also helps grow nutritious grass for grazing cattle. But farmers and officials say the burn season was cut short this year by heavy rain, so simultaneous burns by many farmers created more concentrated smoke.
Kansas City Zoo to Install Touch Tank
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A zoo in western Missouri will soon have a saltwater tank allowing visitors to pet sharks and stingrays. The Kansas City Star reports construction of $1.5 million exhibit at the Kansas City Zoo will begin in October. The attraction is expected to open by May 2018. The tank will hold as much as 30,000 gallons of saltwater and be home to cownose rays and bamboo sharks. Todd LaSala is chairman of the Friends of the Zoo building committee. He says the zoo hopes the exhibit maintains its momentum after attracting a record 1 million visitors last year. Over half of the rays in the zoo's 2002 petting exhibit died because of water quality problems. Zoo official Sean Putney says the facility is working to ensure the aquatic environment is saf
Missouri Senate Passes Funding Measure for New UMKC Arts Conservatory
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate passed a bond measure Thursday to fund a new music and dance conservatory at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The legislation would grant the authority to issue as much as $48 million in state bonds to cover half of the estimated $96 million project. The plan would ask the state to pay off $5.5 million annually for 10 years. Supporters say it could spur economic development through ticket sales and attract more creative students to Missouri. State Senator Jason Holsman of Kansas City said the university hopes to create the "Julliard of the west." Some lawmakers raised concerns about the cost amid budget constraints and questioned the value of more students studying the arts.