Kansas Welfare Officials Will Restore Agency Foster Home Inspections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas welfare officials plan to have state staff perform all annual foster home inspections by midway through next year. The Kansas Department for Children and Families updated lawmakers Wednesday on its efforts to respond to a highly-critical audit. DCF has been moving to take away annual inspections of foster homes from private contractors, citing potential conflicts of interest. DCF deputy general counsel Kaey Rogg said performing the inspections will require about 15 new DCF workers. He says the funds to pay the employees will come from the child placing agencies. Lawmakers also questioned agency staff during a meeting of the Legislative Post Audit Committee about foster parent and social worker recruitment. Kansas has a near-record number of children in foster care — about 6,500.
Kansas Agrees to Outsource IT to Illinois Company
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas plans to retire a computer mainframe used by four state agencies and contract with a private company to take care of the work. The state has agreed to a five-year contract with Illinois-based Ensono for more than $14 million to replace an IBM mainframe as recommended last year in a state efficiency review. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the state spent $17 million working to resolve the problem with in-house technicians before giving up and outsourcing the project. The state’s head of IT put the Technology Modernization Project on hold saying it was going to cost $50 million dollars to finish the work using state tech staff. The Kansas Organization of State Employees says state IT workers are concerned they could lose their jobs. But a Department of Administration spokesman said he does not have specifics about possible job cuts.
Kansas Spent $17M on Technology Project Before Outsourcing
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The administration of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback spent $17 million on resolving technology needs in-house before outsourcing the effort to a company in another state. Chief information technology officer Phil Wittmer told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the in-house project was too expensive and would have cost $50 million to complete. The state is retiring its IBM mainframe used by four major agencies. In September, Kansas reached a five-year, $14 million deal with Illinois-based Ensono to replace the mainframe. Department of Administration spokesman John Milburn declined to answer questions on why the project was initially approved, where the equipment for the project is being stored and whether any of the $17 million can be recouped.
No Licensed Lawyers to Serve in Kansas Senate in 2017 Session
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate won't have a licensed lawyer among its 40 members in the 2017 session. The Hutchinson News reports that the situation means some state statutes will have to be modified. The statutes call for a licensed attorney to serve on some committees. Democratic Senator David Haley, of Kansas City, described the situation as a "new low water mark." Haley is a lawyer, but his license hasn't been current for years. For the last four years, the Senate has had two licensed attorneys. But outgoing Senate Vice President Jeff King didn't run for re-election, and Majority Leader Terry Bruce was defeated in the August primary. Haley says the state should pay lawmakers more. The base per diem for Kansas legislators is $88.66, with $142 a day for subsistence.
Kansas Supreme Court Backs Man Jailed 4 Years Pending Trial
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court says the state violated the rights of a man jailed for more than four years pending trial on the claim he was a sexually violent predator subject involuntary civil commitment. The justices agreed Friday with a Sedgwick County District judge who ordered Todd Ellison released from jail. The court found the state violated his due process rights after he remained jailed for 1,705 days. Ellison is a convicted sex offender. The state tried to have him involuntarily committed after he served his prison sentence. Kansas law allows that in some circumstances, but the person is entitled to a jury trial to determine if those conditions exist. He was jailed in June 2009 on the commitment claim. A judge ordered his release in March 2014.
Manhattan School District Votes to Keep Indian Mascot
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Manhattan High School is keeping its Indians mascot for now. The Manhattan-Ogden school board unanimously voted Wednesday to create a committee to study several issues as part of a compromise in which the mascot was retained. The Manhattan Mercury reports that issues the committee will study include determining the cost of retiring the Indian mascot and exploring the creation of a new mascot. The committee also would look for ways to educate the community about Native Americans and recognize a former coach whom the mascot is meant to honor. The coach, Frank Prentup, was a descendant of the Tuscarora tribe. Members of the committee will include those seeking to change the mascot and others wanting to keep it the same. The committee will include students, teachers and administrators.
Kansas Supreme Court Selects New Chief Appeals Court Judge
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals will have a new chief judge next month. The Kansas Supreme Court selected Judge Karen Arnold-Burger to serve as chief judge of the 14-member state appeals court beginning January 9. She succeeds Chief Judge Thomas J. Malone, who will continue to serve on the appeals court after his four-year term as chief judge ends. As chief judge, Arnold-Burger will determine venues for arguments, designate cases to be heard by three-judge panels and assign judges to panels. Before joining the appeals court in 2011, Arnold-Burger's positions included serving as presiding municipal court judge in Overland Park and assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Kansas.
Student Accuses Kansas School Coach of Harassment
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas high school student has filed a federal lawsuit accusing an assistant football coach of sexually harassing her. The Kansas City Star reports that the student, who is not identified, and her mother filed the lawsuit Thursday in Kansas City, Kansas, against the Smith Center School District and assistant high school football coach Brock Hutchinson. The lawsuit accuses Hutchinson of sexually harassing the student in front of classmates and school employees. The lawsuit claims the harassment led the student to become depressed, miss school and change schools in her senior year. The school district referred questions about the case to the district's attorney, who didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment Friday. Hutchinson said he didn't know such a lawsuit had been filed and declined comment.
Teen Arrested for Topeka Arsons
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A teenager has been arrested in connection with a string of arson fires in Topeka. Shawnee County District Court judge ordered the 17-year-old to remain in jail after he was arrested in connection with four aggravated arsons and other charges, all linked to fires that were set in west Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the teen was charged with five counts of arson and one count of burglary. Authorities didn't identify the youth or the fires he's accused of starting. No one was killed in the fires but one firefighter suffered non-life threatening injuries. Some neighborhoods had more than one fire-damaged structure.
Kansas City Zoo Tops 1 Million Visitors for First Time
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More people visited the Kansas City Zoo this year than ever before in its 107-year history. The zoo topped 1 million visitors November 25 when a family from Waterloo, Iowa, went through the gates. The family received some gifts and a personal encounter with the zoo's penguins. The Kansas City Star reports zoo attendance began rising after director Randy Wishtoff arrived from the Omaha, Nebraska, zoo in 2003. In 2004, voters approved a $30 million bond package that gave the zoo a reliable funding stream, which allowed several new exhibits, including ones featuring polar bears, penguins as well as a new orangutan habitat. The zoo had more than 911,000 visitors last year.
Kansas Boy Shot by Supremacist to Be Honored in Rose Bowl
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A 14-year-old boy who was killed by a white supremacist at a Jewish site in suburban Kansas City will be honored in this year's Tournament of Roses Parade. Reat Underwood was shot to death along with his grandfather, William Lewis Corporan, in April 2014 outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park by a man who wanted to kill Jews. Another woman was killed at nearby retirement home. The Kansas City Star reports that Underwood's family unveiled a floragraph of the teen Thursday that will be on the parade's Donate Life float January 2 in Pasadena, California. The portrait, made of organic materials, will be one of 60 portraits of organ donors on the float. Heather Denise Reed-Flynn of Kansas City also also will be honored on the float.
KU Forward Carlton Bragg Accused of Domestic Battery
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. has been arrested on suspicion of battery. The 20-year-old sophomore from Cleveland was taken into custody Thursday and accused of causing "reckless bodily harm to a family member," according to booking records. His case was forwarded to the Douglas County prosecutor but no charges had been filed as of Friday morning. KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said the school is aware of the situation and was still gathering facts. It is unclear whether Bragg will play Saturday against Nebraska. Bragg has appeared in all nine games with five starts for the third-ranked Jayhawks this season, and is averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 16 minutes.
Chiefs Defeat Raiders 21-13 to Take Control of AFC West
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs' Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West. Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but Kansas City holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime division rival. Carr was 17 of 41 for 117 yards passing, though the ugly stat line wasn't entirely his fault. Seth Roberts dropped just about everything thrown at him, Amari Cooper couldn't adjust to a long throw for a would-be touchdown early in the fourth quarter and several more passes were dropped to the rock-hard turf of Arrowhead Stadium on a night when wind chills approached single digits. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith threw for 261 yards with one touchdown and one interception to help the Chiefs beat Oakland for the seventh time in their last eight meetings. Kansas City continues its three-game home stand December 18th against Tennessee.