Kansas Ordered to Repay $11.9M in Federal Welfare Funds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says the state plans to appeal a decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that says Kansas must repay $11.9 million in federal welfare funds it received. Kansas Department of Administration spokesman John Milburn tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the department was notified in June about the funds related to child support collection administrative costs from fiscal year 2003 through 2010. Milburn says the amount includes overpayment of federal funds and interest. The HHS began auditing Kansas and the way it charges its administration fees for the collection of child support in 2013. At that time, the state was ordered to repay about $2 million in overpayments and interest for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. More recently, the HHS has been auditing years that predate the Brownback administration.
Kansas Delegates See Trump's VP Helping with GOP Skeptics
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas delegates to the GOP National Convention say Donald Trump's decision to pick Indiana's governor as his running mate will help him with Republicans who remain wary of him. State Treasurer Ron Estes said Friday that Indiana Governor Mike Pence is a good choice because Pence is a former congressman and is seen as having a strong economic record in his state. Estes said there's a "general, positive vibe" about Pence. Estes is a delegate for Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Prominent Trump supporter and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said picking Pence should help Trump with conservative evangelicals and establishment Republicans. 1st Congressional District GOP Chairman Randy Duncan noted that Pence previously backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz, so the pick is a signal to Cruz backers.
Appeals Court Sets September Hearing in Voting Rights Case
WICHITA, Kan. AP) -- A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in September in an appeal that could affect the voting rights of thousands of voters in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama in upcoming elections. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday set a September 8 hearing date in the case of a U.S. election official who -- without public notice -- required documentary proof of citizenship on a national voter registration form used by residents of the three states. The court had, a day earlier, set deadlines for July and early August for the parties to submit written filings. A judge in Washington, D.C., sided last month against voting rights advocates who are seeking a temporary order overturning the move made by Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Hurricane-Force Winds Hit Wichita Area, Causing Outages
HOOVER, Kan. (AP) — Strong winds sweeping across Kansas have overturned a tractor-trailer, blown down a fireworks tent, toppled trees and caused electrical outages. The National Weather Service reported hurricane-force winds of more than 80 mph Thursday in the Wichita area. The storms followed another round of severe weather Wednesday. In Sedgwick County, emergency crews rescued the tractor-trailer driver who became pinned in his rig when it overturned on Kansas 42. The driver was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. Further west in Goddard, a fireworks tent was blown down along U.S. 54. The winds also blew down numerous power poles. Westar Energy reported more than 2,000 customers without power in Sedgwick County. The earlier round of storms left several thousand without power in in Ellis and Russell counties.
Lawsuit Alleges Westar Energy Undervalued Itself in Sale
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A class-action lawsuit has been filed saying that Westar Energy executives undervalued the company when selling it to Great Plains Energy. The Topeka-Capital Journal reports that Westar's board of directors agreed to sell the company for about $12.2 billion on May 29. According to the agreement, stockholders will receive $51 in cash and $9 in Great Plains stock. Westar stockholder Troy Miller says that is unacceptable and filed the suit against the two companies and eight executives Wednesday. Miller says Westar's stock price increased 55 percent in the year before its sale, but the $60 stock price Great Plains paid is only a 13 percent increase in Westar's stock price. He says Great Plains will get an increasingly valuable company, but will pay much less than what it is worth.
Adoptive Father Suspected in Disappearance of Son Dies
EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — The adoptive father of a southeast Kansas boy whose 1999 disappearance went unreported for nearly a decade has died. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said Thursday that Doug Herrman died Wednesday night after an illness. The Wichita Eagle reports that Herrman was 61 and lived near Grove, Oklahoma. His adopted 11-year-old son, Adam Herrman, disappeared from his Towanda home in 1999, but authorities in Kansas didn't learn about it until late 2008. Doug Herrman and the boy's adoptive mother weren't charged in Adam's disappearance. But they were convicted in 2011 of continuing to receive state adoption subsidies after he went missing. The Herrmans had said that the boy ran away and that they didn't report it out of fear that their other children would be taken from them.
Kansas Police Chief to Make First Court Appearance Next Month
ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police chief accused of disseminating or requesting criminal history information without a legitimate need is scheduled to make his first court appearance next month on misdemeanor criminal charges. The Salina Journal reports that Bronson Campbell's Dickinson County District Court appearance has been rescheduled for August 18. His first appearance initially was scheduled for July 21. Campbell declined to discuss the case with The Associated Press. Campbell was the Enterprise police chief from May 2013 until May 2014, when his appointment wasn't renewed. He is currently the Valley Falls police chief and is seeking the Republican nomination for Jefferson County sheriff. The complaint alleges that in 2014, Campbell disseminated criminal history information, or requested such information from the central repository of another criminal justice agency, without a legitimate need.
Community Cookout Offers Protest Alternative, Opens Dialogue
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are hosting a free community cookout that aims to open a dialogue amid racial tensions across the country. The "First Steps Barbecue" is the latest example of how Wichita is handling those concerns. After a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest earlier this week, Police Chief Gordon Ramsay met with local activist leaders to discuss replacing another protest planned for Sunday with the cookout. Community organizer Djuan Wash said Friday that the police chief is Black Lives Matter supporter — and people need to hear that. He says the barbecue is an opportunity to have a dialogue, and it is not a celebration. The "First Steps Barbecue" will be held Sunday at McAdams Park, starting at 6 pm. No arrests were made at Tuesday's Black Lives Matter protest.
Virgin Mobile USA to Establish Headquarters in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A communications company that specializes in prepaid wireless service has announced it will open a headquarters in Missouri and create more than 50 new jobs. Virgin Mobile USA says it's still scouting out potential office space in downtown Kansas City and is actively recruiting candidates for a number of positions, including executive. It expects to have its office finished and staffed by the end of the year. Virgin Mobile is affiliated with Sprint, which is based in Overland Park. The company's decision to expand into Missouri is part of a plan to relaunch the brand under Sprint. The state is working with Virgin Mobile on possible incentives contingent upon the company meeting its projection of 84 new jobs within the next five years.
Fort Carson's Deputy Commanding General Moving to Fort Leavenworth
FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP) — Fort Carson's deputy commanding general is leaving for a new assignment after almost two years at the infantry post outside Colorado Springs. The post is holding a farewell ceremony for Brigadier General James J. Mingus on Friday. His next assignment is director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, part of the Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Mingus has been deputy commander of Fort Carson and its 4th Infantry Division since September 2015. Mingus will be replaced by Brigadier General Kenneth L. Kamper. Fort Carson will formally welcome Kamper on July 22.
Kansas City Council Approves $7M for Jazz District Upgrades
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Council has unanimously approved $7 million for a new phase of improvements in the 18th & Vine Jazz District. The Kansas City Star reports that the council approved the funds Thursday. It is a significant reduction from an earlier proposal to spend as much as $27.6 million over the next three years to revitalize the area. The approved funds will allow the city to acquire all the remaining property that had not been under city control except for the Lincoln Building, the Mutual Musicians Foundation and the Kansas City Call newspaper property. Plans call for the city to hire a property management company to maximize the district's commercial potential. The area would also have more oversight from an appointed citizens committee.
Kansas Lawsuit Filed over Oil, Gas Leasehold Interests Sale
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A $30 million lawsuit has been filed against the Chesapeake Energy Corporation, formerly headed by Oklahoma energy executive Aubrey McClendon, and another company alleging a conspiracy led to a third party's sale of oil and gas leasehold interests for artificially depressed prices. The Kansas City Star reports that Chisholm Partners LLC filed the lawsuit in Kansas City. Chisholm sold the interests to Chesapeake Energy. According to the lawsuit, Chesapeake and SandRidge Energy were active bidders for oil and gas leasehold interests in the Anadarko Basin Region in Kansas and Oklahoma in 2011 and 2012. The lawsuit says Chesapeake and SandRidge illegally divided up the area in Kansas and agreed to not compete and drive up prices for the leasehold interests there. McClendon died in a fiery one-car crash the day after he was indicted by a federal grand jury in March.
Summer of Mercy Leader Says No Civil Disobedience Planned
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The leader of the fundamentalist Christian group behind the Summer of Mercy anniversary in Wichita says it plans no violence or civil disobedience during the July 16-23 anti-abortion event. Reverend Rusty Thomas, director of Operation Save America, told reporters Friday the goal is not to go to jail or be arrested. He says they are not going to "physically" block entrances to abortion clinics. Thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered in Wichita in 1991 for the Summer of Mercy, sparking tumultuous mass protests that led to nearly 2,700 arrests outside local clinics. Thomas says he wants to alleviate fears his group is coming to Wichita to do harm, saying they are coming to pray. The Feminist Majority Foundation has been running ads locally warning about some of the abortion opponents coming.
Man Charged in Kansas City, Kansas Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 53-year-old man is jailed on $500,000 bond after being accused of fatally shooting another man in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that Wyandotte County prosecutors charged Tyrone Wesson Sr. of Kansas City, Kansas, was charged Thursday with second-degree murder. Authorities allege that Wesson repeatedly shot 26-year-old Mark A. Payne on Monday night. Police haven't released a possible motive for the shooting. It was not immediately clear if Wesson has an attorney
Authorities Search for Man After Car Chase, Baby Abandoned
SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Law enforcement officers are searching for a man involved in a police chase who fled and left a child behind in the car. Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski says the chase began Thursday morning when a deputy tried to stop a car in north Salina. The ensuing chase reached speeds up to 110 mph before the vehicle went off the interstate and eventually stopped. Two men jumped out and ran into a nearby field, leaving a young boy in the car. The Salina Journal reports one of the men was quickly arrested but the other has eluded police. The child was not hurt and has been returned to his mother. The search near where the vehicle stopped has ended but Kochanowski says officers know the man's identity. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig says the company cannot comment on pending litigation.
KC Man Confesses to Craigslist Robberies
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has pleaded guilty to using Craiglist to set up robbery victims, including two people who were shot and wounded. The Kansas City Star reports that 26-year-old Thomas Thorpe entered the plea Thursday in federal court. He was the third defendant to plead guilty to committing the series of six armed robberies in the Kansas City area in 2014. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
Route 66 Becoming Green with Charging Stations and Solar Panels
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Route 66, a highway made famous for attracting gas-guzzling Chevrolet Bel Airs traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, is turning green. The Mother Road is seeing a growing number of electric car charging stations along the 2,500-mile path, and some states even are pushing for solar panels and electric buses. Illinois is installing a network of electric vehicle charging station from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. And earlier this year, Missouri's highway department announced it was eying a project to cover a portion of its Route 66 with road-ready solar panels. Route 66-area motel owners also are getting in on the action. Bella Roma Bed & Breakfast innkeeper Laura Ferrary says she installed a Tesla supercharger at her Albuquerque spot because she anticipates more environmentally-conscience travelers in the future.
Diners Support Wichita Restaurant After Anti-Muslim Post
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters are planning to flock to a Mediterranean restaurant in Wichita after a diner posted on Facebook that the eatery should be avoided because the owner is Muslim. The Wichita Eagle reports that the post was shared and re-shared before it was removed from the social media site. Now, a group of Le Monde supporters have planned a meetup next week at the restaurant. One of the event organizers, Ty Hostetler, says he's a fan of local businesses but not of bigotry. Le Monde is owned by Mohamad Krichati, an engineer who now lives in San Diego. It's run by Krichati's brother, Ghassan Hajeh, who moved to the United States from Syria in the 1980s. Hajeh said he's alarmed by the tone of the conversation in the country of late.
Final Phase of North Dakota Capitol Work Underway
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A $1.3 million project is underway to repair leaky granite steps leading to the state Capitol in Bismarck. It's the final phase of a four-year, nearly $5 million renovation of the Depression-era building, which is among North Dakota's tallest. Capitol Facilities Manager John Boyle says the work involves removing hundreds of granite blocks to replace matting beneath them. Boyle says water has been leaking from the steps to storage areas below them. Work is slated for completion in November. Fort Scott, Kansas-based Mid-Continental Restoration is heading the project. The 242-foot-tall Capitol was completed during the Great Depression in 1934, about four years after the original statehouse burned. It was constructed for $2 million, or about $35 million in today's dollars.
Champion Kansas City Royals to Visit White House July 21
WASHINGTON (AP) - The 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on July 21. The White House announced the visit Thursday, continuing the tradition of presidents meeting sports teams that win championships. The White House also released a video featuring White House press secretary Josh Earnest, a Kansas City native. The video shows Earnest wearing a Royals cap and using a team mug as he fills a jug with water. "We're getting ready for you Salvy," Earnest says, in a nod to Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who douses teammates with Gatorade or water after winning home games. The trip will be the organization's first trip to the White House since the 1985 World Series champions met President Ronald Reagan.