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Headlines for Friday, June 6, 2014


KanCare Acting Inspector General Resigns Amid Questions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The new acting inspector general for the state's privatized Medicaid program has abruptly resigned amid questions about his appointment and lack of confirmation by the Kansas Senate. Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Sara Belfry said Phil Hermanson stepped down Friday afternoon. Belfry said Hermanson submitted a resignation letter, but KDHE has declined to release it. Hermanson did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. Hermanson began work in April, charged with identifying fraud in the state's Medicaid system known as KanCare. He has no investigatory or auditing expertise. But his duties in the $77,000-a-year job were limited because he hasn't been confirmed. The Legislature is out of session until next year, but a Senate committee can give the go-ahead for appointees to serve until lawmakers convene again.


Kansas Union to Challenge Part of Education Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest teachers' union in Kansas says it will mount a legal challenge to parts of a new law that will end guaranteed tenure in public schools and encourage corporate funding for private school scholarships. The Kansas National Education Association announced Friday that it would have a news conference at 11 am Monday at its Topeka headquarters. The announcement said the legal challenge would cover "aspects" of an education law approved this year by the Republican-dominated Legislature. It was not more specific, and KNEA officials wouldn't comment. The new law boosts aid to poor school districts, but starting in July, it will end guaranteed teacher tenure. It also grants up to $10 million in tax credits a year to corporations that bankroll private-school scholarships for at-risk children.


Kansas Joins Call for State Power to Review VA Sites

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says allowing states to inspect U.S. Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics would help the federal agency with what he calls credibility problems. Brownback also said Thursday that giving vouchers to veterans who've been waiting for care at VA facilities so they could get care elsewhere is the best way to deal with backlogs. The governor made his comments a day after an official at the VA medical center in Wichita confirmed it had an unauthorized list of 385 veterans who were waiting for care, some of them for more than 90 days. On Tuesday, Brownback joined fellow Republican governors from five other states in sending a letter to Democratic President Barack Obama. The letter called for state reviews of VA sites and federal vouchers for veterans.


Kansas Congressmen Demanding Answers on VA Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas congressmen Mike Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp are demanding answers from the U.S. Veterans Affairs medical center in Wichita about its unauthorized waiting list for care. Pompeo sent a letter Thursday to medical center Director Francisco Vazquez, asking who allowed the center to create its unauthorized list and when. Medical Center Executive Secretary Diane Henderson said Wednesday that 385 veterans had been on the list, some longer than 90 days. But she declined further comment Thursday. Pompeo also asked whether employees responsible for the list's creation had been disciplined. Pompeo's 4th District includes Wichita. Huelskamp represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas and serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He traveled to the Wichita medical center Wednesday. He said Thursday he received few answers then.


Missouri Senator: Kansas City VA Had Secret List

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt says the Veterans Affairs medical center in Kansas City, Missouri, has been maintaining a secret waiting list of veterans, the latest of several centers around the country to maintain such an unauthorized list. Blunt spokeswoman Amber Marchand says the list contains the names of 37 patients. Blunt's office said Thursday that the Kansas City VA confirmed the list hours after Blunt sent a letter asking if the secret list existed. Blunt told reporters in a teleconference earlier Thursday that such a list allows VA centers to skew statistics and give misleading information about how quickly veterans are getting treatment. The Kansas City VA Medical Center says in a statement that its top priority is addressing the problem of veterans waiting for health care.


Senate VA Bill Could Mean New Clinic in Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill winning approval from U.S. senators to resolve problems in the troubled Veterans Affairs system would create new health facilities, including one in Johnson County in Kansas. Under the larger bill agreed to by senior senators Thursday, the measure authorizes the VA to lease 26 new walk-in health facilities in 18 states and spend $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses. One of those proposed facilities would be in Johnson County. It's uncertain when the bill would come to a vote. The Senate bill is a response to a building national uproar over veterans' health care following allegations that as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting an average 115 days for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital or its walk-in clinics.


Some Still Without Power After Storms Pound Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Thunderstorms pounded sections of central Kansas with baseball-size hail, high winds and heavy rains early Thursday morning The National Weather Service says winds estimated up to 80 mph swept through the area and that rainfall amounts varied from more than 1 inch in northeast Wichita, to more than 2 inches in McPherson. Hail measuring more than 3 inches in diameter was reported in McPherson, and hail about 2.75 inches in diameter was reported south of Galva.The heavy storms also snapped tree limbs and downed power lines. More than 1,000 Westar customers were without electricity in Saline County early Thursday, and nearly that many were also without power in Sedgwick County. Westar says some residents around Salina and Topeka who lost power after Thursday's storms might have to spend another day without electricity. The utility said in a news release that the storms knocked down 24 power poles in Salina, and it could be about 7 pm Friday before power is restored to about 2,000 customers. About 1,200 customers might be in the same situation until Friday evening in Topeka, where high winds blew down numerous power lines. Westar says the storms knocked out power to more than 12,000 customers, and power was restored to about 75 percent of those residents on Thursday. Westar has asked utilities in Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma for assistance.


Senate Must Confirm New KanCare Inspector

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The state's new inspector general for its privatized Medicaid program can't conduct oversight work until he is confirmed by the Kansas Senate, which isn't in session. Phil Hermanson began work in April as inspector general, charged with identifying fraud in the state's Medicaid system known as KanCare. The former Kansas House member has no investigatory or auditing expertise, a DUI conviction and business bankruptcy, and personal finance and campaign ethics problems. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says Hermanson is technically only ``acting'' inspector general until he is confirmed. Sara Belfry says he can be involved in training programs, but cannot conduct oversight work. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports an interim Senate committee could take up Hermanson's appointment, although no hearing has been set.


Defendant's Comments at Issue in Kansas Murder Case

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for a Kansas man accused of killing four people will get more time to respond to prosecutors' attempts to use comments the defendant made to police. Kyle Flack is accused of killing Kaylie Bailey, her 18-month-old daughter, Lana-Leigh; Andrew Adam Stout and Steven Eugene White last spring in Franklin County. He's charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Stout and White. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Flack for the deaths of Kaylie Bailey and her daughter. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a detective testified that Flack told him he killed White. Flack's lawyers contend the statement shouldn't be used during trial because he made it after asking if he needed a lawyer. A judge Friday set an August 29 hearing to consider the issue.

Man on Witness List in Jewish Sites Deaths Charged

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal weapons charge has been filed against a witness in the case against a 73-year-old man accused of fatally shooting three people at suburban Kansas City Jewish sites. A May 7 grand jury indictment shows John Mark Reidle is accused of lying about buying a Remington shotgun at a Walmart in southwest Missouri on April 9. Reidle has pleaded not guilty to the charge of importing/manufacturing firearms. The Kansas City Star first reported that Reidle is among witnesses listed on the Johnson County, Kansas, complaint against Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. Cross is charged with killing three people in attacks at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, and the nearby Village Shalom senior care facility. The indictment does not link the shotgun purchase to the April 13 shootings.


Free Fishing Day Scheduled for Saturday in Missouri, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Anglers get to fish for free in Missouri and Kansas this weekend. The Kansas City Star reports that Saturday is a Free Fishing Day in the two states, which means anglers won't need a permit, trout stamp or trout park daily tag at most reservoirs and state fishing lakes. But other regulations on such things as size and creel limits will still be in place, and some private fishing areas may also still require permits. The annual promotion is part of National Fishing Day.


Retrial in 2004 Lawrence Death Set for December

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A retrial in the 2004 death of a Lawrence woman is scheduled for December, although it might be moved out of Douglas County. Martin Miller is charged with killing his wife, 46-year-old Mary Miller, in July 2004. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2005 but the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction in February, citing incorrect jury instructions. Prosecutors allege he strangled his wife at their home because he was having an affair and wanted to collect $300,000 in life insurance. During a hearing Thursday, Miller's attorney, Richard Ney, said he might seek a change of venue because of the publicity surrounding the case. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the defense has until August 22 to file the venue motion. Miller is out of jail while awaiting the retrial.


Kansas City Blast Linked to Fireworks Production

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Investigators looking into a powerful explosion at a house in Kansas City say they suspect fireworks production as the cause. The blast Wednesday morning knocked the house in southeast Kansas City off its foundation and sent four people to hospitals, including a 52-year-old man who lost both legs and an arm. KCTV reports part of the home had to be demolished before agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could safely get inside. The investigators said Friday they found evidence that led them to believe someone was illegally making fireworks in the basement. The ATF has referred the case to the U.S. attorney's office for determination of any criminal charges. Two of four dogs that were also in the house at the time were killed.


Kansas Man Convicted in Death of Iraq War Veteran

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man who admitted hitting an Iraq War veteran with a beer bottle during a house party brawl has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the man's death. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a lawyer for 23-year-old Justin Gonzalez said she would appeal Thursday's conviction on the basis of jury instructions and excluded evidence. Gonzalez, of Mission, testified he struck 27-year-old Nicholas Sardina at a Lawrence house party in February 2012. Gonzalez said he acted after Sardina punched one of his friends. Prosecutors said Gonzalez used excessive force in striking Sardina, who later died from his injury. Sardina, originally from Clarence, New York, was a sergeant in the Kansas National Guard and had served three tours in Iraq. He had also taken classes at the University of Kansas.


Kansas AG to Help Lead Anti-Trafficking Group

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has been named by his colleagues across the country as the vice chairman of their national Human Trafficking Committee. The Kansas Republican successfully pushed legislation in 2013 aimed at strengthening state laws against human trafficking and providing better support for victims. The committee of the National Association of Attorneys General studies anti-human trafficking efforts throughout the country to share best practices. Schmidt also will serve as vice chairman for the group's Midwest region.  The national association had its summer meeting this week on Mackinac Island, Michigan.


Kansas Gun Dealer, Glock Execs Face Indictment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas firearms distributor and two high-ranking officials with Glock Inc. are among five people indicted by a federal grand jury on charges involving bribes and kickbacks to gain preferential treatment. Federal prosecutors say 40-year-old Olathe gun dealer John Sullivan Ralph III paid more than $1 million to 42-year-old James "Craig" Dutton of Acworth, Georgia, and 65-year-old Welcome D. "Bo" Wood Jr. of Oviedo, Florida, from 2003 to 2011. The Kansas City Star reports Ralph did business as OMB Guns and is accused of funneling the money through businesses created by the wives of Dutton and Wood. Both of the couples also are charged. The indictment says the two company officials steered potential customers to OMB Guns and helped Ralph sell guns intended for law enforcement to commercial businesses.


Fort Riley Warns of Increased Noise Levels

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) - Neighbors of Fort Riley can expect more noise than usual as the northeast Kansas post observes the 70th anniversary of D-Day and marks the founding of the Army's 1st Infantry Division. Events were scheduled to start with cannon fire between 6:30 and 7 a.m. Friday to honor soldiers who died in the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division, also known as the Big Red One, were among the first to go ashore that day. The annual Victory Week celebration marking the 1917 creation of the Big Red One starts Saturday, with music and fireworks. There's also a concert by country music's Brett Eldredge on Monday night, and a live-fire exercise involving aircraft and ground forces June 11.


Porcupine Gives Pup Faceful of Quills


GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — A boxer puppy in suburban Wichita has learned a painful lesson about porcupines: Leave them alone. KWCH-TV reports that  a showdown with a porcupine left the pup, named Tatum, with a faceful of white quills. There were so many, in fact, that owner Gary Koenigs initially thought Tatum had a beard of chicken feathers. The Goddard man says he pulled out about 50 quills Thursday morning, then took Tatum to Wichita for treatment at Animal Hospital of Auburn Hills. There, Dr. Gary Stamps removed more than 200 quills in a half-hour surgery. Stamps said he's only treated three other pets in similar situations during 23 years as a veterinarian. Koenigs said Tatum is recovering at home, resting well. Stamps let the Koenigs family keep the quills as a keepsake.



Kansas City Primps for 2016 GOP Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The chairman of the Republican National Committee says Kansas City may have an edge over some other cities working to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Thursday that Kansas City "has a nice little advantage" by being able to host the event in either June or July. Priebus and the RNC site selection committee arrived in Kansas City on Wednesday to look over the facilities that would be used during the convention. The committee, which leaves Kansas City on Friday, visited Cleveland earlier this week and travels next to Dallas and Denver before making a final selection, likely in August. Priebus says the start date of the convention is likely to get underway on either June 27 or July 18, but a final decision hasn't been made.


Dole Announces Schedule for Next KS Tour

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole returns to Kansas next week for the fourth of several trips planned this year to his home state. The 90-year-old Russell native lives in Washington, D.C., and is making the homecoming tour to greet longtime friends and supporters throughout the state. Dole spends an hour at each stop, chatting with fans and old acquaintances. Aides said Thursday that next week's trip will begin Monday evening in Garden City. On Tuesday, Dole is to visit Lakin, Syracuse, Tribune, Leoti and Scott City. The schedule for Wednesday has stops in Dighton, Ness City, LaCrosse and Great Bend. Dole's tour concludes Thursday, June 12, with visits to Lyons, St. John, Larned and Hanston.


Students Lose Prime KU Basketball Seats to Donors

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas athletics officials say they will offer a prime section of seats for basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse to donors, rather than to students who traditionally sat there.The 120 seats in Section U are just beyond the baseline, at floor level, near the tunnel where the Jayhawks enter and leave the Fieldhouse. It has been part of the university's student section for years. Beginning next season, the seats will be offered to Williams Education Fund donors instead. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that spokesman Jim Marchiony says the move is in response to a student government-led effort to lower the students' athletic fee from $25 per student per semester to $7. He says the change will not reduce the total number of student seats during the games.


Kansas City's Union Station Gets $4M Gift

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Hall Family Foundation has donated $4 million to help fund capital improvement projects at Union Station in Kansas City. Union Station officials announced the gift Thursday, saying the money would go toward improvements to Science City and other projects, such as a pedestrian bridge and a new lower-level entrance. The Missouri Development Finance Board last year awarded Union Station $2.25 million in state tax credits for the project, allowing contributors to deduct 50 percent of their donations from their state taxes. The Kansas City Star reports that the Hall Family Foundation is making an outright gift of $3 million to Union Station, which uses $1.5 million in tax credits and leaves $750,000 in credits available for other donors.



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