Former Lawmaker: FBI Investigating KanCare Contracts
TOPEKA, Kan. - A former Republican state senator has come forward to verify reports that the FBI is investigating how contracts were awarded for KanCare, the state’s privately managed Medicaid program. Former Kansas state Senator Dick Kelsey says the FBI contacted him and interviewed him several times. He says a focus of the investigation is David Kensinger, a former chief of staff to Governor Sam Brownback. Reportedly, at issue is if there was a pay-to-play scheme involving the contracts or other backroom deals. Kensinger is currently a lobbyist and an informal adviser to Brownback. At a news conference Thursday, Kelsey and Democratic state Senator Anthony Hensley called for Brownback to cut all ties with Kensinger. In a statement, Brownback campaign spokesperson John Milburn called the event a “political sideshow.” He says the claims are politically motivated. Kensinger did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Missouri Judge Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Couples
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states. Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs on Friday issued a ruling that said Missouri's constitution and state laws banning same-sex marriage are invalid for those legally performed elsewhere. The lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court was filed by 10 legally married same-sex couples who claimed their equal protection and due process rights were violated by the state's ban on gay marriage. Young agreed and said they deserve the same recognition as opposite-sex couples who were married in other states.
Audit Criticizes Overhaul of Kansas DMV Computer Network
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A state audit says the Kansas Department of Revenue's $34 million overhaul of the state's computer operations was not managed properly by the revenue department or the 3M company. The audit released Thursday to a joint Legislative committee says the project produced a motor vehicle network plagued by technical problems. Auditors also said implementation of a new driver's license system may be four years too late. The auditors said state revenue department staff did not properly oversee the project, and 3M Company did not deliver services it had promised. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan told the committee that the effort to convert state vehicle and license connections with 105 counties was more complex than expected. He also noted the project started under the previous Democrat administration.
Wolf Creek Assures NRC It’s Fixing Water Issues
BURLINGTON, Kan. —Officials from Wolf Creek, the only nuclear power plant in Kansas, updated the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Thursday on their efforts to solve persistent problems with the water supply that cools safety equipment at the plant. The NRC has been aware of the problems for the last five years. The plant pumps water from Coffey County Lake to cool equipment needed to shut down the reactor in an emergency. The lake water has caused corrosion and inspectors discovered small holes in the pipes. The NRC was looking for assurances that the company is on a path to resolve the problem. Wolf Creek officials emphasized that the plant is under new management, and has a new, hands-on approach to addressing engineering problems. The company has already replaced nearly four miles of underground pipe. The repairs are scheduled to be finished next spring, at a cost of more than $28 million.
Business Past Fuels Independent Orman in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Greg Orman, who's running for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, says he knows about working with others because he grew up in a house with five siblings and one bathroom. Those close quarters and a modest upbringing are far removed from the wealth and political influence he now wields in his home state. He's turned a longshot independent candidacy into a threat to veteran Republican Pat Roberts and the GOP's hopes of winning the Senate majority. Orman, a 45-year-old private equity firm founder, argues that his negotiating skills will help him break partisan gridlock in Washington. Kansas Democrats nudged their own candidate out of the race against Roberts, turning the state into a surprise battleground in the 2014 elections. Republicans need a six-seat gain to win the Senate majority.
Orman Releases Small Business Plan to Promote Job Growth
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Independent Greg Orman has released a plan that he says would create a better climate for small businesses. The U.S. Senate candidate says his proposal seeks to spur investment, streamline regulations and reform student loans to create a skilled work force. The plan was unveiled Friday as Orman toured small businesses across central Kansas. In Wichita, Orman said a U.S. senator is obligated to be an ambassador for economic development in his state. His proposal calls for fixing financial regulations to increase small business lending and streamlining federal business programs. He also seeks a review of every federal regulation at least once a decade. U.S. Senator Pat Roberts's campaign dismissed Orman's plan, saying it was full of hypocrisy, fluff and deception.
GOP Seizes on Obama Comment About His Policies
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama is giving Republicans a gift of sorts by confirming their midterm election narrative that next month's balloting is a referendum on his policies. Within hours of Obama's remarks, GOP candidates across the political landscape sought to capitalize on his words with ads tying their Democratic opponents to the unpopular president. On Friday, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas began airing an ad featuring Obama's comments from a speech Thursday in Evanston, Illinois. In remarks intended to motivate Democrats, Obama said, quote, "These policies are on the ballot — every single one of them." Just six seats from the majority, Republicans readily agree. From Kansas to Kentucky, GOP candidates have spent the year painting Democrats as Obama's rubber stamp.
Sprint Cutting Unspecified Number of Jobs
Sprint Corporation, the nation's third-biggest cellphone carrier, is cutting an unspecified number of jobs this month to reduce costs as it tries to better compete with AT&T and Verizon, and hinted that more layoffs are possible. Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton wouldn't disclose the planned number of October job losses, which will include employees in management as well. She says the wireless carrier has previously said cuts would come in its IT, portfolio management, network and technology divisions. Sprint said Friday in a regulatory filing that it will book a $160 million charge in its fiscal second quarter to cover this round of layoffs, which will largely be completed this month. It may take more charges for future job cuts. The Overland Park, Kansas-based company has posted billions in losses for the past several fiscal years as subscribers canceled contracts. It shut down its struggling Nextel service last year.
At Least 8 Quakes Shake Kansas So Far This Week
HARPER, Kan. (AP) — At least eight earthquakes have shaken southern Kansas this week, with the largest cracking walls. The earthquakes occurred the same week that a panel commissioned by Governor Sam Brownback announced there isn't enough evidence to link recent quakes to oil and gas exploration in the region. The group recommended more monitoring. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that this week's largest earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 4.4 when it struck just after 1 pm Thursday about seven miles southeast of Harper. Another quake that struck nearby about 30 minutes later had a preliminary magnitude of 3.4. Interim Kansas Geological Survey director Rex Buchanan says four other earthquakes rocked the state Tuesday and that at least two were recorded Wednesday. All but one of them occurred in Harper County.
Police Seek Suspect in Rape of 100-Year-Old Woman
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are looking for one or more intruders who they say broke into the Wichita home of a 100-year-old woman and sexually assaulted her. Police told reporters Friday that the victim walked to a neighbor's house Tuesday morning, saying there were two people inside her home. The woman told police she was awakened during the night by intruders. Wichita Police Captain Troy Livingston says that rape is always a deplorable crime but that this victim's age makes the case even more disturbing. Police believe burglary was the main motive for the break-in. The woman lives alone.
Kansas-Based Bitcoin Operator Allowed to Resume Business
LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas bitcoin company that was shut down after being sued by the federal government will be allowed to resume some of its business. A federal judge on Thursday allowed Leawood-based Butterfly Labs Inc. to reopen for limited operations. A federal receiver was given temporary control of the company on September 18. The Federal Trade Commission alleges the company defrauded thousands of customers out of between $20 million and $50 million by not delivering working equipment to allow them to receive bitcoins. Butterfly has denied all the allegations. Company officials said the judge's order is a "step in the right direction" but it will continue to address what it called several inaccuracies that have been made against the company.
Wichita State Gets $2.5 Million for New Position
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita State University has received a $2.5 million donation to create a key leadership position in the school's College of Engineering. The Wichita Eagle reports University President John Bardo announced on Thursday the Sam Bloomfield Chair in Innovation Engineering, which he says will have an astounding impact on the school. Royce Bowden, dean of the College of Engineering, says the person placed into the position will be an "engineering mind of the highest caliber." The university says Sam Bloomfield was an aeronautical engineer and president of Wichita-based Swallow Airplane Company from 1934 to 1956.
Emporia Police Find Body in Department Restroom
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - Emporia police say they don't suspect foul play in the death of a man who was found in a men's restroom at the police department. A man identified as 58-year-old Mario Padron was found around 9 a.m. Thursday after officers were notified of an unresponsive person in the restroom. Police say Padron was not a city employee and was in the building for personal reasons. The police department issued a news release on the death Thursday and has notified Padron's family. An investigation is underway but police say the death is not considered suspicious.
Judge Sets Deadlines in Kansas Bomb Plot Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge is aiming for trial early next summer for the man charged with plotting a suicide bombing at a Wichita airport. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Thursday set deadlines for motions in the case against Terry Loewen, an avionics technician facing terrorism-related charges, but he stopped short of setting a firm trial date. Loewen has been in jail since his December arrest for allegedly trying to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport. The judge told Loewen during a brief hearing that he recognizes where he is, and is sure he doesn't like it. Loewen replied, "Not a lot, sir." He has pleaded not guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges.
Reported Sexual Assaults at KU Increased in 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new report says sexual offenses reported last year on the Kansas University campus increased by 10 from the previous year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that there were 13 reported sex offenses in 2013. In 2012, there were three, and in 2011, there were two. The numbers come from incidents reported to the college's Public Safety Office, student affairs office and the Department of Student Housing. The federal Clery Act requires colleges to report their crime statistics and submit them to the U.S. Department of Education. On Wednesday, the school placed the Kappa Sigma fraternity on interim suspension, after receiving reports of a sexual assault during a fraternity party over the weekend. The national organization's executive director says they're investigating the matter and have also suspended the local chapter for the time being.
Longtime Kansas Radio Personality Dies in Crash
ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A longtime central Kansas radio personality has died after crashing his car into a ditch on his way to broadcast his morning show. The Salina Journal reports that 79-year-old Gary Houser of Abilene was driving his pickup truck at 4:30 am Wednesday on Old U.S. Highway 40 when the vehicle went off the road and rolled. Dickinson County Undersheriff James Swisher says Houser was not wearing a seatbelt. Houser was on his way to KABI radio station, where he was well-known for playing songs of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. He was behind the microphone at KABI when it went on the air in April 1963 and was in the radio business more than 50 years. A memorial graveside service is scheduled for 11 am Saturday at the Abilene cemetery.
Trial Date Set in Hutchinson Death
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A trial date has been set for later this month for a 35-year-old Hutchinson man accused of fatally shooting a Kansas State Fair worker last year. Michael Brisco is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder in the alternate, criminal possession of a firearm and intimidation of a witness. He is accused in the September 2013 slaying of 26-year-old Sem Adrien, whose body was found about 50 feet from Brisco's home. Police say Brisco admitted in an interview with police that he had gotten into a physical altercation with Adrien, but he has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on October 20 in the Reno County Courthouse.
Wichita School Bus Driver Cited in Accident
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says a school bus driver has been cited in an accident that hospitalized seven children. Deputies say the driver was distracted when she drove the bus off the road and into a ditch near Goddard on Wednesday. The students suffered minor injuries. She has been cited for driving outside the marked roadway. Deputies say she was looking in the overhead mirror at students on the bus when the accident occurred. The bus was carrying 32 children who attend Amelia Earhart Elementary School. The kids were taken to the school, where counselors and parents were available.
Young Cancer Survivor Joins Washburn Athletics as Honorary Member
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Volleyball and basketball players at Washburn University can now call a 7-year-old girl their teammate. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Karis Selk is now an honorary member of Washburn University's volleyball and women's basketball teams. She's also in her first year of remission from pediatric brain cancer. Selk signed her name in pink pen during a letter-of-intent signing ceremony on Thursday, while the school's head volleyball coach and head women's basketball coach watched. She will get her own locker for each team and a jersey with a number of her choosing from both. Selk says she wants her number to be seven, because she's 7 years old. Selk also will be able to sit on the bench with the teams at games.
Search for 'Baby Lisa' Continues 3 Years Later
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Three years after a 10-month-old girl disappeared from her Kansas City home, her family and police say they continue to search for the child known as Baby Lisa. Lisa Irwin disappeared on October 4, 2011. Although her case drew national attention and an offer of a $100,000 reward, the girl has never been found and few good clues about her whereabouts have surfaced. Her parents, Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley, say someone broke into their home and took the girl while Deborah was asleep and her father was at work. The Kansas City Star reports tips that poured in shortly after Lisa disappeared have slowed but detectives received about 100 new tips in the last year. Spokesman Tye Grant says police follow up on any tips they receive.
Wichita Businessman Gets Prison in Theft Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita funeral home owner has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for money laundering. A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Doug Watson to 30 months in prison. He must also pay $306,500 in restitution to the relatives of Wava Gruver. Authorities say Watson stole money from the 91-year-old woman while acting with power of attorney. They say he had emptied her bank account by the time she died and he conducted financial transactions across state lines with the money. He pleaded guilty in May to four counts of money laundering. The judge sentenced Watson to prison over a prosecutor's recommendation of probation. The judge says Watson needs time to think about what he did.
Grants Awarded to Promote Local Missouri Produce
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced more than $450,000 in grants for farmers markets and farm groups across the state to promote local produce. 14 groups will receive block grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's specialty crop funds. The grants include money for community gardens, beekeeper classes and farmers markets in the Kansas City area. Both the University of Missouri and Missouri State University are set to use the money to research local grapes and other berries for use in wines. Other recipients of the grants include the Columbia Farmers Market, EarthDance Organic Farm School and the Missouri Vegetable Growers Association.
Eisenhower Memorial Wins Key Design Approval in DC
WASHINGTON (AP) — The long-delayed effort to build a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower near the National Mall has won a key approval, despite ongoing objections to architect Frank Gehry's design. A federal agency that oversees national capital planning approved the preliminary building plans Thursday. The National Capital Planning Commission debated the design and voted 9-1 to approve the concept. Gehry revised his design in September for a memorial park. He removed two large, steel tapestries on the sides of the park and left one as a backdrop depicting the Kansas landscape of Eisenhower's Midwestern roots. Sculptures would depict Eisenhower as president and general. In April, the planning commission rejected the previous design, citing the size and placement of columns holding the tapestries. Winning approval is a significant step for the project.
Royals Win Game 1 in Playoff Series vs. Angels
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals kept rolling in their first postseason in 29 years with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Division Series opener Thursday night. Third baseman Moustakas hit the first extra-inning homer in postseason history for the Royals. Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Friday night in Anaheim, with Royals rookie Yordano Ventura on the mound. Game 3 is set for Sunday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Refs Union Criticizes NFL for Inconsistency on Calls
NEW YORK (AP) — The union representing NFL on-field officials criticized the league Thursday for inconsistencies in grading calls, including a high-profile penalty in Kansas City last Monday night. The NFL Referees Association says the league has "caused confusion for NFL officials as to what the league does and doesn't want called." The union referred to penalties on Washington's Chris Baker for a hit on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles on September 21, and to Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah Monday for going to his knees to celebrate an interception return for a touchdown. Abdullah actually had gone to his knees to pray — an act exempted from celebration penalties. The union says both calls were graded as correct even after NFL executives announced that they were incorrect.
Harvick Shatters Kansas Speedway Record to Capture Pole
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kevin Harvick is the one to beat once again at Kansas Speedway. Harvick shattered his own track record and won the pole to start the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Sunday. He turned a lap of 197.621 mph in the last round of qualifying to break his own record set in the spring by nearly 3 mph. Kevin Vickers qualified second with a lap of 196.307. Aric Almirola was third. Joey Logano began a run of five Chase contenders by qualifying fourth. Jeff Gordon was next, followed by Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson spun out during his first qualifying effort and will start 32nd, the lowest he has started a Chase race since 2005.