Top Kansas Lawmaker Presses Governor to Resolve Budget Issue
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top Republican says she and other lawmakers suspect Governor Sam Brownback isn't proposing a long-term fix for the state's budget problems because he's focused on getting a job in President-elect Donald Trump's administration. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita and other lawmakers have grown frustrated by Brownback's decision to wait until January to remedy a $350 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. Wagle told reporters Monday that legislators "are very concerned the governor is looking for a ticket to D.C." In the fiscal year that begins July 1, the state's shortfall is expected to exceed $580 million. Lawmakers begin work in January. Brownback's office said Monday he will announce a plan to balance the budget then, but would consider proposals from Wagle or others beforehand.
KBI Probes Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it is probing the death of a 24-year-old man during a shootout with police in Medicine Lodge. The KBI said in a statement Monday that Gary Leon Herd Jr. was fatally shot about 5 pm Sunday by a Medicine Lodge officer while a search warrant was being served. The KBI says an officer fired at Herd when he confronted the armed man in a bedroom, and that the two exchanged gunfire. Herd died at the scene. No officers were injured. The KBI says it will do a "thorough and independent investigation" and turn over its findings to Barber County prosecutors for review.
Conservative Kansas Group to Launch News Service
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president of a conservative think tank has announced the organization is launching a news service. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kansas Policy Institute president Dave Trabert made the announcement in a video on the organization's website. Trabert says the news service will be called the Sentinel. Trabert says the Sentinel is organized as a separate, nonprofit entity, although he and the Kansas Policy Institute's vice president and policy director James Franko serve on its five-member board. The Sentinel also contracts with the institute for fundraising.
Kansas Pension Chief: $177M in Extra Funds Needed Next Year
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of Kansas' state pension system says lawmakers will have to contribute $177 million more funds next year to keep it on track. KPERS director Alan Conroy told the pension system's board Monday in Topeka the figure represents a $61 million employer contribution increase called for in the fiscal year beginning in July 2017. The Topeka Capital-Journal says there also a $115 million payment due in June 2018 that lawmakers put off earlier this year. Conroy says the call for additional funding comes amid "challenges" with the state's general fund. Those include a $350 million shortfall in the current year and a reduction of more than $850 million in anticipated revenue for the next year. Delayed and reduced payments may require greater future investments to catch up.
Wichita Police Investigating Fatal Hit-and-Run
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are investigating the death of a pedestrian who was fatally struck by a car. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 20-year-old man was hit early Sunday in west Wichita near an intersection. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim's identity wasn't released. Wichita police say the man had gotten out of a vehicle shortly before he was hit. Police are now searching for the driver of the car that struck the man.
Kansas Utility Notification System ("Call Before You Dig") Still Pending, Years After Law's Passage
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — It's been more than a decade since lawmakers passed a law requiring the formation of an entity to lead underground utility notifications and safe digging in Kansas, and it'll be another two years before that group is operational. The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved an operating agreement between Kansas One-Call Systems and the Kansas Underground Utility Notification Center and recognized the latter as the state's notification center. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the move follows a 2008 decision by lawmakers that required a public entity to take over the work of Kansas One-Call, a private-sector nonprofit that's been running a call center and educating Kansans about safe digging since the 1980s. The boards of the two organizations have been planning how to shift assets and operations from Kansas One-Call to KUUNC.
Competency Questions Stall Capital Murder Suspect's Trial
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Competency questions have stalled the prosecution of a man charged with capital murder and rape in the death of a woman who was set on fire at a Wichita park. The Wichita Eagle reports that the arraignment of 28-year-old Cornell McNeal has been on hold for over a year. He's undergoing a second evaluation at a mental health facility in Larned after refusing to speak to his attorneys and the court. McNeal is accused in a November 2014 attack that left Letitia "Tish" Davis with burns on more than half of her body and cuts on her head. The 36-year-old mother of four died about a week later. Affidavits show a damaged cellphone and DNA evidence connected McNeal to the attack. Prosecutors are contemplating seeking the death penalty.
Hugoton Ethanol Plant Sold as Company Deals with Bankruptcy
HUGOTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas energy company has sold its Hugoton cellulosic ethanol plant for $48.5 million as it deals with bankruptcy. The Wichita Eagle reports that Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas is a unit of the Spanish alternative energy company Abengoa. It sold the plant, which produces ethanol from cellulose, to Synata Bio. The Kansas unit is selling off several assets through bankruptcy court, including a traditional grain ethanol plant in Colwich. The U.S. Energy Department gave the Kansas company a more than $130 million loan guarantee in 2011 to help with the constriction of the plant.
Lawrence to Consider Students' Request for 'Sanctuary City'
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials say they will review a request made by a group of about 20 high school students to make Lawrence a "sanctuary city" to protect undocumented immigrants. The Lawrence High School students tell the Lawrence Journal-World that they were prompted to make the request in part by the election of President-elect Donald Trump. Trump spoke of mass deportations during his campaign. The students' request was a part of a petition presented to the Lawrence City Commission last week. The petition also asks for a statement of solidarity with people of color, immigrants, Muslims, refugees, LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups. City manager Tom Markus says city attorneys will review the request. The University of Kansas Student Senate passed a resolution last month also asking for the designation.
Husband and Wife Plead Guilty to Laundering Money at Kansas Bank
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A couple accused of laundering drug money for a Mexican cartel at a small southwest Kansas bank have admitted their roles in the conspiracy. George Enns and his wife, Agatha, of Meade, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of money laundering conspiracy under a deal with prosecutors that spares them prison time. The couple acknowledged they deposited at least $1.6 million in cash and $5.2 million in third party checks brought in from Mexico at Plains State Bank. The account funds were used to buy corn seed which was then transported into Mexico. Prosecutors say the process is known as trade-based money laundering. The couple face sentencing February 27. Former bank president James Kirk Friend of Plains pleaded faces sentencing January 9 for failing to report failed suspicious activity.
Headquarters Suicide Prevention Center Raises Funds to Stay Open
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A suicide prevention center that serves all but one of Kansas's 105 counties will remain open after an influx of private donations and help from a state agency. Headquarters Counseling in Lawrence said it needed to raise $90,000 by December 5 to stay open after it lost several grants. Kansas Public Radio reports that the organization has met that goal. The organization said it received $60,000 in private donations. And last Friday, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services said it could give the organization $25,000 in grant money and suggested it could be used as matching funds. Headquarters executive director Andy Brown says the online fundraising campaign will continue until December 31 to meet the match offer from the state agency.
Sexual Assault Reported in K-State Dorm
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University says a student has reported being sexually assaulted in a campus dorm room. The university said in a release Friday that a female student reported being sexually assaulted in a residence hall December 4. The university said no one has been arrested in the case and that "conditions may exist that pose a continuing threat to the community." University police advised the community to be aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious activity.
Man Wanted in Kansas for Fraud Arrested in Arizona
PHOENIX (AP) — A man wanted in Kansas for alleged credit card fraud has been arrested in Arizona. Maricopa County Sheriff's officials say 40-year-old Filip Chudziak is jailed on suspicion of identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and fraudulent schemes. They were contacted Wednesday by Hays City police about a credit card fraud scheme that occurred at a Kansas store. The store owner reported several online credit card orders for gun parts and tools over the past three months that appeared to be fraudulent. Hays City police say most of the orders had a billing address in Sun City, Arizona. Sheriff's officials say Chudziak was located at a Sun City hospital where he works and admitted using the credit cards of some patients to purchase items for building an AR-15 rifle.
Kansas Massage Parlor Owner Sentenced for Sex Trafficking
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita massage parlor owner was sentenced to two years of supervised release for harboring a Chinese woman who worked as a prostitute. The U.S. attorney's office says in a news release that Samir F. Elias of Wichita has agreed to forfeit more than $32,000 in cash and a vehicle. The judge also imposed a $52,000 judgment against him. He pleaded guilty to one count each of harboring for financial gain an immigrant who was in the country unlawfully and one count of importation of an immigrant for prostitution. The crimes occurred while he was owner of GiGi's Elite Massage in Wichita. Prosecutors say Elias housed the woman at his home, driving her to work and back, and collected money from her that he knew were prostitution proceeds.
Developers to Renovate Salina Hospital into Apartments for Older People
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A development group is hoping to turn the former St. John's Hospital in Salina into 50 apartments for people ages 55 and older. The Salina Journal reports Sunflower Development Group met with the Salina Heritage Commission recently to approve a plan to demolish part of the former hospital. The project would further expose the original hospital built in 1914, as well as a wing built in 1951. The Kansas Historic Society asked the developers to remove the newer parts of the structure, so that the building could be added to the National Register of Historic Places and qualify for historic tax credits. Renovation could start next summer provided the tax credits are received.
Pittsburg State to Appeal Sexual Harassment Ruling
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg State University plans to appeal a recent federal jury decision that awarded $230,000 to a former employee who accused a university employee of sexually harassing her. A jury in U.S. District Court in Kansas found that Pittsburg State violated Martha Fox's civil rights and awarded her $230,000. Court records show that Fox, a former custodial specialist, alleged that a supervisor sexually harassed her and Pittsburg State officials didn't appropriately investigate her harassment claims. The supervisor denied the accusations and later retired. Pittsburg State President Steve Scott says that no sexual harassment took place, and that the university's position "will prevail."
Topeka Police Car Involved in Fatal Crash
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after a Topeka police car was involved in a fatal accident with another car. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the crash occurred early Sunday. A police spokesman says the cruiser and the passenger car collided at an intersection, and that the crash wasn't the result of a chase. The driver of the passenger car was pronounced dead at the scene. The officer who was on patrol at the time was transported to an area hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening. The name of the driver killed in the crash wasn't immediately released. The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
Woman Pleads No Contest in Kansas Jail Escape Plot
GIRARD, Kan. (AP) — A woman has pleaded no contest to helping her son and another man escape from a southeast Kansas county jail. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that 57-year-old Marlene McAfee is scheduled to be sentenced February 2 after agreeing to the plea deal in Crawford County District Court. Her son, Shaun Steven Simpson, and another inmate, Steven Barnes, climbed over a fence in April at the county jail's outdoor recreation area. Authorities say they then fled in a vehicle that McAfee left in a parking lot, unlocked with the keys inside. The men were later recaptured. Barnes has pleaded no contest to aggravated escape from custody, as well as two aggravated battery counts in a 2014 case. Simpson is set for a preliminary hearing next month.
Man Shot Dead at Wichita Shooting Range
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating the shooting death of a 20-year-old man at a Wichita shooting range. The Wichita Eagle reports that officers found the man's body Sunday afternoon when they were called to the Bullseye shooting range. A Wichita police spokeswoman says police are investigating the death and reviewing video surveillance tapes. Police didn't release any other details about the victim or the nature of the shooting. According to its website, Bullseye sells firearms and also offers various shooting classes.
Kansas City Works to Craft Infrastructure Bond Proposal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City Council is working to create an infrastructure bond proposal that could go before voters in April. The City Council wants to write a general obligation bond plan that can win 57 percent voter support despite a modest property tax increase. The deadline for ballot language is January 19, and council members began working on details of such a ballot at a joint committee hearing last week. Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte are advocating an $800 million, 20-year infrastructure bond proposal to put on the April ballot to address road, sidewalk, building, park and flood-control needs. The Kansas City Star reports that some say it'll be tough to convince voters because issuing $40 million per year over 20 years requires a property tax bump.
Missouri 18-Year-Old Gets 19 Years for Deadly Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri, 18-year-old has been ordered to spend 19 years in prison in connection with a 2015 fatal shooting. A Jackson County (Missouri) judge sentenced Marquiveon Washington on Monday after he pleaded guilty to the lesser murder count as his first-degree murder trial was to begin. Washington was sentenced to the 19-year term for second-degree murder, and a three-year term for armed criminal action. The sentences were ordered to be served simultaneously. Washington admitted he fatally shot Justin Williams in September 2015 during a struggle during what police suspected was a marijuana deal.
Dog Credited with Saving Sumner County Family from Fire
WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A Wellington family says their dog saved them from a house fire. James Mceachern says his dog, Kratos, woke the family up when their house caught fire early Friday. He told KWCH-TV Kratos is normally quiet but came to his bedroom door "and really started raising Cane so I got up to see what was going on." Mceachern says he got up and noticed there was fire coming out the attic vent. He then got his wife, son and two dogs out of the home and called 911. He says he believes without the dog's vigilance "the smoke would have got us before the fire did." The cause of the fire is under investigation.
KU Rewards Beaty with Contract Extension, Hefty Raise
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has rewarded head football coach David Beaty with a two-year contract extension and a significant raise after he took the Jayhawks from a winless record in his first season to a pair of wins in Year 2. The extension keeps Beaty with the Jayhawks through the 2021 season, while increasing his salary to $1.6 million in the first year with an additional $100,000 each succeeding year. Beaty had been among the worst-paid coaches in power-five conferences, making $800,000 last season. KU was a smoldering program when Beaty took over from the fired Charlie Weis, but his team showed promise last season despite failing to win a game. Victories over Rhode Island in the Jayhawks' opener and an upset of Texas during the conference schedule were tangible evidence of progress.
7-Year-Old Kansas Football Fan Who Inspired Team Dies
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 7-year-old University of Kansas football fan who was cheered on by the team as he battled cancer has died. Dengel & Son Mortuary says Cole Hayden died Saturday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Hayden had a rare form of cancer called undifferentiated sarcoma. His mother, Shanda Hayden, is an academic and career counselor in the athletic department. He had grown up around football players, who had formed a bond with him even before his diagnosis. To support him, several members of the team shaved their heads. And almost all of the Kansas football players and coaches wore wristbands emblazoned with #TeamCole during the team's August training camp. Coach David Beaty said in a tweet that the "talented, smart, funny, kindhearted" child had "gotten his angel wings."
MLS Veteran Pablo Nagamura Announces His Retirement
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Sporting Kansas City midfielder Paulo Nagamura is retiring from professional soccer and will join the club's developmental team as an assistant coach for next season. The 33-year-old Nagamura spent 12 years in Major League Soccer, winning two MLS Cup championships and three U.S. Open Cup titles. He started 240 of the 269 games he played in MLS with 15 goals and 21 assists. Nagamura spent the past five seasons with Sporting KC, scoring seven goals in 119 appearances. The Brazilian also played for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chivas USA and Toronto FC. Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said Nagamura will be a valuable addition to the Swope Park Rangers' coaching staff, which will be led by new coach Nikola Popovic next season.