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Headlines for Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press.

Kobach Ordered to Tell Voters Their General Election Ballots Will Count 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has ordered Secretary of State Kris Kobach to notify thousands of people who hadn't provided documents proving their citizenship that they will be allowed to vote for all offices in the November election. Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks's order affects more than 19,545 voters who registered at motor vehicle offices or with a federal form without providing documentary proof of U.S. citizenship. The judge stopped short of issuing the permanent injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union. Kobach's office says it is reviewing the ruling. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's voting rights project, says all the litigation has freed about half of voter registrants in Kansas from jumping through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops.


Lawyers Who Challenged Kansas Gay Marriage Ban Awarded $295K
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has directed Kansas to pay $295,000 to attorneys who successfully challenged the state's ban on gay marriage in a lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree on Tuesday approved a request from American Civil Liberties Union lawyers and Kansas City-area attorney Mark Johnson. The state did not contest the amount. The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by five gay and lesbian couples against state officials in agencies that issue driver's licenses and maintain marriage and birth records. Kansas law and the state constitution prohibit same-sex marriage, but in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such bans violate the federal constitution. Crabtree issued an order in July barring the state from treating same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples in allowing them to marry or extending other benefits.


Army Fires Fort Riley's Commanding General as Investigation Continues

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Army says it has fired the commander of Fort Riley and is continuing an investigation opened last week at the northeast Kansas army base. No details have been provided.  Army spokesman Colonel Patrick R. Seiber says that Major General Wayne Grigsby was relieved of command of the 1st Infantry Division due to loss of confidence in his ability to lead. Grigsby was initially suspended on Friday. Army officials have declined to disclose the nature of the investigation.  Seiber says a replacement will be named in the coming days.  About 17,000 troops are stationed at Fort Riley. Grigsby assumed command of the base in August 2015, after 31 years of military service that included a stint as commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in East Africa.


Judge Orders Kansas Secretary of State to Appear in Court for Contempt Hearing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to show why he shouldn't be held in contempt for failing to comply with an injunction requiring him to put on voter rolls people who registered at motor vehicle offices without providing citizenship documents.  U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Monday ordered Kobach to appear in her courtroom Friday and to file a written response by Thursday.  Kobach says the state "is in full compliance with the district court's order."  The American Civil Liberties Union contends Kobach has not registered these voters in the official poll books as Robinson ordered in May. The ACLU argues Kobach also issued a misleading voter notice.  These voters aren't given a regular ballot and must use a provisional one, which raises secrecy concerns.


Kansas Universities Outline Effects of Potential Budget Cuts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents say the bulk of a potential 5 percent, or $28 million, cut in state aid for universities in the system would affect the University of Kansas, the University of Kansas Medical Center and Kansas State University. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the possible cuts were outlined in documents requested by Governor Sam Brownback's administration. Brownback isn't required to reveal his budget strategy until January. Kansas State University officials say the loss of $4.9 million in state funding would trigger reductions across the institution. University of Kansas Medical Center officials say the institution intends to shield its cancer treatment and research program from a $5.1 million reduction. The reduction would cause Wichita State University to freeze capital projects or equipment purchases and freeze or eliminate staff positions.


Kansas Supreme Court to Hold Special Session in Hutchinson 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases next week in Hutchinson after spending part of the day visiting area schools to discuss the role of courts in civilized society. The special session at Hutchinson Community College will begin at 6:30 pm Tuesday in B.J. Warner Recital Hall and is expected to last about 90 minutes. One case involves a man who is appealing his conviction in Butler County for possession of methamphetamine. The other is an appeal from a Wichita home supply store seeking to recover money it says it is owed for drywall materials. Prior to the session, Supreme Court justices and Reno County judges will speak with area students about the importance of the judiciary.


Shareholders Approve Sale of Westar Energy to Great Plains

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Stockholders have approved the $12.2 billion sale of Topeka-based electric company Westar Energy to Missouri-based Great Plains Energy.  Both companies reported Monday that participating shareholders overwhelmingly approved the deal. Westar had a special meeting in Topeka and Great Plains had one in Kansas City, Missouri, to finish the voting.  Each firm said the holders of more than 60 percent of their shares participated. They said the owners of 95 percent or more of that stock approved the sale.  Federal and state regulators also must sign off on the deal. The companies hope to complete the sale next spring.  The companies have said combining would create efficiencies and keep consumers' rates in check. Westar stockholders would receive $51 in cash and $9 in Great Plains stock for each share.


Authorities Identify 2-Year-Old Girl Killed in Apparent Dog Attack

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a 2-year-old girl who was killed in an apparent dog attack.  Police identified the girl Monday in a news release as Piper Dunbar. Officers responding to a report of a missing child found the girl dead Saturday night in the yard of a home. Police said the child had been the "victim of an animal attack" and that officers also seized two dogs from the fenced yard.  Officers interviewed people involved and have sent the case to the Shawnee County district attorney's office for review.


Second Man Charged in Central Kansas Killing

BELOIT, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a second man has been charged in a central Kansas killing.  The Salina Journal reports that the latest suspect to be accused in the July 2015 death of Darrell Hill is his ex-son-in-law, 56-year-old Merlyn Hoesly, of Simpson. Hoesly is jailed on charges of first-degree murder and felony interference with law enforcement.  The original suspect is 29-year-old Trevin Spencer, of rural Cloud County. Spencer's murder trial had been scheduled to begin earlier this month but has been continued.  Mitchell County attorney Mark Noah says Spencer was the only person present when the killing happened. Noah said the charges against Hoesly stem from "aiding and abetting" or being "an accessory."  Hoesly's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. Spencer's next appearance is set for October 5.


Larned Hospital Unaware of Federal Probe When Hiring CFO

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state agency says Larned State Hospital officials weren't aware the man hired as the hospital's chief financial officer in 2015 was the focus of an internal federal investigation.  David Fender joined the hospital in 2015, shortly after serving a year as chief financial officer for the Government National Mortgage Association. Kansas announced Fender's departure in August when it launched a hospital audit.  A federal inspector general's report provided to The Wichita Eagle shows an investigation found Fender potentially committed criminal violations by using his public office for private gain and making false statements to the government. He wasn't charged.  A state agency spokeswoman says Larned didn't know about the federal investigation when Fender was hired. Fender didn't return calls from the Eagle or The Associated Press.


Kansas Substitute Teacher Admits Sexual Contact with Former Student

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan businessman who once was a backup quarterback at Kansas State faces November sentencing after admitting in court that he had improper sexual contact with a former high school student.  Manhattan radio station KMAN reports that 38-year-old Zachary Burton pleaded guilty Monday in Riley County to one count of unlawful sexual relations.  Authorities say the female student went to Riley County High School, where Burton was an assistant boys' basketball coach and substitute teacher.  Burton owns a business called Fieldhouse Development Incorporated.  Burton's sentencing is scheduled for November 15.


Harvey County Seeking Funds to Help Victims of Shooting

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Harvey County is seeking federal money to help victims and first responders affected by a shooting at a lawn equipment factory in Hesston earlier this year. Authorities say Cedric Ford attacked the Excel Industries plant on February 25. Four people, including Ford, were killed and 14 others were injured. Harvey County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Task Force applied for a $220,000 grant to help staffers oversee a resiliency program. The Wichita Eagle reports that the money would be used to pay for mental health and counseling services, victim advocate services, education, training and equipment for law enforcement and emergency responders. The county and the task force will also apply for other grants that would provide first responders with education and training on emergency management, mass violence, mental health and victimization.


Kansas City Police: Homicide Victim Found Inside Vehicle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have identified a homicide victim who was found inside a vehicle in Kansas City.  Police said in a news release that officers discovered 33-year-old Earl Watson, of Kansas City, slumped over the wheel while responding to a report of shots fired. Fire crews responded and declared him dead.  Authorities are seeking information from the public.


Suspended Missouri State QB Faces Animal Cruelty Citation

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Suspended Missouri State quarterback Breck Ruddick has been cited with animal cruelty and allowing a dog to run at large.  Springfield Animal Control said Ruddick was ticketed Monday. The incident report for the municipal violations said a woman reported last week that Ruddick was caring for her dog when he hit the animal three times and turned it loose. The report said the dog, an Australian shepherd, needed surgery for a broken jaw and at least six cracked teeth.  Ruddick's attorney released a statement Monday describing the quarterback as a "young man of the highest character," who has received death threats.  Ruddick was suspended Friday, and Missouri State fell the next day to Kansas State 35-0 in a game that was called at halftime because of lightning.


Kansas City Police Testing Body-Worn Cameras

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are getting ready to begin testing body cameras.  WDAF-TV reports that police started training officers to wear the cameras Monday. Across the country, pressure for officers to wear body cameras has grown since the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
For the next 90 days, at any given time, 25 Kansas City officers will be wearing the cameras while on duty to help commanders determine how much it will cost to store video from the cameras.  Police have been researching how best to roll out body cameras department-wide for more than a year. Police have borrowed 30 cameras for this test and say they'll spend less than $1,000 to train officers how to use the equipment.


Kansas City Residents Dealing with Oak Leaf Itch Mite 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Johnson County horticulturist says the number of people dealing with bites from the oak leaf itch mite has picked up this year. Dennis Patton, a horticulturist for the Johnson County Kansas State University Research and Extension Office, tells The Kansas City Star that the mites have been back in full force and that the number of calls from people who've been bitten has picked up in the last several weeks. Itch mites are associated with a wasp-like insect that forms galls on oak trees. When the insect stings the leaves, a gall forms around the insect's larvae. The mites then feed on the larvae and exit the gall in the fall. There has been a high number of galls forming on oak trees this year. Patton says the mites get on humans after being windblown.


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