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Headlines for Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Abortion Rights PAC Tied to Kansas Clinic Disbands

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas-based abortion rights group operating a clinic in the late Dr. George Tiller's former medical building in Wichita has disbanded its political action committee. Trust Women faced criticism Wednesday from the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue that the PAC's real purpose was to help start the South Wind Women's Center. Trust Women Executive Director Julie Burkhart said the allegation is false. Campaign finance records showed the Trust Women PAC made few contributions to candidates after its founding in August 2009. It was fined twice by the Federal Election Commission in the past two years, paying a total of $4,262 for failing to meet reporting requirements. Burkhart said Trust Women is focused on providing direct care and didn't have time for political activities. The PAC disbanded May 15.


Schodorf: Kansas GOP's Ethics Complaint Dismissed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic secretary of state candidate Jean Schodorf says the Kansas Ethics Commission has dismissed a Republican complaint accusing her of illegally soliciting contributions from lobbyists through Facebook. Schodorf's campaign said Wednesday that the commission had informed it of the decision after the panel's regular monthly meeting. The commission made no public announcement and typically doesn't unless it sets a public hearing to consider sanctions. The GOP filed the complaint last month against Schodorf. She is a former state senator from Wichita. The complaint argued that Schodorf violated a law barring candidates from soliciting contributions from lobbyists while the Legislature is in session. The GOP cited a May 1 Facebook posting by Schodorf's campaign seeking help in raising money and said at least one lobbyist had liked the page.


Kansans to Be Paid from SunTrust Settlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt says more than 300 Kansas consumers will be eligible for payments under a settlement between 48 states, the federal government and SunTrust. The U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday the $968 million settlement resolves allegations that SunTrust underwrote and provided faulty mortgage loans. The federal government accused SunTrust of giving borrowers false and misleading information and charging unauthorized fees. The agreement is with SunTrust Mortgage, a Virginia-based mortgage lender and subsidiary of SunTrust Banks Inc. Schmidt says his office is still investigating improper conduct by mortgage servicers, but the settlement is a step toward "holding servicers accountable" and repaying Kansas consumers for damage done. The settlement administrator will contact consumers who are eligible for cash payments, but they may also contact SunTrust directly.


Kansas Regents Raise Universities' Tuition, Fees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents is raising tuition and fees at state universities this fall by as much as 5.7 percent for some students. The board approved proposals Wednesday from the six state universities and the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. But the regents said increases in the tuition were the smallest since 2001. The increases would provide almost $29 million in additional revenues for the universities. The largest is 5.7 percent increase for in-state undergraduate students at Kansas State University's campus in Salina. In-state undergraduates at Kansas State's main campus in Manhattan will see an increase of 5.2 percent. At the University of Kansas, the most popular option for tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates will rise by 3.4 percent.


Kansas High Court Orders Hearing in Donor Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered Shawnee County District Court to hold a hearing to determine if genetic testing of a sperm donor is in the best interest of the child the donor allegedly fathered. The court's decision negates a Shawnee County court ruling that ordered the sperm donor, William Marotta, to be tested to determine if he's the father of the now 4-year-old girl born to a lesbian couple after Marotta donated his sperm. The state wants Marotta to be responsible for about $6,000 in public assistance the state provided, as well as future child support. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the court said in a ruling released last Friday that Kansas law dictates the best interests of a child must prevail in determining parental rights and obligation.


Attorney for Donor Applauds High Court Decision

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The lawyer for a man who donated sperm is applauding a Kansas Supreme Court decision that orders a hearing to determine if genetic testing of the donor is in the best interest of the child he allegedly fathered. The court's recent decision follows a Shawnee County court ruling that ordered the sperm donor, William Marotta, to be tested to determine if he's the father of the now 4-year-old girl born to a lesbian couple after Marotta donated his sperm. The state wants Marotta to be responsible for about $6,000 in public assistance the state provided, as well as future child support. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Marotta's lawyer, Ben Swinnen, says he'll work to show at the hearing that the child's happy and the state shouldn't disturb that.


Kansas Governor Decries Environmentalist Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback says a federal lawsuit by environmental groups over the lesser prairie chicken is an attempt to shut down agriculture and energy production in western Kansas. The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington argues the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not doing enough to protect the bird. The agency in March listed the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. But the three environmental groups contend the bird should be listed instead as "endangered," which would prompt stronger conservation measures. Brownback and other Kansas officials object to the species even being listed as threatened, arguing the designation will mean restrictions and expensive conservation fees for farmers, ranchers and energy producers. The governor said the lawsuit could lead to economic devastation.


Kobach's Side Work Attacked in Kansas Primary Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach's challenger in the Kansas Republican primary is demanding that Kobach fully disclose his earnings from outside work by releasing his income tax records for the past three years. GOP candidate Scott Morgan said Tuesday that voters deserve to know the extent of Kobach's private financial dealings with other parties. Kobach did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment. Kobach is a former law professor who became nationally known for advising officials in other states on cracking down on illegal immigration. Financial disclosures Kobach filed with the state show he's had five private clients since taking office in 2011 and that he maintains an outside law firm. But Morgan notes that the information in the state forms is limited.


Twins Charged in Topeka Robbery

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Twin brothers from Topeka have been charged in the armed holdup of a payday loan store in the city earlier this month. The U.S. Attorney's office filed charges Tuesday against 23-year-old Charles Lamar Steele and Lamar Ray Steele. The brothers have initial court appearances on Thursday and do not yet have attorneys. Prosecutors allege that Charles Steele entered a Check Into Cash store on June 4, grabbed the clerk by the wrist and forced her at gunpoint to open a cash drawer. The clerk was hit on the head with the gun and ordered to stay down until the robber left. Lamar Steele is charged with helping plan the robbery, which netted $1,100. Still unidentified is a woman reported by the clerk to have driven Charles Steele away from the scene.


K-State Upgrades Video, Sound in Bramlage Coliseum

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State is replacing the video boards and sound system inside Bramlage Coliseum as part of nearly $2.4 million in upgrades to the school's basketball arena. The focus of the project is a center-hung video board that will have a display four times larger than the current board. There also will be six LED displays around the arena to provide additional crowd engagement and sponsorship opportunities. New sound equipment includes nearly 100 total loudspeakers and 200,000 watts of amplification. The current video boards and sound system were installed in 2000. Funding for the upgrades will come from general athletic department revenue rather than tax, tuition or university dollars.


Wichita Council Approves City Water Plan

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has approved a water plan for an area near a section of the city where officials have found contaminated groundwater. The Wichita Eagle reports that the council on Tuesday approved an emergency water line for Rolling Hills Court in west Wichita. Rolling Hills Court is next to, but not within, an area in Wichita where the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has identified groundwater contamination from a former dry cleaning business. The emergency water line will connect residents in Rolling Hills to city water and cost about $60,000, with 85 percent payable by the improvement district and 15 percent by the Wichita water utility. Residents had petitioned the city for the service.


Cosmosphere Unveils Plan for Next 50 Years

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson is planning for its next 50 years. Officials at the Cosmosphere announced a five-year, $15 million plan Tuesday, with a goal of securing the institution's future for the next 50 years. The Hutchinson News reports the master plan includes significant changes to the Cosmosphere's mission and exhibits without expanding beyond the existing building. Currently, only about 8 percent of the Cosmosphere's 13,000 exhibits are on display. Cosmosphere President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Remar says the new plan includes more room for displays in existing space, adding exhibits in the lobby and possibly more displays in a new food-service area. The plan also includes a major emphasis on informal STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education initiatives, including two STEM labs.


Kauffman Center Names New President and CEO

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kauffman Center of the Performing Arts has chosen Paul J. Schofer to be its new president and CEO. The Kauffman board of directors announced Tuesday that Schofer will succeed Jane Chu, who was recently named chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Schofer has been Kauffman's vice president of operations and chief financial officer since March 2012. Before that, he was senior vice president and CFO of Learfield Communications. He served as chief financial officer for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation from 2004 to 2007.


2 Sentenced in Death of Salina Woman

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man who admitted beating a woman to death with a heavy chain dog collar was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Twenty-six-year-old Joel Heil was sentenced Tuesday for first-degree murder in the death of 27-year-old Kristin Tyler. She was killed in April 2013 and her body was found in May of that year. Another man, 33-year-old Dane DeWeese, has been convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy in Tyler's death. His girlfriend, Megan Wells, was sentenced Tuesday probation for helping DeWeese escape arrest in the case. Prosecutors say all those involved in the case were involved in drug use, particularly methamphetamine.


Kansas Group Plans to Host Food Summits

WHITING, Kan. (AP) — A nonprofit group that supports small farms in Kansas will hold two public "Farm-to-Fork" summits next week. The Kansas Rural Center says the events will take place June 24 at the American Legion in Concordia and June 25 at the Colby Community Building in Colby. Author Jane Marshall will speak in Concordia about the culture of food and farms in Kansas. Her book, "Teatime to Tailgates," includes stories and recipes dating from 1863 to 2013. The Colby meeting features Chris Sramek, co-founder of the High Plains Food Coop, an online food purchasing cooperative that mostly serves the Denver metro area with Kansas products. He plans to talk about the cooperative's development, its challenges and future opportunities.


Lawsuit Challenges Missouri Teacher Tenure Limits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new lawsuit seeks to block the public from voting on a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit tenure protections for public school teachers in Missouri. The lawsuit filed Tuesday contends that the proposed ballot initiative is unconstitutional because it effectively would change two parts of the constitution — one dealing with education, the other with collective bargaining. Two teachers from the Francis Howell School District are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including one who serves as president of the local chapter of the National Education Association. Supporters of the initiative submitted petition signatures last month to get the measure on the November ballot. Those signatures are still being counted and verified. The proposal would limit teachers to three-year contracts and require their evaluations to be based on student performance.


Kansas Couple Challenges 'Pill Mill' Convictions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas couple imprisoned for a moneymaking conspiracy at a Haysville clinic linked to 68 overdose deaths are challenging their convictions. Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda Schneider, argued in a court filing Tuesday their lawyers were ineffective at their trial. The Schneiders were convicted in 2010 of conspiracy, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering at what prosecutors called a "pill mill." Stephen Schneider was sentenced to 30 years and his wife to 33 years. The 50-page document written by the doctor from federal prison outlines the defense he believes his lawyers should have presented. He contends they failed to use exculpatory evidence and witnesses. Schneider argues his attorneys failed to show that prescriptions were for legitimate medical reasons and the conduct was within the bounds of professional practice.


Stolen Property Recovered in Eastern Kansas

CARBONDALE, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas sheriff says deputies have recovered a large amount of property reported stolen from several cities and counties. The Osage County Sheriff's Department says in a news release the items were found Monday at a Carbondale property where authorities investigating marijuana cultivation executed a search warrant. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports deputies recovered four enclosed trailers and four flatbed trailers along with other stolen items. The stolen goods were connected to burglaries and thefts reported to the Shawnee and Pottawatomie sheriff's departments and to police in Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas. Deputies also seized an undisclosed amount of controlled substances.


Ex-Manager Admits Embezzling from Credit Union

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former manager of Jayhawk Federal Credit Union has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $93,500 from the Lawrence institution. The U.S. Attorney's office says 42-year-old Topeka resident Karolyn Stattelman entered the plea Tuesday, less than five weeks after she was charged. Federal prosecutors alleged in a criminal information that from late 2005 to early 2013, Stattelman obtained money orders from the credit union without paying for them, then altered its ledgers to hide the thefts. Stattelman also admitted allowing a teller, 38-year-old Christi Marie Hout, to embezzle more than $81,000 from the credit union. Hout, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty last week to one count of theft. Both women face up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million. Sentencing dates will be later.


Missouri Executes Inmate for Killing 2 Women

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri inmate has been put to death for killing two St. Louis County women in 1996, marking the state's fifth execution this year. A corrections spokesman said John Winfield died early Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre. His execution came shortly after convicted killer Marcus Wellons was put to death in Georgia. Wellons' was the first execution in the nation since a botched execution on April 29 in Oklahoma raised new concerns about lethal injection. Another convicted killer, John Ruthell Henry, is scheduled to die later Wednesday in Florida. Winfield shot his ex-girlfriend, who was the mother of two of his children, in the head, leaving her blind. He shot and killed two of her friends.


2 Cowley County College Trustees Target of Recall

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A group of Arkansas City residents is circulating petitions seeking to recall two Cowley County College trustees. The residents claim Board of Trustees chairman Ron Godsey and vice chairman Dennis Schurtz violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act during a move to eliminate the school's soccer program. A recall leader, Matt Nies, says Godsey and Schurtz are named because of their leadership positions on the board. The Arkansas City Traveler reports the recall petitions claim the trustees violated the open meetings law in March when they met behind closed doors to discuss eliminating the soccer programs. College president Clark Williams resigned in April after a strong backlash against his decision to eliminate the program and other unpopular moves. The board reinstated the soccer program shortly after Williams's resignation.


Auburn City Clerk Released

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The 61-year-old former city clerk of a northeast Kansas community has been released without bond, but ordered to refrain from gambling. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that former Auburn city clerk Alice Riley on Tuesday was granted a pre-trial release without bond with a few conditions, including that she cannot gamble. She had been city clerk for 31 years. Riley has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of interstate transportation of stolen funds. She's accused of embezzling at least $186,000 from Auburn between 2009 and 2014. Auburn is a rural community of about 1,200 people in southwest Shawnee County. Prosecutors say she used the stolen money for gambling. Riley resigned on Feb. 13, amid questions from the city council and audits into the city's finances.


Camp for Kids with Cancer Goes on Despite Fire

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Despite a fire that damaged its longtime home and the loss of a major sponsor, a central Kansas camp is still providing hope for children with cancer. The aptly-named Camp Hope is offering its services again this week on the Barton Community College campus in Great Bend. The camp was forced to move from Camp Aldrich in Barton County after it was destroyed by fire in April. The camp also found new sponsors after the American Cancer Society chose last year to use its funds elsewhere. The Hutchinson News reports the Kans for Kids Fighting Cancer Foundation sponsored the camp this year. Kwik Shop raised more than $46,000, Barton Community College donated resources, and other organizations helped put the camp back together.


Missouri AG Files Lawsuit After Fish Kill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Attorney General Chris Koster has sued Tyson Foods over a large fish kill in southwestern Missouri's Clear Creek. he lawsuit filed Tuesday in Barry County Circuit Court includes six counts asserting pollution of state waters and violations of hazardous waste laws. Koster says the Tyson Foods facility in Monett began discharging wastewater containing an acidic animal feed supplement into the municipal sewer system in mid-May. The discharge interfered with the system's ability to treat wastewater effectively. Missouri conservation and natural resources officials say the result was a die-off of more than 100,000 fish and other wildlife in a four-mile stretch of Clear Creek. A Tyson spokesman said Tuesday the company is sorry about what happened. Tyson has examined how it handles environmental issues in Monett and is improving its processes.


Elderly Man's Body Pulled from NW Missouri Lake

EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Clay County, Missouri authorities are investigating the death of a 78-year-old man whose body was found in a lake. Sheriff's Captain Matt Hunter says Joe Holt of Kansas City was fishing Tuesday in the lake at Rocky Hollow Park near Excelsior Springs when he apparently had heart problems, fell into the water and drowned. Authorities say there are no signs of foul play. The Kansas City Star reports that a couple fishing saw what they thought was a tarp in the lake. When they realized it was a body, they call 911. Holt's body was recovered about 3 feet from shore.


Royals Win 10th Straight Game


DETROIT (AP) — The Kansas City Royals won their 10th straight game, extending the team's best streak in 20 years when Jeremy Guthrie pitched impressively into the seventh inning to beat the Detroit Tigers 2-1 Wednesday. The AL Central-leading Royals have not won this many games in a row since a run of 14 in a row in 1994. They extended their division lead over the Tigers to one and a half games. Guthrie (4-6) allowed four hits and a walk while striking out nine. Drew Smyly (3-6) nearly matched him, but the Detroit left-hander was victimized by Alex Gordon's RBI single in the first and a solo homer by Omar Infante in the fifth. J.D. Martinez homered for the Tigers in the seventh, but the Kansas City bullpen got the last seven outs, with Greg Holland pitching the ninth for his 21st save in 22 chances.



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