Lieutenant Governor Colyer Taking Lead on State Budget Proposal
Kansas Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer is taking the lead on writing a state budget proposal to submit to legislators when they return to Topeka in January as Governor Sam Brownback prepares to leave office for a diplomatic post. A U.S. Senate committee has approved President Donald Trump's nomination of Brownback as an ambassador at large for international religious freedom, but a full Senate vote has been delayed. Brownback told reporters Tuesday that Colyer is leading the budget process, according to media reports. Colyer on Wednesday made a significant cabinet announcement, naming Gina Meier-Hummel commissioner for the Department for Children and Families. Brownback is expected to resign after he is confirmed and Colyer will become governor. Colyer, like Brownback a Republican, is among several candidates for governor in 2018.
Colyer Selects Lawrence Shelter Director to Head Department for Children and Families
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A children's shelter director will be the next leader of a troubled state agency that's tasked with protecting youth from abuse and neglect. Financial disclosure forms show that Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer has selected Gina Meier-Hummel as secretary of the Department for Children and Families. Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr confirmed the selection and said Governor Sam Brownback had delegated the decision to Colyer. Meier-Hummel has been involved in Kansas's social service system for decades and serves on a task force examining the foster care system. Before becoming the director of the Children's Shelter in Lawrence, she served in positions within the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and DCF.
Kansas Candidates for Governor Differ on State Auditor Position
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Democrats running for Kansas governor say they support the creation of a statewide office to handle complaints about government practices. The Wichita Eagle reports that Democrats Josh Svaty and Carl Brewer said they support establishment of a state auditor position after a Kansas City Star editorial on Sunday proposed it. The move is opposed by Republican candidate and Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, who will become governor if Brownback is confirmed to an ambassadorship, has not provided specific details about what he would do. Representative Jim Ward is the House Democratic leader and a candidate for governor. Ward says Kansas needs more government transparency and accountability, stopped short of supporting an auditor. The Legislature has an auditing arm, but it only investigates issues at the direction of a legislative committee. Creating such a position would entail a state constitutional amendment requiring approval from two-thirds of the Legislature and most voters.
Kansas Regulators to Review Westar Merger with Great Plains
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Shareholders have overwhelmingly approved a proposed merger of Kansas's largest electric company with a Missouri firm. Kansas City, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy Inc. and Topeka-based Westar Energy Inc. announced in a news release Tuesday that more than 90 percent of the shares voted at each company approved the transaction. The companies announced the revised transaction in July after the Kansas Corporation Commission denied their original request in April, concluding the price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies. This revised deal creating a company with a combined equity value of about $14 billion still requires regulatory approval. The commission issued an order today setting out a schedule next year that includes an evidentiary hearing March 19-27. Its order is due June 5.
Lawrence Bans Openly Carrying Firearms in City Buildings
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence City Commission has voted to prohibit openly carrying firearms in city buildings.The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the unanimous decision Tuesday affects the more than 40 buildings owned or leased by the city. Changes to the city code also place significant penalties for violating the ban. Commissioner Matthew Herbert says guns in city hall would negatively affect discourse at commission meetings. Banning the open carry of firearms in certain government buildings is allowed under state law provided the appropriate signs are posted. The commission adopted an ordinance to incorporate the relevant state law provisions into city code and establish penalties. A second ordinance requires all municipal buildings to be designated as prohibiting open carry. The new ordinances will not affect the ability to carry concealed weapons.
Former Kickapoo Tribal Chairman Found Guilty
HORTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say former Kickapoo Tribal Council Chairman Steve Cadue has been convicted of two charges related to his management of funds. The council said in a news release that Cadue was convicted this week of fraudulent handling of a recordable instrument and tampering with records. He entered a no contest plea. St. Joseph News-Press reports a jury convicted former Treasurer Bobbi Darnell was convicted in March. Former Secretary Adolph Cadue Jr. is awaiting trial on similar charges. The complaints allege the former tribal council officials falsified resolutions to draw excessive amounts from the tribe's burial fund held by the federal government, transferring the money to the tribe's bank account. The money was used to subsidize payroll and other tribal expenses.
Suspect in Blaze That Killed 2 Firefighters Faces New Charge
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman awaiting trial in an arson fire that killed two Kansas City firefighters has been charged with setting another blaze, and her boyfriend has been charged with insurance fraud. The latest arson charge against 45-year-old Thu Hong Nguyen stems from a 2013 Lee's Summit fire and was added in an indictment returned last Friday. Nguyen was charged previously with two counts each second-degree murder and four other felonies in the October 2015 fire that killed Larry Leggio, 43, and John Mesh, 39, and seriously injured two other firefighters. A brick wall fell on them as they tried to quell flames in an area had been deemed unsafe. Fire officials subsequently changed safety procedures. In a separate indictment unsealed Tuesday, Nguyen's boyfriend and business partner, 51-year-old Nhat Pham, was charged with insurance fraud in the Kansas City fire, The Kansas City Star reports. The criminal complaint against Pham, who is out on $10,000 bond, does not address whether he had any role in starting the fatal fire, only that he lied about his whereabouts. Pham was at a casino and not present to help Nguyen and an employee close up the Kansas City salon as he initially told authorities, court records say. The fire led authorities to re-examine the Lee's Summit fire, whose cause initially was ruled undetermined. It was reclassified as "intentional" after testing ruled out "all accidental causes," a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent wrote in the probable cause statement for the newest arson charge.
4 Arrested in Kidnapping of Kansas Teen
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they have arrested four teenagers in connection with last week's kidnapping of a 16-year-old Emporia boy. The Lyon County sheriff's office said in a news release Wednesday that deputies responded to Newman Hospital on Nov. 18 to a report of an aggravated kidnapping. The victim was treated for multiple bruises, a possible broken nose and other injuries. Lyon County detectives and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation interviewed multiple people Tuesday that led to the arrests of four suspects. The four teenagers ranging in ages from 17 to 18 are in custody on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated battery and criminal threats. The Lyon County attorney's office is reviewing those charges.
Eagle Owls Make Debut Thanksgiving Day at Topeka Zoo
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center has two new Eurasian eagle owls that are expected to make their debut to the public on Thanksgiving Day. The birds are the largest of the owl species. The zoo says in a news release that the newly-acquired breeding pair were put together by the Eurasian eagle owl species survival plan. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Morrisey is the female and came from a zoo in Florida. The male, Gengis, is from the Kansas City Zoo. They were introduced to each other during their quarantine period soon after arriving in Topeka.
Wichita Priest Named Bishop for Jefferson City, Missouri Diocese
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita priest has been named bishop of the Catholic diocese in Jefferson City, Missouri. The Wichita Eagle reports that Pope Francis has named the Reverend W. Shawn McKnight to lead the diocese in central Missouri. McKnight is pastor at the Church of the Magdalen in Wichita. He will succeed John Gaydos, who had been bishop in Jefferson City for 20 years. The Jefferson City diocese serves 81,000 Catholics, 95 parishes and 15 missions.
2 Dead in Kansas City, Missouri House Fire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say two people have died after a fire swept through a midtown Kansas City, Missouri home. The Kansas City Star reports that firefighters responded to the blaze just before 5:00 this (WED) morning. Firefighters pulled two unresponsive people from the burning house. They were rushed to the hospital, but were pronounced dead. One victim was found on the first floor and the other on the third floor of the house. A fire official said there were no working smoke detectors inside the house.
Man Found Guilty of Murder in Death of Baby in Shawnee
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) - A 26-year-old man has pleaded no contest in the killing of a 7-month-old girl in 2015 in the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee, Kansas. Aarson Peck entered the plea Tuesday. Peck initially was charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of Analeece McHenry-Widmer. Peck shared an apartment in Shawnee, Kansas, with the girl's mother. Prosecutors dismissed the child abuse charge as part of the plea agreement. Sentencing for the second-degree murder charge is scheduled for January 31.
Suspect in Fire that Killed 2 Firefighters Faces New Charge
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A woman awaiting trial in an arson fire that killed two Kansas City, Missouri firefighters has now been charged with setting another blaze. The latest charge against 45-year-old Thu Hong Nguyen stems from a 2013 fire in Lee's Summit, Missouri. The cause of that fire previously had been ruled undetermined. Nguyen previously was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the October 2015 deaths of firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh. Both the 2013 and 2015 fires were at nail salons Nguyen managed. In a separate indictment unsealed Tuesday, Nguyen's boyfriend and business partner, 51-year-old Nhat Pham, was charged with insurance fraud in the Kansas City fire.
Grandview Plaza Police Chief Won't Face Charges
GRANDVIEW PLAZA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas police chief arrested last month following a disturbance at his home will not face criminal charges. Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf said Tuesday that an investigation concluded that Grandview Plaza Police Chief Shawn Peirano acted in defense of another person. Peirano was arrested October 22 after a report of a disturbance. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the incident involved Peirano and a person living with him who wasn't a spouse or immediate family member. A special prosecutor reviewed the case and asked the sheriff's department to conduct an investigation. Wolf says that investigation determined Peirano didn't commit a crime. Grandview Plaza is a town of 1,600 residents east of Junction City.
Jayhawks Strip Captaincy from Players After OU Brouhaha
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Baker Mayfield wasn't the only one to lose his captaincy after the Oklahoma quarterback's antics following last weekend's blowout victory over Kansas. Jayhawks coach David Beaty announced Tuesday that his captains _ Dorance Armstrong Jr., Daniel Wise and Joe Dineen Jr. _ were also stripped of their status. The trio refused to shake Mayfield's hand during the pregame coin-toss, which led to a game filled with vitriol. Mayfield was hit several times after the whistle, once earning a personal foul on Kansas, while the Heisman Trophy front-runner was caught grabbing his crotch and cursing at the Jayhawks' bench. Mayfield also will not start Saturday's regular-season finale for Oklahoma against West Virginia, though Beaty said his former captains will start against Oklahoma State.