Kansas Governor: No Furloughs, Layoffs Planned for State Government Workers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration says he won't propose furloughs or layoffs of state workers in his January budget proposal. Brownback spokeswoman Melika Willoughby tells The Topeka Capital-Journal Brownback intends to propose a budget that will make layoffs and furloughs unnecessary. The state is facing a $350 million budget shortfall. Kansas Organization of State Employees director Rebecca Proctor says the potential for layoffs or furloughs concerns the group. The Brownback administration moved earlier this year to alter policies for state employee layoffs, rehiring and performance evaluations, but some of the proposed changes were shelved after feedback.
Fort Hays State University President Resigns... Effective Immediately
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The president of Fort Hays State University has announced her resignation. KSNW reports that Mirta Martin announced today (WED) that her resignation as president of Fort Hays State is effective immediately. In a letter to staff, students and faculty, Martin said she's stepping down for "personal reasons." The Kansas Board of Regents selected Martin to lead Fort Hays State in May 2014. Regent Zoe F. Newton, Chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, said in a statement that the board is grateful for Martin's contributions. Martin's letter says Mike Barnett, the university's vice president for administration and finance, has been named acting president until the board names an interim president.
Governor Declares Disaster After Chemical Plant Blast in Southeast Kansas
NEODESHA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has issued a disaster declaration after an explosion at a southeast Kansas chemical plant injured at least one person. The declaration announced today (WED) allows the National Guard to help respond to yesterday's (TUE) explosion at the Airosol Incorporated plant in the 2,500-person town of Neodesha. The effort includes providing bottled water to residents. Public water systems have been urged to close water intakes on the Verdigris River downstream from the plant to prevent contamination from substances used in the firefight. The blast sent a male employee to a hospital with burns that weren't considered life-threatening. The Kansas Adjutant General's Office also is working to confirm reports that two others may have sustained minor injuries. The plant manufactures and packages aerosol, liquid and other specialty chemicals.
"Verruckt" Waterslide at Kansas Water Park Will Be Demolished
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Operators of a Kansas City, Kansas, water park where a 10-year-old boy was killed on a waterslide last summer say the ride will be demolished. Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts said in a statement Tuesday that the 168-foot "Verruckt" at the Schlitterbahn park will not reopen and will eventually be torn down. The ride has been closed since Caleb Thomas Schwab was killed August 7 while on the "Verruckt" water slide. Two other riders in Caleb's raft, both women, were also injured. Attorneys for Caleb's family and the women are investigating the accident. Rafts on the 168-foot ride made a 17-story drop at speeds of up to 70 mph. It was named the world’s tallest water slide by Guinness World Records. Caleb Schwab was the son of Scott Schwab, a Kansas House representative from Olathe.
Abortion Doctor's Killer Eligible for Parole in 25 Years
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man convicted in 2010 in the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller will have to serve at least 25 years of a life sentence before becoming eligible for parole. At a resentencing hearing today (WED), prosecutors withdrew their request that Scott Roeder serve at least 50 years before parole eligibility. Roeder also was sentenced to an additional two years for two counts of aggravated assault. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says prosecutors wanted to avoid reopening the wound for the victim's family and the community. Bennett cited the 58-year-old defendant's declining health and the unlikelihood of him living long enough to ever get out of prison. Defense attorney Mark Rudy says they are glad to put this to rest and don't plan to appeal.
Court Blocks Expansion of Overtime Pay Rule After States Sue
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal court is blocking implementation of a regulation that would make an estimated 4 million more higher-earning workers eligible for overtime pay. The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted a nationwide preliminary injunction Tuesday that prevents the Department of Labor from implementing the changes until the rule's legality can be further examined. The order comes after 21 states sued to block the rule before it took effect on December 1. The lead plaintiff was Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who's a frequent critic of what he calls Obama Administration overreach. The regulation would shrink the so-called "white collar exemption" and more than double the salary threshold under which employers must pay overtime to their workers. Laxalt said the rule would burden private and public sectors.
Recount Canceled but Results Show Pilcher-Cook Retained Lead
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic candidate who fell short of unseating conservative incumbent Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook has dropped her request for a recount. But the Johnson County Election Office went ahead and released the results anyway because the recount already had been completed when Vicki Hiatt withdrew her request. The recount shows the 952-vote margin of victory for Pilcher-Cook remains the same. Pilcher-Cook got 51.3 percent of the vote, to Hiatt's 48.6 percent. The only change is that each candidate received one additional vote from the paper ballots, which previously had been detected by the optical scanners as "blank votes." Hiatt had expressed concerns previously that election night technical issues may have affected results. Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said in the statement that the results show his staff's work was "accurate."
Baby Abduction Suspect Arrested in July Kidnapping Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Dallas woman arrested in the killing of a Kansas mother and the kidnapping of the victim's newborn daughter was also accused in a kidnapping in July. The Wichita Eagle reports that Adriana Portillo says Yesenia Sesmas lured her and her children into a basement, and that Sesmas took away her cellphone and ordered her to restrain her 10- and 3-year-old daughters with duct tape. The 10-year-old managed to snatch back the phone and call police as the two women fought. Records show Sesmas was then booked into jail on several charges, including kidnapping. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office says Sesmas bonded out, but wouldn't comment on why no charges were filed. Sesmas was arrested Saturday in the death of 27-year-old Laura Abarca-Nogueda and the kidnapping of her 6-day-old daughter Sophia. Sesmas is being held in Texas while Kansas authorities pursue extradition, a process that could take up to 90 days.
State Charges Pittsburg Man in 2 Relatives' Deaths
PLEASONTON, Kan. (AP) _ The state has charged a 31-year-old Kansas man with the killing of two of his relatives. The Kansas Attorney General announced Tuesday that David Patrick McNabb of Pittsburg is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, felony theft and interference with law enforcement. He is suspected of killing his 65-year-old uncle, Kenneth McNabb, and 87-year-old Betty McNabb, Kenneth's mother. They were reported missing November 11 from their home in Pleasonton in Linn County. Their bodies were found buried on rural property west of Pittsburg November 15. The complaint alleges that David McNabb killed the two victims on or near November 7 and later stole a 2013 Buick Enclave that belonged to Kenneth McNabb.
Kansas Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Abduction Slaying
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man has been sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping his girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter and shooting the child to death during a 2014 police chase. Thirty-two-year-old Marcas McGowan of Atchison declined to address the judge during his sentencing hearing Tuesday in Kansas City, Kansas. McGowan already had pleaded guilty to kidnapping resulting in death, and to discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. Authorities say McGowan abducted Cadence Harris on July 18, 2014, after a domestic dispute in the home they shared with the girl's mother. During an ensuing chase, McGowan fired at police and fatally shot the girl. Authorities pursued him into Missouri before he crashed through a barricade near Leavenworth, Kansas. Officers shot and wounded him after he pointed a gun at them.
Woman Admits Taking $1.5 Million from 2 Missouri Businesses
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling $1.5 million from two major Kansas City-area businesses. Forty-four-year-old Patricia Webb, of Lee's Summit, entered the plea Tuesday in federal court to three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. She admitted to stealing the money from Black & Veatch and Garmin, where she worked in senior payroll jobs. She admitted taking $1.2 million from Garmin and about $300,000 from Black & Veatch. She also stole about $7,400 from Tristar Benefit Administrators, which managed health care savings accounts for Garmin. Prosecutors say an analysis of Webb's bank account showed she spent a large amount of money at casinos.
Affluent Shoplifter Arrested Day Before Slated Sentencing
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An affluent suburban Kansas City woman who admitted last year shoplifting truckloads of clothing from area retailers has been arrested again, this time on suspicion of stealing bras. The Kansas City Star reports 47-year-old Kelli Bauer of Overland Park, Kansas, is accused of stealing an unknown number of bras from a Kohl's store on November 15. Police searched Bauer's $900,000 home in an exclusive Johnson County neighborhood in April 2015 and found more than 1,000 stolen items, some of which she was trying to sell. She was scheduled to be sentenced today (WED) on a felony theft conviction, but that was pushed back to January after Johnson County prosecutors filed a motion seeking to be released from her plea bargain.
ACLU Urges Kansas School District to Stop Barring Safety Pins
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is urging a Kansas school district to stop barring staff from wearing safety pins on their clothes in a sign of solidarity to the disenfranchised. The ACLU sent a letter Tuesday to the Shawnee Mission School District's superintendent about the pins, which have gained popularity in the U.S. following the election of Donald Trump. The pin is intended to show that the wearer is a safe person to turn to. The district said in a statement Monday that employees' communication inside the classroom "is considered speech on behalf of the school district." Doug Bonney, chief counsel for the ACLU's Kansas chapter, says litigation is "a very real probability" but that the organization wanted to give the district time to make a change first.