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Regional Headlines for Friday, August 16, 2013


Kansas Governor Says Budget Director to Resign

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says Budget Director Steve Anderson is resigning at the end of this month to return to private life. Brownback announced Friday that Anderson's resignation is effective August 31. Anderson has been a top adviser to Brownback since December 2010, a month before the Republican governor took office. Anderson is a certified public accountant who was a consultant for the anti-tax, small-government group Americans for Prosperity before joining Brownback's administration. Anderson said in a statement that his family has supported him, but it's time to be with them. Brownback said Anderson's work helped make Kansas competitive in a global economy. But earlier this year, Anderson apologized after supplying Brownback with an incorrect figure that led the governor to make erroneous claims about state spending.


Governor Brownback Issues Disaster Declaration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has declared a state of disaster emergency for 62 counties hit by severe storms and flooding. The declaration issued Friday authorizes state resources to provide emergency assistance. Brownback said in a written statement that the flooding has damaged infrastructure and that repairs need to be made  quickly "so everyone can get back to business as usual." The counties named in the declaration are Allen, Anderson, Barber, Barton, Bourbon, Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clark, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Comanche, Cowley, Crawford, Dickinson, Edwards, Elk, Ellsworth, Finney, Ford, Geary, Gray, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearney, Kingman, Kiowa, Labette, Lane, Linn, Lyon, Marion, McPherson, Meade, Montgomery, Morris, Neosho, Ness, Ottawa, Pawnee, Pratt, Reno, Republic, Rice, Rush, Russell, Saline, Scott, Sedgwick, Seward, Stafford, Stanton, Sumner, Wichita, Wilson, and Woodson.


Authorities Find Gun in KS Student's Backpack

SPRING HILL, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County authorities say a handgun was found in a student's backpack outside Spring Hill High School. The Kansas City Star reports that a Johnson County sheriff's deputy assigned as a school resource officer was checking on a report of a student "in need of care" outside the school Thursday when the gun was found. Spring Hill School District officials later posted a notice about the incident on the district website. The sheriff's office says the student wasn't arrested, but was given help in obtaining mental health treatment. Spring Hill is a community of about 5,500 residents in southern Johnson County.

Wichita Lawmaker to Resign After Special Session

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A longtime Kansas House member says he'll resign from the Legislature at the end of next month's special session. Democrat Nile Dillmore told The Wichita Eagle on Thursday the decision is tied to his planned October retirement from his regular job with a Wichita credit union. The 65-year-old lawmaker says it's time for him to seek "some other things to do." Dillmore was first elected to the House in 2000. After a federal court-ordered redrawing of the state's political boundaries last year, he defeated Republican state Representative Brenda Landwehr of Wichita to retain his seat. He serves on the House Appropriations, Taxation and Elections committees. Lawmakers will convene their special session on September 3 to rewrite a law allowing judges to sentence convicted murderers to at least 50 years in prison.

Panel Plans Open Sessions on Workers' Comp Judges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new committee that nominates administrative judges to review workers' compensation disputes is promising to hold open meetings. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the seven-member committee already assumed it was required to follow the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Lawmakers created the committee this year, replacing a two-member business and labor panel. Committee member Eric Stafford, who represents the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said he consulted with the attorney general's office and there's no doubt it must comply with the Open Meetings Act. The panel also plans to review how the state's Open Records Act applies to it. The committee's next meeting is Wednesday in Wichita, where it plans to review candidates for a judgeship. Its choices must be approved by the state labor secretary and Governor Sam Brownback.


Lawrence Museum Opens Quantrill's Raid Exhibit

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence museum is opening a new $300,000 exhibit as the city marks the 150th anniversary of William Clarke Quantrill's rebel guerrilla attack on the pro-union town. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the exhibit opens Saturday at the Watkins Museum of History. It features displays and artifacts from the Civil War and Bleeding Kansas eras. Among the items on display is Ernst Ulmer's 4-by-6-foot canvas painting depicting Quantrill's Raid. The loaned piece, valued at about $30,000, greets visitors as they enter the exhibit. It also features a newly constructed booth with a large touch-screen television that allows visitors to point to places on a digital map of Lawrence. Different points on the map tell different stories, both in pictures and audio.

Kansas Supreme Court, Bar Association Promoting iCivics for Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court and state Bar Association are promoting the use of educational video games in schools to teach students civics lessons. The court and the association are advocating the use of games developed by iCivics, a group formed in 2009 by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The games include "Power Play," with teams competing to win power for the federal government or the states, and "We the Jury," with players deciding court cases. The Kansas court says an advisory committee will promote the games during a new "Celebrate Freedom Week" mandated by the Legislature this year for public schools. It's set by law for the week that includes the September 17 anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

Sedgwick County "Hard 50" Sentencing Delayed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sentencing has been delayed in Sedgwick County for a man convicted of stomping his girlfriend to death. The delay in the sentencing for 42-year-old Anson Bernhardt is intended so officials can determine if the state's "Hard 50" sentencing law can be applied. Prosecutors are seeking the "Hard 50" sentence — 50 years without parole — for Bernhardt, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the September death of his girlfriend, 38-year-old Amber Kostner. The Wichita Eagle reports that lawyers want to determine how the case is affected by a U.S. Supreme Court decision raising questions about the constitutionality of the "Hard 50." The ruling said juries, not judges, must make findings that increase a mandatory minimum sentence. Kansas law requires a judge to decide whether to impose the "Hard 50" sentence.

Report of Sex Assault Prompts Caution in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police are investigating a report of a sexual assault near the campus of Kansas State University. The report prompted county and Kansas State police to issue a statement Thursday cautioning students and the general public not to walk alone at night. Police say the assault happened in the early morning hours of August 11th. No other details were released. Kansas State offers a service called Wildcat Walk to students, faculty, staff and guests. Anyone who feels uncomfortable walking alone can call the service to be escorted up to two blocks off campus. People driving to campus can also arrange to be met in a parking lot and escorted to their destination.


Overland Park Police Investigating Woman's Reported Abduction

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Overland Park police are investigating a report that a gunman abducted a woman from a hospital parking lot, forced her to take money out of an ATM and then had her drop him off back at the parking lot. Police say the woman reported the gunman accosted her in the parking lot Friday morning and demanded she drive him to a nearby bank where he had her withdraw an unknown amount of money. The woman says the suspect then had her drive him back to the hospital where she dropped him off and he fled on foot. The woman says the gunman's head was covered by a baggy white cloth. She describes him as a stocky black man in his late 20s or early 30s. No injuries were reported.


Olathe Police Say Remains Those of Missing Man, 23

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Olathe police say human remains found earlier this year have been identified as those of a 23-year-old man missing for nearly two years. Police said in a release Friday the family of Ryan A. Bradley reported him missing in October 2011. The skeletal remains were found in rural Johnson County in March, and police say DNA testing identified the remains as those of Bradley. The cause of death has not been determined.


Topeka Fire Dept Officials Get OT Despite Guidelines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Several high-ranking officials in the Topeka Fire Department have been collecting overtime despite federal labor guidelines that say they could be exempt from that overtime. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 11 battalion chiefs and shift commanders in the Topeka Fire Department earned a collective $145,338 in overtime in 2012. Jacque Russell, human resources director for Topeka, says under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the officials could be exempt from overtime. Russell says fire department managers have received overtime for at least six years, and that likely stemmed from an effort to maintain salary differences between management and non-management positions. In fire departments in other cities, including Overland Park, Shawnee and Wichita, positions with equal or fewer responsibilities than Topeka's shift commanders and battalion chiefs can't receive overtime.


Topeka Suspect Treed After K-9 Unit Called

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man suspected of trying to break in to a Topeka motel was caught hiding in a tree after police dogs were called in to help in the search. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police were called to the motel early Friday on a report of an attempted break in. The suspect ran from the area as police arrived and headed into a heavily wooded area. Police officers established a perimeter around the area and called for assistance from its K-9 unit and the Kansas Highway Patrol. After a brief search, K-9 officers located the suspect hiding in a tree. Police spokeswoman Kristen Veverka says it took the suspect about an hour to come down from the tree. He was taken into custody, and formal charges are pending.

Soldier Pleads No Contest in Fatal Kansas Chase

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Riley soldier faces up to 41 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges in a fatal, wrong-way chase on Interstate 70. WIBW-TV reports 22-year-old Gary Nelson of Junction City will be sentenced on November 12th. The Geary County prosecutor's office says Nelson pleaded no contest last week to second-degree murder and reckless driving. Authorities said Nelson intentionally drove the wrong way on I-70 the night of April 3rd. A sport utility vehicle that tried to avoid a head-on collision went off the highway and rolled over, killing 53-year-old passenger Jake Black of Manhattan. A Highway Patrol trooper continued chasing Nelson at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour before the soldier surrendered after several miles. Investigators said Nelson told them and others he had planned to commit suicide.

KS Man Accused of Thefts from Several Employers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been charged with stealing computer hardware and other items from four of his former employers and selling the goods online. A 12-count indictment unsealed Thursday in federal court charges 44-year-old Mark A. Lankford with wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors are also seeking a forfeiture judgment. The government alleges Lankford stole the items while working at Farmland Foods, Independent Electric Machinery, Fiber Glass Systems and Spirit AeroSystems. The indictment charges he then sold the stolen goods on eBay and by email. A voice message left at his Wichita home was not returned, and court records do not show a defense attorney.

Sierra Club Accuses KCP&L of Breaching 2007 Agreement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Sierra Club is accusing Kansas City Power & Light of failing to honor the agreement that ended a dispute over construction of a coal-fired plant in northwest Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that the utility says it's fulfilled the requirements of the 2007 agreement, which stemmed from KCP&L's Iatan 2 coal-fired plant in northern Platte County. In the pact, the Sierra Club agreed to drop a lawsuit seeking to block the plant, and KCP&L agreed to offset the plant's pollution by using more renewable energy and getting its customers to use less electricity. The Sierra Club says KCP&L has since missed its goal for more renewable energy by nearly one-third. KCP&L says it's met its obligations and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on wind energy.

Kansas $1M Powerball Winner Hasn't Claimed Money

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The person who bought a Powerball ticket in southwest Kansas that was a $1 million winner in a January drawing still hasn't claimed the prize. The Hutchinson News reports that someone bought the $1 million winner Powerball ticket in one of 24 southwest Kansas counties in the January 26 drawing. But the ticket-holder still hasn't contacted the Kansas Lottery. Winners have a year to claim their prize. Karie Lowe, customer liaison at the Kansas Lottery, says the money will go back into the fund to finance other prizes or drawings if it's not claimed. The state does not disclose the store where a winning ticket is sold until the winner comes forward.

Governors Seek Ways to Keep Prairie Chicken Off Endangered List

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The governors of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas say public-private partnerships involving landowners and developers are the best way to protect the habitat of the lesser prairie chicken. The Journal Record in Oklahoma City reported Friday that the governors this month signed a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking the agency to not add the bird to the threatened species list. They say that adding the bird could slow development of oil, gas and wind projects in the Plains. Wildlife agencies in the five states back in 1996 formed a group to determine a way to conserve the bird's habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service says it received the letter from the governors and is working on a response.

UMKC Receives $722K Grant for Health Education

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City has received a $722,000 federal grant aimed at improving health care at a clinic that serves the poor and uninsured. The school says in a news release that the money will be used to create a collaborative model at the Kansas City CARE Clinic. The model involves clinical teams of faculty and students from the university's Schools of Nursing and Health Studies, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Social Work and clinical staff from the clinic. The three-year grant is from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. School of Nursing and Health Studies Dean Ann Cary says the grant provides a "powerful opportunity" for the four schools to collaborate.


Grand-Am Series to Make Debut at Kansas Speedway 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The new road course at Kansas Speedway will get its first real taste of speed this weekend when the Grand-Am series visits the 2.37-mile circuit. The course was designed during a resurface of the facility last summer. It uses a portion of the main track used twice a year by the Sprint Cup, with a hard left-hand turn in the first corner sending the sports cars winding through the infield. There's a lot riding on Saturday night's debut of sports car racing at Kansas. The merger between the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series announced earlier this year means the track could be left off the schedule next season. Full stands and strong support could be enough to ensure a return date in 2014.


Bruce Jenner to Race at Kansas Speedway

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Bruce Jenner, former Olympic decathlon champ and reality television star, is racing this weekend at the Kansas Speedway. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jenner is racing with his 34-year-old son Burt Jenner in the SFP Grand Prix on the road course at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. They're co-driving in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo class on Friday and Saturday. Jenner, now 63, won the gold medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, setting a then-world record with 8,616 points. He may be better known now, however, for the TV reality show, "Keeping up with the Kardashians," which chronicles the life of Jenner's extended family. Practice and qualifying for the race are Friday, along with the first of two Lamborghini Super Trofeo races Friday night.

Judge Sides with Abortion Opponent in Kansas Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has found in favor of a Kansas abortion opponent accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor who was training to offer abortion services. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten summarily ruled Thursday that Angel Dillard's 2011 letter to Doctor Mila Means was not a "true threat." The Justice Department had filed the civil lawsuit against Dillard under a law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. The Valley Center woman wrote to Means saying she would have to check under her car every day because someone might place an explosive under it. Dillard has argued that the letter was constitutionally protected speech. Marten ruled the government supplied no evidence that actual violence against the doctor was likely or imminent.

Driver in KC Day Care Crash Likely Hit Wrong Pedal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a 74-year-old driver probably stomped the accelerator instead of the brake before knocking a parked car into a Kansas City day care last month. The Kansas City Star reports that driver told police a maroon car pulled out in front of his sport utility vehicle and hit his Range Rover. The driver said he then lost control of his vehicle before knocking a parked Cadillac into the Christian Academy Child Care east of downtown. Three children were injured. But investigators said the Range Rover bore no evidence of a crash with a car other than the Cadillac. Investigators concluded that the primary factor in the wreck was the driver "failing to give his full time and attention to the safe operation" of his vehicle.

Fines Levied After Fatal Blast Levels Plaza-Area Restaurant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal government is seeking stiff fines against a cable company subcontractor after a fatal explosion leveled a Kansas City restaurant. The U.S. Department of Labor released a statement Thursday saying Heartland Midwest was being cited for safety violations after a crew breached a natural gas supply line with an underground borer on February 19th. The blast leveled JJ's restaurant near the Country Club Plaza, a busy outdoor shopping area. One restaurant worker died and 15 others were injured. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking $161,000 in penalties against Heartland for violations including failing to provide a workplace "free of recognized hazards." JJ's also faces a proposed $2,000 penalty for having a deficient emergency action plan. Heartland attorney Brad Russell says the company strongly denies the allegations.


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