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Regional Headlines for Thursday, August 16, 2012


UPDATE: DA Now Expects to Issue Meetings Report Next Week 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor is taking a few more days to wrap up his investigation of private meetings between Governor Sam Brownback and state legislators at the governor's official residence. An assistant says Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor expects to report his findings next week. Initially, the report was expected by Friday night. Brownback held seven dinner meetings in January at Cedar Crest with members of 13 legislative committees, most of them fellow Republicans. Taylor, a Democrat, has been investigating whether the gatherings violated the state's open meeting laws. Many legislators have described the dinners as social events. Brownback has expressed confidence that no laws were broken. But the governor has acknowledged he set up the meetings to discuss his legislative agenda and took questions from lawmakers.


Kansas Governor Facing Criticism of Budget Instructions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is facing criticism over his budget director's order to state agencies to draft proposals for 10 percent cuts in spending for the next budget year. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said Thursday the directives represent failed priorities. They come after the Republican governor signed income tax cuts into law. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag says the governor is protecting core services and public schools. She said the 10 percent cut won't apply to aid to public schools. The proposals would be for the fiscal year beginning in July 2013. Budget Director Steve Anderson sent the directions to state agency directors in a letter in July. He also told agencies not to include proposals for pay raises.


Kansas to See Follow-Up Legislation on Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback's administration is acknowledging that Kansas legislators will have to consider technical changes in a new law cutting income taxes.  Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says officials are still determining what issues will have to be tackled next year. But she said it's a question of what will go into follow-up legislation, not whether it will be pursued.  The issue arose Thursday during a news conference held by critics of the cuts, which lower individual income tax rates for next year and exempts the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes.  Martin Dickinson, a University of Kansas law professor specializing in tax issues, said parts of the tax law are flawed or unclear and need to be rewritten.


Objection Filed Against Shawnee County Vote

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The unofficial winner of the GOP primary for the 52nd House District is objecting to a special vote scheduled after hundreds of voters were given incorrect ballots at a Topeka polling place. Shanti Gandhi on Wednesday sent a letter to Secretary of State Kris Kobach objecting to the vote scheduled August 28 for more than 400 voters at the Light of the World Christian Church. An election judge unintentionally distributed the incorrect ballots on August 7. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports tha unofficial results gave Gandhi 1,476 votes, compared with 1,431 for Dick Jones and 1,114 for Scott Hesse. Gandhi said he didn't believe the canvassing board had the authority to rescind an election and schedule a new vote. Kobach's office responded to Gandhi but would not release more information.


Democrats Tied at 206 Apiece in 65th District Primary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Democratic candidates for the 65th District Kansas House seat have until 5 pm Friday to request a recount in their primary race, which remains tied at 206 votes apiece. KJCK reports  Melody Saxton picked up five votes Thursday in a count of provisional ballots, putting her in a tie with Tom Brungardt. Geary County Clerk Rebecca Bossemeyer says if the candidates don't seek a recount, or if there is a recount and the race is still tied, the state board of canvassers would have to decide the winner. Saxton called the delayed result part of a marathon race. Brungardt says he's disappointed about the tie because the Democrats need to have a nominee in place. The winner will face Republican Allan Rothlisberg in the November election.


UPDATE: Final Count Puts Veteran Kansas House Democrat 7 Votes Ahead of Primary Opponent

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A seven-vote margin of victory hasn't changed for a conservative Kansas House Democrat from a review of provisional ballots by local election officials. The Reno County Commission on Thursday certified election results, including those from the 102nd Kansas House District. The seat is held by veteran Representative Jan Pauls, a Hutchinson Democrat. Pauls won her primary race over challenger Erich Bishop, also of Hutchinson, 427 votes to 420. The previous count was 417 votes to 410. Each candidate picked up 10 votes from provisional ballots, which are cast when election workers aren't sure someone is eligible to vote at a particular polling place. Bishop still can seek a recount. Gay rights advocates have targeted Pauls for supporting legislation they believe would nullify local ordinances protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination.

Kansas Governor to Honor State Workers with Picnic

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is inviting state employees to pack a lunch for a picnic in their honor Friday on the Statehouse grounds. The governor is even planning to hand out free cookies and ice cream to the first 1,000 state workers who attend the event on the Capitol's south lawn. His office also plans to have a blues and jazz band play. Brownback says Cabinet secretaries and agency directors will join him in handing out the goodies. He is encouraging workers to bring sack lunches. The picnic begins at 11:30 am. A noon ceremony will honor employees who have served the state for 40 years or longer.



Parents Get Separate Trials in Bound-Children Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has ordered separate trials for a suburban Chicago couple accused of tying up and blindfolding two of their children outside a Walmart in Lawrence. Fifty-two-year-old Adolfo Gomez and his 44-year-old wife, Deborah Gomez, both pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony child abuse and misdemeanor child endangerment. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Douglas County District Judge Paula Martin scheduled a trial October 22 for Deborah Gomez and a trial November 5 for her husband. A Walmart shopper called police June 13 after seeing a child blindfolded and bound near a vehicle in the store parking lot. Police have said Adolfo Gomez told them he believed the children were possessed by demons. The family was driving from Northlake, Illinois to Arizona when their vehicle broke down in Kansas.


Ex-Blue Valley Student Alleges Sexual Harassment

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former student in Johnson County's Blue Valley School District has refiled a lawsuit alleging students tormented him because they thought he was gay and staff failed to protect him. The plaintiff is seeking $75,000 in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. The case was first filed in 2010 and voluntarily dismissed in February. Blue Valley spokeswoman Kristi McNerlin says the district only learned of the lawsuit Thursday and doesn't comment on pending litigation. The former student says he was harassed while in middle school and high school from 2003 to 2010. He says male students slapped him on the bottom, pulled down his pants and harassed him the locker room shower. He says students also kicked, punched and hit him.

Jury Fails to Reach Verdict in Topeka Homicide Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County jury could not reach a verdict on five of six charges in a trial arising from the shooting death of a Topeka woman and the wounding of her partner.Eighteen-year-old Daquan Wilkins faces felony first-degree murder and other charges in the death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and the wounding of 42-year-old Lori Allison.Prosecutors contend nine people were involved in shooting the two women as they returned to their home in July 2011.The jury on Thursday convicted Wilkins of attempted burglary of a vehicle in an unrelated incident. But after deliberating since Tuesday, the jury could not reach a verdict on the other charges. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Wilkins testified he was home sending Facebook messages when the shootings occurred.

US Forecast: Drought Leveling Off on National Level

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Federal weather forecasters say the drought appears to be leveling off, although it is likely to continue at least through November.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center Forecasters previously had predicted the drought would linger through October. But the center said Thursday it appears that overall, the drought isn't getting worse. Some areas in hard-hit farming states have seen rain in recent weeks.  And meteorologists say they expect conditions to improve in the Southwest and in a band sweeping from South Dakota through a section of Iowa and east to southern Indiana, as well as south to Texas. Still, the fact that things aren't expected to get worse may be of little solace to Midwest farmers whose crops have already been damaged.


Report: Drought Intensifies in Kansas, Nebraska

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A new report suggests that while recent rains stabilized the devastating drought gripping Iowa and other key farming states, the dry conditions intensified in Kansas and Nebraska. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows the overall expanse of land across the contiguous U.S. states weathering some form of drought dropped less than 1 percent to 61.8 percent as of Tuesday. In Iowa, the nation's leader in corn production, the amount of land mired in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications — dropped 7 percentage points to 62.05 percent over the past week. But the amount of Nebraska in exceptional drought spiked 19 percentage points to 22.5 percent, while that number in Kansas rose from 38.6 percent last week to 63.3 percent now.


Drought Slows Economy in Midwest, Western States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An economic index for 10 Midwest and Western states has dropped again, and an economist says the drought is "dampening economic activity across the region." The Rural Mainstreet Index dropped further into negative territory this month, hitting 47.1, compared with 47.9 in July and 56.7 in June. The index is compiled after a survey of rural bankers in the states of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. It focuses on communities with 1,300 residents, on average. Survey organizers say any score below 50 on the index, which ranges from 1 to 100, suggests economic contraction in the months ahead. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the drought "is dampening economic activity across the region" and that companies with farm ties are experiencing problems.


Judge Sets Hearing on $100K Child Support Payment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge will hear testimony on the legality of nearly $100,000 in future child support payments made by a former University of Kansas athletics official before he pleaded guilty in a ticket scam. Federal Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale on Thursday scheduled an evidentiary hearing September 25 in the case of former assistant athletics director Rodney Jones. He is serving a 46-month prison sentence in Oklahoma and will appear by telephone. Prosecutors have been pursuing assets from seven defendants who stole more than $2 million in Kansas football and basketball tickets. Jones made two transfers in 2010 from his retirement account to his ex-wife to cover eight years of future child support. Prosecutors contend those are fraudulent transfers subject to being voided to pay court-ordered restitution.

Organizer Moves Christian Workshop from Kansas House Chamber

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The main organizer of a three-day Christian workshop says he's moved the event out of the Kansas House chamber because he needs more space. The Thursday-through-Sunday event will be held instead at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, several blocks from the Statehouse. Dave DePue said Wednesday that 180 people want to attend the $100-per-person workshop for pastors and other church leaders. The House chamber at the Statehouse has space for 150. The workshop is described as a beginner's course in preparing for a transforming revival. It includes evening sessions Thursday and Friday and an all-day session Saturday. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State had criticized the planned use of the House chamber for the event, which DePue says is designed to strengthen families and communities.


Ex-Kansas AG Employee Charged in Prostitution Sting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of the Kansas attorney general's office is charged with a misdemeanor following a prostitution sting in Topeka. Online court records show Steve Rarrick charged in Shawnee County District Court with one count of patronizing a prostitute. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday that Rarrick was one of 12 people arrested in the sting, which focused on Internet solicitations of prostitutes. A call to Rarrick's home was unanswered Wednesday. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment yesterday. Rarrick is currently an attorney for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayers Board, which represents residential customers and small businesses in utility regulation hearings. From 1995 to 2003 he was a deputy state attorney general overseeing consumer protection and antitrust work.

Semi Leads Law Officers on Low-Speed Chase

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officers chased a semitrailer truck through four counties before the driver finally stopped. No one was injured in the low-speed chase, which lasted nearly two hours Wednesday evening. The chase began in Franklin County, where the sheriff's office got a call around 8 p.m. about a semitrailer driving erratically after leaving Douglas County on U.S. Highway 59. The Lawrence Journal-World reports spike strips were laid down as the truck entered Osage County and again as the truck entered Coffey County. The truck eventually stopped in Coffey County around 10 pm. Franklin County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jarrod Fredricks says the driver never exceeded 55 mph during the chase. He says the driver was suffering from an undisclosed medical condition. No charges have been filed.

Kansas Man Missing Since Last Week Found Dead

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The body of an Overland Park man who was reported missing last week has been found in Missouri. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says 66-year-old David Lee Dotson was found dead Wednesday afternoon in a car in rural Bates County, Missouri. A Silver Alert was issued for Dotson last Thursday after he left his home and didn't return. A man who noticed the car parked for several days found the body in a field outside Amsterdam, Missouri, about 40 miles south of Overland Park. Overland Park police said foul play is not suspected. His family said Dotson was an insulin-dependent diabetic.

Ex-Prison Guard to Pay $750,000 Judgment to Inmate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Topeka Correctional Facility officer who had sex with inmates has been ordered to pay $750,000 to one of the inmates. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Rogers ordered the fine against former guard Nathan Van Dyke. Under a plea agreement in 2010, Van Dyke was found guilty on two counts of improper sexual conduct with female prison inmates. He received probation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Van Dyke didn't respond to a lawsuit filed against him by John Kurtz, an attorney representing former inmate Rebecca Fleetwood. Court records indicate Rogers signed an order Monday entering the civil judgment against Van Dyke. The judge's order also releases supervisors at the prison and Kansas Department of Correction officials from the lawsuit because the state paid a $30,000 settlement to Fleetwood.


Salina Airport Changes from Municipal to Regional

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Salina Municipal Airport will be renamed the Salina Regional Airport. The city's airport authority unanimously approved the name change on Wednesday. It will become effective in 30 days. Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina airport, says the new name more accurately reflects the role the airport has in the regional economy. Rogers said airport staff would start changing logos on letterheads, newsletters and publications as soon as possible. The Salina Journal reports that signs will be changed when they are scheduled for maintenance. The airport authority also was notified Tuesday it will receive a $475,182 grant to update the airport's master plan, which will determine the airport's planning for the next 20 years.

Kansas Trade Group Changes Name, Location

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas organization that works to help companies do more business abroad has a new name and a new location. The Kansas World Trade Center is now calling itself Kansas Global Trade Services. The change was required after the group discontinued its membership earlier this year with the World Trade Association. CEO Karyn Page says the new name better reflects the organization's mission. Among the changes is the creation of a professional network tied to the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration to increase Kansas exports. The group also moved its Wichita office to the Old Town Center.


Nigerian Man Gets Prison Term for Gold Coin Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Nigerian man has been sentenced in Kansas to 15 months in prison for his role in a scheme to buy gold coins online using another person's credit card information. Hakeem Makanjuola must also pay more than $52,000 in restitution under the sentence imposed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren. The 30-year-old defendant, who lives in Wichita, pleaded guilty earlier this year to mail fraud and aiding and abetting mail fraud. He admitted committing fraud in ordering gold coins in March 2011 for delivery to a Wichita address.


12 Santa Fe Trail Sites in Kansas Nominated for National Register

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Santa Fe trail through Kansas might get more national recognition. Historians and Santa Fe Trail buffs have nominated 12 historic sites along the trail in Kansas this month for the National Register of Historic Places. The Wichita Eagle reports the nominations are the first of what is expected to be 40 Santa Fe sites in Kansas that historians plan to nominate for national designation. Leo Oliva, a historian from Woodston, says the historians hope to nominate four or five more sites by November, and nominate more until they are all eventually on the register. The 12 sites follow the trail across Kansas, stretching from French Frank's Santa Fe Trail segment in Marion County to areas near Wagon Bed Springs in Morton County.

Man Accused in Wichita Store Shooting Charged

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man accused of firing a shot at a security guard at a Wichita store has been charged with four counts of aggravated assault. Twenty-seven-year-old Jake Jacobs was charged Wednesday, two days after he shot at the guard and pointed his gun at three other people at a Burlington Coat Factory store. The guard and customers were not injured. Jacobs is being held on $100,000 bond. His attorney, Mark Schoenhofer, filed a request to have the bond reduced so Jacobs can be treated for a broken jaw and teeth he suffered when he was arrested. The Wichita Eagle reports that Schoenhofer is disputing police claims that Jacobs resisted arrest. Deputy Chief Tom Stolz says police used force after Jacobs refused to comply with several orders and scuffled with officers.

Hutchinson Zoo Releases 3 Baby Owls into Wild

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Three snowy white baby owls rescued and raised at the Hutchinson Zoo are back in the wild. A Reno County resident found the owls three months ago when cutting down a tree. At the time, they were so small that zoo staff didn't know what kind of owls they were. After being raised at the zoo's rehabilitation center, the last of the three owls was released Wednesday. Zoo director Jana Durham says the three were among 10 owls rehabilitated at the zoo this year. She says she's not sure why the zoo rehabilitated so many owls this year. The Wichita Eagle reports the owls have a lifespan of eight to 10 years.

Chiefs Seeking More Happy Returns

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Peering through heavy rain, Dexter McCluster backpedaled to catch the punt, cut left and sprinted a Kansas City team-record 94 yards for a touchdown to spark a season-opening victory over San Diego in 2010 that led to the AFC West championship. That's the last time the Chiefs returned a punt for a touchdown...nearly two years ago. Even worse for the Chiefs, it's going on three years since anybody ran a kickoff all the way back to the end zone. Not surprisingly, special teams coach Steve Hoffman lost his job and his replacement, Tom McMahon, has been stressing kick returns since the minute camp opened on July 27.


Kansas House Race Could Hinge on Provisional Ballots

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The outcome of a conservative Kansas House Democrat's close primary race could depend upon provisional ballots being reviewed by local election officials. The Reno County Commission was meeting Thursday to certify election results, including those from the 102nd Kansas House District. The seat is now held by veteran Representative Jan Pauls, a Hutchinson Democrat. Gay rights advocates have targeted Pauls because she's backed legislation they believe would nullify local ordinances meant to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. In unofficial results, Pauls led her primary opponent, Erich Bishop, also of Hutchinson, by only seven votes, 417 to 410. But Reno County officials were reviewing 37 provisional ballots. Such ballots are cast when election workers aren't sure someone is eligible to vote at a particular polling place.

 **this story has been updated. Please see above. 


DA Report on Kansas Governor's Meetings Expected Soon

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor is wrapping up his investigation of private meetings between Governor Sam Brownback and state legislators at the governor's official residence. An assistant says Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor expects to report his findings by the end of the week. Brownback held seven dinner meetings in January at Cedar Crest with members of 13 legislative committees, most of them fellow Republicans. More than 90 lawmakers were invited. Taylor, a Democrat, has been investigating whether the gatherings violated the state's open meeting laws. Many legislators have described the dinners as social events, and Brownback has expressed confidence that no laws were broken. But the governor has acknowledged that he set up the meetings to discuss his legislative agenda and that he took questions from lawmakers.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.


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