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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, August 14, 2012



Schmidt Picks Up One Vote in Kansas Senate Race Certification

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A moderate Republican member of the Kansas Senate has seen her margin of victory widen by a single vote in a hard-fought primary in the Topeka area. Local officials certified results of the August 7 primaries Monday. The certified result from the 20th Senate District shows incumbent Vicki Schmidt beat conservative state Representative Joe Patton by 160 votes out of more than 11,000 cast. Both are from Topeka. Schmidt had led by 159 votes before officials in Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties reviewed provisional ballots. Those ballots are used when election workers aren't sure someone is eligible to vote in a particular polling place. Patton says he hasn't decided whether to seek a recount. He has until 5 pm Friday to file a request with the Kansas secretary of state.


Kline Seeks Dismissal of Judge from Disciplinary Panel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is asking that a state Court of Appeals judge be removed from hearing an ethics case against him. Kline says in a court motion that Judge Karen Arnold-Burger should be removed from hearing the case because she contributed to a legal newsletter that contained demeaning information about Kline. Seven judges are reviewing a complaint that alleges Kline and former subordinates misled other officials in an effort to investigate abortion providers. The state Board for Discipline of Attorneys recommended Kline lose his law license in Kansas. Kline has strongly disputed the allegations. His attorney, Tom Condit, told The Topeka Capital-Journal the motion regarding Arnold-Burger was filed Friday after Kline discovered the judge contributed what he called dishonest information to Kansas judges through the newsletter.


Feds Push Kansas to Revise Evaluation of Teachers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Education officials say Kansas has until next spring to revise the way it evaluates teachers to factor in students' performance on standardized tests. The officials told State Board of Education members Tuesday that a commission of teachers and administrators will begin working on proposals next month. The commission's first report is expected in December. Kansas was granted a waiver in June from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, which requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Federal officials are pushing Kansas to revise its teacher evaluation method so that they're judged partly by how well students do on standardized tests in reading and math.


UPDATE: Couple to Stand Trial after Kids Found Bound 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A district court judge has ruled that an Illinois couple will stand trial on child abuse charges after two of their children were found bound in a Walmart parking lot in Lawrence.  Douglas County District Court Judge Paula Martin ruled Tuesday at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing for Deborah Gomez and her husband, Adolfo Gomez. Police found two of the couple's children, ages 5 and 7, tied up and with duct tape over their eyes outside the Lawrence store on June 13. Their three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were in the family's SUV unrestrained. The children are in protective custody. Martin said there was ample evidence to support the abuse charges. But she said the state did not prove its case on previous endangerment charges.


Official Predicts Return of Commercial Air Service to Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka official says commercial flights from the city's regional airport could resume by next year thanks to $2.2 million in government incentives. Topeka Regional Airport, formerly called Forbes Field, hasn't had commercial service since Allegiant Air halted its weekly round trips to Las Vegas in 2007. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority learned Tuesday that it has secured $950,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The state allocated $1 million earlier this year to lure commercial flights back to the airport, and the authority has set aside another $250,000. Authority president Eric Johnson says the incentives will let the agency begin negotiating with airlines to serve the city.

Kansas County Official Defeated on Coin Toss

ST. FRANCIS, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas county commissioner says he'll keep campaigning despite losing a tie-breaking coin toss in his bid for re-election. The Hays Daily News reports that incumbent Andy Beikman and challenger Brett Poling both received 179 votes in last week's Cheyenne County Commission District 3 race. The tie stood after Monday's canvassing. County Commission chairman Dale Patton decided to break the tie with the toss of a gold coin, which he got from a bank. Poling called "heads" and won the toss. Despite the loss, Beikman says he'll wage a write-in campaign to keep his seat on the commission.

Vote Tied in Andover Local Option Budget Increase Proposal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The fate of a local option budget increase in the Andover school district is still up in the air. Residents in the district, which lies in two counties, voted last Tuesday on whether to raise the Andover local option budget by 1 percentage point, with a mill levy decrease from 2.5 mills instead of 3 mills. Canvassing on Monday found Butler County voters rejected the increase, 856 to 744. But when those results were added to Sedgwick County's votes, the issue was tied 1,575 to 1,575. The Wichita Eagle reports Sedgwick County still has to canvass its votes. Sedgwick County election commissioner Tabitha Lehman says the county's vote canvass should be completed by Thursday or Friday.

KS Governor Names New Member to Turnpike Board

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has named the CEO of a Wichita construction company to the board that oversees operations of the Kansas Turnpike. The appointment of Mark Hutton to a four-year term on the Kansas Turnpike Authority Board was announced Monday. Hutton founded Hutton Construction Company in 1992. The firm's website says it specializes in office, hospital, church and community buildings. He succeeds former Lieutenant Governor Paul Dugan, also of Wichita, on the Turnpike board. Dugan, a Democrat, served as lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1983 under Governor John Carlin. The five-member authority board already includes Brownback's secretary of transportation, Mike King. Other members include the chairmen of the Kansas House and Senate transportation committees.

Spencer Museum of Art Reopening Following Damage Repairs

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Spencer Museum of Art on the University of Kansas campus will reopen after repairing damage from a water main break. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the museum is scheduled to reopen Tuesday. The museum closed August 1 after the water main break sent water into the building's lower floors, which house the Murphy Art and Architecture Library. The museum's artwork, which is displayed on the upper floors, was not damaged. Officials have said an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 of the museum's 170,000 volumes were damaged.


KCK Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Selling Heroin

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison for selling exceptionally pure heroin blamed for at least two overdose deaths. The U.S. Attorney's office says 36-year-old Tyrone Ramsey, of Kansas City, Kan., was sentenced Tuesday for distributing and possession with intent to distribute heroin. He pleaded guilty earlier. Prosecutors said Ramsey sold heroin for a drug trafficking ring that operated in the Kansas City metro area from late 2007 to May 2009. Investigators bought heroin from him several times, and found evidence that heroin he sold led to the overdose death of a woman in Atchison. Authorities say many of the ring's customers were prior users of prescription painkillers and methamphetamine.

Contract with Wichita Teachers Approved

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita teachers and the district's school board have approved a tentative contract that includes the first raise for teachers in four years. The teachers and board both approved the contract on Monday, after months of negotiations. Union officials said Monday that about two-thirds of the district's 4,000 teachers voted, with 88 percent approving. The agreement includes a 4 percent increase in salary, benefits and reduced work time. Superintendent John Allison said the $8.6 million cost of the contract has already been factored into the district's budget.

KDHE Presents Cleanup Plan for Former Smelter Site

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — State health officials say pollution from a former southeast Kansas smelter operation is scheduled to be cleaned up next year and the site could eventually be redeveloped. The former EaglePicher plant began operation in 1878 and operated for much of the following century. The Joplin Globe reports the 68 acres of the former smelter will be cleaned up using $6.5 million from EaglePicher's 2005 bankruptcy settlement. The project also will include cleaning up sediment from Short Creek, which flows across the back of the property. It is expected to begin next summer. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment presented plans for the cleanup to the Galena City Council on Monday. KDHE unit chief Christopher Carey says the goal is to eventually make the property available for development.

Hutchinson Voters Could Face Dueling Ordinances

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson voters in November might face ballot issues that would either repeal gay rights or broaden them. In June, the Hutchinson City Council added protections against discrimination in housing and employment for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. After the vote, opponents began gathering signatures on petitions to require a November vote to repeal that ordinance. On Tuesday, the Kansas Equality Coalition announced it would gather signatures on a ballot question asking voters to approve wider protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The Hutchinson News reports the KEC, which has about 170 Hutchinson members, will need 327 valid signatures to get the question on the ballot. Opponents led by the Kansas Family Policy Council say they already have more than 327 signatures needed to get their question on the ballot.

Planning Commission Rejects Home for Ex-Inmates

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A South Hutchinson Planning Board has rejected a permit for the construction of housing near Hutchinson for inmates just released from prison. The board's vote came after more than 100 residents attended a meeting Monday night to discuss the proposal to build the housing just west of Hutchinson. Those attending spoke in favor and against the proposal. The Hutchinson News reports the planning board's recommendation goes to the city council, which will vote on the issue August 20. Prairie Lighthouse Inc., a nonprofit group, wants to renovate a closed nursing home into housing and mentor ex-inmates from the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. Supporters said all the programs would be done on site. Opponents mostly cited safety concerns and the impact on property values when asking the board to reject the proposal.

KC Issues Warning on Lead-Contaminated Paprika

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Health Department is warning that some paprika bought in bulk at independent grocery stores is contaminated with lead. The health department said Monday that it discovered the contamination at three area stores, although it might be available at other locations. The paprika was sold in bins as paprika, sweet paprika, smoked paprika and Hungarian paprika. The Kansas City Star reports the contaminated spices have been traced to an in-state distributor that stopped its sales. The health department says the contamination was found during an investigation into the lead poisoning of a 2-year-old girl. The contamination may come from the soil in which the spices are grown or from processing. In some cases, lead is added to a spice to preserve its color.

150 iPads Stolen from Kansas High School

PHILLIPSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A north-central Kansas high school is out 150 new iPads after a break-in at its computer lab. KAKE-TV reports whoever stole the iPads from Phillipsburg High School also took 160 iPad chargers plus 90 cases for the tablet computers. The Phillips County Sheriff's department says the break-in happened sometime between 2:30 am and 3:30 am last Thursday. Phillipsburg High School has about 200 students. Classes are scheduled to start August 20. USD 325 superintendent Michael Gower says the iPads were going to be distributed at the high school as part of a new classroom initiative. Gower says the district will transfer iPads from the elementary school to the high school until insurance can cover the loss.


Medical Technician's Arrest Shows Flaws in System

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Lies, weak regulation and poor communication allowed a radiology technician to move from job to job around the U.S. — even after he was fired twice by hospitals that said they caught him stealing drugs or tampering with medications. David Kwiatkowski is charged in New Hampshire with tampering with needles and infecting at least 31 people with hepatitis C, a potentially life-threatening virus. Thousands more people treated at hospitals where he worked are being tested, including some in Kansas. Records and interviews conducted by The Associated Press show that authorities could have halted Kwiatkowski's career four years ago, after he was fired from a Pittsburgh hospital. But he went on to work at 10 more hospitals, none of which knew about his history.


KCK Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Battery

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas police officer has resigned and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in an off-duty shooting last Christmas. The U.S. District Attorney's office says in a news release that 32-year-old Michael Mills also pleaded no contest Monday to two misdemeanor counts of criminal restraint. Mills initially faced felony counts of aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a weapon. Prosecutors said he fired at an occupied vehicle near his home in western Wyandotte County. No one was injured. A motive was not disclosed. Under the plea, Mills will serve 30 days in jail and be on probation for 18 months. If he violates probation, he could serve up to two years in jail. He also was required to surrender his firearm and his certification as a Kansas law enforcement officer.

Agribusinesses Focus on Farm Policy, Biotechnology

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Biotechnology and U.S. farm policy will be the focus of an upcoming conference of the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association. More than 100 people are expected to attend the August 21 conference in Manhattan. U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, is scheduled to talk about the election season and his vision and role in agricultural policy in Washington. Also listed on the agenda is Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Enright is expected to share information concerning the latest technology and policy issues related to crop protection.

Rollover Crash Kills 2 in North Central Kansas

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — Two people have died in an accident on a north-central Kansas highway. The Highway Patrol says the man and woman were in a sport utility vehicle that went off southbound U.S. 81 in Cloud County around 1 pm Monday. The vehicle crossed another road and rolled over in a ditch. The victims are identified as the 72-year-old driver, Margaret Hawkins, and her 73-year-old passenger, Frederick Hawkins, both of Belleville. Officers said neither was wearing a seat belt.


KU Turns to Weis to Rebuild Football Program

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is only a few years removed from the heady days of an Orange Bowl win. The football program regressed so far under the now-fired Turner Gill that it was back to being the laughingstock of the Big 12 last season. New coach Charlie Weis has arrived with plenty of changes and some new faces. Dayne Crist, once a highly sought recruit lured by Weis to Notre Dame, decided to reunite with his former coach. The senior quarterback is taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows players who have graduated to transfer become immediately eligible to compete. The Jayhawks open the football season at home September 1 against South Dakota State.

Expectations HIgh for KSU Wildcat Football in 2012

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 last year, and didn't do anything to change expectations with a last-gasp win over Eastern Kentucky to open the season. By the end of it, the Wildcats were playing in the Cotton Bowl. Collin Klein, the gritty run-first quarterback, is returning for another year at Kansas State. Expectations are high for a team that won 10 games last season. The team's season opener is September 1 at home against Missouri State.


Report: Condition of Kansas Crops Worsens

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government report shows crop conditions worsening in Kansas. Pasture and range conditions are declining. Stock water supplies are dwindling. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service released its weekly snapshot Monday — a dismal report that put numbers to the potential agricultural disaster. About 70 percent of the corn and soybeans were rated in poor to very poor condition. Sorghum was not far behind with 66 percent of that crop also in poor to very poor condition. Meanwhile, about 12 percent of the state's corn crop has been harvested. The situation is also grim for cattlemen. About 90 percent of pastures are in poor to very poor condition. Hay supplies are short to very short in 74 percent of the state. Just 27 percent of Kansas has adequate stock water supplies.

Shooter Empties Kansas Clothing Store, No One Hurt

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 27-year-old man accused of firing a shot inside a store had been confronted by an employee over a can of soda. No one was injured in Monday morning's incident at a Burlington Coat Factory store. But the shot sent some of the estimated 20 employees and customers running outside, while others hid in a break room. Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz says a security guard asked the man if he was going to pay for a can of soda he was drinking. Stolz says the suspect pulled out a pistol and fired a shot at the guard from six to eight feet away. Police using a stun gun quickly took the suspect into custody. He was taken to a hospital for observation.

Hearing Continues in Case of Children Bound in Parking Lot

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors are preparing to offer more evidence against an Illinois couple accused of binding two of their children outside their vehicle in a northeastern Kansas parking lot. Tuesday's preliminary hearing in Douglas County District Court picks up where the proceeding left off last week. Judge Paula Martin must decide if Adolfo and Deborah Gomez should stand trial on charges of child abuse and aggravated endangerment. The parents were charged after their 7-year-old daughter and her 5-year-old brother were found tied up in June outside a Lawrence Walmart. The family had pulled in after their SUV broke down during a trip to Arizona from their home in Northlake, Illinois. Three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were unrestrained inside the SUV. The parents are being held on $50,000 bond.

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


Woman Thought Bound Child in Walmart Lot Had Been Abducted

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A woman who called police to report seeing a child bound in a Walmart parking lot in Kansas says she thought the child may have been abducted. Linda Baranski testified Tuesday in Douglas County Court that the girl, who was bound and had tape on her face, was rocking back and forth. Adolfo and Deborah Gomez, of Northlake, Illinois, are charged with child abuse and aggravated endangerment after police found the couple's 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son tied up outside the store in Lawrence in June. The parents say they stopped at the store after their SUV broke down during a trip. Three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were unrestrained inside the SUV. The preliminary hearing is to determine if the parents will stand trial.

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


Police: Bound Kids Said Their Family Feared Demons

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A police officer says a child whose brother and sister were found bound and blindfolded in a Walmart parking lot in Kansas told him the family believed her younger siblings and their Illinois home had been possessed by demons. The children were discovered tied up and with duct tape over their eyes outside the store in Lawrence in June. Their parents, 44-year-old Deborah Gomez and 52-year-old Adolfo Gomez Jr., are charged with two counts of child abuse and five counts of aggravated child endangerment. Police officer Hayden Fowler testified Tuesday that an older daughter said the family was going to try to cast the demons from her 5-year-old brother and 7-year-old sister. Fowler told a preliminary hearing the girl did not explain how they would do that.

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


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