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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, July 3, 2013





UPDATE: Parties Agree to Delay in KCC Open Meetings Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor has agreed to delay his lawsuit against the Kansas Corporation Commission over alleged open meetings violations while the utility regulatory board reviews its policies. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said Wednesday he filed a motion in state court agreeing to a 120-day stay while the KCC conducts a voluntary audit of its procedures. Taylor's June 19 lawsuit alleges the three-member commission violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act by taking binding action on a Salina water rate increase without convening in public to vote. Taylor's office says the motion was filed Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court.


Kansas Joins Drug Settlement Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has joined a nationwide settlement over adulterated drugs manufactured by an India-based company. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Attorney General's office said in a news release Wednesday that a federal investigation found evidence that India-based Ranbaxy made and distributed 26 generic drugs that did not meet standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The 26 drugs were manufactured in two plants in India and included prescription products intended for children, such as the antibiotic amoxicillin. The settlement orders that about $324,000 be refunded to the Kansas Medicaid program. Ranbaxy also entered into a consent decree with the federal government to address outstanding manufacturing quality and data integrity issues at the two manufacturing plants in India.


White House: Westboro Protests 'Reprehensible'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it can't fulfill a request to deem a group that protests at soldiers' funerals a hate group. But it says President Barack Obama believes such actions are reprehensible. The Obama administration is responding to petitions through the White House website to label the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group and revoke its tax-exempt status. Almost 700,000 people signed five related petitions. The group claims when American troops die, it's God's punishment for America tolerating homosexuality and abortion. The White House says the federal government doesn't maintain a list of hate groups. But it's releasing a map showing where the petition-signers come from. The map shows high density in Kansas, where the Westboro group is based, and Connecticut, where church members threatened to picket Newtown victims' funerals.


New Report: Kansas Highway System No. 2 in Nation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report from a libertarian-leaning think tank rates the Kansas highway system second among all states for its overall condition and cost-effectiveness. The Reason Foundation ranked Kansas only behind North Dakota in its annual report on state road systems. In the previous two years, the Los Angeles-based group rated Kansas third in the nation. The foundation said Kansas kept its highways in good condition while having lower-than-average costs per-mile for maintenance and administrative costs. The latest report was based on data reported to the federal government in 2009. The following year, Kansas started a 10-year, $8 billion transportation program, following up on programs in 1989 and 1999. Transportation Secretary Mike King said Tuesday that Kansas will continue to have a "world-class" system.

Kansas Launches Jobs, Education Site for Veterans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new website has been launched by the state of Kansas to help link military veterans with educational and employment opportunities. The new KanVet site was announced this week by Governor Sam Brownback and Major General Lee Tafanelli, state adjutant general. It's aimed at active duty veterans, as well as members of the National Guard. Veterans will be able to use the site to find information about educational opportunities in Kansas, including lists of schools and links to scholarship programs. The employment portion offers links to state agencies, the Kansas National Guard, career fairs and information about starting a business. Other information about services and programs and veterans can be found through a link on the site to the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs.

Manhattan Man Considers Senate Run Against Roberts

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan man says he's considering a run against Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Aaron Estabrook says he is forming an exploratory committee to look into running against Roberts, who's up for re-election in 2014. Estabrook, an Army veteran, works at the Salvation Army as a case manager for homeless veterans in northern Kansas. He says he'd run under the banner of the "Moderate Party of Kansas," a political action committee he co-founded last year. He ran unsuccessfully for the Kansas House as a Democrat last year. Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little says Roberts doesn't take any election for granted "and will continue to fight for Kansans each and every day whomever his opponent may be." Roberts is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Kansas Ag Secretary Announces Management Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman has made changes in the department's top management because of the departures of two high-level administrators. Rodman announced Tuesday the immediate promotion of Assistant Secretary Jackie McClaskey to deputy secretary. McClaskey has worked in the Agriculture Department since January 2011. Erik Wisner will become assistant secretary for administrative services next week. He is now a special assistant on regulatory and policy matters. Chad Bontrager will become an assistant secretary in August, overseeing agribusiness development, food safety and lodging inspections and the state's weights and measures program. He is currently agribusiness development coordinator. They'll replace Assistant Secretary Kim Christiansen, who will become executive director at the utility-regulating Kansas Corporation Commission, and Assistant Secretary Jim Riemann, who's retiring in August.


Kansas Child Recovering After Pit Bull Mauling

HOISINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas boy is in a Wichita hospital after being mauled by a neighbor's pit bull. KAKE-TV reports that the 4-year-old from Hoisington was in critical condition Wednesday. Hoisington police say the boy was playing in a backyard Monday afternoon when the dog jumped a fence and attacked him. The boy was taken first to a Barton County hospital, then transferred to Wichita due to the severity of his injuries. The pit bull was euthanized and tested negative for rabies.


Kansas Teen Being Questioned in Father's Killing

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Police in a northeast Kansas community have detained a 14-year-old boy after the fatal shooting of his father. KMBC-TV reports the shooting occurred around 3 pm Tuesday during a custody exchange in the Johnson County community of Shawnee. Police said the boy's mother and stepfather had taken him to a business in rural Shawnee to exchange custody with the mother's ex-husband. Investigators believe the boy walked over to a car where his father was waiting and shot him with a handgun. The mother and stepfather were inside the building at the time. The father's name has not been released. Police say they have no other suspects and don't yet know a possible motive.


Dodge City Approves Wind Turbine Measure

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Dodge City have approved a measure to allow wind energy systems in all zoning districts, including residential areas. The Dodge City Globe reports that the city commission on Monday approved an amendment to the 2000 Dodge City zoning ordinance to add wind energy conversion systems as a conditional use in all zoning districts. Dodge City spokeswoman Jane Longmeyer says the Dodge City Planning Commission held a public hearing on April 16 and recommended permitting wind energy conversion systems on residential and commercial property. City Clerk Nannette Pogue says while wind turbines will now be permitted on residential and commercial property regulations will address how much land is needed for the turbines and how far they must be from buildings.


New KU Program Aims to Fill Rural Social Worker Void

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is starting a new program to address a shortage of social workers in western Kansas. Data collected by the university's School of Social Welfare shows that fewer than 200 of the state's 4,000 licensed social workers live in the western half of the state. Last month, the school launched a new yearlong Master of Social Work program based in western Kansas. It's the state's first such program west of Wichita. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that students will complete some work online. They'll also go to class every other weekend at either Fort Hays State University or Garden City Community College. Their instructors will be experienced local social workers. University of Kansas faculty will set the curriculum and provide training.


Defendant Pleads No Contest in Topeka Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — One of nine defendants charged in the shooting death of a Topeka woman has pleaded no contest. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 21-year-old Bayate Rayshawn Covington pleaded no contest Tuesday in Shawnee County court to reckless second-degree murder and other charges in the July 2011 shooting death of Natalie Gibson. Sentencing for Covington is July 18. Gibson was killed during an attempted robbery at her home that also left another woman wounded. Terms of the plea include requiring Covington to testify in pending cases related to the death. Five other defendants in the case have been sentenced, two await trials, and the case of another hasn't been resolved yet.

Lawrence Police Seeking Parking Meter Thief

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police are looking for help finding a thief who's been stealing downtown parking meters. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the thief has apparently used a pipe cutter, or a similar tool, to saw off at least five parking meter posts since April. At least two parking meters were also reported stolen in Lawrence in 2010, though it's not clear how they were removed. Police say the destruction of parking meters is far more costly than the loss of the coins in the meter. The cost to replace the post and meter heads is about $800 for the single meters and $1600 for dual-meter assemblies. Police are asking business owners, residents and visitors to call 911 if they see someone tampering with a parking meter.

Feds Charge 9 KSU Students with Visa Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nine Kansas State University students from Nepal have been charged with scheming to commit visa fraud. A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges the students conspired to maintain their visas by temporarily pooling their money. Prosecutors contend the goal was to make it appear they had sufficient funds to meet requirements that they could support themselves. All nine are charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud plus varying counts of visa fraud. The government alleges the students presented a notarized bank letter to their international student adviser to obtain certification of financial responsibility. The indictment says that once they got the needed documents, they returned most of the temporarily obtained funds. The U.S. attorney's office says the maximum penalty for each count is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Kansas Utility Regulators Approve Operations Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas board that regulates utilities has approved operational changes after replacing its top staff member and facing allegations that it violated the state's Open Meetings Act. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas Corporation Commission decided Tuesday to schedule two public meetings a week to handle routine business, rather than just one. Also, the KCC will require that major staff changes be reviewed by all three commission members. Chairman Mark Sievers confirmed Tuesday that he removed Patti Petersen-Klein as KCC executive director in June. The move came after a consultant's report said there was a rift between her and KCC employees. Also in June, the Shawnee County prosecutor filed an open meetings lawsuit against the commission following a water rate increase for a Salina housing development.

Kansas Star Casino Postpones Tim McGraw Concert

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Star casino south of Wichita is postponing Sunday's performance by country singer Tim McGraw to avoid conflicting with a weekend concert for tornado relief in Oklahoma. McGraw was to have been the inaugural performer in the casino's new arena. Kansas Star said Tuesday the show has been rescheduled to October 12. On Saturday, a large cast of country stars including Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson and Ronnie Dunn will perform in Norman, Oklahoma to raise money for tornado recovery. Tickets for McGraw's postponed show in Kansas will be honored at the October concert. Kansas Star also says it will donate $5 from each ticket sold for either date to Oklahoma's relief efforts.


1 Killed, 2 Injured in Southern Kansas House Fire

CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — One person was killed and two people were injured in a house fire in south-central Kansas. According to The Wichita Eagle, the fire was reported early Wednesday at the home in Sumner County. Caldwell Fire Chief Pat York says that when firefighters arrived the single-family home was fully engulfed in flames. The names of the victim and the injured people were not released. York says the state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.


Wichita Woman Leaves $6 Million Gift to University

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Wichita State University say a philanthropist who died last year left a $6 million estate gift to the school's foundation. The university announced the donation from Velma Wallace on Tuesday. She had been a longtime supporter of Wichita State along with her husband, aviation pioneer and Cessna Aircraft executive Dwane Wallace, who died in 1989. More than half of the money will be added to the Dwane and Velma Wallace Endowment Fund, which benefits engineering students and the College of Engineering. About 39 students received engineering scholarships from the fund the last academic year. Other portions of the estate gift will go to the College of Education, Wichita State athletics and the School of Music. Velma Wallace died last July at the age of 95.


Missouri Teen Sentenced to 3.5 Years for Fatal Crash

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City teenager has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for causing a fatal accident while texting. The Kansas City Star reports that Rachel N. Gannon pleaded guilty in May 2012 when she was 17 to second-degree involuntary manslaughter, third-degree assault and violating the Missouri law that prohibits motorists 21 or younger from texting while driving. The accident killed 72-year-old Loretta Larimer of Camden Point. Gannon told police she was looking at her phone when she lost control of her vehicle. A judge initially placed Gannon on five years' probation and ordered her to serve 48 hours of "shock time" in jail, find a job, serve 72 days of house arrest and perform 300 hours of community service. Authorities say she has violated that probation.

Missouri AG Says State May Have to Use Gas Chamber for Executions 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says that state may have to resort to using the gas chamber to carry out death sentences as an "unintended consequence" of the Missouri Supreme Court's refusal to set execution dates. Executions have been on hold in Missouri since the state Supreme Court has declined to set execution dates. The court says execution dates would be "premature" until a federal legal challenge is resolved regarding the use of the drug propofol as Missouri's new execution method. Koster told The Kansas City Star on Tuesday that if the court doesn't change course, the legislature may have to fund alternative execution methods. The only execution methods authorized in Missouri are lethal gas and injection. Koster says the gas chamber may be the last option to enforce state law.


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