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Headlines for Friday, December 7, 2018

Kansas Would Boost Foster Care Spending $35 Million Under Grants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will boost its annual spending on foster care by $35 million under state Department for Families and Children grants that have been awarded to five contractors.  DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel had a news conference Thursday to introduce the contractors and discuss how she believes the grants will improve services for abused and neglected children. The department announced them November 1 , six months after requesting proposals from interested parties.  The grants run four years, starting July 1. The state expects to spend $245 million on foster care during the fiscal year beginning on that date. That's a 17 percent increase over the current fiscal year.  Departing Republican Governor Jeff Colyer's administration announced the grants five days before Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly was elected governor. She takes office January 14.

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Kansas Agency Defends New Process for Child Welfare Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of the Kansas Department of Children and Families says the agency's new process for choosing providers will make the agency's decisions more transparent. The department is awarding grants rather than using traditional contracts, which were overseen by the Department of Administration. Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said Thursday the awarding of grants has been the most transparent process the agency has ever had. She introduced three providers who will receive four-year grants for foster care and family preservation. Some child care advocates are questioning why the state decided to change the process. The Kansas City Star reports the state of Kansas has solicited bids for child welfare contracts for decades, using a process that included oversight by the Department of Administration and strict guidelines that promoted competition and ensured accountability.

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University of Kansas to Cut More than 150 Positions

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas plans to shed more than 150 positions in an effort to cut $20 million from the school's budget.  Interim Provost Carl Lejuez announced Wednesday that the university will be eliminating about 55 faculty positions and 100 staff positions over the next two school years, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.  The faculty cuts will occur through normal attrition and a buyout program for older faculty, but the university will need to lay off about 30 staff members, Lejuez said. Those affected by the layoffs will be notified by summer 2019, he added.  The university announced in May the need to reduce the budget by $20 million for all Lawrence campus units and departments. University officials said the budget reductions were necessary because of long-term commitments and investments that have exceeded revenue, coupled with a decade-long decline in state funding.  The university's voluntary retirement program was adopted in August as a measure to cut costs. The program offers a buyout option to tenured and tenure-track faculty who are 62 or older. About 65 faculty members are expected to take the early retirement incentive.  The university plans to make up for the faculty losses by using non-faculty lecturers, according to Lejuez.  The recent announcement was met with criticism over high administrative salaries and questions over whether administrators would be forced to take pay cuts.  Lejeuz, who has a $410,000 salary, responded that the university needs to ensure its administrative pay remains competitive. He acknowledged that his salary is high compared to faculty and staff, but he said people in similar positions at peer universities make considerably more.  He said the university hopes to bring back the positions within a few years, once the budget is stabilized.

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Kobach Says He Worries Fraud Occurred in Disputed North Carolina Race

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach worries fraud might have tainted a North Carolina congressional race that a fellow Republican appeared to have narrowly won. The Washington Post reports that Kobach said during an interview that his concerns are "based on what I have read" about the race. Kobach has long advocated strict voter identification laws and served as vice chairman of President Donald Trump's short-lived commission on voter fraud in 2017. He publicly backed Trump's unsubstantiated claim that several million people cast ballots illegally in 2016 to cost Trump the popular vote.The North Carolina Elections Board has refused to certify the results in the 9th Congressional District amid questions about the handling of mail-in ballots. Kobach told The Post: "I am very concerned that voter fraud did occur."

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Rep. Lynn Jenkins Registers Lobbying Firm Before Term Ends

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Representative Lynn Jenkins of Kansas is launching a new lobbying firm even before her term in the U.S. House officially ends. Jenkins chose not to seek re-election this year and her term will end the first week of January. Her new business, LJ Strategies, has already registered with the state. The Wichita Eagle reports ethics watchdogs suggested Jenkins' decision reinforces public distrust of politicians. Jenkins's office said in a statement she consulted with the House Ethics Committee before forming the business. Her spokeswoman, Lee Modesitt, says the business won't actively seek clients until Jenkins leaves office. Jenkins, but not her firm, can't lobby at the federal level for a year after her term ends. She will be able to lobby in Kansas immediately. Jenkins business was registered with the state on November 20.

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Man Sentenced for Killing Wife in Wichita, Leaving Body Dumpster

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Wichita man who killed his wife and left her body in a dumpster has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years.  In October, Donnell Stafford was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 37-year-old Leuh Moore.  KAKE-TV reports Stafford killed Moore in April and left her body in a dumpster behind a liquor store less than a mile from their home. Stafford was arrested two days later in Davenport, Iowa.  Police said the couple had a history of domestic violence.  Moore's 7-year-old son was home when she was killed. Police later found him safe at a relative's house.  Stafford was also sentenced to a year for each of two counts of animal cruelty for stabbing two dogs.

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Man Convicted of Dragging Lawrence Police Officer During Traffic Stop

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A driver has been convicted of dragging and injuring a Lawrence police officer with his car.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that jurors found 38-year-old Aramis Hernandez, of Topeka, guilty Thursday of battery on a law enforcement officer during a July 2016 traffic stop.  When the officer asked Hernandez for his driver's license, Hernandez told the officer that he "didn't need" a license. The officer explained that a license was required. Hernandez continued to argue that under "common law" it wasn't necessary.  The camera system in the officer's vehicle showed that after a few minutes, Hernandez started to pull away with the officer hanging onto the side of the vehicle. Hernandez then drove off. The officer was treated for cuts and bruises.  Sentencing is set for December 21.

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Man Dies After Crane Collapse in Southeast Kansas

FREDONIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has died after a crane collapsed at a construction site in southeast Kansas. Wilson County Sheriff Pete Figgin says deputies were called Friday to the site south of Fredonia, where a Fredonia Water Treatment Plant is under construction. Figgin says officers found two adult men injured at the site. One man died and the other was treated for minor injuries. KOAM-TV reports the sheriff said the cause of the crane collapse hasn't been determined. No names have been released. Federal safety officials have been contacted about the death.

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2 Men Found Dead After Fiery Wreck Near Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after two men were found dead after a fiery wreck near Wichita.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the crash happened Wednesday night when the driver of a pickup truck ran a stop sign and hit a tractor-trailer. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says in a report that both vehicles became "engulfed in flames." Two people — Darold Hale and Colleen Hale — were found dead outside the pickup truck.  Lt. Timothy Myers says it isn't clear which of the two was driving. Their causes of death are under investigation.  Myers says the driver of the tractor-trailer had minor injuries and didn't want treatment.

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Kansas Motorcyclist Charged in Wreck That Killed Woman

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City motorcyclist has been charged in a wreck that killed the woman who was riding behind him. The Kansas City Star reports that 42-year-old Fredrick Wilson Kane, of Mission, was booked into jail Friday. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence in the death of 35-year-old Sierra Crooks. She was killed on June 25 when he crashed in Shawnee. His bond is set at $250,000. His attorney, Keith Drill, didn't immediately return a phone message.

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Sedgwick County Commission Forces Out Manager Amid FBI Inquiry

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Another high-level Sedgwick County official has been forced out amid an FBI investigation.  The Wichita Eagle reports that commissioners voted 3-2 on Wednesday to pay County Manager Michael Scholes $205,427 to get him to leave.  Commissioners said their reason for forcing out Scholes was that he had created a toxic environment.  Scholes had been under fire after providing information to the FBI in an investigation last year of Commissioner Michael O'Donnell, who is awaiting federal trial on wire fraud and money laundering charges related to campaign funds. O'Donnell, who's still a member of the commission, voted against the payment, saying it's too high.  Last month, the commission agreed to pay $77,000 to get rid of former Counselor Eric Yost, who was suspended after releasing details of efforts to oust Scholes.

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Kansas City Area Teen Gifted with Work Boots He Was Caught Stealing

ROELAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Officers in suburban Kansas City have made a gift of the work boots that a teen was attempting to steal.  KMBC-TV reports that it started Thursday afternoon when police responded to a Walmart in Roeland Park, where the teen was caught shoplifting.  Chief John Morris says the responding officers learned the teen was a displaced juvenile and wanted the boots so he could get work. Instead of punishment, the officers headed to the cash register.  After some words of encouragement to find a job, finish school and stay out of trouble, the teen was gifted the same pair of boots he had attempted to steal.  Morris says the teen had tears in his eyes after he was given the boots. He says the story "almost made me cry, too."

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Autopsy: Kansas Community College Player Died of Heatstroke

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy has found that heatstroke killed a western Kansas community college football player who collapsed after the first day of practice.  The Wichita Eagle reports that an athletic trainer found 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth, of Neptune, New Jersey, unconscious outside his Garden City Community College dorm room on Aug. 1. He died that night at a hospital.  Former coach, Jeff Sims, who's leaving the school to coach at Missouri Southern State University, previously said the emergency room doctor suspected a blood clot. But an autopsy report filed last week blamed the death on exertional heat stroke. The report noted that the 300 pound (136 kilogram) lineman was vomiting and had a history of asthma.  Administrators at the community college are conducting an internal review of the circumstances of his death.

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Former Charter Teacher in Kansas City Charged with More Child Sex Crimes

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — More sex crime charges have been filed in Kansas against a former Missouri charter school teacher.  The Kansas City Star reports that 42-year-old Randall Carter II, of Overland Park, was free on bond when he was arrested again Friday.  He had been teaching at Lee A. Tolbert Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, when he was charged in May in Johnson County, Kansas, with multiple sex crimes involving two children. Charter officials said the children weren't students at the school.  The new charges of rape, aggravated indecent liberties and sodomy involve a third child and date back to 2012.  Bond for Carter is set at $500,000. During a hearing Thursday, a judge denied his request to lower it.

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Southwest Kansas Teacher Arrested for Trafficking Meth

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teacher has been charged with dealing methamphetamine in Oklahoma.  The Hutch Post reports that 37-year-old Melissa Abla and a man were arrested last month after law enforcement executed a search warrant at their home in Tyrone, Oklahoma. Abla taught at Seymour Rogers Middle School in Liberal. The school district didn't immediately return a phone message.  She is charged in Oklahoma with five felonies and one misdemeanor. Bond is set at $250,000. No attorney is listed for her in online court records.  Tyrone is about 10 miles southwest of Liberal.

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16-Year-Old Girl Shot, Wounded in Accidental Shooting

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old girl has been wounded in an accidental shooting in Kansas.  The Manhattan Mercury reports that Riley County police say the shooting happened around 4:15 pm Tuesday. The girl's wound wasn't life threatening.  Police spokeswoman Hali Rowland says no additional information will be released, including the girl's name, because the case involves a juvenile.

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Kansas Governor-Elect Names Legislative Aide as Staff Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly has named a Democratic legislative leader's top aide as her chief of staff.  The incoming Democratic governor announced Will Lawrence's appointment Thursday and said he has a "sharp understanding of the legislative process."  Lawrence had been chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka since 2016 after serving as Hensley's staff attorney. He also was in a law firm with former Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis.  During the governor's race, Lawrence filed an unsuccessful legal challenge to independent candidate Greg Orman's right to appear on the November ballot.  Kelly also has named 23 advisers for her transition team who include former Republican Governor Mike Hayden. Also among them is former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, who lost to Kelly in the Democratic primary.

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Kansas Senate's Democratic Leader Names New Chief of Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top Democrat has named the former manager of a congressional campaign as his new chief of staff.  Senate Minority Leader and Topeka Democrat Anthony Hensley announced Thursday that Kerry Gooch will serve as his top aide. Gooch replaces Will Lawrence, who became Governor-elect Laura Kelly's chief of staff.  Gooch managed the campaign of Democrat Paul Davis in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas. Davis narrowly lost to Republican Representative-elect Steve Watkins.  Gooch also served as executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party from 2015 to 2017. He is the grandson of retired Democratic state Senator Rip Gooch of Wichita.

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Teens Charged After Guns, Tasers Stolen from Kansas City Police Car

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas City men are facing federal gun charges after firearms and police equipment were stolen from an unmarked police car.  Leronte Swinton and Carvon Brown, both 19, are charged with illegal possession of stolen firearms.  The Kansas City Star reports federal court documents show the two are suspects in several car break-ins and thefts around Kansas City and in Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties.  Prosecutors say a rifle, handgun and shotgun were taken from a patrol car parked in a south Kansas City on Nov. 10. Two Tasers, two bullet-resistant vests and two hand-held radios were also taken.  Investigators determined two vehicles the suspects were in were involved in several other thefts.  Police arrested Swinton and Brown Monday at a Kansas City home, where other stolen items were found.

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Kansas Jayhawks Suspend Running Back Pooka Williams After Assault Charge

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Standout Kansas running back Pooka Williams has been suspended from the team after his arrest on suspicion of domestic battery.  Williams, whose name is Anthony Ray Williams, was arrested Thursday at the university's public safety office. No further details were immediately available.  New coach Les Miles said the department was taking the allegations "very seriously." He said Williams has been suspended from all team activities pending further investigation. Associate Athletics Director Jim Marchiony said the school would have no additional comment.  Williams was a four-star prospect from Boutte, Louisiana, who became the star of the team during the season. He was the first running back in the school history to have back-to-back 100-yard games to start their career and won several awards for his play.

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Restoration Planned for Fire-Damaged Kansas State Library

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Officials are making plans to restore the main Kansas State University library after a blaze caused extensive smoke and water damage.  The Manhattan Mercury reports that students were invited Tuesday to offer input on the renderings of the inside of Hale Library. The building was undergoing renovations in May when a fire broke out. Plans calls for renovating all four floors of the building.  The renderings call for an innovation lab on the first and second floors, connected by a staircase, expanded athlete tutoring space in the Student Success Center and new classroom spaces scattered throughout the building.  The dean of libraries, Lori Goetsch, says the biggest change students can expect is the innovation lab and maker space. Those areas will be full of virtual reality and artificial intelligence equipment.

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NCAA Denies Appeal of Wichita State's Allen to Play This Season

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The NCAA denied an appeal by Wichita State's Teddy Allen to play immediately after transferring from West Virginia on Friday, forcing the sophomore guard to sit out a redshirt season. Allen appealed to the subcommittee for legislative relief arguing that the transfer was so that he could be closer to his support system in Boys Town, Nebraska. The small village near Omaha provides care, treatment and education to at-risk children with behavioral, emotional and academic issues. Allen arrived at Boys Town when he was 17 and blossomed into a star basketball player. He signed with West Virginia, where he averaged seven points in 12 minutes a game as a freshman. The decision by the NCAA means Allen will be able to practice and travel with the Shockers, who are off to a 4-3 start, but he cannot play in games until next season.
 

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