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Headlines for Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Leavenworth County Official Resigns over 'Master Race' Remark

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A white county official in Kansas has resigned under pressure after saying at a meeting that he belongs to "the master race." Louis Klemp said in the letter submitted Tuesday resigning his seat on the Leavenworth County Commission that the remark was "well-meaning" and "not racially motivated." Klemp cited the master race — the Nazi ideology of Aryan supremacy — last week while responding to a presentation by a black official, Triveece Penelton. Klemp was appointed to fill a Republican vacancy in the county just west of Kansas City. He said he was identifying a similarity in their appearance, noting both have a space between their teeth. Penelton said in a statement that the comment was "unbelievably inappropriate." Kansas Republican Governor Jeff Colyer was among those to demand Klemp's resignation.

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Nonprofit Hired by Kansas Under Scrutiny in Its Home State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Florida nonprofit recently awarded a four-year grant for family preservation services in Kansas has been under intense scrutiny in its home state. Eckerd Connects, which administers foster care in the Tampa Bay area, will serve much of Kansas starting next year. The announcement was made earlier this month by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. But the Kansas City Star reports that Eckerd has been plagued by problems such as foster children roaming unsupervised while skipping school, young people staying in different homes night after night, even children dying of abuse or neglect. Eckerd said it already provides some services in Kansas through a partnership with the Department of Corrections. It said states across the country are facing similar challenges with placing foster care children. Still, the state of Florida warned Eckerd in June that if it didn't come up with a corrective plan, and stick to it, the agency could lose its $77 million annual contract.

"How did that happen? Who awarded those grants?" asked Rep. Jarrod Ousley, D-Merriam. "As a state, we're going to hire a company with the exact same headlines we're trying to get away from? I thought we were trying to be better?"

Lori Ross, a long-time child advocate in Kansas and Missouri, said it's "deeply disturbing" that work involving the safety and care of Kansas children has been placed with an agency with a "known, prevalent history of inadequate care" for them.

"I mean, a Google search is all that you needed to do," Ross said.

A spokeswoman for Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel told the Star in an email that the agency and the secretary "are aware of the challenges Eckerd Connects is facing with their foster care contract in Florida." The agency said Eckerd wasn't awarded the grant for foster care, but for family preservation.

Eckerd Connects was founded in 1968 by late philanthropists Jack and Ruth Eckerd. Programs now include foster care, adoption, work force development, aid for the homeless and transitional services for troubled youth. Eckerd will provide family preservation services in the state's east, west and Wichita regions. Another company, Cornerstones of Care, will handle the Kansas City region. The Kansas budget for family preservation services is about $10 million. The state has not said how much of that will go to Eckerd. Republican Governor Jeff Colyer has said the new system "will serve as the foundation for enacting true reform in Kansas child welfare."

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Officials Find 18 Children Missing from Kansas Foster Homes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they have located and recovered 18 missing children who ran away from foster homes in Kansas. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said in a news release Tuesday that the joint effort last week to find runaways from the Kansas Foster Care Program involved more than 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers. It focused on Sedgwick, Johnson and Wyandotte counties although the effort ultimately spanned several other Kansas counties and generated leads forwarded to other states. Operation Hope was led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, the Office of Inspector General and Office of Investigations. The KBI says law enforcement officials sought to ensure the well-being of the foster children and to identify waste, fraud and abuse occurring within the state's foster care program.

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Citizen Group Seeks Overland Park Police Shooting Records

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A group of Kansas residents is fighting for records relating to a suburban Kansas City teenager who was shot to death by a police officer in January. The Kansas City Star reports that the city of Overland Park has denied most of citizen group JOCO United's requests to release records over the shooting of 17-year-old John Albers. The push for records comes after authorities released dash cam video of the encounter in which an officer fired 13 times into a minivan that Albers was backing out of his family's garage. The group argues that the video didn't answer questions about how a 911 call to check on Albers' welfare turned into violence. Member Mark Schmid says the public is forced to rely on the Johnson County district attorney's conclusion that the shooting was justified.

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Kansas to Pay $75,000 for Failure to Prevent Torture and Death of 18-Month-Old Girl

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas will pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the Department of Children and Families failed to intervene to protect an 18-month-old girl who eventually died.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jayla Haag died in 2012 from blunt-force injuries to the head. The girl lived with her mother, Alyssa Haag, in El Dorado.  The suit filed by the father, Steven Watters, accused the agency of ignoring warning signs that included calls to a child-abuse hotline. He also alleged that a DCF social worker was aware of the mother's persistent use of illegal drugs.  In addition to her injuries, Jayla tested positive for methamphetamine at birth and prior to her death.  Governor-elect Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has promised to reform DCF once she takes office in January.

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Temporary Replacement Named to Lead Haskell Indian Nations University

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A temporary replacement has been named to lead Haskell Indian Nations University after a scathing federal report. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Bureau of Indian Education says Haskell professor Daniel Wildcat will serve as acting president beginning Tuesday. For as long as the next 60 days, Haskell Indian Nations University President Venida Chenault will be on "special assignment for the BIE." Haskell faculty learned of the change in an email from the Haskell president's office. The email says the change is to help the BIE "meet mission objectives." The announcement came after a report issued Friday said administrators at the university had underreported crime statistics for a two-year period and failed to follow internal policy when handling misconduct complaints. A university spokesman didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

--Related--

Inspector General: Haskell University Falsified Crime Statistics

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal agency has found that administrators at Haskell Indian Nations University underreported crime statistics for a two-year period.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Interior also concluded in a report Friday that the Lawrence school had failed to follow internal policy when handling misconduct complaints.  The agency's report says university employees told investigators they felt "bullied and intimidated" by Haskell President Venida Chenault. The document also concluded the president influenced, through her presence at a meeting, a family member's appointment to a high-level campus job.  Chenault told federal investigators Haskell's annual crime reports for 2014 and 2015 were inaccurate but she denied intentionally misrepresenting the statistics.  The university enrolls about 1,000 students representing about 140 tribal nations and Alaska native communities.  (Read more about this story in the Lawrence Journal-World.)

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Expansion Planned for Law Officers Memorial in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Room is running out for names on the memorial honoring Kansas law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, so it will soon be expanded. Governor Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt were among those announcing expansion plans on Monday, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The project is expected to cost $500,000, funded with private donations. Organizers have already raised about $425,000. The memorial is outside the Kansas Statehouse. It includes the names of 281 officers, with room for 39 more. Plans call for adding a second concentric ring of memorial markers outside the existing monument so that additional names can be added in future years. Three more names will be added from this year. Wyandotte County deputies Patrick Rohrer and Theresa Sue King were shot and killed in June while transporting a prisoner. Sedgwick County Deputy Robert Kenneth Kunze III was fatally shot while responding to a suspicious person call in September.

"Our collective hearts cringe at the thought of making more room for the names of officers killed in the line of duty," Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Mark Bruce said. "But by doing so, we pledge to permanently recognize the magnitude of the price they paid."

The memorial was dedicated in 1987 and includes the names of officers who have died in the line of duty since 1866. The first name on the list was Ogden City Marshal Felix A. Boller, who was shot and killed after observing a group of soldiers that had entered a private home in the town. In addition to the expansion of the memorial, the state launched a website that enables users to browse through the names on the memorial and read the biographies of those whose names are etched in its stone.

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Second Man Sentenced for Guns Theft from Undercover Vehicle

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A second man has been sentenced for stealing guns from an undercover Sedgwick County Sheriff's vehicle. The Wichita Eagle reports that 37-year-old Justin Winger was sentenced Monday to two years and nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to failure to report a crime. Winger admitted in his plea that he was with 38-year-old Travis Keller, when Keller broke into an undercover sheriff's car and stole guns. Kansas Department of Corrections records show Winger was on parole at the time. Keller previously was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison. The stolen guns included a 9-mm handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 5.56-caliber rifle. Winger said that Keller sold the guns to Arthur Mannie for $400 and an ounce of marijuana. Mannie is scheduled for trial Jan. 8.

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Former Teacher and Swim Coach Pleads Guilty to Sex Crime

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas City-area teacher and swim coach has pleaded guilty to secretly filming a sexual encounter with a minor in 2013. The Kansas City Star reports that 54-year-old James Russell Green of Blue Springs, Missouri, entered the plea Tuesday in federal court, but still faces several sex crime charges in state court. Green taught and coached swimming in the North Kansas City School District and at Blue Springs South High School in Missouri. He coached at Hallbrook Country Club in Leawood, Kansas. He pleaded guilty to the production of child pornography and possession of child pornography. Seven other federal charges will be dropped as part of a plea agreement. No sentencing date was set. Authorities say the crimes spanned a 20-year period. Police investigations revealed at least seven victims.

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Kansas Teacher Recruitment Effort Attracts Just 3 Teachers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An effort to attract more teachers to Kansas has recruited just three teachers so far, but the state is on the hook to pay $270,000 to the organization behind the program.  KCUR reports that the Legislature agreed to pay the education nonprofit Teach for America for the pilot program with the aim of recruiting 12 teachers across the state. All three teachers were placed in the same district, in Kansas City, Kansas.  Teach for America claims it recruited five, not three, teachers to the district. District officials say two recruits arrived last year, before the contract.  Some lawmakers expressed disappointment in the low number of recruits and the fact that only one district has benefited.  Kansas officials say there were 612 vacant teaching positions this fall.

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Tow Truck Driver Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a driver who fled after hitting and killing a tow truck driver in Kansas City.  The Kansas City Star reports that police say the crash happened late Sunday as the victim was securing a vehicle on his truck along Interstate 35 in the northern party of the city. Police say the hit-and-run driver was behind the wheel of a black sedan.  The victim's employer, GT Tow Service of Smithville, described what happened in a Facebook post as a "senseless tragedy."  The owner of GT Tow Service has been an advocate for "move over" laws, which require drivers to give wide berth to emergency vehicles stopped on the roadside, after the owner's 18-year-old son Blake Gresham was killed working a roadside rescue in 2012.

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Professor Accused of Making Students Watch Dogs, Serve as Waiters

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City is expanding its investigation of a professor after a Kansas City Star story revealed allegations that he coerced students to perform personal favors, including watching his dog and acting as waiters and busboys.  The Star reported Sunday that School of Pharmacy professor Ashim Mitra, an Indian immigrant, made the demands exclusively of Ph.D. candidates from India who were in the U.S. on student visas.  Mitra has denied wrongdoing.  Some students told The Star that they performed the work because Mitra, who had brought the university millions of dollars in research grants, had the power to force them out of school, which would mean they would lose their visas.

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7 Schools in Innovation Program Decide to Drop Out

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Seven school districts in Kansas that were given special status through the state's "Coalition of Innovative School Districts" program now say it's not worth the effort.  KCUR reports that the districts last week asked the Kansas Board of Education to release them from the program that began in 2013.  Districts that join have the freedom to ignore some state oversight in exchange for pursuing novel approaches for improving student achievement. The seven participating districts say they want to continue to collaborate, but as an informal network.  The coalition uses the program to loosen teacher licensure and state assessment requirements. Some unions and education advocates argue that the regulations are needed to maintain high standards.

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Judge Delays Ruling on Barring Somali Videos

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says he won't immediately decide whether to allow testimony from Somali immigrants at the sentencing hearing for three men convicted of plotting to bomb a mosque and a Kansas apartment complex where the immigrants lived.  U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren said during a court hearing Monday that he couldn't recall ever denying someone the right to be heard. He said he'd issue a decision later.  A defense attorney argued that no one was harmed by the plot and questions the accuracy of the testimony translation. A prosecutor says harm to the community should be considered during sentencing.  Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were convicted of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to violate civil rights. Their attorneys have asked that the Somalis' victim impact statements be barred.

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Sedgwick County Pays Counselor $77,000 to Leave

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County Commissioners will pay $77,000 to County Counselor Eric Yost in a separation agreement.  The Wichita Eagle reported on the agreement Monday.  Yost has been on paid suspension since November 7, when he released details of the commission majority's effort to oust County Manager Michael Scholes and confirmed an FBI investigation of commissioners.  Scholes told Yost the commissioners were moving to oust him because he had provided 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 is still a member of the commission.  The $77,077 payment is equivalent to six months of salary and a year of health insurance benefits. Yost initially sought a $250,000 settlement.

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Contested Kansas Commission Race Decided After Recount

GIRARD, Kan. (AP) — A hand-recount has determined the winner of a contested southeast Kansas county commission race.  The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that Democrat Jeremy Johnson defeated Republican Chad Ulepich for a seat on the Crawford County Commission. Initially Ulepich was believed to be in the lead. But after the hand recount and a second canvass, the results found Johnson defeated Ulepich 1,648 to 1,623, a difference of 25 votes.  Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle says the issue is that results from five of the county's 16 polling locations were counted twice after the election. He said the person inputting data cards into software that count votes was interrupted and put some cards in twice.  The board of canvassers approved the final results Friday.

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Kansas Family Files Lawsuit After Teen Was Killed in Wreck Outside Arrowhead Stadium

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The family of a teen who was killed in a crash with an off-duty officer outside the stadium where the Kansas City Chiefs play has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.  The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court against Terrell Watkins. He was driving a police van to an off-duty security assignment at Arrowhead Stadium in heavy pregame traffic last month when he slammed into the back of a car. The crash killed the car's driver, 17-year-old Chandan Rajanna, of Overland Park, and seriously hurt the teen's father and older sister.  Watkins isn't identified in the lawsuit as a police officer, but police officials previously said that an officer was involved in the fatal wreck. Watkins doesn't have a listed phone number.

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Wichita Police to Ask Gun Owners to Save Fired Casings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police will soon ask gun owners and sellers to keep spent ammunition as a way to help identify stolen weapons following an increase in gun thefts over the past five years.  Wichita Deputy Police Chief Jose Salcido tells the Wichita Eagle that the city has seen a spike in firearms thefts from about 400 in 2012 to 1,600 last year. He says 328 of the guns stolen last year "showed up at violent crime scenes in Wichita." Salcido says the police department plans to ask gun sellers and buyers to save two fired casings. The gun owner or dealer can then turn the casings over to police if their firearm is stolen.  He says the gun's distinct imprint on a fired cartridge can be put into a database and matched with cartridges recovered from crime scenes.

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L.A. Rams Squeak by Kansas City Chiefs to Win Offensive Showcase

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs combined for 1,001 total yards and 105 points in a Monday night game that more than lived up to expectations.  Rams quarterback Jared Goff hit Gerald Everett for a 40-yard scoring touchdown with 1:49 remaining to send the Rams past the Chiefs, 54-51. Goff passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns in the NFL's highest scoring game this season.  Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (mah-HOHMZ') threw for six TDs but was picked off twice in the final 78 seconds as the Chiefs fell to 9-2.  Marcus Peters and Lamarcus Joyner came up with the late interceptions for the 10-1 Rams.  The Monday night game marked the first time in NFL history that the losing team scored more than 50 points.  

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Dean Wade and No. 12 Kansas St. Win Paradise Jam Title

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — Dean Wade scored 21 points, and No. 12 Kansas State defeated Missouri 82-67 Monday night in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament.  Barry Brown Jr. added 19 points and six assists, Xavier Sneed had 13 points and Kamau Stokes scored 10 for the Wildcats (5-0), who won their first in-season tournament title in four tries under head coach Bruce Weber.  

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