Democratic Leader Jim Ward Suspends Campaign for Governor to Run for Kansas House Seat
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward has suspended his campaign for governor and is running for re-election to the Legislature. The Wichita Democrat announced his decision Wednesday after filing to run again for his House seat. Ward followed up with an email to supporters saying it's critical to have strong Democratic voices in the Legislature. Ward's decision leaves three major candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination in the state's August 7 primary. They are state Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka, former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. Ward trailed both Svaty and Kelly in fundraising last year. Also, Kelly picked up the endorsement of former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Svaty received the backing of former Governor John Carlin. Read more about this story.
Former Kansas House Speaker Announces Campaign for Congress
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas House speaker has jumped into the crowded race for the Republican nomination in an eastern Kansas congressional seat. Ex-state Representative Doug Mays of Topeka announced his candidacy Wednesday in the 2nd District. Incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins is not running for re-election. Mays is the seventh GOP candidate. The others include state Senators Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth and Caryn Tyson of Parker and state Representative Kevin Jones of Wellsville. The presumed Democratic nominee is former Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence.Mays served 14 years in the Kansas House starting in 1993 and as speaker from 2003 through 2006. He also is a former state securities commissioner.He founded a lobbying firm after leaving the Legislature but ended his association with it Tuesday.
Outsourcing Endangers IT Jobs at Kansas Revenue Department
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue will lay off nearly 60 employees as it moves its information technology service to CGI Technologies, which was given no-bid contracts worth nearly $60 million despite criticism of its operations in the rollout of the federal health care website in 2013. The 56 workers losing their jobs will be allowed to apply for CGI jobs in Topeka or could be matched with other jobs in the revenue department or other areas of state government, department spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said Wednesday. The contracts were signed in 2017 with CGI Technologies, a subsidiary of Canadian-based CGI Group, which has several government contracts. CGI was one of the primary contractors that developed healthcare.gov, which was plagued by technical problems at launch. North Carolina ended an $85 million contract with CGI for tax software in 2014. Neither Kansas nor CGI has publicized the company's new role in state government. CGI is contractually prohibited from saying Kansas is a customer.
Legislative leaders didn't know about the contracts until the layoffs became public knowledge, according to Republican House Majority Leader Don Hineman. "The Legislature was not informed. As a member of leadership, it's brand new to me," Hineman said, noting that he first learned about the contracts Wednesday. One of the Kansas contracts — worth $53 million — requires the company to operate and support the revenue department's tax systems. Another contract requires CGI to improve the state's debt collection, including providing a self-service portal to allow people to pay back taxes and create payment plans. The total cost of the contracts over 10 years is $59 million, The Wichita Eagle reported. CGI will receive 80 percent of the revenue and Kansas gets 20 percent from the portal until the company has earned $4.2 million. Kansas will keep 100 percent of revenue after that. Kansas has gained $15 million in new revenue over the past 10 months because of the self-serve portal, Whitten said. A form explaining why the state didn't put the contract out for bids indicates the department already uses software from American Management Systems, which later became CGI. "There is no known alternative to CGI that would not require significant upfront investment by the (department) IT staff to bring up to speed and would also require some form of licensing agreement with CGI to be able to maintain the applications in a similar manner," the form says.
State Senator Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat who is running for governor, said lawmakers haven't been able to get much information on the contract from the administration since last year. She pointed to problems with the state's privatized Medicaid system as proof that the state should carefully consider privatizing its services. "We've seen how trying to use a private company to do state business doesn't work," Kelly said. "We're just giving money away to private companies and either they're not producing or they're reaping excessive rewards."
Attorney: Board of Regents Likely Violated Open-Meetings Law
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A Lawrence attorney says the Kansas Board of Regents likely violated state open-meetings laws by employing the former University of Kansas chancellor as a special adviser without taking a public vote. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that attorney Max Kautsch says regents could've violated state law when they gathered in a closed-door session to approve Bernadette Gray-Little's salary as special adviser. Kautsch's criticism stems from a recently released letter written in 2016 by the board's president offering Gray-Little a more than $510,000 salary with the position ``as an expression of our gratitude.'' Board spokesman Matt Keith says the regents have ``the authority to discuss personnel matters in executive session.'' Gray-Little stepped down as chancellor last summer. She has declined to comment on her advising role, referring questions to the board.
Commissioner Pleads Not Guilty to Fraud, Money Laundering
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and money laundering related to his handling of campaign funds. U.S. Magistrate Gwynne Birzer on Wednesday allowed O'Donnell to remain free on an unsecured bond of $5,000. A 12-count indictment alleges the 33-year-old man took $10,500 from his campaign accounts to put into his personal bank account and to give to friends, and then covered it up by making false reports. The Wichita Eagle says O'Donnell returned to his seat Wednesday on the Sedgwick County Commission, with his mother and father sitting in the front row of the audience. His parents said they came to support their son in his first public meeting since Friday's indictment, but declined further comment. O'Donnell and his attorney declined comment after the arraignment.
UPDATE: Mother, Boyfriend Charged with Murder of Toddler
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The mother of a 2-year-old Wichita boy who died from suspected abuse and the woman's boyfriend have been charged with murder in the first degree. It is the latest case in the Wichita area in which young children died after law enforcement and state welfare officials received reports they were being abused. Elizabeth Woolheater and Lucas Diel made their first court appearances Wednesday via video feed from jail. They are charged in the death of Anthony Bunn. They have not yet been assigned public defenders. The head of Kansas Department of Children and Families announced more changes Tuesday at the embattled agency. Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said in a news release that the agency will be "implementing corrective action plans" in child welfare programs and will be making personnel changes.
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors expect to announce charges Wednesday against the mother of a 2-year-old who died from suspected abuse and the woman's boyfriend, the latest case in the Wichita area in which young children died after law enforcement and state welfare officials received reports they were being abused. The head of Kansas Department of Children and Families acknowledged Tuesday that the agency was not fulfilling its mission and announced more changes at the embattled agency. Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said in a news release that the agency will be "implementing corrective action plans" in child welfare programs and will be making a number of personnel changes. Her announcement came after court records showed that relatives of 2-year-old Anthony Bunn reported concerns to the agency before the Wichita toddler died last week. His mother and her boyfriend are jailed on suspicion of murder, and District Attorney Marc Bennett said charges are expected to be made public Wednesday at their first court appearance. The agency has been under fire since a 3-year-old Wichita boy was found encased in concrete after his relatives repeatedly reported abuse to the state and police. And relatives of 5-year-old who disappeared in February in Wichita also say they called the state to report suspected abuse. "As I looked at each region, it became evident that there were concerning trends in the Wichita Region we needed to address," Meier-Hummel said. The welfare agency earlier this week promoted Family Preservation Services Program Administrator Thomas Buell to serve as the Wichita regional director. It also recently fired two staff members and said "several other matters" are pending while it further investigates work performance in Wichita and across the state. In addition, Meier-Hummel said she has stationed administrative staff at the Wichita Service Center for the past four weeks to help review open child abuse and neglect cases, and to strengthen oversight in the region.
Data: Kansas to See More Students Needing Help with English
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — New figures show that in five years more than a quarter of Wichita public school students will need help learning to speak, read and write English. The Kansas Association of School Boards' projections show that while overall Wichita student enrollment is expected to drop slightly, the number of students who aren't native English speakers will increase from about 23 percent to about 27 percent in 2023. The Wichita Eagle reports that the change is echoing a statewide trend. The number of students in Kansas public schools rose about 1 percent from 2012-2017. Over the same period, the number of English language learners increased nearly 42 percent. School officials say English language learners cost more to educate because they require a multitude of additional services. Figures show most English learners were born in the U.S.
Kansas Judge to Rule on Barring Out-of-State Candidates
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge says she hopes to rule by the June 1 filing deadline whether candidates for governor living outside the state are barred from appearing on the state's ballot. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson on Wednesday set a May 21 hearing in a lawsuit filed last month by Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Kansas does not specifically prohibit out-of-state residents from running for governor, but Schmidt argues that multiple state laws indicate that it's not allowed. Schmidt sued Secretary of State Kris Kobach last month. Kobach's office allowed New York resident Andy Maskin to file Tuesday for the Republican nomination for governor. Ten other out-of-state residents have formed campaign committees or appointed treasurers for possible runs for governor. Watson allowed Maskin to intervene in Schmidt's lawsuit.
Kansas Officer Charged with Inappropriate Touching
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, police officer has been charged with inappropriately touching a non-uniformed female co-worker while he was on duty. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree announced Tuesday that Steven Rios faces one misdemeanor count of sexual battery. The incident is alleged to have occurred in March. Rios has worked for the department for more than a decade and was on the police detail that protected former Mayor Mark Holland. If convicted, Rios faces up to six months in the county jail and up to a $1,000 fine. He doesn't have a listed number. A prosecutor's office spokesman says Rios doesn't have an attorney to the best of their knowledge.
Mexican Man, Woman Charged for Possessing Fake U.S. Documents
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man and woman from Mexico are each facing charges for unlawfully possessing identification documents after a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper found hundreds of fake U.S. identification documents in their rental car. The Wichita Eagle reports that Lilia Arratia and Sergio Adame of Mexico were pulled over last month by Trooper Robert Kraus for speeding and driving erratically. They were in the U.S. legally on visas. A police affidavit says the car contained envelopes with 353 possibly counterfeit identification documents. It says about two thirds of the documents had names on them. The affidavit says Adame told the trooper that he'd picked up the envelopes from an attorney's office in Texas to take to his cousin in Dodge City who said they contained immigration documents that he needed to sign.
Father of Missing Wichita Boy Charged in Different Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a missing 5-year-old Wichita boy is charged with misdemeanor battery in a case not related to his son's disappearance. District Attorney Marc Bennett said Wednesday that 34-year-old Jonathan Hernandez made his first appearance Wednesday and bond was set at $2,500. Details of the alleged crime were not released. Hernandez's son, Lucas, has not been seen since February 17. His stepmother, Emily Glass, reported him missing. She is charged with endangering her 2-year-old daughter. She hasn't been charged in Lucas's disappearance.
Kansas Teacher Arrested Amid Inquiry into Sex with Student
MAIZE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Wichita high school teacher has been arrested on suspicion of sex crimes involving a student. The Wichita Eagle reports that the teacher was booked Monday into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of two counts of unlawful sexual relations and one count of failure to report suspected child abuse. Wichita police Officer Charley Davidson said in a news release that the arrest came after an investigation into possible sexual relations between the teacher and a 17-year-old student. Maize school district superintendent Chad Higgins said in an email to families that the school system is cooperating with investigators and that the teacher won't be permitted to return to work pending a law enforcement investigation.
Forensic Exam Underway on Missouri Governor's Cellphone
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A forensic examiner in St. Louis is extracting data from the cellphone of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, days before the governor goes to trial on a felony invasion of privacy charge. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the examiner was working Tuesday in a locked courtroom with yellow paper taped over the windows. An investigator for the St. Louis circuit attorney's office had cited what he believed was suspicious activity in a Gmail account after an investigation of Greitens was announced earlier this year. Defense lawyers on Monday filed a motion to quash a sealed search warrant and stop any forensic exam of the phone. Greitens is accused of taking an unauthorized photo of a woman who was at least partially nude. He's admitted having an extramarital affair with her in 2015.
Kansas Priest Allegedly Stole More Than $40,000 from Church
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Catholic priest in Johnson County is charged with stealing more than $40,000 from a parish where he was pastor. Reverend Joseph Cramer is charged with felony theft and two counts of felony computer crime. Prosecutors say he stole the money from Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner between November 2015 and May 2016. The Kansas City Star reports the 68-year-old Cramer was released on $5,000 bond Tuesday. Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas officials said they contacted prosecutors last September. Cramer was placed on administrative leave and has resigned as pastor. Court documents don't say how the alleged crimes occurred or how the money was spent. But as a condition of his bond, Cramer was ordered to stay away from casinos. Court records don't name a lawyer for Cramer.
Kansas City Woman Pleads Guilty to Selling Heroin
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City woman has pleaded guilty to selling heroin that led to one of her customers nearly dying. The customer overdosed at a home in Overland Park, Kansas, in April 2016. She was found unconscious and revived when emergency responders administered Narcan. After the near-death experience, the user began cooperating with investigations into drug activity of 34-year-old Loretta Gilliard. The drug user had purchased heroin from GIlliard about 100 times and made several more buys while cooperating with investigators. Gilliard pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to distribute heroin. Under a plea deal, she will serve seven years in prison.
Frontier Airlines Returns to Wichita; Will Fly to Denver
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Frontier Airlines plans to return to Wichita and offer new service to Denver. The airline will offer once-daily flights on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, beginning August 30. The flights will use an Airbus A320 narrow-body aircraft, which carries about 180 passengers. Frontier previously offered service to Denver from Wichita, but left the city in 2012. Flights will depart Wichita at 6 pm and arrive in Denver at 6:39 pm local time. Return flights will depart Denver at 2:40 pm and arrive in Wichita at 5:09 pm. Currently, United Airlines is the only carrier offering nonstop service from Wichita to Denver.
Fallen Power Pole Started Fire at Lawrence Tractor Business
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Fire investigators say a fallen power pole started a fire that caused about $4 million damage to a Lawrence tractor business. Lawrence-Douglas County fire official James King says when the pole fell Saturday transformers pierce the roof of Heritage Tractor. The ensuing electrical arcing started a fire in the business's tool room. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the pole belongs to Westar Energy. It wasn't immediately clear what caused the pole to break. More than two dozen firefighters and 10 trucks battled the fire for more than three hours Saturday. One firefighter was treated and released for heat exhaustion. No one else was injured. For now, Heritage's Lawrence employees are working out of other Heritage locations.
2 Cyclists Struck and Killed in Southeast Kansas
GALENA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two bicyclists from Germany were struck and killed in southeast Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says a minivan traveling in the same direction struck the two cyclists from behind Tuesday morning. It happened on Kansas 66, about 1½ miles west of the town of Galena, just north of the Oklahoma state line. The cyclists died at the scene. Spokesman Rick Wingate says the identities of the two cyclists could not be released yet because relatives in Germany must be notified. He says the German consulate has been notified. The patrol's report says the crash was not a hit-and-run. Wingate says he wasn't aware why the two were in Kansas.
Trooper Ben, Eric Stonestreet Team Up to Promote Seat Belts
LINDSBORG, Kan. (AP) — "Modern Family" star Eric Stonestreet has combined forces with a popular tweeting Kansas trooper to promote seat belt safety. Stonestreet made a four-minute video with Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner. With almost 55,000 twitter followers, Gardner is better known as @TrooperBenKHP . The video was part of a welcome to the Kansas Teen Transportation Safety Conference. Stonestreet, a Kansas City, Kansas, native who plays the character Cameron Tucker, says on the video that he once wanted to be a highway patrolman before going on a ride-along. The law enforcement officer he was with had to tell a family member that a loved one had died. Stonestreet also talked about a seat belt saving a friend's life in a crash. The duo signed out with sirens.
Sites Selected for Program Aimed at Expanding Drone Flights
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal transportation officials have announced 10 sites for a test program aimed at increasing government and commercial use of unmanned aircraft. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the winners Wednesday for the three-year drone program where states, local communities and tribes can devise their own trials. The sites are located in Oklahoma, California, Nevada, North Dakota, North Carolina, Kansas, Alaska, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida. Transportation officials say 149 applications were received. President Donald Trump signed a directive last year to establish the "innovation zones" that allow exemptions to some drone regulations, such as flying over people, nighttime flights and flights where the aircraft can't be seen by the operator. The unmanned aircraft industry has pushed for relaxed restrictions. Officials say current regulations have limited drone use, forcing companies to test overseas.
Kansas Man Dies When Horse Rolls on Him in Ranch Accident
BAZAAR, Kan. (AP) — Chase County officials say a man died after a horse rolled over him during a ranching accident. Sheriff Rich Dorneker says emergency responders were called Monday night to a ranch south of Bazaar, an unincorporated town near Emporia. The Emporia Gazette reports responders found 58-year-old Clifford Cole injured after an accident while working with cattle on horseback. Dorneker says Cole and another person were moving the cattle when a calf ran in front of Cole's horse. The horse hit the calf and Cole was thrown off. Dorneker says the horse rolled over Cole twice. Dorneker says the other person attempted to give Cole medical attention. Cole was taken to Newman Regional Health, where he was later pronounced dead.
Kansas Police Search for Man Who Escaped While in Handcuffs
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a man who escaped from Kansas City, Kansas, police while wearing handcuffs. Police said in a news release that officers had taken 21-year-old Deron McAfee into custody for felony charges late Monday when he escaped. WDAF-TV reports that McAfee was arrested in 2016 on suspicion of assault. In 2017, he was booked into jail on suspicion of burglary, theft and resisting arrest. He was last seen wearing a plaid shirt.
Authorities ID Kansas Man Whose Body Was Found in Nebraska
HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — Authorities have identified human remains found just outside of Hastings as that of a Kansas man. Television station KSNB reports that the body found around noon Monday was that of 58-year-old Ricky Ghan, of Wichita. Ghan's remains were found by a groundskeeper who was mowing at the Motorsport Park Hastings. Authorities say Ghan was last seen in Hastings on October 14. Officials say an autopsy did not indicate foul play.
Kansas State Fair Warns About Fraudulent Ticket Sales
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State Fair officials are warning about websites selling fraudulent tickets for this year's fair. The Hutchinson News report s several customers learned after buying tickets that the websites they used weren't authorized to sell tickets. Marketing Director Joy Whitman said in a statement that the sites use the words Kansas State Fair in their web addresses. Customers receive email confirmations that are incomplete or contain the wrong customer information. The fair is working to have the fraudulent sites removed from Google's search engine. The only legitimate online ticket seller for the Kansas State Fair is Etix, which can be accessed at kansasstatefair.com, under the "tickets" button. Tickets can also be purchased by calling the Kansas State Fair or at the box office in the Fair's administration building.