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Regional Headlines for Friday, August 24, 2012




Plan Would Fund Kansas Capitol Center

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new proposal from Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's administration would use bonds and transportation funds to help finance a new visitor center and other work at the Statehouse. The proposal, outlined by Budget Director Steve Anderson in a memo to Brownback and legislative leaders, would use $7 million in transportation funds and $5.4 million in bonds. The visitor center would be the last part of a 12-year renovation of the Statehouse interior so far projected to cost $320 million. The transportation money would cover work on the grounds. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Anderson's memo from a legislative source Friday. Governor Brownback and legislative leaders plan to meet Monday to consider authorizing the bonds. Legislative leaders have said previously they expected private dollars to fund the visitor center.


Kansas Governor Modifies Order Related to Drought

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has revised an executive order making it easier for drought-stricken livestock producers to get hay to their animals. Thursday's order replaces one Brownback issued in late July waiving some rules for trucks on Kansas roads. The order suspends requirements for registration and fuel tax permits from the state Revenue Department. It also suspends several regulations of the Kansas Corporation Commission. Brownback says the goal is to make it easier to deliver hay to livestock in places where drought has damaged or destroyed pastures and silage crops. Brownback also announced that Marshall County has been declared a federal natural disaster area, bringing all 105 Kansas counties under federal designation.


Judge Nixes Bonuses for Top Hawker Beechcraft Execs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A bankruptcy judge has nixed a proposal to give eight top Hawker Beechcraft executives up to $5.3 million in bonuses. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stuart Bernstein handed down on Friday his finding that the bonus plan sets the bar too low to qualify as anything other than a retention program for insiders. Bernstein said nothing in his opinion is meant to denigrate their efforts or minimize their contributions to the success of the bankruptcy case. But he ruled the plan does not meet legal standards setting challenging goals for such bonuses. The judge said he rejected the plan because executives would likely earn bonus pay merely by remaining at their jobs. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had opposed it, as did the U.S. Justice Department's bankruptcy watchdog agency.


Hawker Beechcraft Union Approves Pension Changes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Machinists at Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita have voted to freeze their pension plan amid fears of losing it during the aircraft maker's bankruptcy restructuring. Union officials say 97 percent of members voting Friday supported a proposal that retains pensions for hourly employees and retirees while freezing future accruals starting December 31. It also creates a new retirement income savings plan and retains a 401(k) plan. Union spokesman Frank Larkin says negotiations are especially complicated when one party is in bankruptcy. He says the company has assured the union that if the changes were ratified, the plan would become part of any sales agreement. The bankruptcy court must still approve the contract changes.

Kansas Slaughterhouse Settles Class-Action Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A class-action lawsuit by workers at a south-central Kansas slaughterhouse has been settled in mediation. No details of the settlement in the case against Creekstone Farms Premium Beef are included in a notice filed Thursday in court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an estimated 700 workers at the Arkansas City (ar-KAN'-zuhs) City packing plant over so-called "gang time" compensation. The practice pays employees only when product is moving, plus 10 minutes for putting on and removing protective gear. The workers also claimed the company wasn't paying for all the time they worked. Creekstone contended it paid employees for all time worked, including overtime. The litigation had been granted conditional class-action status in February.


Kansas Justices Overturn Conviction in Sheriff Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has overturned the capital murder conviction and ordered a new trial for the man sentenced to death for killing a Greenwood County sheriff in 2005. The unanimous ruling on Friday sends back the case of Scott Cheever, who was convicted in October 2007 for the shooting death of Sheriff Matt Samuels when the officer was serving a warrant at a rural home where meth was made. The justices ruled that Cheever's constitutional rights were violated when a psychiatrist disclosed Cheever's psychological records during the trial without his consent. The testimony was based on Cheever's evaluations when the case was in federal court before it was remanded to state court. Cheever's conviction for manufacturing of methamphetamines and criminal possession of a firearm were upheld.


19 West Nile Virus Cases, 1 Death Reported in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials have received their first report of a death from West Nile virus. In a report Friday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the state has had 19 probably or confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus this year. KDHE did not provide details on the fatal case. Spokeswoman Miranda Steele says officials can't recall any other West Nile deaths in Kansas since the virus was first reported in the state in 1999. Twelve of this year's cases were cases reported in Sedgwick County, with the rest throughout the state. West Nile virus causes only mild illness in most people, but it can become serious, with permanent neruological effects. 


Fake Kansas Bail Bondsman Scams Family

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A sheriff's office in Wyandotte County is looking for a man pretending to be a bail bondsman. Authorities say the man took $1,500 last month from a family trying to bond a relative out of the county jail. The theft took place on July 26 at the Wyandotte County Courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas. Officials say the victims of the scam believed the man was a legitimate bail bondsman and gave him the cash. A surveillance photo released Friday shows an adult white male who was wearing a collared shirt and metal-rimmed sunglasses.


Judge Denies Lower Bond in Topeka Slaying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County judge refused to lower the $1 million bond for a suspect in a Topeka slaying whose first murder trial ended in a hung jury. An attorney for 18-year-old Daquan D. Wilkins of Topeka argued Thursday that Wilkins's bond should be lowered because he was not directly involved in the shooting death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson. Wilkins also was charged with aggravated battery in the shooting of Gibson's partner, Lori Allison. The two women were shot as they arrived at their home in July 2011. Wilkins was one of nine people charged in the shootings. District Judge David Debenham declined to lower the bond after prosecutors said Wilkins was a danger to the community. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Wilkins's second trial is scheduled to begin November 5.


Leavenworth Man Dies After Moped Hit by Car

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 61-year-old Leavenworth man died when the moped he was riding was hit by a car. Leavenworth police say the accident happened early Friday near the entrance of a Home Depot store in Leavenworth. The man's identity has not been released and police continue to investigate the crash.


DA: Wichita Police Justified in Fatal Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor says Wichita police were justified in last year's shooting death of a robbery suspect at a Dollar General store. Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston released her report Friday on the killing of 27-year-old DeJuan Colbert. Three officers responded to a robbery in progress at the store the night of October 30, 2011. The officers reported seeing three men armed with knives and wearing bandanas. Foulston's report says Colbert raised a steak knife and charged at the officers. All three officers opened fire. An autopsy found Colbert was shot 15 times. Foulston says Colbert's actions posed a "deadly and imminent threat" to police and civilians in the store. The other two suspects were arrested without incident. 


Salina Ordinance Opponents Get Petition Certified

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County Clerk says opponents of a Salina ordinance prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity gathered enough signatures to have the issue reconsidered. Saline County Clerk Don Merriman on Thursday certified that the opponents collected more than the number of signatures required to have the issue returned to the city commission. An ordinance protecting people from discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity went into effect June 4. The Salina Journal reports the petition will go before the city commission in the next 20 days. If commissioners reject it, the repeal effort will go before voters in the next 90 days.


Hutchinson Voters to Face Conflicting Petitions

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson voters are likely to face dueling questions on whether to repeal or expand a law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Reno County Clerk's office has certified that petitions submitted last week by opponents and supporters of the ordinance each had sufficient valid signatures. One petition seeks to repeal an ordinance passed by the city council in June. Supporters want to expand the limited protections included in the ordinance. Hutchinson City Manager John Deardoff says the City Council will consider the petitions September 4. The council can either adopt the conflicting changes or agree to put the issue to a public vote within another 90 days. The Hutchinson Daily News reports the timeline would allow the issue to be on the November general election ballot.

Fire in SE Kansas Scorches More Than 3 Square Miles

FREDONIA, Kan. (AP) — One of the biggest grass fires to hit Kansas in the current spell of dry, windy weather has burned more than three square miles in the southeast. Wilson County Emergency Manager Terry Lyons says the agency was alerted around 2:30 pm Thursday to hay bales and a field on fire south of Fredonia. Firefighters from several departments responded. The flames spread north over more than 1,900 acres before the fire was mostly contained around 6:30 pm. Some areas were expected to burn at least into Friday. Firefighters were able to protect houses, but several outbuildings were destroyed and pipelines from the many oil and gas wells in the area were damaged. Authorities said at least two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known.

Suspicious Item Empties Dodge City Library

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old man has been arrested after comments he made led to the evacuation of Dodge City's public library. Authorities emptied the library Thursday morning after staff members heard the man making alarming statements. A bomb squad was called in to inspect a suspicious package he left behind. KWCH-TV reports officers determined the package did not contain anything hazardous. The man was questioned and later arrested on suspicion of making an aggravated criminal threat. Authorities said library employees called police after hearing the man talking on a pay phone and making a reference to an explosive device going off in 15 minutes. Nearby streets were closed to traffic during the investigation.


NM Man Arrested in Vast Child Porn Network Linked to KS Man

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico man has been charged in a massive child porn investigation that started in Massachusetts and has led to 46 arrests in seven countries. Sixty-seven-year-old Richard Dates of Grants, New Mexico, made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on Friday. The reporter and copy editor for the Cibola Beacon newspaper told the judge he is on Social Security and cannot afford to pay for an attorney. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday for a preliminary hearing and a bail hearing. In documents filed in federal court Friday, authorities said searches of computers owned by a Massachusetts man and a Kansas man arrested earlier this year showed Dates had chatted online with the men and received photos of children engaged in sexual acts.

DA Exposes Obstacle to Kansas Meetings Complaints

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An investigation into Republican Governor Sam Brownback's private dinners with lawmakers has exposed a problem that could prevent future open meetings complaints against the Kansas Legislature. A report from Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor notes the Kansas Open Meetings Act requires government bodies to give notice of their meetings only to people or organizations requesting it in advance. If people don't ask, they can't complain about not being notified. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Thursday that the Legislature does not have a way to file requests to be notified of meetings that occur during its annual 90-day session. Brownback had seven private dinners for members of 13 legislative committees in January at Cedar Crest, his official residence. Taylor concluded legislators committed technical violations of the open meetings law.

Wichita Anti-Fluoride Group Seeks Debate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita group opposed to adding fluoride to city water is challenging fluoride supporters to a televised debate ahead of a November vote. The Wichita Eagle reports the group Pure Water for Wichita issued the challenge to Wichitans for Healthy Teeth. The debate is proposed for October 17, about three weeks before the election. Pure Water spokeswoman Ann Garvey says she's hoping for an open and frank discussion about fluoride. A spokesman for Wichitans for Healthy Teeth said it had not yet received the challenge. The Wichita City Council this week decided to put the question on the city's November ballot. Proponents of fluoridation believe it helps prevent tooth decay. Opponents contend fluoride can cause health problems, and forcing citizens to use it is a violation of individual freedoms.

Jamaican Immigrant Convicted in Sham Marriage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury has convicted a Jamaican woman of entering into a "sham marriage" with a Kansas soldier so she could get legal immigration status. Twenty-eight-year-old Shannakay Hunter count get up to five years imprisonment on each count of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and lying to the government. The current New York resident is likely to get far less under sentencing guidelines. The government contends her 2010 marriage to former Fort Riley soldier Joshua Priest was a fake arrangement to give her a green card and him $1,500 in extra monthly benefits for married soldiers. Priest has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and wire fraud in a deal with the government for leniency in exchange for his testimony against Hunter.


Construction Blamed for Fire at KU Fraternity

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Investigators in Lawrence say construction work touched off a fire at a fraternity house near the University of Kansas campus. No injuries were reported from the fire Wednesday afternoon at the Sigma Chi Fraternity, which is home to 82 students. The Lawrence Journal-World reports investigators concluded Thursday the fire was accidental and started with construction work being done on the building's exterior. The first sign was smoke coming from the roof. Damage is estimated at more than $150,000. Fraternity members were allowed to return to the house Wednesday night, although four of them had to move out of damaged rooms.


KU Linebacker Shelby Leaves Football Program

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas linebacker Jon Shelby has left the program for what coach Charlie Weis described as personal reasons. Shelby was a late addition to Weis's first recruiting class at Kansas. He had spent the past two seasons at Nassau Community College in New York, helping lead the Lions to 19-2 record. Shelby made 82 tackles in 21 games. Weis also said in a statement that defensive tackle Ty McKinney plans to finish his requirements at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas on September 7. That would allow him to report to KU in time to enroll for the fall semester. Weis said that once McKinney's academic situation is in order, he'll get up to speed with the Jayhawks. KU opens the season September 1 against South Dakota State.

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