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Regional Headlines for Thursday, March 22, 2012



Kansas DA'S Probe of Private Legislative Meetings Likely to Stretch into April

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A spokesman says a northeast Kansas prosecutor's investigation into private meetings of Republican legislators with Governor Sam Brownback is likely to continue into next month. Lee McGowan, chief of staff to Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, said Thursday that Taylor's staff is still interviewing some of the 90-plus lawmakers invited to seven meetings in January at the governor's residence. Taylor, a Democrat, launched his investigation in February. Brownback, a Republican, met with GOP members of 13 legislative committees, but spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said Brownback is confident the gatherings didn't violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Many lawmakers who attended the events said they were social gatherings, not business meetings. The Kansas attorney general's office also confirmed Thursday that it is providing legal representation to lawmakers who request it.


KS House Panel Prepares to Discuss Immigration Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A committee in the Kansas House expects to debate proposals next week for cracking down on illegal immigration.  Chairman Steve Brunk, a Bel Aire Republican, says the Federal and State Affairs Committee will take up immigration issues on Monday.  Brunk said the panel will start with a proposal to require government contractors to check the immigration status of their workers using the federal E-Verify database.  Also before the committee are bills making it a crime to knowingly harbor an illegal immigrant; requiring applicants for government assistance to prove they're in the U.S. legally; and directing law enforcement officers to check the status of some people they stop.  Meanwhile, business groups are promoting a bill to create a program for placing illegal immigrants in hard-to-fill jobs.


KS Senate Delays Vote on Redistricting Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bitter split among majority Republicans has prompted the Kansas Senate to delay a vote on a bill redrawing the boundaries of its 40 districts.  The Senate spent three hours yesterday (WED) debating a redistricting plan favored by the chamber's moderate GOP leaders. Legislators must redraw their districts this year to account for changes in the state's population over the past decade.  Conservative Republicans believed the proposal favored GOP moderates facing challenges in the August party primary elections. Conservatives blocked a vote, and the Senate returned the measure to committee.  The plan put four conservative Senate candidates in districts with other conservatives, rather than with moderate incumbents they want to challenge. Backers of the plan said they drew the lines logically without worrying about where candidates live.


Kansas Losing 400 T-Mobile Call Center Jobs

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Northeastern Kansas is losing 400 jobs as T-Mobile closes some of its call centers around the country. The customer care call center in the Johnson County community of Lenexa is one of seven the company announced Thursday it will close by the end of June. T-Mobile says the employees will have the option of transferring to one of the 17 remaining centers. KMBC-TV reports the 400 Lenexa workers are among 980 T-Mobile employees in Kansas. The company's nearest remaining call centers are in Wichita and in Springfield, Missouri.


Ex-Mail Carrier Admits Not Delivering Kansas Mail

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 77-year-old former mail carrier has admitted in court that she failed to deliver thousands of pieces of mail on her 115-mile northeast Kansas route. Dixie Bontrager, of Whiting, pleaded guilty to mail theft Thursday in federal court in Topeka. Bontrager told The Associated Press last month she didn't believe she had stolen mail, but simply failed to deliver it. She also said that much of the undelivered mail consisted of advertising. In her plea deal, Bontrager admitted that agents searched four nonworking vehicles on her property in 2010 and found 496 first-class items and more than 2,700 standard mail items dating back to 2002. They also found periodicals and telephone books. Bontrager was fired from the Holton Post Office in November 2010 after 30 years on the job.


2nd Officer in Fixed Ticket Case Off Police Force

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A second Lawrence police officer suspended for allegedly fixing traffic tickets for a University of Kansas athletics department employee is off the job. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Police Chief Tarik Khatib confirmed the officer's departure Thursday but declined to give details. Lawrence officials have said another officer, who resigned last month, had a long friendship with the athletics employee and fixed at least six traffic tickets in exchange for Kansas basketball tickets. At least twice, that officer asked the second officer for help. The individual whose tickets were fixed is now in federal prison for his role in a broader ticket scandal in the athletics department. In all, seven people were convicted in the thefts of more than 17,000 Jayhawk basketball tickets and at least 2,000 football tickets.


UPDATE: Oklahoma Woman Convicted in 2002 Topeka Double Slaying 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Oklahoma woman has been convicted of fatally shooting her ex-husband and his fiancée as they slept in a Topeka duplex in 2002. A Shawnee County jury deliberated just 90 minutes Thursday afternoon before finding 52-year-old Dana L. Chandler, of Duncan, Oklahoma, guilty of two counts of premeditated first-degree murder. Prosecutors say Chandler was angry with her ex-husband, 47-year-old Mike Sisco. They said she drove to Topeka from Denver, where she lived at the time, after learning Sisco planned to marry 53-year-old Karen Harkness. The couple's bodies were found in a basement-level bedroom in Harkness's home. The defense described a lack of physical evidence as "overwhelming" and argued that police bungled the investigation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that sentencing was set for June 1.


Wounded Topeka Soldier Dies of Injuries

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A soldier who was left mostly paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan has died of his wounds, less than five weeks after he arrived home in Topeka.  Yesterday (WED) Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home in Topeka confirmed the death of 27-year-old Sergeant Jamie Jarboe.  Jarboe was stationed at Fort Riley in 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan in February 2011. He was on foot patrol there last April when a sniper's bullet penetrated his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.  The married father of two had more than 100 surgeries and was due for more after his February 17th return to a hero's welcome in Topeka.  Jarboe was a native of Frankfort, Indiana. He was assigned to 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division.


KS Democrats Keep Abortion Foe Off Caucus Ballot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Democratic Party has determined that anti-abortion activist Randall Terry is not a bona fide Democrat and won't be awarded any delegates from the party's April 14th Kansas caucuses.  The founder of Operation Rescue is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Yesterday (WED), Terry's supporters were setting up Kansas campaign headquarters in Wichita.  But Kansas Democratic Party attorney Joe Sandler says the party's delegate selection rules only recognize candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to the party's goals and objectives.  He says Terry also missed two state deadlines and submitted his application only a few days ago.  The state party issued a statement saying Terry's name won't be on the caucus ballot.  Terry says he meets legal and party requirements to be a candidate.


Topeka Made Offer of Settlement in Housing Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate's pretrial order shows that the Topeka housing manager rejected a settlement offer the city made late last year in a federal discrimination lawsuit she is pursuing.  The order also shows that Corrie Lynn Wright is seeking more than $397,500 in the case filed last July.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathryn Vratil issued the order Friday setting legal ground rules for the case and indicating it would go to a jury trial as scheduled August 27 in Topeka.  The lawsuit contends the city denied Wright a promotion she was promised. The city denies it discriminated or retaliated against Wright.  The pretrial order also said the city proposed a settlement for an undisclosed amount, but Wright rejected it and didn't counter with an offer.


Miami County Votes Against Contraceptive Funds

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — The Miami County Commission has decided once more to forgo government money for contraceptives.  Yesterday (WED), commissioners revisited an earlier decision not to seek the government contraceptive funds. About 75 people attended the meeting, and audience members spoke on both sides of the issue.  The Kansas City Star reports that the board voted 3-2 against taking the funds.  The commission also voted 3-2 earlier this month to delete about $9,000 from the county's annual grant request from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  The grant money has subsidized the cost of contraceptives for low-income women for years. Without the funds, about 150 to 160 women will be without that assistance after July 1.


KS Appeals Court to Hear Cases in Johnson County

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Judges from the Kansas Court of Appeals will travel to Overland Park next month to hear cases at Johnson County Community College.  The college says three-judge panels will hear arguments on cases from throughout the state on April 17 in the Nerman Museum for Contemporary Art. The public is invited to watch the sessions, scheduled from 9am to 11:30am and from 1pm to 3pm.  Appeals court members sit in three-person panels at locations across the state. Each panel typically takes up 30 appeals during a two-day period each month.

KCK Woman Accused of Leaving Kids in Car at Casino

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City, Kansas woman has been accused of leaving three children alone in a car in 40-degree weather while she gambled in a casino. WDAF-TV reports that Katrina Denise Roades is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Police said Roades left the children, ages 9, 8 and six months, in a parked car while she went into the casino on March 3. A security officer found one of the older girls wandering in the parking lot. The child led the officer to the family's car, where he found the other children. Police believe Roades was inside the casino for about an hour and a half. Roades also faces a trespassing charge because her name was on voluntary self-exclusion list designed as a tool for compulsive gamblers.

Teen Charged in Boy's Death Hospitalized

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas teenager who pleaded guilty in the death of his 9-year-old stepbrother has been referred to a psychiatric hospital. Ryan Velez of Assaria pleaded guilty in September to unintentional but reckless second-degree murder in the shooting death of his stepbrother, Kaden Harper. Velez had been certified to stand trial as an adult. The Salina Journal reported that Velez was referred to Larned State Hospital on Wednesday. His lawyer, Mitch Christians, said Larned is better equipped to deal with Velez's mental health needs than prison. A sentence report recommended Velez be admitted to Larned. His  maximum stay will be about 10 years, the maximum prison sentence he could have received. The Associated Press generally doesn't identify minors accused of crimes until they've pleaded guilty or been convicted as adults.


Wichita City Council Member Fined over Email Message

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has fined a Wichita City Council member for using his government computer to send an e-mail supporting a friend's campaign.  The commission fined Michael O'Donnell $500 this week.  O'Donnell had agreed to a consent decree acknowledging that his actions violated state ethics law.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the e-mail at issue was sent by O'Donnell to 39 people on October 4 during a council meeting. It was an invitation to a political fundraiser on behalf of his friend, state Sen. Garrett Love, a Republican from Montezuma.  On Wednesday, O'Donnell expressed contrition for violating the ethics law. His lawyer also contended O'Donnell had not been trained on what he could and could not do on his city-issued computer.


Event Features Free Entrance to KS State Parks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will hold open houses at state parks at the end of this month.  The free events are scheduled March 31 from 10am to 6pm at all state parks. The agency says the open houses will offer visitors a chance to see facilities and recreation opportunities.  Staff will also be demonstrating the department's new system for streamlining park reservations throughout the state. The Outdoor Reservation Management System goes online on April 17.


KS Hospitals Eligible for Medicaid Incentives

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Twenty-three Kansas hospitals will share more than $10 million in Medicaid incentive payments for moving toward electronic health records.  The Department of Health and Environment says the incentives will be distributed over three years, with the first payments being made today (THUR).  The hospitals are being rewarded for taking steps to improve medical coordination and improving services for patients.  Along with the hospitals, KDHE says 10 medical professionals will share about $212,000 for participating in the electronic records program.


SCL Health to Relocate from Lenexa to Denver Area

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The faith-based, nonprofit SCL Health System says it plans to move its headquarters from Lenexa to Colorado, creating 750 new jobs in the Denver area over the next four years.  The company says that of those jobs, 550 full-time positions will be in Broomfield, Colorado.  SCL Health System employs more than 8,000 people in Colorado.  The move puts headquarters employees closer to those facilities and to Denver International Airport.


Students Use Spring Break to Teach Senior Citizens

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita area students have been using their spring break to help others and that includes teaching senior citizens how to play video games. Students volunteered this week at the Andover Senior Center, where they helped residents master a Wii video game that mimics bowling. The center bought the video game system with a grant from the Butler County Department on Aging. Students from Maize, Goddard, Derby, Rose Hill and Wichita are making the trek to Andover this week to help out with the Wii training and spring cleaning at the senior center. The Wichita Eagle reports that nearly 300 area students are volunteering this spring break at 33 nonprofit organizations, and that they've also been helping out at a food pantry and at a shelter.


Garden City to Host Rail Summit

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City will host Amtrak and BNSF representatives next month for a discussion about the future of an Amtrak route that runs through the area.  City Manager Matt Allen told the Garden City Commission this week that the meeting is scheduled for April 10.  The Garden City Telegram reports that Allen said the objective of the summit is to discuss issues relating to the future of Amtrak's Southwest Chief, Amtrak's passenger rail route that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles daily, passing through Kansas.  Amtrak uses BNSF Railway lines. Because of dispute over rail maintenance, Amtrak is considering an alternate route that would go south from Newton through the Texas Panhandle to New Mexico.


Stockton Gets New, Regional Airport

STOCKTON, Kan. (AP) — A new, regional airport with a 5,000-foot runway is set to open next month in northwestern Kansas. Paving on the runway of Rooks County Regional Airport has been completed, and the opening is scheduled for April 5th. Rooks County officials say a parking lot and taxiway will be added, and construction of a hangar is also planned this summer.

Oklahoma Prosecutor Seeks Extradition of Kansas Inmate

JAY, Okla. (AP) _ The Delaware County, Oklahoma prosecutor filed paperwork this week to bring a Kansas inmate to Oklahoma to stand trial for the death of a woman who disappeared in 1996. John Lee Weeks is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 29-year-old Barbara Johnson-Willard, whose remains have not been found. The Oklahoman reports that prosecutors will have 120 days to begin the trial after Weeks is transferred to Oklahoma. Weeks is serving a 44-year sentence at a prison in Lansing on unrelated convictions of aggravated kidnapping, rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. Prosecutors say Weeks and Johnson-Willard were co-workers at Simmons Poultry Processing plant in Jay, Oklahoma. Prosecutor Eddie Wyant says he does not plan to seek the death penalty.


President Obama Says Congress Took Wrong Approach on Pipeline

CUSHING, Okla. (AP) _ President Barack Obama says Congress took the wrong option when it attempted to force quick approval of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. In a speech Thursday near the Cushing oil hub in Oklahoma, the president green-lighted the project from Oklahoma to Texas but said more reviews are needed before a pipeline is built over a Nebraska aquifer that provides irrigation and drinking water throughout the Great Plains. The president said Congressional politics nearly kept the country from making an informed decision about the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. He said Democrats and Republicans in Nebraska raised questions about whether the original pipeline route was wise and safe. He said the review exhibits "common sense." Obama says his administration will review future permit applications.


Jury Gets Case in Topeka Double Slaying Trial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have argued in closing arguments that an Oklahoma woman was so enraged that her ex-husband was remarrying that she killed him and his fiancée as they slept in a Topeka duplex. But an attorney for 52-year-old Dana L. Chandler of Duncan, Oklahoma countered Thursday that police bungled the investigation into the 2002 killings, describing the lack of evidence as "overwhelming." The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the case is now in the hands of jurors in Shawnee County District Court. Chandler is charged with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the 2002 slayings of Karen Harkness and 47-year-old Mike Sisco. They were found dead in Harkness's home. Chandler was arrested in Oklahoma last July. During the 13-day trial, jurors heard 100 witnesses and viewed more than 1,000 exhibits.

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