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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, August 21, 2012



UPDATE: Kansas DA Says Evidence Lacking on Governor's Events

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor says a lack of evidence from interviews with legislators prevented him from concluding that private meetings with Governor Sam Brownback resulted in substantial violations of the state's open meetings law. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said Tuesday that lawmakers committed technical violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act during seven dinner meetings with Brownback in January at Cedar Crest, the governor's official residence. Brownback held the gatherings for members of 13 legislative committees. Taylor told reporters during a news conference that Kansas courts generally won't impose sanctions or issue corrective orders over technical violations of the open meetings law. He said the lawmakers his office interviewed in investigating the meetings couldn't remember enough details for him to show that substantial violations had occurred.


Aide Says DA Confirms Kansas Governor's View of Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokeswoman for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says a prosecutor's report confirms the governor's position that private meetings with legislators did not violate the state's open meetings law. Spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said Tuesday that the report from Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor confirms that Brownback and his staff clearly understood the Kansas Open Meetings Act and took appropriate steps to prevent violations. Taylor's office investigated seven private dinners in January for members of 13 legislative committees at Cedar Crest, the governor's residence. His office's report said it found no substantive violations of the open meetings law. The report from Taylor's office said the governor and his staff were aware of the risks of violating the law and made some effort to prevent them.

Top Kansas Senator Not Surprised by Meetings Report

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler says he's not surprised by a prosecutor's finding that private meetings Governor Sam Brownback had with legislators didn't substantially violate the state's open meetings law.  The Lindsborg Republican also said Tuesday that he's not offended by Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor's criticism of the gatherings in January at Cedar Crest, the governor's residence.  A report Tuesday said that technical violations of the law may have occurred during the seven meetings and that many legislators have a limited understanding of the open meetings law.  Emler said it's good for lawmakers to be reminded regularly that the law requires them to be careful about having private meetings.  He attended one of the gatherings and said he saw nothing that violated the law.


Kansas Media Group Disappointed in Report on Events

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Press Association's executive director sees what he calls a hollow victory in a prosecutor's criticism of Governor Sam Brownback's private meetings with legislators at his official residence. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor concluded Tuesday that no substantive violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act occurred during the seven January gatherings at Cedar Crest. But Taylor's office said technical violations may have occurred. Brownback invited members of 13 legislative committees, more than 90 lawmakers in all. Press Association Executive Director Doug Anstaett says it's the kind of outcome that people who fight for open government have come to expect. Anstaett says Taylor is acknowledging problems but only urging lawmakers to get more training while admonishing them not to violate the law again.


Kansas Court to Stream Hearings Video Online

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will offer live, online video streaming of oral arguments beginning next week. The court has offered live audio streaming of arguments since 2004. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced the addition of video streaming Tuesday. Nuss says it's intended to make the judicial process more accessible to the public. He says the justices believe the service will also benefit schools, colleges and universities. The high court will hear arguments Monday through Friday next week from 9 am to noon. Nuss noted that the week's docket includes arguments August 31 on a case of broad public interest — a challenge by environmental groups to state permits for a proposed coal-fired power plant in southwestern Kansas.

AG Schmidt to Travel State Touting Anti-Gang Initiative

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt plans to tour the state this week to announce a new anti-gang initiative. The Wichita Eagle reports Schmidt will start his tour at 9 am Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas, followed by stops at 11:30 am in Topeka and 4 pm in Wichita. On Thursday he'll be in southwest Kansas, with stops in Dodge City at 9 am, Garden City at 11:30 am, and Liberal at 3 pm. Schmidt will conclude the tour Friday with a 9 am presentation at the Kansas Highway Patrol auditorium in Salina. All of the attorney general's appearances will be open to the public.

Basehor Pays $200K to Fired City Official

BASEHOR, Kan. (AP) — The city of Basehor will pay $200,000 to a former city administrator who was fired last year. The City Council on Monday also formally apologized to Mark Loughry for allegations of wrongdoing that were made by some council members when he was fired. The allegations were found to be false. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the settlement comes after Loughry said he planned to sue the city for defamation, breach of contract and due-process violations. None of the council members who voted to fire Loughry in September 2011 are on the council. Voters recalled two of them, along with Mayor Terry Hill. A third council member resigned after the recall. Loughry was hired last year as the finance director for Raytown, Missouri. Basehor has not hired a replacement for Loughry.


Lawrence Group Tries Again to Limit Underage Drinking

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — With a new school year beginning, a coalition in Lawrence is starting another campaign to convince underage students not to drink. A group called Draw the Line Lawrence Coalition discusses the consequences minors face when they get caught drinking. The coalition includes several area law enforcement agencies. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the group also stresses the importance of special patrols in bars, liquor stores and in neighborhoods. And they spread the word about recent prosecutions involving city and state drinking laws. The coalition, law enforcement and University of Kansas officials last week distributed "good neighbor" packets in the Oread neighborhood around the Lawrence campus and at apartment complexes. The packets discussed laws on noise and other issues.


PETA Threatens to Sue Kansas State Fair

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is threatening a free speech lawsuit against the Kansas State Fair over restrictions on its booth. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri and a Kansas City law firm have agreed to represent PETA in a potential federal suit. Attorneys have given fair officials until Thursday to rescind a demand that PETA shield passersby from any videos or pictures depicting animal slaughter. ACLU legal director Doug Bonney says this is an obvious ACLU case because the state fair is imposing a content-based restriction on PETA's speech that is blatantly unconstitutional. Fair manager Denny Stoecklein did not immediately return an email and phone message seeking comment.

Dueling Petitions Submitted on Hutch Anti-Discrimination Rule

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a new anti-discrimination ordinance in Hutchinson have presented dueling petitions to the county clerk. The Hutchinson City Council approved an ordinance June 5 that prohibits people from being fired or evicted because they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. The Hutchinson News reports that opponents seeking to repeal the ordinance delivered petitions to the clerk last Thursday. Supporters who are seeking to expand the protections submitted their petitions on Friday. The county clerk office has three business days to determine whether the petitions have enough signatures to require action by the Hutchinson City Council. If the petitions are certified, the council will have 20 days to adopt changes in the anti-discrimination ordinance or schedule a public vote within another 90 days.

4 Former Cadets to Join Kansas Military School Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate judge is allowing four more former cadets to join an abuse lawsuit against a Kansas military school. The decision Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale brings to 11 the number of plaintiffs in the lawsuit against St. John's Military School in Salina. Gale rejected a request to name the school's principal as a defendant. He also refused to allow a separate damage claim for alleged destruction of evidence. Among the new plaintiffs are a Colorado boy who was branded on his arm and a Texas boy allegedly beaten for not cleaning his room. A California boy claims he was swatted multiple times with a saber while taking a shower, and a Texas teen contends he was injured after strenuous physical training.

Topeka Police Say Man in Standoff Took Own Life

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say a standoff between officers and a suicidal man ended with the man taking his own life. WIBW-TV reports that police negotiators and the Police Department's special response team were called to a home on the city's east side around 8:30 pm Sunday. Police say an armed man was making suicidal threats and refusing to come outside. Police Department spokeswoman Kristen Veverka says the man fired shots through a window but didn't hit anyone. She says officers did not fire any shots. Officers said the standoff ended around 1 am Monday when the man shot himself in the chest. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Report: Kansas Crops Continue to Deteriorate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The state Agricultural Statistics Service says last week's scattered rainfall did little to stem the deterioration of parched crops throughout Kansas. A weekly survey released Monday showed every major crop rated in poor to very poor condition: corn at 72 percent, soybeans at 75 percent, and sorghum at 70 percent. The agency said it's the worst condition report for all three crops since data collections began in 1985. Farmers have cut 17 percent of their corn, well ahead of the 3 percent harvested at the same time last year. There was no good news for livestock producers, either. About 92 percent of range and pasture throughout Kansas was rated in poor to very poor condition. Supplies of stock water were short to very short across 74 percent of the state.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Golden Eagle

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man has pleaded guilty to killing a golden eagle while he was hunting coyote near Cedar Bluff Reservoir earlier this year. The U.S. Attorney's office says 35-year-old Chad Irvin, of La Crosse, entered the plea Tuesday in federal court in Wichita. He was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and assessed $8,000 in fines and restitution. Eagles are protected under federal law. Irvin admitted firing at the eagle twice after spotting it January 9 in Trego County. The injured bird was recovered and sent to the Great Bend zoo for veterinary care. Officials said the eagle's legs were paralyzed from the shooting, and it had to be euthanized. Irvin's sentence also includes three years of probation, during which he's barred from hunting, fishing, trapping and guiding.


Ex-Soldier Testifies Kansas Marriage Was Fraudulent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Fort Riley soldier has testified he was in a financial bind when he married a Jamaican immigrant so he could get more money from the military and she could get her green card. The testimony came Tuesday in the federal trial of 28-year-old Shannakay Hunter in Wichita. Hunter, who lives in Bronx, New York, is charged with conspiracy, marriage fraud and making a false statement to the government. Joshua Priest was an Army private stationed at Fort Riley when he and Hunter married in 2010. He has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Prosecutors say the marriage was never consummated. The defense attacked the credibility of Priest's testimony against Hunter, forcing him to admit numerous lies including some he made under oath.

Charter Schools Don't Owe Millions to KC District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appeals court has ruled that a trial judge erred in ordering charter schools to repay millions of dollars to the Kansas City school district. At issue in Tuesday's ruling was money diverted from Kansas City charter schools starting in 1999 when they opened and began luring students from the district. That money was used to help the Kansas City district pay off bonds that funded school construction and renovations mandated by a desegregation case. The withholdings temporarily stopped in 2005 after a state commission found the district didn't need the money to pay off the bonds. A federal judge ruled in 2006 that the withholdings could resume. The litigation centered on the $6.2 million the district was unable to collect over that one-year span.


Chiefs Linebacker Suspended for Violating NFL Substance Abuse Policy 

The Kansas City Chiefs will play their season opener without one of their best defensive players. Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali has been suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. That means he'll be on the sidelines as the Chiefs try to begin their season with a win against the Atlanta Falcons on September 9th. Hali is entering his seventh season with the Chiefs since being drafted out of Penn State in the first round of the 2006 draft. The Chiefs have not released any details about the nature or scope of Hali's violation.


DA Expected to Release Report on Kansas Governor's Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top aides say a Kansas prosecutor is preparing to report on his investigation of Governor Sam Brownback's private meetings with state legislators at his official residence. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has been studying whether the meetings at Cedar Crest violated the Kansas open meetings law. Aides to the Democratic prosecutor said they expect Taylor to report his findings Tuesday. Brownback, a Republican, held seven dinner meetings at Cedar Crest in January with members of 13 legislative committees. More than 90 lawmakers were invited, all but one a Republican. Many of the lawmakers have described the events as social gatherings, and Brownback has said he's confident the open meetings law wasn't violated. But he's also acknowledged that he scheduled them to discuss his legislative agenda.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 


DA Says Kansas Governor's Meetings Didn't Violate Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas prosecutor says there's no evidence to suggest that private dinners Governor Sam Brownback hosted for dozens of legislators at his official residence violated the state's open meetings law.  Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor issued his findings Tuesday after a nearly seven-month investigation into seven meetings in January involving members of 13 legislative committees -- almost all of them fellow Republicans.  Taylor, a Democrat, says his investigation found no substantial violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.  He says his investigation found that in some instances the legislators touched on issues before them at Cedar Crest gatherings, but that generally they did not intend to violate the act.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.


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