Headlines for Friday, October 16, 2015
Kansas Gas Service Fined $7K
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state agency has fined Kansas Gas Service $7,000 over problems with locating underground gas lines. The Kansas Corporation Commission originally approved $14,000 in penalties related to incidents in the Kansas City area, but cut the amount in half after KGS sought reconsideration. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports gas utilities must provide accurate information about where lines are within two days because of dangers if a line is struck and natural gas is released. KCC staff reported finding 149 instances of noncompliance related to KGS in the past two years. The utility attributes the problems to an unusually high number of requests to locate gas lines in Johnson and Wyandotte counties, and said work laying fiber-optic cables drove that increase. KGS also says it's made changes to address the problem.
Kansas Governor Works on Program to Provide Mentors for Poor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says his administration is working on developing a new program to provide volunteer mentors to poor Kansas residents receiving social services from the state. Brownback said Thursday that the discussions he's having with Department for Children and Families officials are inspired by successes seen with programs that provide mentors for adult prison inmates and juvenile offenders. The Republican governor had a Statehouse news conference to promote the mentoring programs and urge more Kansans to volunteer. His news conference was the last of four events across the state this week with retiring Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts to promote programs aimed at helping ex-offenders succeed after they're released from custody. Brownback said he has no timetable for unveiling details of a new mentoring program for the poor.
Moran Re-Files Campaign Finance Report
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran's campaign has re-filed a campaign finance report after a Kansas woman found more than 200 pages missing from a federal website. The Wichita Eagle reports Moran's campaign found out Thursday that more than 200 pages of its July quarterly fundraising report was missing from the Federal Election Commission's website. The campaign re-filed the FEC report Thursday and released the missing pages to the newspaper. Debbie Nuss, former Manhattan chapter president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, complained to the FEC, saying Moran, a Republican, didn't disclose an itemized report of campaign expenditures. Moran's campaign says it's still unclear why the pages were missing from the FEC website. Among other things, the pages show Moran has received $3,000 from defense contractor Lockheed Martin's political action committee.
Statistician Garners Support for Suit over Voting Machines
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita mathematician seeking to audit voting machine tapes after finding statistical anomalies in election counts is getting legal and other support in pursuing her lawsuit. Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson had been pursuing the case herself, but now has a Wichita lawyer representing her. Other people have set up a non-profit foundation for donations. A Sedgwick County judge is expected to set filing deadlines and a trial date at a Monday hearing. Clarkson has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate "a statistically significant" pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct. The pattern could indicate election fraud. Her attorney, Randy Rathbun, says Clarkson convinced him that she is right, and somebody needed to help her.
Colorado Prosecutor Plans No Charges Against Kansas Voter
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Colorado prosecutor says her office does not plan to file any charges against a man who allegedly voted in Kansas after doing so Colorado. Yuma County District Attorney Brittny Lewton said Friday that Lincoln L. Wilson did not commit perjury or voter fraud because he voted first in Colorado. She says it did not become fraud until he went to Kansas several days later and cast a second ballot, and any perjury and double voting occurred in Kansas. Lewton says her office conducted an investigation, and sent Kansas its findings. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has filed 10 criminal charges, including three felony counts, in Sherman County against the 64-year-old voter. Wilson allegedly voted in both Kansas and Colorado in the same elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Kansas Supreme Court Suspends Topeka Attorney's Law License
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended a Topeka attorney's law license. The state's high court handed down on Friday a more severe penalty against Wendell Betts than the two-year suspension recommended by a disciplinary panel. The effective date was made retroactive to the September 2013 date an administrative hearing. The Supreme Court said that given Betts disciplinary record and his current problems, a more severe discipline than recommended by the panel should be imposed. A disciplinary panel found Betts had been previously disciplined on five occasions, and had engaged in a pattern of criminal misconduct and abuse of alcohol and use of illegal drugs. Betts could eventually petition for reinstatement, but would be required to establish he has complied with certain conditions, such as abstinence from alcohol and drugs.
Kansas Poised to Lead in Emerging Field of Drones
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is trying to position itself as an industry leader in the emerging field of unmanned aerial system. The state is building on the framework already in place as an aviation manufacturing cluster and in its technology-driven agricultural sector. Major Kansas universities are doing cutting-edge research on drones and training the skilled workforce needed to support it. On Thursday, industry and business leaders gathered in Wichita for a UAS summit that marked the culmination of a series of workshops this year on the use of the technology. Joel Anderson, the development director at Kansas State University's office, says the industry is going to have a huge impact in Kansas. Part of that is driven by precision agriculture which uses data is used to pinpoint fertilizer and water needs within fields.
Survey Again Suggests Rural Economic Slowdown in 10 States
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A third consecutive overall index drop in a monthly rural bankers survey suggests an economic slowdown is ahead for rural parts of 10 Western and Plains states. The Rural Mainstreet Index sank to 44.4 this month from 49.0 in September and 50.0 in August. The overall index is computed from various economic category scores, and survey organizers say any score below 50 suggests that factor will decline. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the overall index reflects "weakness stemming from lower agriculture and energy commodity prices and from downturns in manufacturing exports." Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Kansas May Face $42 Million Payout in Corporate Tax Dispute
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas may have to pay $42 million to a former Pizza Hut franchise operation owner over his challenge of a tax bill. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Gene Bicknell has battled the state since Kansas said he owed $42 million based on his 2006 sale of NPC International, which has hundreds of Pizza Hut franchises. The Kansas Court of Tax Appeals determined Bicknell was a Kansas resident and owed the money. Bicknell says he was living in Florida, but paid the $42 million and appealed. The Kansas Court of Appeals said recently the tax appeals court ignored state regulations, sending the case back to the tax appeals court. A $42-million state payout could affect the state's finances because the state's taken in about $42 million less in revenue than expected.
Assistant Professor Files Lawsuit Against Emporia State
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An assistant professor who has accused Emporia State University of racial discrimination has filed a federal lawsuit, accusing the school of defamation and invasion of privacy. Melvin Hale filed the lawsuit Wednesday. He and his wife, Angelica, who are black, have been embroiled in confrontation with the university since April, when someone left a note with a racial slur in the office of Angelica Hale's graduate assistant. They allege the dean of School of Library and Information Management did not investigate the incident and retaliated against them for complaining. In September, the university said an investigation found no evidence of a hate crime or racial discrimination. Melvin Hale alleges those findings damaged his reputation and portrayed him as a liar. The university said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Investigators on Scene of Fatal Kansas City Fire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal and local crews are helping determine the cause of a Kansas City building fire where two firefighters died. Firefighters Larry J. Leggio and John V. Mesh died after the east wall of the building collapsed Monday night while firefighters were battling the blaze. Before the collapse, firefighters rescued tenants from the half-block-long building. Federal and local investigators have been on the scene this week, looking for clues into the origin of the fire. On Thursday, they scoured the debris with hand-held shovels, garden rakes and a claw-equipped construction excavator. The Kansas City Star reports that investigators also used cadaver dogs to search the debris. Although officials believe all of the building occupants escaped, transients or homeless people have occasionally been reported outside the building.
Man Pleads Guilty in Threats Against Wichita Courthouse
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old man accused of threatening to storm the Sedgwick County Courthouse and kill law enforcement officers has pleaded guilty. Samuel McCrory pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of criminal threat and three counts of criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon as part of a plea agreement. He was also ordered to surrender his guns and to enter an anger management program. Prosecutors say McCrory posted the threats on July 30 on Facebook in reference to the trial of Kyler Carriker. McCrory is scheduled to be sentenced December 1.
Man, 80, Pleads Guilty in KS Pot Bust
BOSTON (AP) — An 80-year-old man has pleaded guilty to running a massive marijuana-dealing and money-laundering operation.The Boston Globe reports that Marshall Dion is scheduled to be sentenced on February 11 after pleading guilty Thursday under an agreement with prosecutors. He faces up to seven years in prison. Police pulled Dion over for speeding in Junction City, Kansas, in 2013 and searched his pickup truck, finding nearly $850,000. Investigators later found $2 million in a bank account, $880,000 in an Arizona building and nearly 400 pounds of marijuana and $11 million at a storage facility in North Reading, Massachusetts. Prosecutors said Dion sold about 6,600 to 22,000 pounds of marijuana dating back to 1992. Dion maintains police searched his truck unconstitutionally and is appealing. His lawyer says he is embracing his responsibility.
Pedestrian, 62, Killed Near Garden Plain
GARDEN PLAIN, Kan. (AP) — A 62-year-old woman has died after she was struck by a vehicle in Sedgwick County. The Wichita Eagle reports the woman was walking along a rural Sedgwick County road early Friday when she was hit. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says the accident happened at a gravel intersection between Garden Plain and Cheney. The victim's name was not released. The sheriff's office says the driver stayed on the scene and has been cooperative. Investigators are looking into where the victim was walking on the road at the time of the accident.
Police: Man Fatally Shot in Car in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man was shot to death in a moving vehicle in Wichita. According to Lieutenant James Espinoza, the victim and two suspects were passengers in a car being driven by a woman Thursday afternoon. Espinoza said police believe the victim was sitting in the front seat and the suspects were sitting in the back when the suspects shot the victim. The victim, whose identity has not been released, was taken to Wesley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The suspects fled the scene, and were considered armed and extremely dangerous. They have since been apprehended by police. The woman driving the vehicle was not injured and is being interviewed by police.
Parole Denied for Kansas Man Convicted in Child's Death
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state parole board has denied parole to a 40-year-old man convicted of killing a Topeka toddler in 1995. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Prisoner Review Board has denied release to Glenn Allen Heath, and won't consider parole for him again until October 2018. Heath was convicted of first-degree murder in the October 1995 beating death of 2-year-old Cain Baker. He's serving a life sentence at the Lansing Correctional Facility. The prisoner review board considered Heath for parole once previously, in 2010, and passed him for consideration for five years. The Corrections Department says board members chose not to grant parole because of the serious nature and circumstances of Heath's crime, public objections to his potential parole and because he denies responsibility for the crime.
Wichita Man to Stand Trial in Woman's Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County judge has ruled that a Wichita man will stand trial in the death of a 27-year-old woman. Marvin Lee Gray Jr. is charged in the death of Ciera Ray, whose body was found in her home June 25. Ray's 3-year-old daughter was found unharmed inside the home. The Wichita Eagle reports that an autopsy report documented 37 stab wounds on Ray's body. After hearing nearly three hours of testimony during Gray's preliminary hearing Thursday, Sedgwick County District Court Judge Jeffrey Goering ruled there was enough evidence to try Gray on charges of first-degree premeditated murder, aggravated burglary, rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. Gray pleaded not guilty to the charges after Goering's ruling. Gray's scheduled for a jury trial November 9.
Royals Host ALCS Opener
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals host the Toronto Blue Jays in the start of the American League Championship series tonight (FRI) at Kauffman Stadium. The defending American League-champion Royals will start Edinson Volquez, who angered the Toronto players in a game earlier this season with his inside pitching. Toronto counters with Marco Estrada in the opener of the best-of-seven series.