Headlines for Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Budget Controversy Continues as Kansas Budget Director's Email Access Draws Scrutiny
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Records show the Kansas budget director had access to his state email during a holiday last year when he also sent a policy document on a personal email account. The Wichita Eagle reports records show Budget Director Shawn Sullivan had access to his state email around Christmas 2014 when he used his private account to email a draft of the governor's budget and tax plan to two lobbyists. When Sullivan was asked earlier why he used private email for that purpose, he said it was because he was home. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley responded for Sullivan, saying Sullivan used a private email to send the budget information because his work phone didn't support more involved emails, and that Sullivan now uses a work laptop for sending such out-of-office messages.
New Kansas Statehouse Power Plant Costs to Exceed Expectations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials say a new power plant for the Kansas Statehouse and nearby office buildings will cost $3.3 million more than previously expected. The disclosure Tuesday to a legislative committee prompted Republican Representative Mark Hutton of Wichita to ask Department of Administration officials to re-examine their plans for the new plant. Department official Mark McGivern said the previous estimate was $13 million and is now $16.3 million. The department plans to build the new plant on the site of a parking lot north of the Statehouse. The existing plant is at the Docking State Office Building west of the Statehouse. The department plans to demolish the Docking building after building the new plant. McGivern said savings on demolition costs would offset part of the extra costs from the new plant.
Former Attorney General Sues Kansas Supreme Court Justices
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has filed a federal lawsuit against the Kansas Supreme Court justices and others related to the suspension of his law license over his investigations of abortion providers. His attorneys contend in a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Kansas that the court enhanced Kline's punishment because of his "fervid beliefs" against abortion. The lawsuit also contends the court selectively applied rules governing attorney conduct. The Kansas Supreme Court sanctioned Kline's law license in October 2013. The court found that as attorney general and as Johnson County prosecutor, Kline misled judges and a Kansas City-area grand jury to further his investigations against a Wichita abortion doctor and an Overland Park Planned Parenthood clinic. The court didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Judge Sets March Bench Trial in Lawsuit over Voting Machines
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The lawsuit filed by a Wichita mathematician seeking voting machine tapes after finding statistical anomalies in election counts is set to go to trial early next year. A scheduling order issued Monday sets a one-day bench trial for March 22 to hear the open records case brought by Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson. Sedgwick County Judge Douglas Roth also set deadlines for motions and scheduled a January 14 pretrial conference. Clarkson wants the tapes to do a statistical model by checking the error rate on electronic voting machines used at a Sedgwick County voting station during the November 2014 general election. Top election officials for Kansas and Sedgwick County want the court to block the release of tapes, arguing they are not subject to the open records act.
Kansas Student Test Results Expected Soon
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Results from Kansas state assessment tests administered last spring are expected to be released to parents in the next few weeks. The student test reports will be distributed by school districts, and will show students' scores and how the scores compare to median scores for each school, district and the state as a whole. Beth Fultz, assistant director for assessments for the Kansas Department of Education, says the new tests were more difficult. Wichita Superintendent John Allison says the bar has been set very high, and while students' results may not be at the highest level initially, they could eventually get there.
Advocacy Group to Seek Sedgwick County Commissioner Recall
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An advocacy group has announced plans to try to recall a Sedgwick County commissioner who wants to prohibit people in the U.S. illegally from participating in a federal nutrition program in Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Immigration Advocacy Network announced Monday it'll seek to recall Sedgwick County Commission Chair Richard Ranzau over his positions on health care and immigration. Sandrine Lisk, director of advocacy for the group, says they'll apply within the week for a petition seeking Ranzau's recall. Ranzau sent a letter to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment recently asking that Kansas participants in the the federal food program called, Women, Infants and Children, be limited to "United States citizens, nationals and qualified aliens." Ranzau says a potential recall won't affect his positions on WIC.
University of Kansas Announces Investigative Office Director's Resignation
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has announced the resignation of the director of the office that investigates sexual violence reports on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Jane McQueeny has resigned from her job as director of the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access. Her last day was Friday. The office was created in 2012 to investigate reports of sexual violence and other discrimination on campus. The office also recommends disciplinary action when a student is found responsible for sexual misconduct. The university announced last week that it is creating the new Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, which will be devoted to preventing sexual violence on campus. The new center will also be the central coordinating office for the university's sexual assault prevention and education programming.
Juvenile Justice Reform Efforts Gain Momentum in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Efforts to reform the juvenile justice system in Kansas are gaining new momentum with the launch this week of a grassroots campaign. Kansans United for Youth Justice on Tuesday released a report outlining problems and proposing reforms. Kansas ranks eighth in the nation for its overuse for the confinement of youth even though the juvenile crime rate is lower than the national average. A series of community meetings are planned across the state beginning Tuesday in Overland Park. Similar events are planned in the coming days in Ottawa, Kansas City, Wichita and Garden City. The effort aims to end the practice of sending low and moderate risk youths to prison or out-of-home placements. It wants to shift funding away from incarceration and to local intensive rehabilitation programs.
Officials: Wichita State University Student Found Dead
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a female student was found dead in her room on the Wichita State University campus. According to university spokesman Joe Kleinsasser, the student was found Monday evening and no foul play is suspected. The student's identity has not been released pending notification of her family. Wichita State University's police department and the Sedgwick County coroner are investigating the student's death.
K-State to Honor Marlin Fitzwater with Honorary Degree
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former presidential press secretary is receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Kansas State University. The school plans to give Marlin Fitzwater the degree during the December 11 graduate school commencement. He also will serve as the commencement speaker for the ceremony. Fitzwater majored in technical journalism at Kansas State. He graduated in 1965 and worked on newspapers including The Manhattan Mercury and The Topeka Capital-Journal. In Washington he worked in the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Transportation and the Treasury, before serving Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Kansas Farmers Near Finish of 2016 Winter Wheat Planting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are getting closer to finishing their planting of the 2016 winter wheat crop. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 82 percent of the wheat has now been planted. That is close to average at this point in the season. Meanwhile, another corn harvest is also nearing its end in Kansas. The agency reported 85 percent of the corn in the state has now been cut, ahead of average. Soybean harvest has hit the 51 percent mark, while sorghum harvest is 52 percent complete. Harvest of sunflowers is 26 percent done.
Mission Man, 59, Charged After Officers Hit with Car
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 59-year-old suburban Kansas City man faces charges accusing him of hitting two police officers with his car. The officers weren't seriously hurt in the incident Sunday in Overland Park. The Kansas City Star reports that Verton Tyrone Gee Sr. was charged in Johnson County District Court with theft and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. Police say two officers were knocked to the ground by a car Gee was driving when they tried to stop him from leaving a store where a theft had been reported. Gee's being held on $250,000 bond. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Gee.
Prosecutors to Target Human Trafficking, Money Laundering
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Top prosecutors from several U.S. states are looking to bolster relationships with their counterparts in Mexico to tackle a rise in human trafficking and money laundering. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says drug running and weapons smuggling continue to be dangers along the border, but organized crime is becoming more sophisticated and is seeing higher profits from human trafficking. Balderas joined attorneys general from Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Rhode Island and Kansas for a special gathering in Mexico City last week. A grant from the U.S. State Department funded the visit. The focus was on improving the sharing of information among law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border as well as more training for prosecutors. Balderas says Mexico will be a critical partner in the effort.
Great Bend Zoo Reports Death of 50-Year-Old Monkey
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — The Great Bend zoo's oldest resident, a 50-year-old spider monkey, has died. The Great Bend Tribune reports that the monkey, which was named Spidey, died Monday at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. Spider monkeys are expected to live about 20 years in the wild, but their life expectancy in captivity is about 40 years. The zoo acquired the monkey in 1965.
Man Injured After Handgun Goes Off in Salina Theater
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina theater was evacuated after a man apparently shot himself in the leg with his own concealed handgun. The Salina Journal reports that the theater was evacuated Friday after the handgun went off in the man's pocket, hitting him in the upper leg. Tim Coleman says he was sitting nearby when he heard a pop, smelled gunpowder and the man said "Oh my God! I shot myself." Coleman, an Army mechanic now with the Kansas National Guard, says first he checked to make sure his 14-year-old daughter and her friends were safe. He says people evacuated calmly, and several people called 911. Coleman fixed a tourniquet to stop the man's bleeding and made sure the weapon was secured. Police say no charges have been filed, and the man's injuries weren't life-threatening.
Jury Selection Underway in Wellington Murder Trial
WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Jury selection is underway in the murder trial of a Wellington woman. Lindsey Blansett is accused of stabbing her 10-year-old son Caleb to death at their home last December. A judge ruled in May that the woman was mentally competent to stand trial.
Toronto Bests Kansas City to Narrow League Championship Series Lead
TORONTO (AP) — Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson each homered in a six-run third inning, and Toronto's bats broke out at home for an 11-8 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night that trimmed the Blue Jays' deficit to 2-1 in the AL Championship Series. Ryan Goins also connected and had a two-run single, one game after his misplayed pop fly set off Kansas City's winning rally Sunday. Veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will try to get the Blue Jays even in the best-of-seven series Tuesday afternoon. He faces Kansas City's 6-foot-10 right-hander Chris Young in Game 4. In the first ALCS game in Toronto since 1993, Tulowitzki connected for a three-run shot off Johnny Cueto, and Donaldson hit a two-run drive off Kris Medlen as the Blue Jays hit their first home runs of the series. Cueto failed to retire a batter in the third inning, allowing eight runs and six hits in the worst postseason start of his career.