Headlines for Monday, January 25, 2016
Ethics Complaint Questions Legal Fees by Governor's Campaign
WICHTA, Kan. (AP) — A top lawmaker says he plans to file a complaint with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission seeking an investigation into Governor Sam Brownback's use of campaign donations to pay more than $167,000 in legal fees last year. The payments came as a federal grand jury was investigating loans his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, made to their 2014 re-election effort. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said Monday he also plans to ask the ethics panel for an advisory opinion on the legality of a candidate using campaign funds as collateral. Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for the governor's office, said in an email Monday speaking on behalf of Colyer that the campaign complied with all laws and regulations and that the investigation into the loans did not result in charges.
Efforts to Repeal Kansas Death Penalty May Be Stalled
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some lawmakers say efforts to repeal the Kansas death penalty may be stymied by the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding three Kansas death sentences. A bill repealing the death penalty in Kansas was introduced Friday in the House. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the measure would prohibit death sentences for any crimes committed after July 1st. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a Kansas Supreme Court ruling and upheld the death sentences of three convicted Kansas murderers, including Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who killed five people in 2000. A third death sentence was also upheld. Co-sponsors of the repeal say it may be hard for some to vote for repeal without appearing like they're letting the Carr brothers off the hook. The measure, however, wouldn't apply to the Carrs.
Kansas Secretary of State Pursuing 3 New Criminal Cases
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office is pursuing three new criminal cases against people it alleges voted illegally in Kansas and other states. Kobach told a Kansas House committee Monday of the new cases. His office has filed a total of six cases since legislators enacted a law last year to give it prosecutorial power. One new case is in Johnson County against Michael L. Hannum. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and said prosecutors' offices both places told him they weren't going to file cases. Another case is in Ellis County. Defendant Randall K. Kilian lives in Castle Rock, Colorado and said he said he knew nothing about it. A third new case is in Sedgwick County, and is against Ron R. Weems. He didn't return a telephone message seeking comment.
Kobach Seeks to Mandate Audits of Kansas Election Results
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach is proposing to have Kansas counties audit voting results immediately after the state's primary and general elections. Kobach outlined a measure Monday that would require all counties to manually audit 1 percent of their election returns, starting with state elections in 2018. The Kansas House Elections Committee agreed to sponsor his proposal as a bill. The Republican secretary of state said the measure is a response to calls for his office to allow private parties to audit election equipment. He said state law doesn't currently allow it. A Wichita State University mathematician sued the Sedgwick County election commissioner to gain access to voting machine tapes from November 2014 to research what she believes are statistical anomalies. A trial is set for March 22.
Kansas Regents Hope to Balance Interests in Guns-on-Campus Debate
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — As head of the governing board for the state of Kansas university system, Shane Bangerter figured the panel was in a no-win situation last week when faced with the need to adopt guidelines for how gun owners will be able to carry concealed firearms onto campuses and into some buildings next year. Opposition to the law permitting concealed carry has been fierce on the system's six campuses, largely on public safety grounds. That disapproval is counterbalanced by a Legislature that holds strong gun rights majorities in both the House and Senate, controls the universities' purse strings and has pushed to let gun owners carry their weapons as many places as possible. Wednesday's action by the board of regents drew approval from both sides. But the divide over guns at college is likely to continue simmering through July 2017, when the law passed in 2013 takes effect.
Kansas Bill Aims to Ban Discrimination Against Gun Dealers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate panel will consider a measure aimed at banning discrimination against gun dealers and manufacturers. The measure is similar to laws that prevent religious or racial discrimination and would allow gun dealers to sue when they feel discriminated against. The bill is scheduled to be heard Thursday by a Senate committee. Senator Jacob LaTurner says the measure was in response to a 2013 federal initiative aimed at preventing fraudulent businesses from using the banking system. The National Rifle Association and others say that initiative has encouraged banks to sever ties with businesses deemed high risk by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. But a recent FDIC audit found no instances where the FDIC pressured banks to decline services to a firearms dealer.
Sprint Cutting 2,500 Jobs and Closing Call Centers to Cut Costs
NEW YORK (AP) — Cellphone company Sprint is eliminating more jobs as it seeks to cut costs and turn around its business. Sprint spokesman Dave Tovar says the country's No. 4 wireless service provider has cut about 2,500 jobs since last fall, or about 8 percent of its workforce. Last week, it notified employees at six customer service centers around the country that it would be closing those locations or reducing the staff there. The latest round of layoffs follows 2,000 job cuts announced in November 2014. Shares of the Overland Park, Kansas-based company are down about 39 percent in the past 12 months. The stock dropped 9.6 percent to $2.60 in afternoon trading Monday.
Nearly 25 Percent of Wichita Schools Single Race
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Wichita school district says seven years after it ended mandatory busing, nearly a quarter of the district's 85 schools are considered single-race schools. Single-race schools have 60 percent or more of students of one race.The Wichita Eagle reports some schools in predominantly black neighborhoods lost the racial balance they achieved with busing. Minority student enrollment has dropped up to 40 percent in some schools in predominantly white neighborhoods, while some schools in mostly Hispanic neighborhoods have more than 95 percent Hispanic students. The Wichita district is spending millions every year to persuade families to enroll in certain schools. Superintendent John Allison says the district has a wide variety of schools and it is ultimately up to parents to decide which school their children will attend.
Topeka Schools Name New Superintendent
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The superintendent of a St. Louis area school district has been named to lead the Topeka school district. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Topeka Board of Education has voted to hire Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of the 2,600-student Jennings School District in a suburb of St. Louis. Anderson previously led the 10,000-student Montgomery County school district in Virginia. The Topeka Unified School District 501 has 30 schools and 14,000 students. School board president Patrick Woods said Anderson has had tremendous success elsewhere and USD 501's students will benefit from her expertise in curriculum and instruction. Anderson's contract includes base pay of $215,000 a year. She will be USD 501's seventh superintendent since 2000.
Kansas Lawmakers Seek Answers on Computer System Delays
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers seeking assurances about the computerized system that determines eligibility for social service and Medicaid programs were told it's unclear when the system will begin working. A recent audit showed the Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System is more than two years behind schedule and set to exceed its original budget by at least $46 million. Lawmakers focused on the social services budget met recently to evaluate an audit of the system. Representative Stephanie Clayton asked Glen Yancey, chief information officer at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, how long it will take for the KEES system to come online. Yancey said he didn't know but he could provide an estimate in three months. Yancey has cited changing federal requirements as a partial explanation for delays.
Indicted Wichita Doctor Had Been Picked for Jail Medical Job
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita doctor charged in federal court with unlawfully distributing prescription drugs had been selected to be a jail medical director. Wichita attorney Kurt Kerns says Dr. Steven R. Henson had the job lined up at the Sedgwick County Jail, but that the offer was terminated upon his arrest. The Wichita Eagle reports that Henson was supposed to start the job soon. The 54-year-old is accused of writing prescriptions for cash, when there wasn't a medical need and for people other than the ones who came to see him. Federal prosecutors say the drug scheme resulted in the death of a patient in July. Henson has pleaded not guilty. Eight people who got prescriptions from the doctor also are charged with unlawful drug distribution.
Newton Police Seek Burglar Responsible for 16 Crimes
NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Newton police are urging residents to lock their doors as they search for a man suspected of at least 16 burglaries since mid-September. Police Lieutenant Scott Powell says the burglar always enters homes through open garage or sliding glass doors. He generally steals only cash and has been seen inside homes only three times. He is about 5-foot-8, 200 pounds and in his 50s or 60s, with shaggy gray hair and a scruffy gray beard. The Wichita Eagle reports the last burglary was January 7. During one burglary, the family was at home and confronted the man but he was able to get to a car and drive away. Powell says despite publicity of the crimes, officers still find between six and 15 garage doors open every night.
Lawrence Man Arrested After People in Haskell Dorm Room Threatened
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man has been taken into custody after authorities say he threatened several people with a knife in a university residence hall in Lawrence. Lawrence Police Department Sergeant Ted Bordman says the 23-year-old was arrested around 5 pm Sunday. Bordman says several people were threatened with a knife in a dorm room in a Haskell Indian Nations University residence hall. No one was injured. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the suspect was being held without bond in the Douglas County Jail on Sunday night. The suspect doesn't have any criminal history listed in Douglas County Court records or in the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Chinese Students on 2-Week Visit to Study Kansas Education
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A group of Chinese students is visiting Kansas as part of a two-week trip to experience American education and see some sites. The students from Shanghai Southwest Weiyu Middle School are studying at The Independent School in Wichita. Teacher Helen Huang Xujuan says the program might someday lead to a semester- or year-long exchange program between the Chinese middle school and Kansas schools. The Hutchinson News reports the students are staying with host families in Wichita. They visited the Comosphere in Hutchinson Saturday. The teacher says the students aren't sure what they will do after school but many may try to attend college in the U.S. The students will fly to Denver Friday before flying home to China.
Missouri Sues Closed Kansas City Charter School for $3.7M
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri attorney general's office is suing a closed Kansas City charter school for $3.7 million. The suit, filed Friday in Jackson County (Missouri) Circuit Court, alleges that Hope Academy was overpaid because it falsified and inflated student attendance. Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway announced previously that the school reported a 97 percent attendance rate when the actual rate was about 32 percent. The inflated attendance boosted the school's budget because charter schools, like traditional public schools, receive state funding based on student enrollment and attendance. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said the school "failed to live up to its promises in educating the children in its school." Hope Academy attorney Dana Cutler said she couldn't comment because the clients hadn't yet received the lawsuit.
Woman Pleads Not Guilty in 2 Kansas City Firefighter Deaths
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman has pleaded not guilty to six charges related to the deaths of two Kansas City firefighters. The Kansas City Star reports that Thu Hong Nguyen's attorney entered the pleas Monday on her behalf. She is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, arson, causing catastrophe and two counts of second-degree assault. Prosecutors allege Nguyen set fire in a nail salon on October 12. An investigator said in an affidavit that Nguyen owned the nail salon, while her attorney said she worked there. The blaze spread to a building housing several businesses and apartments. Firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh died when a wall collapsed on them. Two other firefighters were injured. Five businesses and 26 apartment residents were displaced. Nguyen is being held on $2 million cash bond.
Trial Begins for Men Accused of Shooting Wyandotte Deputy
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Jury selection is scheduled to get underway today (MON) in the trial of two men charged with trying to kill a Wyandotte County deputy sheriff. Deputy Scott Wood was shot seven times last March when three armed men tried to rob a convenience store where he had stopped after work. The Kansas City Star reports that 25-year-old Dyron King and 36-year-old Cecil Meggerson are charged with attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer. A third defendant, 19-year-old Charles Bowser, faces the same charge, but his trial has been delayed. The sheriff's office says Wood is still recovering from numerous gunshot wounds.
New Federal Data Shows Nearly 3 Percent Rise in Child Abuse
The number of U.S. children victimized by abuse and neglect increased by nearly 3 percent in the latest annual reporting period, according to new federal data. According to the report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the estimated number of victimized children in the 2014 fiscal year was 702,208 — up from 682,307 in 2013. The report estimated fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect at 1,580 — up from 1,530 in 2013. HHS said Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, had sought input from child welfare officials in states with the increases in reported abuse and neglect. According to Lopez, the officials cited substance abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence as factors contributing to the increased maltreatment.
Kansas State Professor Nominated for Grammys
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University professor has been nominated for two Grammy awards for his solo performance on an album with the Kansas City Chorale. Bryan Pinkall, assistant professor of music, and the Kansas City Chorale were nominated in the categories of Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Album for their album "Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil." The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the album was released last March and debuted at Number 1 on the Traditional Classical Billboard charts. Pinkall previously served as manager of performance operations and direction for the Emmy-winning 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony. He also managed the production of Pope Francis' Mass in Philadelphia in 2015.
Residents of Central Kansas Town Worried About Market Closing
ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) - A small central Kansas town is scrambling to find ways to respond when its only grocery store closes February 6. More than 200 people attended a town hall meeting Sunday to discuss the closing of a Dillon's Market store. St. John's Mayor Juliann Owens says the store was closing for financial reasons and because the small store can't be expanded. When the store closes, St. John residents will have to drive more than 25 miles to Great Bend or Pratt to reach a supermarket or 12 miles to a small grocery store in Stafford. For now, the city council is discussing funding for a bus to take people to the other towns for groceries.
Wichita State Battles Bed Bugs in Dorms
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University and a dormitory resident whose room is infested with bed bugs are at odds over who should pay an exterminator for a second round of treatments. Freshman Londyn Bobbitt says she first found bed bugs in November. KAKE-TV reportsthat her room was treated, but that she found the bugs again last week. The school began treating her room again Thursday but says she's responsible for the $800 bill. Wichita State housing director Scott Jensen says the pest control company is "very confident" that the bugs were eradicated. Bobbitt insists there's no way she brought the bed bugs back into her room. For now, Bobbitt says she'll continue sleeping on her desk while fighting the university.
Oklahoma Stays No. 1 in AP Poll; KU Ranked 4th
Oklahoma, despite losing to Iowa State last week, remains No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll. Unlike last week, when the Sooners were a unanimous No. 1, North Carolina is a close second. Oklahoma (16-2) received 36 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel on Monday, seven more than the Tar Heels (18-2), who remained second. Iowa jumped from ninth to third. That's the Hawkeyes' highest ranking since January 1987. They were followed by Kansas and Texas A&M, which sits at its highest ranking ever. Villanova, Xavier, Maryland, West Virginia and Providence round out the Top Ten.