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Headlines for Friday, August 12, 2022



Kansas to Recount Abortion Vote by Hand, Despite Big Margin

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ elections director says the state will go along with a request for a hand recount of votes from every county after last week’s decisive statewide vote affirming abortion rights, even though there was a 165,000-vote difference and a recount won’t change the result. Melissa Leavitt, of Colby, declined to comment to reporters Friday evening about her request for a recount. Kansas law requires her to put up a bond to cover the cost. Also seeking a recount is state Sen. Caryn Tyson, who is trailing state Rep. Steven Johnson in the Republican primary for state treasurer by about 400 votes out of nearly 434,000 cast. She is asking for a hand recount in about half the state’s 105 counties.

(–Related –)

GOP Primary Race for Kansas State Treasurer Still too Close to Call

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - More than a week after the Kansas primary election... and the Republican race for State Treasurer is still too close to call. State Representative Steven Johnson leads state Senator Caryn Tyson in the race by only hundreds of votes. But about 20,000 provisional ballots have yet to be counted. Those votes could change the race. But the candidates are up against a deadline to request a recount. Whitney Tempel, with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, says the office has proposed changing state law to address the deadline discrepancy. “Examples help guide different legislation. So I think this will be a great example going forward when we work with the legislators," she said. The GOP winner of the State Treasurer's race will face incumbent Democrat Lynn Rogers in November.


Jury Convicts Kansas Veteran of Defrauding VA and Collecting $450,000 in Disability Benefits

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WIBW) - A federal jury has convicted a Kansas veteran of defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs by claiming he was disabled. According to court documents, 53-year-old Bruce Hay, of Greeley, an army veteran and former Osawatomie resident, fraudulently misrepresented his ailments in order to receive disability benefits. Hay claimed he could only walk with the use of a walker and could not engage in basic activities of daily living. WIBW TV reports that the VA initially ruled that Hay was completely disabled. But prosecutors used surveillance, photographs and testimony from others to demonstrate he had fabricated his injuries.  Officials say Hay, without any assistance, was engaged in residential construction, hunted deer and threw hay bales on the back of moving trucks. As a result of his disability claims, Hay received more than $450,000 in VA benefits. A jury found him guilty of six counts of wire fraud and 10 counts of theft of government funds. Hay faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled for October.


Ex-Employee Accused of Defrauding Kansas Foster Care Contractor

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The FBI says a former IT employee for a Kansas foster care contractor defrauded his employer out of $10.7 million.  The former employee is accused of defrauding St. Francis Ministries, a private contractor that provides foster care, adoption and other services for the state of Kansas. The Kansas News Service reports that court filings accuse Bill Whymark of exaggerating hourly wages, the number of people who worked on IT projects and how long the work lasted. Whymark says he is innocent, but the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas disputes that. Court filings say the FBI seized three bank accounts with $700,000 of money Whymark allegedly made from the scheme. No criminal charges have been filed.

(Additional reporting...)

Feds: Kansas Foster Care Contractor Defrauded of $10.7 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (TCJ) - The FBI says a former IT employee for a Kansas foster care contractor may have defrauded his employer out of $10.7 million.  The Topeka Capital Journal reports that federal law enforcement officers have seized bank accounts of the former employee.  The U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas alleges that William "Bill" Whymark and his company, WMK Research, defrauded Saint Francis Ministries out of millions of dollars. Saint Francis Ministries is a Salina-based religious organization that provides services in Kansas and other states.  Saint Francis is a contractor for the Kansas Department of Children and Families, providing foster care, adoption and other social services. Wymark's attorney denies the allegations. ( Read more.)


Derby School Board Rejects Strategic Plan as Discriminatory

DERBY, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - A local school board in Kansas has rejected a long-term strategic plan because it included a call for diversity and hiring more people of color. A majority of board members in the Derby school district, south of Wichita, voted against the plan. Dozens of parents, students and community members developed the plan over several months. Board member Jennifer Neel says she opposed the plan because schools should not fixate on race. “This looks like trouble, because now we’re going to measure it. Now we’re going to focus on it, and this seems like discrimination," she said. Another board member proposed replacing the word “diversity” with “unity.” The Derby district has about 7,200 students. More than 85% are white.

(–AP Version–)

Kansas School District Rejects Strategic Plan Urging Diversity

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — The board of a Kansas school district rejected a proposed strategic plan after some members criticized its emphasis on diversity and students' mental health. The plan for the Derby school district was rejected this week after months of work from parents, students, employees and community members. The Kansas News Service reports four of the seven board members voted against adopting the five-year plan, a normally routine document that outlines the district's priorities and goals. Board president Michael Blankenship said the district should emphasize things that unite people, rather than focusing on diversity. Board member Pam Doyle supported the plan, saying the district should celebrate diversity.


Upcoming Kansas City Winter Described as "Hibernation Zone"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — Enjoy the summer heat while you can. Old Man Winter is coming to Kansas and Missouri.  And WDAF TV reports that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a rough winter ahead.  The Farmer’s Almanac provides a forecast every year. Publishers said they decided to release winter predictions earlier than ever because of the extreme heat and drought affecting different regions.  The Farmer's Almanac warns this winter will be cold and snowy for people living in Kansas and Missouri. While that describes many winters in the Kansas City area, the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a “hibernation zone” and uses words like “glacial, snow-filled” to describe what will be heading to the metro in a few short months. The 2023 Farmers’ Almanac will be available in stores beginning August 15.


Warmer Overnight Temps Bad for Kansas Corn Crops, Livestock

MANHATTAN, Kan. (HPM) - Summer nights have gotten warmer -- on average, more than 2 degrees warmer -- over the last 50 years.  That's according to a study by a group called Climate Central. Those rising temperatures can hurt crops such as corn, especially when those warmer nights take place during the reproductive stage of growth. Last month in Kansas, overnight lows were as high as 82 degrees. And most of the Kansas corn crop suffered because of it, according to Chip Redmond, a meteorologist at Kansas State University. "They didn't successfully pollinate and they didn't even put ears of corn on so there’s literally no corn out there," he said. Redmond says farmers who planted earlier in the season were better off, along with those in southeast Kansas. Since summer nights are getting warmer across the Midwest, experts say farmers should look to hybrid and drought-tolerant crops.

Harvest Public Media reports warmer temps also pose problems for livestock. High overnight temperatures were part of the reason ranchers lost cattle in southwest Kansas earlier this year. A rapid change in temperature - along with the cows not cooling down at night- caused heat stress. Hot nights can cause health and reproductive problems for cattle, says Missouri extension veterinarian and cattle rancher, Scott Poock. With overnight temperatures going up, he encourages ranchers to continue to keep their cows cool at night after a hot day.


New Mexico Homicide Victim Identified as Missing Wichita Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A homicide victim found 37 years ago in New Mexico has been identified as a missing teenager from Wichita. KSNW TV reports that authorities in New Mexico have identified the victim as 16-year-old Dorothy Harrison. It took DNA testing to finally make the connection. Now that authorities know the victim's name and have spoken to her family in Kansas, investigators have been able to piece together some of what happened. Authorities believe someone killed Harrison between September 1984 and January 1985. Hunters found her remains in a shallow grave off Interstate 25 near Upham, New Mexico, in March of 1985. It took 37 years to identify her remains. She is survived by her mother and five siblings in Kansas. New Mexico authorities have classified the teen’s death as a homicide, but have not determined how she died or who may have killed her. The family is now working on getting Harrison’s remains returned to Kansas. ( Read more.)


Kansas Attorney Sentenced for Smuggling Heroin into Missouri Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Shawnee, Kansas, attorney has been sentenced in federal court for smuggling heroin to an inmate in Missouri with whom she had a romantic relationship. Prosecutors say 44-year-old Juliane L. Colby was sentenced to one year and one month in prison without parole for smuggling heroin into the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. In February, Colby pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin. She admitted that she conspired with others to smuggle heroin to an inmate in the facility. According to court documents, Colby was working as a public defender when she began a romantic relationship with the inmate. ( Read more.)


Kansas Man Arrested on Suspicion of Child Sex Crimes
EDGERTON, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has arrested an Edgerton, Kansas, man on suspicion of child sex crimes. The KBI says 57-year-old Tony Hamer was taken into custody Wednesday morning in Edgerton for suspected child sex crimes. KSNW TV reports that the suspect was arrested on a Texas warrant. KBI agents were assisted by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and Texas authorities in executing the Warrant in Edgerton. Hamer was booked into the Johnson County Jail.


Congresswoman Seeks Lead Water Pipe Count in Kansas

OLATHE, Kan. (KCUR/KNS) - Kansas Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids is drawing attention to the estimated 150,000 lead water pipelines still in service in the state. On Thursday, she visited the home of Retired Teamster and Olathe resident Jerry Land who had a lead pipe bringing water to his home until earlier this month. Land lives near downtown Olathe in a 100-year-old house. City officials say more than 1,000 service lines in Olathe may require replacement to avoid lead exposure. Land says the city told him his drinking water may be tainted with lead because of the service line. “I was kind of worried a little bit, so I said yeah, I want it out," he said. Like utilities around the country, Olathe will spend the next two years trying to identify any other lead service lines that remain in place. More than 35 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency outlawed new ones for fear of lead poisoning. Utilities have until October 2024 to complete their inventories under an EPA rule.


Kansas Abortion Vote Shows Limits of GOP's Strength

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Last week, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed state lawmakers to tighten restrictions on abortion. An Associated Press analysis of the voting results found high turnout among Democratic and independent voters contributed to that result. But even in traditionally conservative Kansas _ a state Donald Trump carried by double digits in 2020's presidential election _ support for the abortion measure was lower in every single county than support for the former president had been two years ago. In other states, abortion-rights supporters and opponents alike are using the Kansas vote to drive their followers to the polls.


Kansas City Police: Body Found in Missouri River

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - An investigation is underway after a body was found in the Missouri River near Ameristar Casino Wednesday afternoon. Kansas City television station KCTV reports that a boater reportedly spotted a man’s body on a sandbar. The Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department sent two water rescue boats into the river to retrieve the body. Police say they are still in their early stages of their investigation.


Missouri Voters to Decide in November on Recreational Marijuana

KANSAS CITY, MO. (KCUR) - Missouri voters could legalize marijuana for recreational use in the next election. Missouri’s secretary of state has certified that advocates gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Voters in November will ultimately decide if recreational marijuana usage is legal in Missouri. Rep. Ron Hicks, who has attempted to pass legislation legalizing the use of marijuana in the state, is not in favor of the petition. He says by passing it through a constitutional amendment, any problems that arise will be more difficult to address than if it was passed by the legislature: “You get what you get, you cannot change it unless you go through an initiative petition process again," he said. The initiative will appear as Amendment 3 on the ballot. John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, says he's optimistic the measure will pass. “We think that indicates that there's a strong support among Missouri voters for this. And that's also consistent with the public polling that's out there, and our internal polling as well," he said. The ballot measure would make marijuana use and possession legal for those 21 and older, although there would be a limit on how much of the drug someone could possess.


How Will Kansas Handle Possible Legalization of Marijuana in Missouri?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — With recreational marijuana headed to the ballot in Missouri this November, some are wondering how Kansas will respond. WDAF TV reports that Kansas lawmakers have been working on legislation that would legalize medical cannabis but the drug itself still remains illegal in the state. Currently, people in Missouri need a medical card to buy marijuana but if the ballot initiative passes, it would allow anyone over 21 to buy weed. That's raising questions on how neighboring Kansas may respond. Even if Kansas approves medical marijuana, Missouri-sold recreational marijuana would still be illegal in Kansas. This is not the first time Kansas has dealt with the issue. Neighboring Colorado has long been a state where recreational marijuana has been legal. But the western border of Kansas is less developed than the eastern side, where places like Kansas City are split between two states and residents frequently travel from one state to the other.


KU Ornithologist Weighs in on Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Evidence Inquiry

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The federal government has been asked to consider at least two videos made in recent years as evidence that ivory-billed woodpeckers may still exist. A group dedicated to finding such evidence provided drone videos that founder Mark Michaels says show a bird with hallmark color patterns and landing style. Another shows a closer view of a black-and-white bird crossing a corridor in a swamp, then flying away. But a University of Kansas ornithologist calls them laughable. Mark B. Robbins, ornithology collection manager at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, said the video is so poor that it’s impossible to tell what is flying. “It could be anything,” he wrote in an email. Both were provided as public comment against a U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Service proposal to declare the bird extinct. The comment period ended Monday. The agency said it was looking for photos or videos that all experts could agree on.


Kansas Education Officials Consider Change in Sports Divisions

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Kansas education leaders are considering a plan that would force some private schools to compete against bigger public schools. State Representative Tim Johnson used to coach football at Basehor-Linwood High School in northeast Kansas. He says private schools have advantages that help them win championships: “Now some people have said, ‘No, no, we don’t recruit.’ Yes, they do," he said. Johnson and other supporters say private schools who dominate in athletics should move up to larger sports classifications. But Marty Straub says the plan unfairly targets private schools that win a lot. He's the athletic director at Kapaun Mount Carmel Catholic High School in Wichita. “Let’s be honest: Frustration over the success of a few private schools in Kansas is why we’re here today," he said. The Kansas News Service reports that the state school board will vote on the plan next month. If approved, it moves to the Kansas Legislature.


Lawrence Food Bank Announces New Production Facility to Produce Ready-To-Eat Meals

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Lawrence-based food bank Just Food has announced a plan that will allow it to more efficiently make ready-to-eat meals at a new downtown location. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Just Food will be using a former restaurant space at 805 Vermont Street and hopes to be up and running by the end of August. In the new production facility, recovered foods will be turned into ready-to-eat meals. Leaders with the food pantry say the new location will allow the organization to increase meal numbers and reduce food waste. ( Read more.)


Chiefs' Mahomes to Buck NFL Trend, Play Preseason Opener

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - Patrick Mahomes will start the Kansas City Chiefs’ preseason opener in Chicago on Saturday. That bucks a trend across the NFL of coaches sitting their starting quarterbacks for the first of their three exhibition games. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday he would stick to his usual routine of having each of the four quarterbacks in camp play for a quarter of the preseason opener. And while he acknowledged the number of snaps could change based on the way the game is going, Reid thinks it’s important for everybody to get onto the field in some capacity.


KC Chiefs Begin Preseason with Some New Players

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KNS) - The Kansas City Chiefs will open their preseason on the road Saturday in Chicago with some new names hoping to make an impact. One of the Chiefs' glaring absences this year is Tyrann Mathieu, who is now playing in New Orleans. But his replacement at safety is Justin Reid, who says he plans on taking charge on the defensive side. "I’ve always said that your best players need to be your leaders and your leaders need to lead by example. That’s the guy I try and be," he said. After Saturday's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, the Chiefs will play their first home game next Saturday against Washington.  


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members.  Become one today. And follow  KPR News on Twitter.