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Headlines for Thursday, November 9, 2023

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Emily Fisher

LMH Health Fires CFO for Allegedly Lying About Identity, Felony Convictions

LAWRENCE, Kan. (The Lawrence Times) – The recently-appointed chief financial officer of Lawrence Memorial Hospital has been fired after only a month on the job. The Lawrence Times reports that hospital officials discovered that Mike Rogers was a convicted felon who changed his name one year ago. LMH CEO Russ Johnson said in an internal e-mail Thursday that staff "became aware of some inconsistencies regarding Mike's identity" on October 26, and discovered the next day that Rogers had legally changed his name in 2022 from Michael Patrick Brunton, under which identity he was a convicted felon. Johnson said that Rogers did not disclose his employment and felony records during the hiring process.

Under the name of Brunton, the man now known as Mike Rogers pleaded guilty in Oklahoma in 2005 to mail fraud after being indicted on 15 counts of mail and wire fraud connected to a scheme that cheated dozens of people out of more than $80,000 by using Internet auction sites. In a 2007 case, Brunton was reportedly charged with theft and extortion for allegedly misusing hospital credit cards while serving as a financial officer at a hospital in Louisiana.

The Lawrence Times was unable to contact Rogers for comment.

Johnson says that LMH placed Rogers on administrative leave after learning about his true identity, and his access to LMH systems and facilities was disabled. Johnson said LMH financial assets were “never in jeopardy” as a result of Rogers’s employment.

Johnson thanked staff members who contacted LMH administration when they learned about Rogers’s identity. The organization is now once again recruiting a permanent CFO. Spokespeople for LMH had acknowledged a request for comment for the Times article, but had not provided one by the time of publication.


Lawrence Community Shelter Will Expand Capacity for Winter

LAWRENCE, Kan. (The Lawrence Times) - The number of people living outside in Lawrence is estimated to be more than three times what it was last year. As a result, the Lawrence Community Shelter has agreed to vastly expand the shelter's capacity for the winter months. The Lawrence Times reports that the city is looking to close its existing homeless camp in North Lawrence.


Kansas Special Ed Task Force Finally Has Meeting Date Set

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers created a group to study special education. But political bickering has prevented the group from calling its first meeting. Now, that group is set to meet, but not until early next year. Lawmakers established the special education task force and directed the group to study the formula that sends $4 billion to Kansas schools. Republican Representative Kristey Williams was supposed to call the first meeting. But she said last month that she would not, because proponents of increased school funding were not considering other options, like cost-saving measures. “Is anybody else looking deeply at the statutes, looking deeply at the process? Or are we only going to be happy if we go ahead and pour more money on something that’s broken?” Task force members cited a seldom-used rule to call the committee to a meeting over her objections. The group will convene in January.


Kansas Officials Begin Process of Restoring Court Information Access After 'Security Incident'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly a month after a “security incident” with all the hallmarks of a ransomware attack, Kansas judicial officials are slowly renewing public access to court information. But for now, that access requires a trip to the state's capital city.

The state's judicial branch on Tuesday announced it has opened a public access service center at the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka. The center is staffed by judicial workers and includes 10 computer terminals. Appointments are required and the center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Appointment requests may be made online. The center is for searching case information only, and electronic payments cannot be made there, according to a news release from the state. The release said efforts to bring the judicial branch systems back online will occur in phases and that no firm timeline has been established on when all functions will be fully restored.

The massive outage on October 12 left attorneys unable to search online records and forced them to file motions the old fashioned way — on paper. The disruption has caused a huge slowdown of court operations across the state.

Since 2019, ransomware groups have targeted 18 state, city or municipal court systems, said analyst Allan Liska of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. That includes one in Dallas, where some jury trials had to be canceled this year.

But state-focused attacks have been much less frequent, and have not rivaled what happened in Kansas.

State officials have released few details about the investigation. They have not said if the incident was determined to be malicious, or if there was a demand for ransom. A message left Wednesday with Judicial Branch spokeswoman Lisa Taylor was not immediately returned.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and federal authorities are looking into the incident, KBI spokesperson Melissa Underwood has said.


Kansas Legislative Committee Hears Testimony on Homelessness

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KNS) – The number of people in Kansas who do not have homes is increasing. But advocates say state lawmakers can help reverse that trend. The Kansas News Service reports that a Kansas committee hearing Thursday focused on addressing homelessness, hearing testimony that research shows more than 2,000 people in Kansas are homeless. Christina Ashie Guidry of United Community Services of Johnson County said the state’s unhoused population has rapidly increased over the last 10 years. But it’s not too large to address. Suggestions for solving the problem include combining housing services with treatment for drug use and mental health struggles.


Pheasant Season Begins This Weekend in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Saturday marks the opening weekend of pheasant season in Kansas. That means big business for many communities, but the economic impact can be drastically affected by pheasant populations. Jeff Prendergast, with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, says dry climate conditions in western Kansas are taking a toll on bird populations. “In dry years, we normally don’t have enough soil moisture to grow adequate habitat and food resources for chicks," he said. He also says the amount of habitat suitable for nesting has a big effect on pheasant populations, as does the weather. “When they don’t have the appropriate rainfall to produce young this year, it can really impact the number of birds we have heading into the fall.”

Changing farming practices have negatively affected pheasant populations since the early 1980s. Conversely, the planting of native grasses in the Conservation Reserve Program has helped restore the habitat. Wildlife officials say northcentral Kansas will have the highest concentration of pheasants this year while the southwest region is still negatively affected by drought conditions.

Prendergast says north-central Kansas has the highest concentration of pheasants this year, while the southwest region continues to be hampered by drought conditions. Pheasant season runs through the end of January.


Kansas Colleges and Universities Waive Application Fees Through Thursday

TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) — Today is a great day to apply to college in Kansas. More than 50 colleges and universities in the state have dropped application fees through today (THUR) for residents of the state - regardless of age or income. Universities, community colleges, technical schools and 21 private independent colleges are participating in the program to waive applications fees. Officials say the objective is to temporarily remove an impediment to higher education and increase the state's rate of college attendance. KAKE TV reports that in the past decade, the rate of Kansas students attending college has declined. In 2021, only 60% of Kansas high school graduates enrolled in a college, university or certificate program.


Military Flyovers Scheduled in Lawrence in Conjunction with Football Game

LAWRENCE, Kan. (The Lawrence Times) – There will be military airplane flyovers in Lawrence Friday and Saturday ahead of the University of Kansas football team’s Salute to Service game against Texas Tech University.

The Lawrence Times reports that a practice flyover will take place on Friday, likely between 1 and 2 p.m. The planes will fly over David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium shortly before Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff. The flyovers are performed at no cost to KU. Saturday, November 11th, is Veterans Day. Military members and their families can purchase specially priced tickets to the game as part of the Salute to Service program.


Kansas Sex Offender Guilty of Sexually Assaulting 7-Year-Old Girl

LIBERAL, Kan. (KAKE) - A jury in southwest Kansas has convicted a registered sex offender of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl. KAKE TV reports that a Seward County jury found 41-year-old Jorge Almeida guilty of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. His sentencing is scheduled for December 1. He faces 25 years to life in prison for each of three counts against him. In June 2022, police received a report that Almeida had assaulted the 7-year-old victim several times. According to court records, Almeida was convicted in 2013 on three counts of sexual exploitation of a 16-year-old girl. His parole in that case expired in October 2020.


Biologists Fight Invasive Honeysuckle Plants Taking over Kansas Green Spaces

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — An invasive plant is slowly taking over outdoor areas across the Sunflower State. KSNT reports that officials are trying to contain the spread of invasive honeysuckle plants. The plants can be found in bush and vine varieties. The bushes are more aggressive and are creating problems for the Kansas Forest Service (KFS). Bush honeysuckle plants bear white flowers and have a sweet smell in the spring and produce red berries in the fall. Forest Service officials say the plants are a threat to the state's native ecosystem, especially in the eastern third of the state. The plants compete with native vegetation and crowd out other plants. Officials say established honeysuckle is also difficult to remove.


Bill Self on His Lifetime Contract with KU: 'I'm Excited That I Will Finish My Career Here'

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Bill Self intends to finish his coaching career at Kansas, making his clearest statement yet one day after the announcement of a lifetime contract that will pay the Hall of Famer $53 million over the first five years and make him the most highly compensated men's basketball coach at a public university.

Self has said repeatedly over the years that he is content with the Jayhawks. But there has always been the suspicion that an NBA team could come calling — perhaps Oklahoma City, near where he grew up, or San Antonio, where he has long been rumored to be in line to succeed close friend Gregg Popovich with the Spurs.

Yet the 60-year-old Self was as definitive as ever about his future while speaking Wednesday with a small group of reporters.

“Make no mistake, they can still get rid of me. That's why contracts are written where there is, ‘If this happens or that happens, this happens and these are the consequences,” said Self, whose amended contract amounts to a five-year deal that extends each year. “But that's the way it should be, you know, in every walk of life. But I'm excited that I will finish my career here.”

Kansas athletic director Travis Goff said he approached Self early this year about amending his contract. The reason it took so long to announce was because of the back-and-forth with lawyers, not because the university was awaiting a decision from an independent panel on an investigation into NCAA rule violations.

The panel last month lowered what had been five Level I violations and gave the Jayhawks relatively minor penalties.

Self's amended deal will pay more than $11 million this season, including a one-time signing bonus and retention payments that include money deferred during the pandemic, and far outstrips the contract signed by Kentucky coach John Calipari, who had been the most highly-compensated coach at a public university. (It is unclear what private schools, such as Duke, have paid their coaches because they are not required to make those contracts public.)

“I mean, literally, we're talking about the most consistent, most successful coach in modern basketball,” Goff said Wednesday, “and for a number of reasons, I didn't feel like his contract was reflective of that. And so, to me that's what this contract reflects. It reflects having the best coach in college basketball at the helm and not necessarily ensuring, but maybe it's viewed as cementing, him to finish his career right here at Kansas.”

Self did not say how long he would continue coaching the Jayhawks, who are ranked No. 1 and coming off a season-opening rout of North Carolina Central on Monday night. But he did acknowledge that after more than three decades at a head coach, he has made the turn — in golf parlance — to the back nine of his career.

“Not only the back nine, but I'm on the back, you know, three or four,” Self said. "But that's OK. You know, I've been a head coach now for 31 years. And 23 of them have been in the fastlane, OK? I don't even count Tulsa as the fastline, or Oral Roberts, but Illinois and Kansas? That's the fastlane. I mean, you're competing against the big boys daily.

“So you know, could I do it for another 23 years now, or would I want to? No,” he continued. “But I could do it for several more, absolutely. I don't have a timeframe on when the end is, but I say closer to two thirds of the way (through his career).”

One potential determining factor is Self's health.

He was taken to the hospital on the eve of the Big 12 Tournament in March with heart trouble, and wound up having an aortic valve replaced. Self missed the entire conference tournament, where the Jayhawks lost to Texas in the title game, and the NCAA Tournament, where the No. 1 seed and defending champions lost to Arkansas in the second round.

“I don't think I'm doing much different. I don't think I would in games anyway,” said Self, who is quickly approaching the top 10 in career Division I wins. “I think I would more in practice, but I don't. I don't. I don't sense a big change.”

One thing Self probably doesn't have stressing him out anymore is money. Then again, it doesn't seem like that has ever been a factor, even when he was making $4,400 a year just starting out as an assistant to Larry Brown in the mid-1980s.

“You know, the thing about it is, I'm happy for anybody when they do well. I'm not jealous about that at all,” Self said. “But I will tell you, me or whoever it is, when you have your team play close to their ceiling, that is far more important toward happiness in our world than what other people may think it is.”


The Chiefs' Offense Is More Fizzle than Sizzle. But Their Defense Has Kept Them Atop the AFC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have every reason to be enjoying their weekend off, whether that means Patrick Mahomes watching the Dallas Mavericks from courtside seats or Travis Kelce jetting to Argentina to watch Taylor Swift resume her Eras Tour.

After all, the defending Super Bowl champions are tied atop the AFC with the Baltimore Ravens. They are coming off a win over the championship-contending Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt, Germany.

And perhaps most importantly, they have done all of that over the first half of the season despite an offense that, for once, has been more fizzle than sizzle.

“It's very fixable. There's not panic. It's there for us to understand,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who returned to the role when Eric Bieniemy left in the offseason for the Washington Commanders. “We know we can be better. It is going back to the drawing board, seeing where we went wrong, not placing blame but also accepting that we have to be better.”

Imagine that: the Chiefs (7-2) needing to get better on offense rather than defense.

They've only scored more than 27 points twice, and that came against the Chargers and the hapless Chicago Bears, while what has traditionally been a high-scoring offense has been held under 20 points on three occasions. Twice those lousy performances came against the Denver Broncos, including a 19-8 loss a couple of weeks ago that snapped a 16-game series win streak.

Ever since Mahomes took over at quarterback in 2018, the Chiefs have been sixth or better in scoring and total offense. Yet they are 12th in scoring this season — thanks largely to 41 points scored against Chicago — and seventh in total offense.

Still good. But far from their usual greatness.

One of the biggest problems has been inconsistency, whether that means penalties at inopportune times, an inability to convert red-zone trips into points, or something as simple as wide receivers dropping passes that should have been caught.

“We’ve got some good things we’re doing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “putting up a lot of yards and so on. But getting into the endzone becomes important. Not turning the ball over. Basic fundamentals. We’ve got to take care of that.”

Their game against Miami last weekend was a perfect example.

For the first two quarters, the Chiefs looked downright unstoppable on offense. They breezed downfield on the game's opening drive, needing just seven plays and 2:57 on the clock to reach the end zone. And they added two more touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead over the Dolphins — currently the league's No. 1 offense — into the locker room.

They failed to score at all in the second half, the Chiefs forced to ride their defense with white knuckles to a 21-14 victory.

“I think you can see it in spurts,” Mahomes said. “You look at the first drive, the 90-yard drive we had — you can see what we can do. It is just about being consistent every single drive. Obviously penalties, me not connecting on guys deep down the field, hurt us. Luckily for us, our defense is playing their tail off and we got the win.”

Ah, yes. The defense.

They have been good enough to help the Chiefs win two Lombardi Trophies over the past four seasons, but rarely have they been excellent. In fact, in six seasons since Mahomes became the starter, they have never been in the top 10 in total defense, and one year they were the second-worst team in the league. Never have they been better than seventh in points allowed, either.

This year? They are second in the league in scoring defense and fourth in total defense.

“I knew they were going to be good," Mahomes said. “You look at the end of last year, they played some great football and no one really noticed. I knew they were going to be good. They brought back so many people — so many young guys that they were going to develop. I mean, the fact they’re all developing this fast, I don’t know if anyone could have guessed it. I knew they were going to be great as their careers went on. Good to have a lot of young guys that can play like that.”

They haven't even had everyone on the field yet. Just as the Chiefs got pass rusher Charles Omenihu back from a suspension, they lost playmaking linebacker Nick Bolton to a wrist injury that could keep him out the rest of the regular season.

Perhaps by the postseason, the Chiefs' offense won't need to rely on the defense quite so much.


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