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Headlines for Friday, November 10, 2023

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Emily Fisher

Lawrence Hospital Fires CFO for Allegedly Lying About Identity

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The hospital in Lawrence is trying to figure out just what went wrong. LMH Health fired its chief financial officer, Mike Rogers, after discovering he's a convicted felon. Rogers had only been on the job a short time when hospital employees discovered he'd been convicted of fraud in Oklahoma. Hospital staffers also learned that last year, Rogers legally changed his name from Michael Patrick Brunton and under his earlier identity, was convicted of defrauding people out of more than $80,000. In a separate 2007 case, he was accused of theft and extortion for allegedly misusing hospital credit cards while serving as a financial officer at a hospital in Louisiana. LMH Health officials have now launched an inquiry into their screening and hiring processes. A search for a new hospital CFO is underway.

(- Additional reporting -)

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.


Officials Optimistic Kansas-Oklahoma Rail Route on Track for Federal Funding

TULSA, Okla. (KWGS) — Kansas and Oklahoma officials say they are optimistic about the prospect of federal funding for a new rail route connecting Kansas and Oklahoma. The extension of the Heartland Flyer rail route would connect Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas. The existing Heartland Flyer runs between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas. The proposed expansion would add several stops in Kansas and Oklahoma. In Kansas, those stops would include Arkansas City, Wichita and Newton. Passengers would also be able to transfer to the existing Southwest Chief, which runs between Los Angeles and Chicago. KWGS Radio in Tulsa reports that officials believe the project will be selected for competitive federal rail funding later this month.


Kansas Legislative Committee Takes Testimony on Homelessness

TOPEKA, 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. 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.

In downtown Topeka, a task force has successfully dispersed some unhoused people and lowered local crime issues. But Republican state Senator Rick Kloos says actions like that might only be a quick fix. “Not just solve a temporary problem in one place, and then see it rise in another place. We've got to get some solutions," he said.


Kansas Has Thousands of Abandoned Wells that Need to be Plugged

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — Efforts to plug abandoned oil and gas wells in Kansas are back on track after delays caused by the pandemic. Earlier this week, staffers with the Kansas Corporation Commission updated lawmakers on the situation. The Kansas Reflector reports that the state began the process of sealing wells in the 1990s, using fees from the oil and gas industry. But the program received a significant boost from federal funding in 2022, following the passage of a bipartisan infrastructure law. The White House has allocated $25 million in federal funding for well plugging in Kansas. More than 1,700 wells have been capped so far, but an estimated 9,000 abandoned wells remain, which can pose a health and safety risk to Kansans. The KCC oversees the oil and gas industry and the well plugging process.


Kansas Supreme Court Allows Lawsuit Filings Through Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (KCUR) - The Kansas judicial branch is still dealing with the fallout from a security incident that brought down the court's online system for filing and reviewing legal documents. As a result, Kansas attorneys are now being allowed to serve legal documents to the opposing party in lawsuits through email. The Kansas Supreme Court adopted the temporary policy as a response to a cybersecurity incident that brought down the electronic filing system used by courts across the state on October 12. The rule lets attorneys serve other attorneys with documents through email without getting written consent first. People representing themselves in a court case will have to consent through writing to be served through email. Supreme Court Chief Justice Marla Luckert said in a statement that the court’s highest priority is restoring its electronic filing system. The security incident affected systems that courts, attorneys and the public use to file and search for court information.


Investigation Underway into Death of 2-Year-Old in Gardner

GARDNER, Kan. (KMBC) - Police is Gardner have launched an investigation into the suspicious death of a toddler. Police say they were called to a residence in Gardner last week where they learned that a 2-year-old had been found unresponsive. Emergency crews later determined the child had suffered an injury that led to a life-threatening condition. KMBC TV reports that the child later died at an area hospital. A criminal investigation is now underway into the child's death.


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.


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.


4 Wounded in Shooting at Shopping Mall near Kansas City; 3 Suspects in Custody

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say four people were wounded Friday in a shooting at a shopping mall near Kansas City. Shots erupted around 2:20 p.m. in the main entrance of the Independence Center, according to Independence police Officer Jack Taylor. One victim was hit in the head and was in critical condition, and the conditions of the other three were not known. Three people fled in a vehicle and were taken into custody near the mall, Taylor said. The cause of the shooting wasn't immediately known, but Taylor said a conflict arose when two groups met up. Independence Center management declined to comment immediately.


Military Flyovers Scheduled in Lawrence in Conjunction with Football Game

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – A military airplane flyover is scheduled for Lawrence Friday and Saturday, ahead of the KU football team’s Salute to Service game against Texas Tech. A practice flyover will take place today (FRI), likely between 1 and 2 pm. The planes will also fly over Memorial Stadium shortly before Saturday's 11 am 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.


No. 19 Kansas Will Try to Stay in the Big 12 Title Picture as Texas Tech Visits Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas needs a lot of help to reach the Big 12 title game. To have a chance, the No. 19 Jayhawks also have to keep winning. They are coming off impressive wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State the past two weeks and now play Texas Tech, a program that has won 22 of 24 games against them over the years. The Red Raiders had a tough game against the Jayhawks last season, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 43-28 victory. KU's Jalon Daniels was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate coming into the season, but a back problem has sidelined him all but three games. The Jayhawks have turned to veteran Jason Bean, whose play the last two weeks has been a big reason why Kansas has picked up two of its best wins in years.

Kansas is in a muddle of teams with 4-2 conference records behind Texas and Oklahoma State, who handed the Jayhawks their only two Big 12 defeats. That means they need to keep winning and get a lot of help to land in the conference title game. Texas Tech needs to win two of its last three games to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2020.

Kansas cornerback Mello Dotson, who has Pick-Sixes in each of the past two games, left early before halftime against Iowa State with an undisclosed injury. Leipold said he was "doing better" but declined to say whether he would play this week. "Hopefully we can progress," Leipold said, "but he's doing a lot better than even anticipated."

Texas Tech offensive lineman Cole Spencer, who has been out with a broken toe, and tight end Mason Tharp, who has been dealing with an undisclosed injury, are expected to miss another game this week. Neither has played since the game against Houston on Sept. 30. McGuire hopes to get both of them back for next week against UCF.

Red Raiders linebacker Josh Rodriguez returned last week for the first time since hurting his foot in the season opener. The plan is for Rodriguez to play this week and next before skipping the Texas game to preserve his redshirt availability.

Jayhawks kicker Seth Keller has missed field-goal tries over 40 yards in each of the past two games. That led to Leipold using Owen Piepergerdes for a 50-yard try against the Cyclones, which also was no good. So who has the job going forward? "We're going to continue to use both," Leipold said. "I think Owen has earned some opportunities. I think there's things obviously with distance and leg strength on longer kicks. So we'll continue to look through that through the week."


K-State Tries to Beat Baylor at Home for First Time Since 2017 Season on Saturday

MANHATTAN, Kansas (AP) — Kansas State will try to beat Baylor at home for the first time in six years when the Wildcats face the Bears on Saturday. The defending Big 12 champs lost 33-30 in overtime to Texas last week, which may have dashed any remaining chance to make it back-to-back conference titles. Their three losses this season have been by a combined 14 points to teams ranked in the top 16 of the AP poll. Baylor is coming off its own overtime loss to Houston and needs to win out to become bowl eligible. The Bears have only failed to qualify for a bowl game twice since 2010.

Kansas State is in a logjam of five teams with 4-2 conference records and trails Texas and Oklahoma State by a game in the standings, which means its chances of playing for a second straight Big 12 title have basically evaporated. But the Wildcats can still land a spot in a high-profile bowl game by winning out to reach nine wins. As for Baylor, winning out is the only way embattled coach Dave Aranda's team can qualify for a bowl game. They have only missed out on a bowl game twice since 2010.

Baylor QB Blake Shapen against the Kansas State pass defense, which rebounded from a disastrous start in last week's 33-30 overtime loss to Texas by holding Longhorns QB Maalik Murphy to 248 yards passing with a touchdown and two interceptions. Shapen has thrown interceptions in consecutive losses to Iowa State and Houston, and he has been sacked at least four times in three of his six games.

Baylor: CB Caden Jenkins picked off his third pass of the season last week against Houston, tying him for the FBS lead among freshmen. He also returned a fumbled for a touchdown in the Bears' comeback against UCF, when they scored 29 unanswered points in a 36-35 win.

Kansas State: QB Will Howard, who seemed on the verge of losing his job to freshman Avery Johnson, threw for 327 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in the loss to the Longhorns. But with first-and-goal from the Texas 6 in overtime, Howard was unable to get the Wildcats into the end zone for what would have been the winning touchdown.

Baylor is going for its third straight win over the Wildcats in Manhattan. K-State snapped a four-game losing streak to Baylor with last year's 31-3 win in Wacos, Texas. The Bears have won both of their road games this season.

Kansas State is one of seven Power 5 teams to rank in the top 18 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Wildcats are averaging 204.6 yards rushing per game, which is 11th in the FBS. K-State is fourth nationally with a 79.5% mark in red-zone touchdowns. K-State is allowing third-down conversions at a rate of 27.1%, which is fourth nationally and its best since 1999. The Wildcats have scored at least 38 points in eight of their last 11 regular-season games dating to last season.


Chiefs' Offense More Fizzle than Sizzle. But KC Defense Keeps 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.