Kansas News Briefs – Congressman Roger Marshall Faces Attacks in GOP Senate Debate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas congressman running for the U.S. Senate has come under attack over a 12-year-old misdemeanor criminal case and for missing votes while treating coronavirus patients. The criticism of Representative Roger Marshall came during a Wednesday night debate in Wichita. Marshall sought to portray GOP primary rival Kris Kobach as an iffy prospect for the November general election. Kobach cited a 2008 criminal case in which the son of a Marshall business partner helped him get the charge changed from misdemeanor reckless driving to a lesser traffic infraction. When Kobach also criticized Marshall for missing votes, he said it was “about as low as you can get.” Marshall says he was treating COVID-19 patients at the time.
Partner’s Son Helped Reduce Charge for Future Kansas Congressman
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Court records show that future western Kansas Representative and U.S. Senate candidate Roger Marshall pleaded no contest in 2008 to a misdemeanor reckless driving charge stemming from a confrontation with a landowner who accused Marshall of hitting him with his pickup. But The Kansas City Star reports that a local prosecutor who was the son of one of Marshall’s business partners in Great Bend later successfully asked a judge to reduce Marshall’s conviction to a less serious traffic infraction. Marshall denies he hit the other man, and the case was only briefly an issue during Marshall’s first successful run for Congress in 2016.
City of Topeka Looks to Cut Jobs in Wake of Budget Crisis
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Topeka is looking to cut more than 30 jobs next year to deal with a $5 million budget deficit resulting from efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. On Tuesday, Topeka City Manager Brent Trout proposed cutting 32 full-time positions and reducing at least one position to part time in 2021. The mayor and City Council will consider the proposal before finalizing the budget in August. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 14 of the cuts would be with the public works department. The proposed cuts come as reduced sales tax revenues have left the city struggling to balance its budget for this year.
Spirit AeroSystems Extends Furloughs for About 900 Workers
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems is extending a temporary layoff of about 900 employees as it grapples with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. The Wichita Eagle reports that about 900 employees who were on a three-week furlough that was to end in early July will now be unemployed until Aug. 14. They will continue to receive health care benefits and pension contributions throughout the furlough period.
Kansas City Officer Pleads Not Guilty in Black Man’s Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 41-year-old Kansas City police detective has pleaded not guilty in the death of a Black man who was killed last year while sitting in his truck. Eric DeValkenaere is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the December 3 shooting death of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb. DeValkenaere, who has been suspended from the police force, pleaded not guilty Tuesday. Court records say DeValkenaere was one of two officers who went into Lamb’s backyard while investigating an earlier disturbance. DeValkenaere told investigators he shot Lamb after he saw him reach for a gun and aim it at the second officer.
Kansas Governor Creates Commission on Racial Justice Issues
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has appointed a commission to examine policing and other racial justice issues and named the superintendent of Topeka’s public schools and a state university administrator to lead it. Kelly issued an executive order Wednesday to create the Commission on Racial Equity and Justice. She said it would focus first on relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they police and develop policy proposals for state and local officials. The governor promised her administration would tackle such issues following George Floyd’s death May 25 in Minnesota. The commission’s leaders are Topeka Superintendent Tiffany Anderson and University of Kansas associate dean Shannon Portillo.
Protests Spark Move to Rename Iconic Kansas City Fountain
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Protests in Kansas City over the death of George Floyd may lead the city to rename one of its most iconic sites, the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain near the Country Club Plaza. Nichols was a developer who transformed the Kansas City area in the early 1900s by building the upscale Plaza and thousands of homes in well-maintained subdivisions. But he used deed restrictions to keep Blacks, Jews and other minorities from buying his homes, helping create a racially separated city that remains to this day. In response to that history, the Kansas City Parks Commission is considering removing Nichols’s name from the fountain and an adjacent parkway.
Prosecutors File More Charges Against Kansas Professor
BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A revised indictment accuses a Kansas researcher of defrauding the University of Kansas and the U.S. government by concealing work he was doing for China. The new indictment filed Thursday charges Feng “Franklin” Tao of Lawrence, Kansas, with seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements. His defense attorney, Peter Zeidenbert, says Tao isn’t guilty of the charges against him. The indictment alleges the purpose of the scheme was to benefit China by participating in its “talent plan,” which prosecutors say is designed to encourage the transfer of original ideas and intellectual property from U.S. university to Chinese government institutions.
Store in Branson, Missouri, at Center of Protests over Confederate Symbols
BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — Branson, Missouri, may be known for its country music shows and wholesome entertainment, but the tourist hot spot now finds itself at the center of a standoff over Confederate symbolism. Protesters have been gathering outside a strip mall store called Dixie Outfitters, which specializes in Confederate flags, clothing and other merchandise. The protests have drawn people from opposing sides of the debate — Black Lives Matter demonstrators, as well as those who support the store and the Confederate flag. Confederate statues, the flag and other symbols have drawn new scrutiny and criticism amid protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Omaha Man Gets Prison for More Than $800,000 in Medicare Fraud
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An Omaha man has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison and ordered to pay more than $809,000 in restitution for Medicare fraud he conducted in 16 states. Federal prosecutors say Nereus Sutko visited assisted-living facilities, retirement centers and low-income housing complexes in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and 12 other states. Prosecutors say he held pizza and ice cream parties at the facilities and convinced elderly people to sign up for Medicare-funded products he never delivered. Prosecutors say Sutko was paid more than $1.8 million by Medicare, Nebraska Medicaid and Iowa Medicaid, much of it based on fraudulent claims. Sutko pleaded guilty in December to health care fraud.
Lawsuit: Kansas Official Must Disclose Uncounted Ballot Names
BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) _ A lawsuit accuses the top election official in Kansas of violating the state’s open records law by refusing to release the names of people who cast provisional ballots or say whether their votes were counted. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab in Shawnee County District Court on Wednesday. The lawsuit seeks a court order forcing Schwab to disclose the information. It was filed on behalf of voting rights advocate Davis Hammet and Loud Light, a non-profit group whose mission is to increase voter turnout.
Campaigning Finds a New Normal as Door-Knocking Resumes
WASHINGTON (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, but political campaigns are forging ahead with in-person organizing. The pandemic upended elections this year, forcing campaigns to shift organizing activities almost entirely online and compelling both parties to reconfigure their conventions. President Donald Trump decided to move the Republican National Convention to Florida after a spat with North Carolina’s governor over that state’s pace of reopening. Democrats will hold almost all of their convention virtually. But even as some states see record increases in infection rates, Republicans and Democrats are getting back to the in-person door-knocking that took a pause at the start of the pandemic.