Sunday, August 17, 2014

Keen Umbehr for Kansas Governor

Keen Umbehr running to promote fair tax legislation, government transparency

The Libertarian candidate for Kansas governor transformed himself from trash collector to crusading attorney after battling for his own right to free speech before the U.S. Supreme Court, a case he won.
He’s hoping he can defy the odds again and pull off a victory in November against Gov. Sam Brownback and Democrat challenger Paul Davis.
Keen Umbehr had a trash-hauling contract with Wabaunsee County, but the county commissioners terminated his contract after Umbehr criticized them in the local newspaper. Umbehr filed suit, alleging that his First Amendment rights had been violated, and the case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1996 the court sided with Umbehr in a 7-2 decision that affirmed that private contractors working for the government are entitled to the same free speech rights as government employees.
“We had a lot of opportunities to settle,” Umbehr said. “But I’m not the settling kind of guy. And it worked out well for us because we got a great ruling.”
The experience inspired him to sell his trash-hauling business and pursue a career as an attorney, earning his law degree from Washburn University in 2005.
“When … my oldest son started going to college, I thought, ‘Man I have got to get to college.’ I went to K-State, studied political science and went onto Washburn Law to become a lawyer. And I’m a lawyer.”
His running mate is his son, Josh Umbehr, a physician who lives in Wichita. The younger Umbehr, the second of four sons, roomed with his father while they both attended K-State.
Josh Umbehr recounted that during his legal battles with the county, his dad used to take his teenage sons with him to the Washburn Law library fresh off a shift on the trash truck.
“We’d park the trash truck right there in the parking lot, we’d do our homework and dad, with the help of the librarian, taught himself how to do legal research,” he said. “It was very interesting that, ‘Hey, a trashman can be a lawyer.’
“I think we grew up with a different idea of what normal was. And in our house it was pretty normal to bust the system.”

Fair tax law

If he pulls off a long shot victory, Keen Umbehr said he would demand passage of fair tax legislation.
Umbehr said it was immoral for a wage earner to pay income tax, while sole proprietors, such as himself, do not have to pay income tax on their businesses. He would eliminate the income tax completely and replace it with a 5.7 percent consumption tax on goods and services.
“They have to equalize the tax code for everybody, A to Z, all at once. And failure to do that, I will veto every single piece of legislation they bring me until they fix this,” he said. “Because this is the most insidious. This makes 1.4 million W-2 wage earners the tax slaves of the state of Kansas.”
Umbehr accused House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, of preventing fair tax legislation from going to the House floor. Merrick responded with an e-mailed statement.
“It is easy to stand on the outside and make outlandish claims when you don't even attempt to understand the entire story,” Merrick’s statement said. “There have been hearings on the Fair Tax in the House and it has failed to receive enough support.
“However, as I have repeatedly told supporters of the Fair Tax, just like any other bill, if it is the will of at least 63 members I would not stand in the way.”
Until August 2013, Umbehr said he was registered as a Republican.
“I was so frustrated with the Republican Party,” he said. “They wanted my time. They wanted my money. But they didn’t want my opinion on anything.”
He began researching the Libertarian Party, which seemed to be a better fit and considers himself a “conservative Libertarian.”
Umbehr criticized House Republicans for supporting a bill that would have allowed public and private employees to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds.
“This piece of legislation is based upon the religious tenet that homosexuality is bad, bad, bad … It was used to whip up well-meaning Christian people who don't have all the facts, who say, ‘Well, we should protect our religious values.’
“Well, you don’t protect religious values by making a law. You can’t make any law that inhibits or advances a religious tenet. And that’s what this is.”
On education, Umbehr said that there should be more school choice in Kansas and that state money should travel with a student whether they attend public or private school.
He breaks from some Libertarians on the issue of marijuana. He believes it should not be legalized for recreational use, but would support legalization for medical purposes.

More transparency

In addition to his Supreme Court battle, Umbehr has tangled with the Kansas Department of Corrections and won.
He represented a female inmate at the Topeka Correctional Facility who was impregnated by a guard after an alleged rape incident and was made to have an abortion, she claimed, against her will.
In 2009 Umbehr brought Tim Carpenter, a reporter with the Topeka Capital-Journal, along with him to interview clients at the prison. The resulting articles exposed sexual abuse of female prisoners by guards and prompted an investigation of the facility by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The stories also helped push the state to elevate the offense of a guard having sex with an inmate to a felony with a presumptive prison sentence.
The stories also prompted Charles Simmons, the deputy secretary of corrections, to bring a misconduct complaint against Umbehr with the state’s disciplinary review board, alleging that Umbehr had misrepresented Carpenter as a legal assistant.
“The Deputy Secretary of Corrections filed a complaint against Keen to try and ruin his legal career,” said Carpenter, who said he was interviewed multiple times by the disciplinary review board. “And they kept wanting Keen to plead to a lesser (charge), and I’d say very courageously he refused.
“He was very aggressive in pursuing justice, according to him. And in the end, he was completely exonerated. Completely.”
The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the controversy.
One of Umbehr’s key issues is greater government transparency.
“We’re all for transparency until we’ve got some bad information to get out,” Umbehr said of state officials.
He said he would like to create an ombudsman’s office that would be charged to investigate grievances against the state government. He also believes that the state should conduct its own investigation of fraud charges levied against Kansas by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission for misrepresenting the state’s pension liabilities in 2009 and 2010.
The state conceded to the charges without admitting wrongdoing and has instituted new transparency measures. But Umbehr thinks that Brownback, who took office after the incidents took place, should pursue a state investigation and bring charges against the former officials responsible.
“Why didn’t Brownback call for a top-to-bottom investigation of that? Well, because he’s still the benefactor of these bonds,” Umbehr said. “We misrepresented the strength of our state in order to sell $275 million of bonds. This is Watergate stuff!”
The Brownback campaign declined to respond to Umbehr’s criticism.

‘Compelling story’

Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University, said that Umbehr’s story – a trash collector who fights all the way to the Supreme Court and wins – could appeal to some voters who are tired of Brownback but unsure about Davis.
“It’s a very compelling story,” Beatty said. “And it’s different than your average third-party candidate. I think there’s a lot of appeal here.”
The challenge, Beatty said, will be getting his message out with limited resources – the Umbehr campaign raised less than $20,000 between January and July – and less media attention than the Republican and Democratic candidates.
Umbehr said his strategy is simple: tell the truth.
“I don’t have to worry about myself because the truth is the truth,” he said.
Chapman Rackaway, a professor of political science at Fort Hays State University, said that Umbehr could potentially draw supporters away from both Brownback and Davis.
“If Umbehr outperforms your typical Libertarian candidate he could end up being the difference between winning and losing for the other two candidates,” Rackaway said.
“You could certainly see him brokering an election. We’re not talking about him winning. But could he play a significant role in this election? Absolutely.”
If Umbehr earns 5 percent of the vote, Libertarians will be added to the primary ballot, which Rackaway said would be a victory for Umbehr.
Umbehr thinks he can get 35 percent of the vote, with Davis and Brownback splitting the rest.
Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

MSN News: Police: TV show reminded man that girl was in car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A child crying on the television show "Game of Thrones" jogged a foster parent's memory that he had left a 10-month-old girl inside a sweltering car while he and his partner smoked marijuana at their house, a police affidavit released Monday says.
Seth Jackson, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 24 death in Wichita. No charges have been filed against his partner.
Police say the girl was inside the car with the windows up for more than two hours. It was around 90 degrees outside. An autopsy showed she died of hyperthermia due to heat exposure.
The affidavit says Jackson's partner told police that Jackson called that day to let him know he would be picking the 10-month-old up from the baby sitter after taking their 5-year-old adopted child to a doctor's appointment. Jackson told police that when he arrived home, he locked the car and went inside with his 5-year-old and the pizza.
Jackson's partner said he and Jackson watched one and a half episodes of "Games of Thrones" and smoked marijuana Jackson had picked up that day, according to the affidavit. The partner told police Jackson realized he had left the 10-month-old outside in the car when he heard a child crying on the TV show.
The men rushed outside, Jackson unlocked the vehicle and his partner removed the child.
The partner told investigators the girl was hot and stiff when he grabbed her from the car and carried her into the house. As he called 911, Jackson attempted CPR but could not get the child's mouth open, according to the affidavit filed by Wichita police detective Ryan Schomaker.
Officers who responded found Jackson still on the phone when they arrived, making calls and repeatedly stating, "I left her in the car, she's dead, she's dead," according to the affidavit.
Meanwhile, the girl was unresponsive and lying on her back on the couch. Firefighters moved the girl from the couch to the floor once they arrived and attempted to revive her.
Later in an interview at police headquarters, Jackson's partner told detectives he and Jackson had been foster parents to the 10-month-old girl since she was 2 weeks old. Police have not released the child's name and documents in the case only use her initials.
Although the girl died of hyperthermia, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said the first-degree murder charge was warranted because the child died during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, aggravated endangering of a child. The case is not charged as intentional murder.
In addition to the 10-month-old, who they were trying to adopt, Jackson and his partner had five other children in their care. They had three other foster children ages 3, 5 and 18, and two adopted children ages 5 and 7. The two younger foster children were visiting other relatives at the time the 10-month-old died.
Prosecutors and Jackson's attorneys agree the circumstances are entirely different than a widely publicized case in Georgia, where a father faces murder and child cruelty charges on suspicion of intentionally leaving a 22-month-old boy inside a hot car last month as he went to work.

Affidavit: Both Wichita foster parents smoking pot while baby in hot car

  • The Wichita Eagle
    Both foster parents of a 10-month-old girl who died after being left in a hot car were smoking marijuana while she remained in the vehicle outside, a Wichita police affidavit says.
    The affidavit, filed in Sedgwick County District Court and released Monday, provides new details about what led up to the July 24 death, including that one of the foster parents realized that the baby remained in the car when he heard a baby crying on a television show they were watching.
    They rushed outside, but her body was hot and already stiff, and she was unresponsive, the court document says.
    Seth Jackson, 29, the parent who left the girl in the car according to police, has been charged with first-degree murder. The affidavit spells out the alleged facts upon which authorities are basing their prosecution of Jackson.
    The affidavit, signed by homicide unit Detective Ryan Schomaker, gives this narrative: At about 6:41 p.m. July 24, officers were dispatched to an unknown call for police and arrived at 1525 S. Topeka and were let into the home by the other foster parent, identified in the affidavit by his initials. An officer saw Jackson on the telephone and the baby, identified as K.P.J., lying on her back on the couch and not breathing.
    Wichita fire personnel arrived and moved the baby to the floor to use lifesaving techniques.
    The other foster parent told the officer that he estimated that the baby had been left in the car about two hours. The other parent said he ran to the Dodge Charger, parked on the street, and found the baby in the back passenger seat and took her inside, where “they tried performing CPR but could not get her mouth open,” the affidavit says.
    Another officer arrived and saw Jackson standing in the front yard. Jackson made about four phone calls and said, “I left her in the car, she’s dead, she’s dead.” Jackson told the officer that he had gotten home after getting the girl from the baby sitter in his silver Dodge Charger and picking up pizza, that when he arrived home, he locked the car and went inside with the pizza and a 5-year-old child, the affidavit says.
    Jackson told the officer that after about two hours, he realized the baby had remained in the car, the document says. He and the other parent ran together to the car and carried the child inside.
    Schomaker and Detective Robert Chisholm interviewed the other foster parent at police offices at City Hall and found out that he and Jackson had been foster parents to the baby since she was 2 weeks old. They also learned, according to the affidavit, that Jackson had taken a 5-year-old child to a doctor’s appointment scheduled for 2:30 p.m. that day. Jackson called the other parent at about 3:30 and told how the appointment went. Jackson told the other parent he was going to pick up the 10-month-old from the baby sitter and drive home, the affidavit says.
    The other parent told the detectives that he had been working in the backyard and went inside, where he found Jackson. It was 4 to 4:15 p.m., and the other parent said he thought Jackson had just gotten home. They decided on leftover pizza for dinner and went into their room on the main floor and watched one and a half episodes of “Game of Thrones.”
    The other parent told one of the detectives that “they smoked marijuana that Seth (Jackson) had picked up that day,” the affidavit says.
    When watching the show, the other parent said, Jackson heard “a child crying on the television show and that is when Seth realized that K.P.J. was still inside the vehicle.” The other parent ran to the car as Jackson unlocked it from the front porch, reached in and unbuckled the baby from a rear car seat, the affidavit says.
    The other parent said the girl “was hot to the touch and stiff when he grabbed her,” the document says. The 10-month-old was unresponsive. He called 911 while Jackson tried to do CPR.
    A coroner’s official who did an autopsy on the girl listed the cause of death as “hyperthermia due to environmental heat exposure due to enclosure inside a vehicle outdoors,” the affidavit says.
    Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or

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    Friday, August 1, 2014

    DA: Foster father using marijuana when baby left in car

    Why doesn't the State do drug testing on foster placements??

  • The Wichita Eagle

  • The foster father charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 10-month-old girl who had been left in a hot car had been consuming marijuana earlier that day and went into the home to use more when he left her, District Attorney Marc Bennett said.
    The disclosure came at a court hearing Friday afternoon in which Seth Jackson’s attorneys were seeking to modify his bond.
    In giving some background for how prosecutors have approached the case, Bennett said that on the day of the child’s death, Jackson allegedly had been using marijuana in the morning and ran out.
    Jackson had been transporting a 5-year-old and the 10-month-old. He allegedly went to a drug dealer’s house and bought more of the drug and went into the house to consume more marijuana, Bennett said.
    Prosecutors believe Jackson was getting high during the 2 1/2 hours that the baby remained in the car, Bennett said.
    Jackson, 29, was charged with first-degree murder Wednesday. The count alleges the girl’s death occurred within the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, according to the criminal complaint filed against him. The underlying crime alleged is aggravated endangerment of a child. The endangerment allegation means recklessly causing or permitting a child to be in a situation where his or her life is in danger, Bennett said Wednesday.
    Also Friday, Judge Dave Dahl agreed to modify the conditions of Jackson’s $250,000 bond. The modification means basically that Jackson would have to pay a bondsman $5,000 instead of $25,000 to get out of jail.
    Dahl also ruled that on or before Aug. 7, he would decide whether to release an affidavit that might provide more information about the allegations. The document, known as a probable cause affidavit, requires authorities to provide enough information justifying their case against a person. Neither the prosecutors nor the defense attorneys objected to the release of the full contents of the document.

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    Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or

    Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Foster Child dies after being left in car in south Wichita

    Foster Child dies after being left in car in south Wichita One arrested after baby dies in hot car in S. Wichita Wichita Foster Dad of Baby Who Died in Hot Car 'Wants to Die' Police, state conducting own investigations into child’s death in hot car Ten-month-old girl dies after being left in a hot car in Wichita

    CJOnline, Child abuse reports, foster care placements rising in state, More children in state custody despite high standard for substantiating abuse claims, More children in state custody despite high standard for substantiating abuse claims, Posted: July 26, 2014 - 2:47pm By Andy Marso The number of children in state custody has risen to record levels in Kansas, correlating with a rising number of child abuse and neglect complaints. As of the beginning of June there were about 7,000 children in the custody of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, including 6,168 in out-of-home foster care placement. Bruce Linhos, executive director of the Kansas Children's Alliance, said it is a higher number than ever before and child advocates, social workers and government officials are struggling to pinpoint a cause. “There’s been a lot of discussion, and I don’t think anybody’s come up with any great answers about why the number is growing,” Linhos said. An in-depth report by the Kansas Health Institute in June included some advocates saying that state policies arestraining and stressing poor families, while a DCF spokeswoman attributed the increase to heightened awareness and reporting of child abuse and neglect. The state is investigating more abuse and neglect claims compared with five years ago and the percentage of those claims that results in a "substantiated" finding is ticking up. But the vast majority remain "unsubstantiated." In Fiscal Year 2009 the state investigated 26,543 child-in-need-of-care complaints and 94.8 percent were found "unsubstantiated." In FY 2013 the Department for Children and Families investigated 32,130 complaints and 93.5 percent were unsubstantiated. Through the first 11 months of FY 2014, the department had assigned 33,052 complaints for investigation. Of those, 29,946 had been declared unsubstantiated and 1,828 had been substantiated. The remaining 1,278 complaints are still open. Substantiated claims are passed to local county and district attorneys, who decide whether to file a child-in-need-of-care petition with the court. Only judges can decide whether custody of the child in question should be granted to DCF or another person. As part of a series of reports on child abuse, the Wichita Eagle in June outlined a court case in which a 14-year-old girl who weighed 66 pounds was removed from her home after nine reports of neglect and abuse, eight of which were determined unsubstantiated. A prosecutor in Sedgwick County, where reports of child abuse and neglect have risen by more than 25 percent in the past five years to over 12,000 a year, told the Eagle his office is sometimes shocked by the number of unsubstantiated complaints in a child's past by the time a case is referred. Lee McGowan, a spokesman for the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office, said that's familiar to local prosecutors. "Our office concurs that it is sometimes surprising at how many previous reports may have been made before a case ever reaches our office," McGowan said via email. McGowan said he also agreed with his counterparts in Sedgwick County that there is sometimes a difference in philosophy between prosecutors, whose "focus is always on safety of the child first and foremost" and social workers, whose approach "may well be to try to keep the child in the home." "That is not to say, however, that safety is not a priority for the social workers," McGowan said. Ron Nelson, a prominent family law attorney in Lenexa, said it is no surprise that more than 90 percent of abuse and neglect complaints are determined unsubstantiated. To substantiate a complaint, state law requires "clear and convincing evidence," which Nelson called a "very high standard." "It is a standard that requires more than a belief that something occurred or that the person who is alleged to have committed the abuse or neglect is the one who committed it," Nelson said. "It is more than that there is some indication that something occurred or that the person alleged to have committed it performed the act. It is less than 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Nelson also said that the list of those whose professions require them to report suspected abuse and neglect is long, and reports may be made "out of an abundance of caution." Theresa Freed, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families, said a substantiated claim is not necessary to temporarily remove a child from a dangerous situation. "The rate of removal is much higher than the rate of substantiating," Freed said. The process of removal has been under increased scrutiny recently as well. Craig Gabel, the president of a Wichita-based conservative group called Kansans for Liberty, last year proposed cutting DCF's funding if the agency does not meet family reunification goals. "In my opinion, the worst family in the world is better for a child than the best foster home," Gabel said at the time. During the 2014 session a member of Gabel's group teamed up with other disaffected parents to lobby for changing the state law that instructs courts to act "in the best interests of the child" to one that instructs them to choose the "least detrimental alternative for the child." The measure, House Bill 2450, died in committee. Linhos said that in addition to promoting family reunification, Kansans should also be working toward greater adoption rates so children aren't aging out of the foster care system and trying to prevent abuse and neglect from occurring in the first place. He touted programs like Topeka's Safe Families for Children that help families manage crises before they become damaging to children. “Those kind of very front end, early interventions are the kind of things I think the system has really struggled to kind of be able to address," Linhos said. "In my mind, those are the kind of hopeful things where we really are able to get the people assistance prior to getting to the point of abuse or neglect.” Andy Marso can be reached at Capital: (785) 233-7470; Office: (785) 295-5619 or Follow Andy on Twitter @andymarso.