Archive for June 2016

UG Commission votes to approve concealed carry amendment for employees

Unified Government Commissioners tonight felt they were being forced to vote in a change to the UG’s human resources policy allowing concealed carry of handguns by UG employees on the job outside of UG buildings.

The new policy on concealed carry goes into effect on Friday, July 1, under state law. The policy change was approved on a unanimous vote.

A ban will remain in effect on any guns inside the UG’s buildings, according to officials.

Mayor Mark Holland said approving guns in the workplace is not anything he would ever want to do.

“The state Legislature continues to complain about the politicians in Washington overreaching their effect and infringing upon states’ rights, and yet these same legislators actively are creating more burdens for local communities,” Mayor Holland said.

The gun laws of the last two years are the first time since statehood that the cities of Kansas have not had permission to regulate their own gun laws as they see fit, Mayor Holland said. This is despite a home rule provision in a constitutional amendment.

He said the cities of Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita have very different concerns than, for example, Pratt, Colby and Concordia, Kan. Each city is a different size with a different makeup, he said. Kansas City, Kan., is in a metropolitan area with about 2 million residents.

“We need to be able to make laws that make sense for our own community,” Mayor Holland said. The UG has trained 300 police officers and 200 deputies to carry guns, with extensive training, and they are qualified to carry a gun and have a sworn oath to carry the gun, he said.

“I am not happy about the idea that people who have no training and no oath are carting guns around while employed for the Unified Government,” Mayor Holland said. “I think that we’re not going to solve cancer with cigarettes; we’re not going to solve gun violence with guns. This additional burden on the cities is a liability for our city that is unacceptable. It is required by state law, and we will commit to abiding by state law.”

Commissioner Angela Markley pointed out the change was forced upon the local government by the change in state law.

“The only way we can change this is to go out and vote,” Commissioner Mike Kane said.

The human resources policy was amended to allow concealed carry after the state Legislature passed a bill saying government employees must be allowed to carry concealed weapons when they are not in government buildings.

The UG’s new policy has many rules about concealed carry, including one that stated guns cannot be left unattended in UG-owned vehicles. However, employees may leave guns in their own vehicles, out of sight, according to the policy change.

Employees also will not be allowed to carry concealed handguns in a way that others can notice an outline of them, and they will not be allowed to tell anyone that they have a concealed handgun, according to UG staff.

In addition, they may not bring a concealed handgun onto any private property that does not allow them. If there is a sign on private property, such as a business, that says no guns are allowed, the UG employee will not be allowed to bring a gun onto the property, according to the policy.

The new state law says anyone may carry a concealed weapon and training is not required. Only convicted felons and those who have domestic violence convictions are not allowed to carry guns.

The new UG human resources policy says carrying a weapon is not within the scope of employment, unless the person is a law enforcement officer. So, if an employee shoots himself in the foot, the injury will not be covered by workers’ compensation, UG staff said. The UG will not defend an employee who injures someone while on the job; that employee would be doing that on his individual liability, according to the new policy.

Commissioner Angela Markley said the UG has a sliver of control over the issue in that it can set its own policies on concealed carry.

“We’re trying to use that sliver of control to make sure our employees and our residents feel safe,” Commissioner Markley said. Some people feel safer because they can carry a gun, while others feel less safe knowing that other people are carrying guns.

She asked the commission to be clearer in the policy language on termination. The new policy said employees may have consequences up to and including termination for violating the policy, and Commissioner Markley said she thought the policy should clearly state that they should be terminated if they violate the policy.

“If you ‘accidentally’ bring your gun where you shouldn’t, you’re putting everybody here in jeopardy, making everyone feel unsafe, and your job should be over. That’s how I feel about it,” Commissioner Markley said.

Administrator Doug Bach said the current wording would give the UG supervisors some latitude in considering the circumstances of the violation.

The commission, after a suggestion by Mayor Holland, decided to take up the matter of the wording concerning termination at a later UG committee meeting. The commission passed the concealed carry policy change as presented on Thursday night.

The new concealed carry provision may apply to UG employees such as those who are inspecting property, those who work outdoors, or firefighters responding to calls.

KCK man charged with attempted rape of child in Craigslist case

A 22-year-old Kansas City, Kan., man was charged with attempted rape of a child under 14 years old, as well as other charges, today in a case involving Craigslist.

According to Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman, charges were filed against Zachary Taylor Garrett.

He was charged with attempted rape of a child under 14, attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child under 14, and aggravated child endangerment.

The charges stemmed from an investigation into a posting on the website Craigslist that resulted in Garrett offering to provide a 2-year-old child to undercover agents for the purpose of sexual activity, according to the district attorney’s office.

The investigation was initiated several weeks ago near Springfield, Mo., and ultimately led to Garrett’s arrest in the 3300 block of North 59th Terrace in Kansas City, Kan.

Bond was set at $500,000.

The case was investigated by the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, the Marshfield, Mo., Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

Report: Nearly 70 Kansas water systems violate EPA lead rules

by Bryan Thompson, KHI News Service

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 5,000 public water systems — including 68 in Kansas — are in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules meant to protect people from lead in the water they drink.

Erik Olson, a health programs director with the council, a nonprofit international environmental organization, said those are just the systems that have been flagged. Many others — like the troubled Flint, Mich., system — don’t show up in the federal database.

“We are very concerned about severe under-reporting and gaming of the system by some drinking water suppliers to avoid finding lead problems,” he said during a Tuesday call with reporters. “In other words, basically a water system can avoid detecting lead in their water if they’re savvy and understand how the rules work.”

Olson said some systems test only in locations where they’re unlikely to find a high lead level — a tap that’s not served by lead pipes, for example.

“Some utilities have tested just in their employees’ homes, rather than targeting the high-risk homes that they’re supposed to do,” he said.

Other strategies Olson cited:

• Flushing all water from the pipes before taking a sample, to get rid of water that lead has leached into from lead plumbing.

• Removing the aerator from a faucet to get rid of lead particles that may have been captured in the screen.

• Using sample bottles with very narrow openings, so that the flow rate has to be minimized during the test. Faster water flow is more likely to disturb lead particles in the pipes.

“EPA finally, on February 29, issued a guidance document saying that water utilities should stop using three of the most widely used techniques, sort of tricky techniques, to avoid detecting lead,” Olson said. “EPA had known about these tricky techniques for many years, and there had been a lot of pressure on EPA to stop them, but the agency had not moved aggressively to stop water systems from using them.”

The report found that between 15 million and 22 million people nationwide have lead pipes bringing water to their homes from the water mains buried beneath the streets.

“It’s basically like sipping water out of a lead straw,” Olson said.

And enforcement of existing lead standards is lax. Almost 90 percent of water systems violating the rules never face any kind of formal enforcement action from state or federal agencies, according to the report. Only 3 percent faced any penalties.

“Basically, there’s no cop on the beat. We don’t have anyone making sure that the law is being complied with,” Olson said. “The bottom line is that providing safe drinking water to citizens is a fundamental government service. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job.”

The report said water systems in 18 Kansas counties were cited for exceeding allowable lead levels. No locations in Wyandotte County were on the list.

The highest lead level reported in Kansas last year was at the Sundowner West Mobile Home Park west of Salina. While the federal limit for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion, one sample at Sundowner West contained 647 parts per billion. Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are leading an investigation after tests by local doctors this year found elevated lead levels in the blood of 32 Saline County children — most of them from Salina.

The report cited two Kansas water systems — the city of Mullinville, a small town in Kiowa County, and Saline County Rural Water District 7 — for health violations, which means they failed to take required steps to protect their customers from lead.

To see a list of Kansas water systems with violations, visit http://www.khi.org/assets/uploads/news/14451/kansas_water_systems.xlsx.

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said the report highlights an important public health issue.

“Flint, Michigan, was a wake-up call for America,” he said. “Once we saw the terrible outcome in that city when gross negligence or worse led to children and many others being exposed to high levels of lead in their water, people started looking around, saying, ‘What about my water?’”

Durbin is co-sponsoring a bill called the Copper and Lead Evaluation, Assessment and Reporting Act that calls for the EPA to develop ways to improve reporting, testing and monitoring of copper and lead in drinking water.

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org when a story is reposted online.

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