Committee to represent City of Independence in hospital merger talks

INDEPENDENCE — Independence city commissioners on Monday named four people to serve as a committee to represent the city’s interests in the merger discussions between Mercy Hospital and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center.

In a brief special meeting Monday, commissioners voted unanimously to appoint city manager Micky Webb, city attorney Jeff Chubb and city commissioner Fred Meier to serve on a five-member committee. Also representing the city on the committee will be Terry Deschaine, a hospital consultant from Wellington, Kan. A representative of the Forbes Law Firm of Topeka, which has a previous history in representing hospital negotiations, will be consulted and provide advice to the committee as needed during the negotiation process.

Commissioner Gary Hogsett said the committee would serve solely to “look after the bests interests of Independence” as the two hospitals discussion plans for a merger.

The five-member committee has little time to get prepared for its duties. The committee is expected to meet Tuesday afternoon in a round of negotiations between CRMC and Mercy Hospital.

Webb said the committee was established after the City of Independence put a monetary interest in the negotiations. At a special meeting last Thursday, commissioners voted unanimously to signal its intent to be in the negotiations by agreeing to issue $3 million in bonds — either as Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) or General Obligation Bonds (GOBs) — for the purpose of retaining health care services in Independence. That decision marked the first time that the negotiation process involved a local government entity. Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the negotiations have solely been between the two hospitals, both of which are private businesses.

The commission agreed to throw itself in the negotiations after talks between the two hospitals appeared to have stalled. The city commission interjected itself into the process in hopes that the assurance of $3 million in bonds would re-energize those discussions. Details of those negotiations have not been made public.

“We’re obviously the stepchild in this process,” said Mayor Leonhard Caflisch, referring to the previous lack of city input in the hospital merger discussions.

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Coffeyville woman is suspect in attempt murder

Coffeyville police have arrested 27-year-old Tenisha Marie Thomas for attempted second degree murder stemming from a shooting incident. Officers were called to 706 W. North Street at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 3, for a report of shots fired.

Upon arrival, officers discovered 41-year-old Scott R. Willis, who resides in Coffeyville, had been shot once in the head. Willis had already left the scene en route to Coffeyville Regional Medical Center. Thomas, also of Coffeyville, was
located near the crime scene and transported to the Montgomery County Department of Corrections.

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information on this case, or who may have witnessed the crime, is encouraged to contact Detective Lucas Vargas at 620-252-6010 or the Coffeyville Police Department at 620-252-6160. Individuals
wishing to remain anonymous may provide information to the Crime Tip Hotline at 620-252-6133.

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• Water is slowly being released into the city’s water distribution system. However, depending upon where you live in Caney, the water pressure will vary. That varied pressure will persist until the entire water distribution system has been pressurized and the water tower is full.

• Because the water distribution system has been shut down, air remains with the lines. City crews will go through the community to open various fire hydrants in order to release air and sediment. Do not be alarmed when seeing water being flushed from the fire hydrants. Relieving the system of air will actually speed up the amount of time for water to flow into residential and commercial taps.

• Even though water will be coming back into residential and commercial taps, a boil advisory remains in effect until further notice. Water rationing also is encouraged, meaning residents should prohibit the watering of lawns and outdoor vegetation.

• Clean, potable water is available to all residents at a tanker parked across the street from Caney City Hall. The water has been made available by the City of Coffeyville. Residents are encouraged to bring containers to fill. The tanker will be available through the duration of the Caney water situation.

• The Caney City Pool is closed today (July 4th). Whether the pool will be open tomorrow or thereafter will be a day to day decision until the water situation is rectified. Check the City of Caney website at for more details about pool hours.

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Water boil advisory issued for City of Caney

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued a boil water advisory for water customers of the City of Caney. KDHE officials issued the advisory because of a loss of pressure. Failure to maintain adequate pressure may result in a loss of chlorine residuals and bacterial contamination.

The advisory took effect at 8 p.m., tonight (Thursday, July 2) and will remain in effect until pressure is restored and all other conditions which place the system at risk of contamination are deemed by KDHE officials to be adequately resolved.

• Customers should observe the following precautions until further notice:

• Boil water for one minute prior to drinking or food preparation, or use bottled water.

• Dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker.

• Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.

• Water used for bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing so that water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult their physicians.

• If your tap water appears dirty, flush the water lines by letting the water run until it clears.

Public water suppliers in Kansas take all measures necessary to notify customers quickly after a system failure. Regardless of whether it’s the supplier or KDHE that announces a boil water advisory, KDHE will issue the rescind order following testing at a certified laboratory.

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City of Independence to provide negotiation power in Mercy/CRMC merger talks

INDEPENDENCE — The City of Independence now has a stake in the merger negotiations between Mercy Hospital and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center.

The two Montgomery County-based hospitals have been negotiating an alliance or merger for several months. However, hospitals officials have indicated those negotiations have slowed lately as the two sides determine how to eliminate a financial gap that keeps the two hospitals from agreeing to a merger.

Details of the negotiations remain confidential due to a confidentiality clause signed by both hospitals.

However, city commissioners on Wednesday night voted unanimously to issue a letter of understanding that would allow the City of Independence to issue $3 million in bonds — either through industrial revenue bonds (knowns as IRBs) or general obligation bonds (known as GOBs) — to “retain health-care services in Independence.”

The commission met with city manager Micky Webb, assistant city manager Kelly Passauer and attorney Tim Emert (filling in for city attorney Jeff Chubb) in an executive session for 45 minutes. Also included the executive session was Jim Kelly of Independence, who serves as chairman of the Mercy Hospital board of directors. After the executive session, which is closed to the press and public, commissioners agreed to sign the letter of understanding that would permit the City of Independence to use the $3 million in bonds as negotiation leverage on behalf of Mercy Hospital.

“This merely allows us to have skin in the game,” said commissioner Fred Meier after the meeting regarding the letter of intent. “Before tonight, we didn’t have any negotiation power. This is merely the first step in the process.”

At a community meeting in May, interim Mercy chief executive officer Kim Day said failure to reach a merger agreement with CRMC would cause Mercy Hospital to close its doors in Independence.

“There is no plan B,” he said at that meeting.

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Caney mayor walks out of council meeting; status of resignation unknown

By Rudy Taylor

CANEY — Caney Mayor Carol McClure walked out of the city council meeting Monday night after taking part in a 15-minute executive session that apparently sparked heated emotions.

McClure gave no explanation for her exit, although council members confirmed that she told them she was resigning.

Later in the meeting, council member Dan Vernon, while speaking about another matter, referred to McClure as “the former mayor.”

Since she did not present a formal resignation, the remainder of the meeting was led by councilor Chad Bradford in his role as president of the council.

After the meeting, Bradford said he was not sure where the matter stood. “All I know is she was upset and she left the building,” said Bradford.

The issue that led up to the executive session was another resignation — that of Police Chief Jimmy Rogers.

At the end of his regular report at the meeting, Rogers said he was tendering his 30-day notice of resignation. “I can’t work under these circumstances,” said Rogers, and he referred to a personnel issue that involved his assistant chief, Ron Wade, who said he, too, was on the verge of leaving.

What triggered all the emotions was a letter sent to Wade from Mayor McClure requiring him to see a doctor and get a “fitness for duty evaluation.”

Wade said he was surprised to get it, and wanted to know if the council was aware of it.

There were no comments from any council members, but Mayor McClure acknowledged that, indeed, she sent the letter.

“It asks him to take a medical evaluation, not a psychological evaluation,” she said. “If he does that, he can continue working.”

McClure said the letter came after actions and comments allegedly made by Wade in a recent executive session meeting of the council.

Wade responded, “I need to know if the council wants me to come to work tomorrow. I will not sign the letter because it says things that are not true.”

Rogers commented, “I think you (the city council) may be walking into a civil rights violation here.”

The council then went into executive session to discuss non-elected personnel, with all council members, the mayor, the city clerk, police chief and assistant police in attendance.

Before that session could end, McClure emerged by herself, visibly shaken, took all her papers and purse, and headed out the door.

When the council members came back in, Bradford sat at the head of the table and the council voted to go back into executive session for 15 minutes to discuss non-elected personnel.

When they returned, a motion was made confirming that Assistant Police Ron Wade should continue working in his job.

After that, Bradford presided over routine reports and issues, never mentioning the status of the mayor’s position.

Finally, as Bradford prepared to adjourn the meeting, a member the audience asked for an explanation of what had transpired.

“I’m just doing the work of the president of the council,” said Bradford.

He later told the Montgomery County Chronicle that he still was not sure whether Carol McClure was coming back as mayor.

Also after the meeting, Chief Rogers told the Montgomery County Chronicle that he would give it “another couple of weeks to see if things can get worked out.”

Bradford also commented that he hoped both Rogers and Wade would stay on.

“We have a really good police department right now,” he said.

Under usual protocol, when a mayor or council member resigns, it is done in writing to the council which then acts to accept or reject it.

While talking informally with others after the meeting, Wade said he received a text from the mayor’s son, Clint McClure, saying he was quitting his job as a Caney Police Officer and EMT.

Carol McClure, who was re-elected to a two-year term in April, still has not made a public comment about the meeting or whether she was resigning as mayor.

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Bonds set against trio involved in chase, police shootings, manhunt

Montgomery County Chronicle

INDEPENDENCE — Three people involved in high-speed chase in Oklahoma that included the wounding of an Oologah, Okla., police officer and a shootout with a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department deputy on May 28-29 appeared in Montgomery County District Court on Monday.

Alejandro Garcia, Cesar Rios and Roxanne Mendoza are alleged to have instigated a high-speed chase in Oklahoma that evolved into a shooting of a police officer from Oologah, Okla., on May 28. Rios and Mendoza were arrested after bailing from their vehicle when their car was disabled with tire spikes south of Coffeyville.

Garcia fled the scene and is alleged to have carjacked a vehicle. He ultimately took that vehicle — and the driver who owned it — to Liberty where the vehicle stopped at the driveway of a private residence north of the All Saints Cemetery. After exiting that carjacked vehicle, Garcia got into a shootout with Michael Grimes, a member of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department. Grimes was not injured in the shooting; however, the individual who owner of the carjacked vehicle, David Henderson, sustained a bullet wound to the neck. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for medical treatment.

Garcia then broke into a private residence, where he was ultimately discovered hiding in a closet on the morning of May 29. The search for Garcia included dozens of law enforcement officers from multiple counties, cities and two states.

Appearing separately in front of Judge Jeff Gossard on Monday, Mendoza and and Rios were each charged with the same crimes:

• interference with law enforcement, felony obstruction of resisting arrest; and

• criminal possession of a weapon by a felon.

Greg Benefiel, a prosecuting attorney with the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office, recommended that bond against Mendoza be set at $500,000. Bond for Rios was set at $1 million based on a previous drug charge in Jackson County, Mo., and on the belief that Rios fired the weapon that injured the Oologah police officer in Oklahoma.

Rios shook his head when he heard Benefiel reveal the allegation that Rios fired the shot against the Oologah police officer.

According to court records, Rios was arrested in February 2013 in Kansas City, Mo., on two counts: possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia.

Benefiel also said the State of Oklahoma intends to file charges against Rios and Mendoza, both of whom are from Kansas City, Mo., based on the police chase and officer shooting in Oklahoma.

Garcia, whose hometown is unknown, faces four counts, including:

• interference with law enforcement, felony obstruction of resisting arrest; and
• burglary,

• criminal damage to property, and

• attempted capital murder against a law enforcement officer.

Garcia indicated he could speak very little English, a fact that was verified by Benefiel, who spoke at the hearing on behalf of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Gossard said a language interpreter will be provided for Garcia in all future hearings.

Because of the severity of the crimes against Garcia, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office will be the lead prosecutor in the case against Garcia but not Rios and Mendoza. Garcia’s bond was set at $2 million. Gossard told Garcia that the “very serious charges” against him were the reason for the $2 million bond. He also told Garcia that other charges were pending in Oklahoma.

Monday’s hearings against the three individuals were brief and lasted only a matter of minutes. All three were return to Montgomery County District Court with their court-appointed attorneys on Thursday, June 25 for the first formal appearances.

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Manhunt continues for Hispanic male; perimeter set up near Liberty


The manhunt continues this morning for the Hispanic male is believed to be involved in the shooting of an Oologah, Okla., police officer and an innocent motorist near Coffeyville whose vehicle was carjacked.

Sheriff Bobby Dierks said the manhunt is centered in the Liberty area. Law enforcement officials are looking for Alejandro Garcia, age 30, who was last seen wearing a white polo shirt, blue jeans, tennis shoes and gold chains. Garcia abandoned the vehicle he carjacked near the All Saints Cemetery east of Liberty on U.S. 169 highway Thursday evening. A perimeter has been set up around they area where they believe the suspect is hiding.

Dierks said Garcia is believed to be armed and extremely dangerous. People should not approach him if located. Call 911 immediately if the suspect is located.

Two people involved in the Oologah shooting have been taken into custody. They are Cesar Rios, age 23, and Roxanne Mendoza, age 20.

Stay tuned to the Montgomery County Chronicle’s Facebook page for more details.

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Constitutional crisis looms between judicial and legislative branches


The State of Kansas appears headed to a constitutional crisis within its state government due to a set of events on Friday that now pits the judicial branch against the legislative branch.

On Friday morning, the Kansas House of Representatives scraped enough votes (64-57) to pass a controversial, two-year, public education funding bill that would be a wholesale change from the way public schools have been financed since 1993. Instead of funding schools based on enrollments (with additional dollars given to external forces, such as poverty, minority enrollment, at-risk enrollment, transportation, and construction of new buildings), the bill would provide funding to local schools on a block grant basis.

Members of the Republican-dominated Kansas House of Representatives contended that local schools would still receive the same amount of money for the 2015-16 school year as they did in the 2014-15 school year. Additional language was inserted in the bill to give local schools more flexibility in how they spend money for specific items.

State Rep. Jim Kelly, R-Independence, voted against the measure while and State Rep. Richard Proehl, R-Parsons, cast a vote in favor of the block grant bill. State Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, was unable to cast a vote as he as in Coffeyville to welcome Gov. Sam Brownback for an announcement of an industrial announcement in Coffeyville.

The Kansas Association of School Boards and most school districts in Kansas opposed the bill.

That bill is now headed to the Kansas Senate, where it is assured majority support. Gov. Sam Brownback has indicated he will sign the bill into law quickly.

Hours after the vote was taken, a three-judge panel dealing with an ongoing lawsuit about the Kansas public education finance system issued a ruling saying it could block any new school finance plan from taking effect while the lawsuit is in litigation.

The order from the three-judge panel considering the lawsuit set a May 7 hearing in the case and stated: “Further, be advised that upon motion of the Plaintiffs or the State or upon the Court’s own motion, with or without notice, the Court may agree or elect to impose such temporary orders to protect the status quo and to assure the availability of relief, if any, that might be accorded should the Court deem relief warranted.”

Immediately after the three-judge panel issued its order, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt expressed grave reservations about the panel’s ruling and decree. He said numerous constitutional issues now arise with the panel threatening to apply the brakes on the Kansas Legislature’s block grant funding bill.

Said Schmidt in a press release, “Today’s order from the panel was unexpected and unusual to say the least. After the instructions from the Supreme Court last March and the legislature’s prompt response, we had thought and hoped this dispute was headed for a swift and final resolution. But today’s order from the panel introduces further delays and injects a host of additional constitutional and legal issues. The path to resolution is now less clear than ever before. We are studying the order carefully to determine the appropriate next steps.”

More details to appear in the March 19th issue of the Montgomery County Chronicle.

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Gas nozzle in vehicle prompts deputy to seek search; 2 arrested

Two Independence residents await drug and weapons charges after a traffic stop by a sheriff’s deputy on March 5 resulted in a significant drug and weapon seizure.

Sheriff Robert Dierks said a deputy who was monitoring traffic near 10th and Main streets in Independence on March 5 observed a vehicle pull into the Jump Start convenience store. The deputy observed the driver pump gas and drive away with the gas nozzle still inserted into the vehicle. Dierks said the deputy initiated a traffic stop and made contact a male driver and female passenger.

During the traffic stop, the deputy summoned the sheriff’s department canine based on what the deputy observed. The canine made a positive indication that drugs were present in the vehicle, which resulted in the search of the vehicle. Found in the vehicle were $7,000 in currency, about one-half pound of methamphetamine, and a loaded handgun.

Taken into custody at the scene were Kyle Cole Harris, age 39, and Sonya C. Harris, age 29, both of Independence. They were booked into the Montgomery County Jail.

Dierks recommended the following charges be filed against the two individuals: possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, and weapons violations.

“This was a great example of good, solid police work, and these arrest represent a significant seizure,” said Dierks. “My deputies were able to take thousands of dollars worth of illegal narcotics and a weapon off our streets, and I couldn’t be happier.”

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