Sam Zeff | KCUR

Sam Zeff

Metro Reporter

Sam grew up in Overland Park and was educated at the University of Kansas. After working in Philadelphia where he covered organized crime, politics and political corruption he moved on to TV news management jobs in Minneapolis and St. Louis. Sam came home in 2013 and covered health care and education at KCPT. He came to work at KCUR in 2014. Sam has a national news and documentary Emmy for an investigation into the federal Bureau of Prisons and how it puts unescorted inmates on Grayhound and Trailways buses to move them to different prisons. Sam has one son and is pretty good in the kitchen.

Ways to Connect

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In a move that caught police officers and supporters of the Kansas City Police Mounted Unit off guard, the department Tuesday disbanded the unit.

Chief Rick Smith told the Board of Police Commissioners that a recent consultant's report suggested the homicide unit needs eight more detectives. To get to the recommended number, KCPD is moving the mounted officers back to regular patrol, so eight investigators can eventually move to the homicide unit.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

There is no doubt Jackson County has some monumental, vexing problems.

The county jail is in desperate need of being replaced. The downtown courthouse needs to be renovated after flooding earlier this year. And the property reassessment process is a mess, with appeals that will stretch into 2020.

Riding in to apparently try and fix all of this is Troy Schulte, who in September announced he was stepping down as Kansas City's city manager after a decade on the job. The county legislature will discuss a proposed contract with him on Monday.

Segment 1: Why former college athletes care that future college athletes might financially benefit from their name and image.

Many think statements by the NCAA are a step forward since student athletes bring in millions for their respective universities, but others say it's not enough of a step.

Bradforth Family

In a stinging 48-page investigation, the death of a 19-year-old football player last year at Garden City Community College was blamed on "a striking lack of leadership" by top college officials, including former head coach Jeff Sims.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A pair of legal opinions, covering vastly different clients, supports some kind of blanket change in the 2019 Jackson County reassessment.

The first opinion, from Legal Aid of Western Missouri, landed with the Board of Equalization (BOE) a couple of weeks ago. Legal Aid is handling about 200 cases of low-income people in Kansas City whose property valuations jumped 200% to 300% on average and, in some cases, more than 1,000%, according to Legal Aid attorney Brandon Mason.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City could once again house inmates and detainees in the downtown Jackson County jail after Mayor Quinton Lucas and Sheriff Darryl Forté reached a deal in principle Thursday.

Since June the city has used a patchwork system to house prisoners. Some have gone to two county jails in Missouri and about a hundred have been housed at the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change.

“Our view is that this is in the best interest of public safety in our community,” Lucas said after a meeting at the sheriff's office in Lee's Summit.

Kansas Public Radio

One of the hallmarks of Kris Kobach's time as Kansas Secretary of State was his power to investigate and prosecute voter fraud. Kobach, who is now running for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate, was the only secretary of state in America with such power.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In the annals of Wild West lawmen, you may not know Thomas Speers, the first police chief in Kansas City, but he was a legend in the late 19th century.

“He was contemporaries with 'Bat' Masterson, Wyatt Earp, 'Wild Bill' Hickok," says his great-grandson Clay Speers. "They would hang around when he was town marshal at the City Market square."

Segment 1: Some survivors of sex trafficking in Kansas recieve prison sentences rather than support.

Segment 1: Wyandotte advocates push for municipal IDs to mitigate problems faced by residents without photo identification.

Jackson County Government

A Jackson County sheriff’s deputy has been charged after shooting a woman in the back while trying to arrest her in August. 

Jackson County prosecutors on Wednesdsay charged Lauren Michael, 29, with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

According to the charging documents, the shooting occurred after deputies tried to pull over a couple driving a Byrd scooter the wrong way down a street. The man was arrested but the woman fled.

Segment 1: Germany's prisons emphasize rehabilitation and resocialization for their inmates.

Germany is doing a lot of things differently than the U.S. when it comes to criminal justice, and they've got a lower inceration rate to show for it. In prisons there, staff are trained in things like psychology and communication, and they're paid just as much as police officers. This is all to promote a reintegration approach, which focuses on returning inmates back into their communities. 

File photo / BigStock Images

People from all over Kansas City packed a city council hearing Wednesday to support a change in the city's marijuana laws. 

The committee delayed a decision on the proposed ordinance, sponsored by newly elected Councilman Brandon Ellington, which would essentially decriminalize the possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Executive Frank White's proposal to cut property taxes by $3 million next year landed with a thud Monday in the county legislature.

It was criticized, ridiculed and eventually shot down by legislators.

They suggested the modest cut in the county's property tax levy was White's way of deflecting attention from the county's ongoing reassessment mess.

Jackson County Executive Frank White Thursday blasted the audit of the COMBAT anti-crime tax commissioned by the prosecutor's office. 

File photo by Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Over the last three years, millions of dollars generated by COMBAT, the anti-drug and anti-violence sales tax in Jackson County, has been spent with little or no oversight, according to a new audit.

The COMBAT sales tax was approved by voters in 1989, and it has recently generated more than $20 million a year. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker commissioned the audit after she took over the agency in 2018.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Most Americans believe climate change is a serious problem, according to a CBS poll  released over the weekend. 

But few solutions seem to be coming from Washington, DC, or the statehouses in Topeka, Kansas, or Jefferson City, Missouri. So, local officials are trying to step up.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Zoo billed it as a big announcement—a remodeled home for its seven elephants—but it wasn't the huge announcement the zoo was hoping to make.

The zoo will spend $10 million improving the elephant exhibit. “The best way to do it is to just tear it all out and start from scratch,” said Randy Wisthoff, director of the zoo.

The renovations will make the pool easier for the animals to enter, add shade and make the ground a little softer by adding sand. Wisthoff says the current exhibit was good for the elephants but not great.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas City has more days with a high heat index than it did a few decades ago, and that could make outdoor sports and exercise more dangerous.

Extreme heat events are on the rise across the United States due to climate change. That is putting athletes, especially young athletes, at risk, according to a report released Wednesday from Climate Central, based at Princeton University.

KU Athletcis

The lawsuit filed against Kansas Athletics by former head football coach David Beaty can move forward, a federal district court judge ruled Thursday afternoon.

KU moved to have the suit dismissed, but it was apparent from the very start of the hearing in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, that the judge was disinclined to agree with the university's arguments. "My questions will be pointed," Senior Judge Kathyrn Vratil said as soon as the KU lawyer stood up.

The Atkins-Ingram family

What began as the tragic death of a young football player at Garden City Community College in western Kansas is now a matter for the United States Congress.

The bill filed Friday in the U.S. House would create a commission to prevent "exertional heatstroke deaths among high school and collegiate athletes"— the cause of death for 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth.

Atkins-Ingram family

One year ago a 19-year-old football player from New Jersey arrived in western Kansas to start his dream of playing in the pros. But after just one practice Braeden Bradforth was dead of exertional heatstroke, leaving his family devastated and Garden City Community College (GCCC) to explain how it happened.

“It's like nobody wasn't looking out for him,” said Joanne Atkins-Ingram, Bradforth's mother.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) will decide Tuesday whether to yet again extend the deadline for property owners to appeal their reassessments.

As of Friday, some 9,500 appeals had been filed with the BOE and staff expected hundreds more before the deadline at close of business Monday.

Segment 1: Orchestra's executive director stepping down after 16 years

Frank Byrnes has kept the Kansas City Symphony financially sound, oversaw its move to Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center and maintained a balanced repertoire between classic and modern composers. Byrne spoke to what he liked most about the job, why he's retiring now and how all the best things in his life trace back to Hawaii.

Segment 1: Northeast News celebrates 21 years with current publishers

Northeast News has been providing Kansas City with local journalism for more than 90 years. In that span, it has developed a website, a podcast and worked with four owners. This year the paper is celebrating 21 years of publishing with owners Michael Bushnell and Christine Adams. 

Segment 1: Missouri's new rules on bond authorizes judges to look for alternatives to cash bail or confinement.

Segment 1: Jackson County reassessment disrupting more than property values

Though the Jackson County reassessment mess has been about market price, it is the people who own the homes and businesses who are most deeply affected. Three Jackson County residents discussed how their neighborhoods have reacted and the real-life implications for them and their neighbors should the new valuations stand. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The fight over the Jackson County reassessment mess is dragging on and becoming even more contentious as critics alleged the assessment discriminated against poorer areas.

The county Board of Equalization (BOE) on Thursday had a plan on its agenda that would throw out the assessment and cap property value increases at no more than 14 percent.

Sam Zeff

In a move that caught the Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) off guard, one member proposed Monday that the entire reassessment should be tossed out.

“It’s essentially a do-over,” said Preston Smith who represents Blue Springs schools on the BOE.

Under Smith's plan any property whose market value increased by more than 200 percent would see a hike in valuation of 14 percent.

If the property jumped 100 percent to 200 percent, the valuation would increase 13 percent.

Segment 1: American patriotism through the years

Some things never change, like the American need to blow things up on Independence Day. Not as predictable is our collective definition of patriotism. The concept has sustained the country's 243 years, but does it mean the same thing today as it did during the 1770s, 1870s or 1970s?

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