Sam Zeff | KCUR

Sam Zeff

Metro Reporter

Sam is KCUR's Metro Reporter, focusing on Jackson County government, Kansas City and the KCPD. Before that, he covered education for KCUR. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.

Sam began his career at KANU in Lawrence. He hosted Morning Edition at WHYY in Philadelphia where he also covered organized crime, politics and government corruption.

The Overland Park, Kansas native has won a National News and Documentary Emmy for investigative reporting, four Edward R. Murrow awards and four National Headliner Awards.  Sam was assistant news director at the ABC station in the Twin Cities, executive producer at the NBC station in St. Louis and executive producer of special projects at the CBS stations in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Sam was educated at the University of Kansas.

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If a blue wave sweeps across America and ousts Republicans from control of the U.S. House, Democrats probably must first win the 3rd Congressional District that sits mostly in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties.

In the six-way Democratic primary, one question stands out: Who can beat a possibly vulnerable U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder in November?

“Any Republican in a district that Hillary Clinton won in this environment needs to be watching their back,” said University of Kansas political science professor Patrick Miller.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte says there may have been a crime committed when two former civilian employees didn’t come to work.

In a story first reported Monday by the Kansas City Star, Forte said he recently discovered that two part-time workers hired by former sheriff Mike Sharp were being paid for little or no work.

A sheriff's office source tells KCUR the pair reported directly to Sharp, so no one knew what they were doing.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Overland Park has dismissed 200 traffic tickets and refunded $4,000 in fines over an unusual traffic ticket scandal. As a result, three police officers resigned last week, according to Chief Frank Donchez.

What the officers did is a little hard to understand.

“They were writing seatbelt tickets instead of other tickets,” says Donchez.

So even if a driver was speeding or ran a red light, these three officers would just write a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt.

Why?

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

Domestic violence victims often have a hard time moving to safety because landlords won’t let them out of their leases.

That could soon change in Kansas City.

City Councilwoman Jolie Justus says abusers often live with domestic violence victims or know their address.

Moving might be the only way for victims to stay safe, but some landlords are reluctant to break a lease, Justus says.

So she’s proposed an ordinance to change that.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

This story was updated Saturday at 11:55 a.m.

In a room where it was hotter inside than outside, several thousand people stood shoulder-to-shoulder Friday evening to hear two progressive stars.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came to Kansas City, Kansas, Friday to boost the congressional campaign of Brent Welder. He's one of six Democrats fighting it out to face incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in November.

Fox News Channel

Updated at 3:55 p.m.:  

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., said Thursday morning that Mexican drug cartels are directly sending narcotics into Overland Park.

FILE PHOTO / Kansas News Service

The punishment was swift for a Republican state senator who crossed party lines to endorse a Democrat trying to unseat Congressman Kevin Yoder.

Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate from Mission Hills, Wednesday morning threw her support behind educator Tom Niermann, one of six Democrats running in the August primary.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Updated Sunday 10:04 p.m. 

Three Kansas City police officers were shot Sunday afternoon during a hunt for a man they suspected of killing a UMKC student. The suspect was killed, according to the Kansas City Police Department.  

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Police Department is spending its summer reaching out to some of the younger members of the community.

KCPD wants to improve officers' relationships with teens. “Just because a kid lives at 28th and Prospect versus 135th and State Line, a 13-year-old is a 13-year-old," says Deputy Chief Karl Oakman.

Missouri Auditor's Office

Clay County residents who want a complete state audit of county finances and operations took a step closer to that Friday.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office confirmed about 9,100 signatures were delivered by a group called Citizens For A Better Clay County.

If 5,590 are valid, then state law mandates that Galloway conduct the audit.

The audit would be both of finances and operations, according to the auditor's office.

The group has three main concerns, according to Jason Withington, the driving force behind the petitions.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Amid mounting public pressure over his administration's policy of separating childen and parents crossing the southern border, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ending the policy.

Among those applying pressure were about a hundred people who responded to a Facebook post calling on them to gather outside the office of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County has hired one of the biggest providers of jail healthcare in the country to provide service at the downtown jail. However, the company has a history of being sued for poor care.

Over the past ten years, Advanced Correctional Healthcare (ACH) has been sued 108 times in 16 states, according to Justia.com which tracks federal cases online. Several of those lawsuits are in Missouri and Kansas.

headshot of Rep Kevin Yoder
yoder.house.gov

Johnson County leaders have sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, demanding he act to prevent families seeking asylum from being separated at the border.

About 50 Republican and Democratic state lawmakers as well as city and county officials signed the letter to Yoder, who is the chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee.

The letter says the Department of Homeland Security is harming children by taking them from their parents.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City police say a federal law spurred a rape investigation in late May at the Jackson County jail after two detainees were seen alone together.

It came up during a Kansas City council committee meeting Wednesday that the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) sparked the investigation.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, in a strongly worded letter to county legislators, called on them to move administration of the downtown jail from the county executive to the sheriff's office. In the letter, she said the jail is a "stubborn problem" and "it remains one of the most serious problems facing this County."

To help make her case she brought along three members of the county grand jury that wrote a scathing report on the jail, saying it was unsafe, filthy and fiscally mismanaged.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A home once owned by Baseball Hall of Famer Satchel Paige in Kansas City’s Santa Fe Place Historic District was severely damaged by fire early Tuesday morning. 

The former Paige residence at 2626 E 28th St. was built in 1910. Paige lived in the home for almost 20 years, while he gained notoriety pitching for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues and later Major League Baseball's Kansas City Athletics.

Harpers470 / Creative Commons-Flickr

The NFL now has a rule that requires players to "show respect for the flag and anthem" during pre-game ceremonies. Players aren't required to be on the field for the anthem but if they are, no kneeling or sitting is permitted. They must stand.

The rule, announced last week after a meeting by team owners, sparked an immediate political firestorm. President Trump said he was pleased, but suggested if a player doesn't want to participate, "Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Acting to exert greater control over the financially strapped American Jazz Museum, the Kansas City Council's Finance and Audit Committee Wednesday approved two ordinances that would halt any new city money going to the museum, remove Third District councilpeople from the board and, eventually, clear the way for Mayor Sly James to name a new board of directors.

Kansas Historical Society

The Missouri General Assembly is scheduled to convene a special session Friday to consider impeaching Gov. Eric Greitens.  

Only 14 governors have ever faced impeachment.

So who was the first governor to be impeached in America?

That would be Charles Robinson, the  first governor of the State of Kansas. He took office in February 1861, just a few weeks before the Civil War started.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A committee has narrowed the list of what might be renamed in Kansas City to honor Martin Luther King Jr. 

The advisory committee, named by Mayor Sly James, said it will vote on its recommendation Sunday.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The emergency call wait time crisis that troubled Kansas City Police Department commanders last year seems to be easing after a hefty investment by the city.

Last fall, it took 57 seconds, on average, for a call taker to answer a 911 call. KCPD commanders testified before the council's Public Safety and Neighborhood Committee that the wait time was down to 21 seconds as of April.

Overland Park municipal court
Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A judge found a Kansas City Fire Department paramedic not guilty on all charges Wednesday after he was accused of spitting on a black toddler at an Overland Park, Kansas, restaurant.

Terrence Skeen, 42, was charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct after a confrontation at Hooters in February.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The woman at the center of a scandal that brought down the Jackson County sheriff has settled her lawsuit against the county—for no money.

Christine Lynde was a civilian worker in the sheriff's office when she sued the county in 2015, claiming she had been sexually harassed by two women in the office and the number two in the department, Col. Hugh Mills. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 4:20 p.m. Monday:  The committee who interviewed the five candidates for interim sheriff narrowed that list down to three Monday.

  • Retired Kansas City Police Department Chief Darryl Forte
  • Retired KCPD Major Rosilyn Allen
  • Captain Michael Rogers, who commands the Jackson County sheriff’s patrol division

The original post continues below.

If members of a select committee have their way, a more diverse workforce will be coming to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

The committee, which was appointed by Jackson County Executive Frank White to give him a recommendation, interviewed five candidates Friday. Two or three finalists are expected to be announced Monday, and White will make the final decision.

file photo / Kansas News Service

In the last year, the number of Cherokee County children in state custody shot up by roughly half.

The places available for those kids to stay, meanwhile, hasn’t changed.

So that’s meant shipping them two hours away — and regularly taking deputies from the 19-person sheriff’s department off patrol to drive the children to Andover, Kansas — the closest place available with any room.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The resignation of Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp over a sex scandal has, rather unexpectedly, brought to light an issue in the office—a severe lack of diversity.

The office Sharp inherited in 2009 and left two weeks ago is overwhelmingly white and male.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Since it was revealed that former University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was still on the payroll as a consultant, there have been questions about exactly what she is doing for her $510,000 salary.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Update, May 8 5:20 p.m.:

The Jackson County Legislature approved the proposed changes 6-3 Monday.

The changes will appear on the August primary ballot.

The original post continues below.

When Jackson County legislators convene Monday afternoon, they'll be taking the first step into determining their own future.

At that meeting, legislator Greg Grounds, who represents much of eastern Jackson County and is one of two Republicans in the county legislature, will introduce a controversial plan to change the county charter. 

Johnson County Sheriff

A 26-year-old Kansas City, Kansas man was arrested Thursday and charged with killing a pregnant woman in Olathe.

Devonte Dominique Wash is charged with capital murder for killing a woman and her unborn child, according to court documents. 

Ashley Harlan, who was 23 at the time of her death, was shot and killed near the townhouse she shared with her grandfather and was, reportedly, one day away from finding out of the sex on her baby.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A former guard at the Jackson County jail has pleaded guilty to corruption charges for taking a bribe to smuggle cigarettes, cell phones and phone chargers into the downtown jail.

Twenty-six year old Andre Lamonte Dickerson pleaded guilty to two of the four counts against him.

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