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

It has been eight months since 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth collapsed and died after a football workout at Garden City Community College (GCCC).

Since then, the college has said little about the teen's death from exertional heat stroke after a grueling practice.

But that wall of silence may be breaking. "Kansas, can you hear me now?" the family's lawyer Jill Greene asked during a town hall meeting Thursday night at Friendship Baptist Church in Asbury Park, New Jersey. "Maybe we have a bad connection. We need to fix that."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There are only seven members of the Kansas City Police who patrol on horseback, but at the police board meeting on Tuesday, they were the most celebrated cops on the KCPD.

“I patrolled the same neighborhoods for many years," retired mounted officer Aaron Shillcutt told the board. In a patrol car, he said,  people run inside. "You change your uniform a little bit and you start riding a horse and everybody wants to talk to you.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It will probably be another week before the Missouri River at Parkville, Missouri, is back in its banks. The latest National Weather Service map predicts sometime next Tuesday or Wednesday.

But merchants around the quaint downtown are weathering the flood just fine.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Hundreds of people packed an Olathe, Kansas, church on Sunday afternoon to hear from newly elected Rep. Sharice Davids at a town hall.

Davids had promised regular town halls during her campaign for the 1st Congressional District against former Rep. Kevin Yoder. People want to interact with their representatives, she said.

“Not just to hear from their representative but to be able to ask the questions and voice their opinions and their ideas and their concerns,” Davids said after Sunday's event.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

As Kansas City council members get ready to approve a new budget, the city finds itself with a couple of million dollars more than expected.

City budget officer Scott Huizenga told the Finance and Governance Committee Wednesday that the city has about $2.5 million extra coming in this fiscal year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Last August, a mother put her youngest son on a plane in New Jersey bound for Garden City Community College to play football in southwestern Kansas.

Just 48 hours later, the 19-year-old was dead.

The family knows how and when Braeden Bradforth died.

But in the six months since he collapsed in a narrow alley after a grueling conditioning practice in Broncbuster Stadium, questions remain about whether the death was preventable.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The number of criminal suspects who resist arrest in Kansas City has risen 60 percent over the past four years, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith told a city council committee Wednesday.

“To me, that’s a little bit alarming,” Smith told members of the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee. “It shows our officers are being put in positions to be assaulted or to be harmed by suspects.”

Congressional Leadership Fund

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas' 3rd District had been in office for less than 24 hours when Republicans came out swinging with an attack ad.

"With her very first vote in Congress, Sharice Davids caved to the party bosses and voted to support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker," says a female narrator, with chilling music in the background.

Luke Martin / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County legislators had lots of questions for Sheriff Darryl Forte, given that he just took over the troubled downtown jail.

But at a budget hearing Tuesday they got few answers since the sheriff was absent for much of the meeting. A sheriff's office spokesman said Forte was in a deposition during the hearing, but he did show up toward the end. He sent civilian jail administrators in his place. 

Sharice Davids

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, the new congresswoman from Kansas' 3rd District, will meet with Republican Sen. Jerry Moran this week and lobby him to vote for a House bill that would reopen the government, Davids said on Sunday.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Even breweries are feeling the pinch of the partial federal government shutdown.  

“The regulating body that we have to submit all of our labels to, to get approved by is shut down,” says James Stutsman, founder of City Barrel Brewing.

Stutsman shared his story on KCUR's Central Standard Wednesday.

Rebecca Hange / KCUR 89.3

After three years of investigation and review, a dark chapter in the history of the Kansas City Police Department appears to have come to a close.

An internal investigation, uncovered two years ago by the Kansas City Star, showed a massive failure in KCPD's Crimes Against Children's unit.

Infinite Energy Construction

Some 19,000 federal government workers are scattered across the Kansas City area. As the federal government shutdown continues, most of them are looking at a second missed paycheck.

Many small businesses with government contracts are also dealing with uncertainty, although there is one certainty: Things can change quickly.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The day after Christmas, a 33-year-old motorcycle driver was run over and killed after a crashing into a Buick in Kansas City's Northland.

It was the city's 85th fatal accident of 2018. And while that is a lot for a city the size of Kansas City, it is better than the city's 100 fatal accidents in 2017.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

After months of tense negotiations behind closed doors, the Kansas City Council passed a series of changes Thursday that it hopes will cut into bad scrap yard behavior. 

Several times in the past months, a deal was said to be close but it ultimately fell part.

Kansas Legislature

(This story was updated at 3 p.m.)

The latest defections from the Kansas Republican Party — two Johnson County legislators — show politicians in some corners of the state trying to catch up with changes in the voters they need to win over.

In quick succession Wednesday morning, Republican moderates state Sen. Dinah Sykes and state Rep. Stephanie Clayton announced they are changing parties.

They followed the path of moderate Republican state Sen. Barbara Bollier, who declared herself a Democrat earlier this month.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Auto theft is up 20 percent in the last year in Kansas City. It’s the only property crime on the rise nationwide.

So what can you do?

In a few states, they charge you a little more for your auto insurance to pay for more cops and prosecutors.

Michigan is one of those states. For years, it was the stolen car capital of America.


In a post-election bombshell, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, Kansas, has defected to the Democrats just ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

Sen. Barbara Bollier tells KCUR the party of Donald Trump frightens her and the last election proves the Kansas GOP belongs to the president.

Finley Facebook Page

Updated, 4:56 p.m. Monday

On a six-three vote Monday the Jackson County Legislature approved the pension change.

Lawmakers in favor said it was unfair to deny someone money they had already earned.

The county Pension Board asked the Legislature to not change the rules citing potential problems with the IRS and the fact that the ordinance appears to benefit only income legislator Ron Finley.

Jackson County Executive Frank White could veto the ordinance. His office said he will examine the legislation before making a decision.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The phone scam that has ensnared the Kansas City Police Department has spread nationwide.

“What we’ve found is that the phone calls coming into our police department have increased and the locations have increased across the nation as well,” said KCPD spokesman Capt. Lionel Colon. "Most of the individuals targeted are from southern regions in the United States."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The blizzard only lasted a few hours, but it dropped inches of snow and wreaked plenty of havoc Sunday, closing 235 miles of Interstate 70 in Kansas for several hours and playing a role in accidents in Kansas and Missouri.

School cancellations started to pile up Sunday night, including the University of Kansas and UMKC.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City might be four years and $2 billion away from a single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, but that doesn't mean it's too soon to start thinking about how to police it.

Garden City Police Facebook

The last police officer in the tiny Cass County town of Garden City was fired Monday as he arrived at the office.

“I was met by the mayor, a sheriff’s deputy and an alderman and handed termination papers,” said 50-year-old Tom Albers, an 18 year veteran of the department.

The letter simply said "The City of Garden City Board of Alderman held an Emergency Executive Closed Session Meeting on November 15, 2018. Your employment with the City is hereby suspended without pay indefinitely."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

While property crime has mostly been going down over the last decade, one kind has spiked in Missouri.

Auto thefts are up. Way up. “Missouri is a leader, unfortunately in the nation in terms of auto theft,” says Cpl. Nate Bradley with the Missouri Highway Patrol.

How bad is it?

In Kansas City, police say, auto thefts are up 20 percent in the last year and up by a third over the last six.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Six months ago, very few people in the Kansas 3rd Congressional District even knew Sharice Davids’ name. Now she has made history. Davids is the first openly gay representative in Kansas history. She joins Deb Haaland from New Mexico as the first Native American women in the House.

"We have a chance to reset expectations when people look at Kansas," Davids said to a room full of cheering supporters. "I knew we could do better and we just did."

screengrab / ACLU

Millions of dollars have been spent on the governor's race in Kansas. Money has poured in from all over the country.

But a new player has entered the fray — the American Civil Liberties Union.

An ACLU TV spot went up on cable and broadcast this week. Titled "The Rule of Law," it starts out like any other opposition ad.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The campaign opposing seven charter change questions in Jackson County is picking up speed and donations in the last few days before the election.

The Committee For County Charter Integrity has raised $32,500, according to a campaign finance report with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3 file photo

The headline on the campaign mailer reads "Scandal-Plagued St. Joseph School District" and shows a photo of Democratic Missouri Senate candidate Martin Rucker. It goes on to say that Rucker "is TOO RECKLESS on Education to be our senator" and quotes extensively from years of reporting on the school district by KCUR.

The Missouri Republican Party paid for the mailing, tying Rucker to the five-year-old FBI investigation into the St. Joseph school district that sent a former superintendent to prison for a year.

The problem: It is the wrong Martin Rucker.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Can money from dockless scooters help solve Kanssa City's affordable housing problem?

Some City Council members seem to think the newfound tax money from Lime and Bird is a start.

“While $300,000 annually is not going to solve all of the issues we have in terms of housing, I think it is an important first step,” said Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who helped pack a hearing room Wednesday morning with affordable housing advocates.

Zenoir/Creative Commons

The tussle between community groups and bar owners in Kansas City over background checks for servers will continue for at least another week.

The city council's Neighborhood and Public Safety Committee has been struggling over various proposals that range from doing away with liquor cards to easing restrictions on who can sell alcohol to not changing a thing.