Author

Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 40 that broadened the Legislature's oversight powers during the COVID-19 pandemic and indicated she would re-issue a dozen executive orders April 1, including guidance on wearing masks. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Mulberry files lawsuit accusing BP Energy of price gouging during extreme cold

By: - March 4, 2021

TOPEKA — A small Kansas town is fighting natural gas prices charged by BP Energy during last month’s extreme cold, accusing the multinational oil and gas giant of “unconscionable profiteering” under state statute. A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the city of Mulberry says BP inflated prices for natural gas from $2.98 per mmbtu on Feb. […]

Legislature moves quickly to spare Kansas towns from financial ruin over gas bills

By: - March 3, 2021

TOPEKA — Kansas lawmakers moved with lightning speed Wednesday to pass legislation providing $100 million in low-interest loans to cities facing high utility bills as a result of last month’s extreme cold. The House and Senate endorsed the plan on the same day the bill received its first hearing, and sent it to Gov. Laura […]

Kansas House endorses swift STD treatments, athlete pay, notice for big poles, drunk flying ban

By: - March 2, 2021

TOPEKA — Lawmakers in the Kansas House passed two-dozen bills Tuesday on a wide range of topics, sending the legislation over to the Senate for consideration. With a month remaining before the regular session adjourns, legislators are focused on taking action this week on bills that have passed out of various committees. In the coming […]

Topeka man blocked officers, tried to break into Pelosi’s office during attack on U.S. Capitol

By: - March 2, 2021

TOPEKA — Will Pope left an impression on the U.S. Capitol Police officer who tried to restrain the Topeka man inside the Capitol building during the Jan. 6 insurrection. The officer told federal investigators that he encountered Pope inside the Senate doors on the east side of the Capitol. Pope was memorable, the officer said, […]

KDHE finds eight more cases of U.K. variant in Sedgwick County

By: - March 1, 2021

TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Monday announced eight individuals living in a single house in Sedgwick County have tested positive for the U.K. variant of COVID-19. KDHE determined the individuals had the U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7, through genome sequencing at agency labs. Two other Kansans, in Sedgwick and […]

Senate bill would punish Kansas employers for requiring COVID-19 vaccinations

By: - February 25, 2021

TOPEKA — Sen. Mark Steffen pushed colleagues Thursday to support his legislation banning employers from requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying lawmakers should reject the idea that society is more important than the individual. Senate Bill 213 would prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, and would […]

Fraudsters bilk Kansas unemployment system for up to $600M, audit concludes

By: - February 24, 2021

TOPEKA — A report issued Wednesday by the Legislature’s auditing division estimates up to $600 million in fraudulent unemployment claims may have been paid out during the pandemic. The estimate is based on 157,000 initial claims flagged in the past 12 months by the Kansas Department of Labor as possible fraud. The agency disputed the […]

Rolling blackouts in Kansas helped regional power grid avoid ‘cascading failures’

By: and - February 23, 2021

EMPORIA — A small crowd gathered last Wednesday in Emporia on the hillside next to the Prairie Street bridge, seeking respite from rolling blackouts and extreme cold. With nothing else to do, they were taking turns sliding down the hill — and enjoying temperatures that had barely risen above 0 following three straight days of […]

Mother asks Kansas lawmakers to roll back restrictions on food assistance, child care support

By: - February 22, 2021

TOPEKA — The father of Cecilia Douglass’ son abandoned her in 2017 when she was five months pregnant, leaving her with his massive debt. The Garden City mother, who also had two daughters, had accepted a job that didn’t pay much but offered flexibility for attending doctor’s appointments. “Losing that second income did not leave […]

Kris Kobach appears for a recording of Kansas Reflector's podcast on July 20. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas officials rack up $4M bill in defense of baseless voter fraud claim

By: - February 20, 2021

TOPEKA — The American Civil Liberties Union and other attorneys want to be repaid more than $4 million for their five-year legal battle with Kansas officials who fought to restrict voter registrations under the false pretense of widespread voter fraud. The proposed price tag adds a punctuation mark to the prolonged fight over former Secretary […]

‘Crown jewel’ of Kansas trails among $16.8M investment in alternative transportation projects

By: - February 18, 2021

TOPEKA — Kansas officials on Thursday announced plans to fix a gap in the Flint Hills Trail near Ottawa to avoid a two-mile detour around active railroad tracks and overgrown brush. The project is expected to boost tourism in downtown Ottawa as the launch point for rides along two trails that intersect there, as well […]

Parents, grandparents of Kansas foster kids cry out for new oversight office

By: - February 17, 2021

TOPEKA — Adrian Jones’ grandmother believes he would still be alive if there had been an Office of the Child Advocate in place when he pleaded for relief from unimaginable torture. The Kansas Department for Children and Families ignored repeated warnings about the torture of Jones by his biological father and stepmother before the 7-year-old […]