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.

Ways to Connect

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

For decades, city officials say Kansas City police would write about 300,000 traffic tickets a year. The last few years that's dropped below 120,000, according to Kansas City Police Department records.

While that may be good for drivers, it’s bad for the city’s bottom line.

“So what we’re seeing is, not only a decline in the number of tickets but a decline in the corresponding revenue that are used to support city operations,” says Kansas City City Manager Troy Schulte.

Jeff and Laura Jacobsen / Kansas Athletics

Coming out of the weekend, lots of fans in Lawrence and Manhattan were thrilled as their basketball teams advanced in the NCAA tournament.

But that also means some coaches are putting extra money in their pockets.

Most big time college coaches have lucrative bonuses in their contracts.

Kansas State University's Bruce Weber has already done very well.

He has earned an additional $344,000 dollars for making the Sweet 16, according to his contract.

Weber’s contract calls for a 16 percent bonus on top of his $2.15 million salary.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It's already a challenge to run the Jackson County Jail. It's overcrowded and understaffed. Everything from the elevators to the plumbing needs fixing.

Now, add to that, the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) is $1.7 million in arrears for housing state prisoners in the downtown jail, the most owed to any county in the state.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

While other big counties in Kansas have already bought new voting machines that create a paper trail, Johnson County has yet to upgrade their machines despite having the money to do so.

In 2016, the Johnson County Commission approved $13 million to replace the county’s 15-year-old voting machines.

Big Stock

The father of a 19-year-old Shawnee Mission South student says his daughter was sexually assaulted last April on a school bus as she was returning home from school.

The allegations are detailed in a lawsuit filed this week against First Student Inc., which last year lost its transportation contract with the Shawnee Mission School District.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Police Department could be getting even more money next year than first thought.

While most city department budgets will remain flat next year, KCPD is looking at a $5.6 million, a 2.2 percent boost.

Much of the increase will be used to hire 15 more officers and eight more dispatchers.

The department's 84 dispatchers are all working mandatory 12 hour shifts, according to Deputy Chief Roger Lewis.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

There is so much illegal trash dumping in Kansas City that the city has more than doubled the number of investigators assigned to help clean it up.

The dumps have everything from hazardous waste to limbs and brush.

Illegal dumping investigator Alan Ashurst starts his day like a lot of people, with a stop at a QuikTrip for coffee and doughnuts. "I like the old-fashion doughnut. It’s good."

Williams Campaign

Update March 7 at 4:30 p.m.: Chris Haulmark has dropped out of this race and is now running against state Rep. Erin Davis, according to a Tweet.

The original story appears below.

There is yet another Democrat in the race for Rep. Kevin Yoder’s seat in the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas.

Sylvia Williams from Leawood is the seventh Democrat and second woman in the race.

Like the other six candidates, Williams has never held public office.

Johnson County Sheriff

The man accused of a hate crime killing at an Olathe bar last year may be headed for a possible plea deal.

Adam Purinton, 52, is charged with killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Austin’s Bar and Grill last February.

Purinton is also accused of shooting two others, Alok Madasani, a co-worker of Kuchibhotla at Garmin and Ian Grillot, who chased Purinton after he fled the bar.

According to online court records, a plea hearing has been set for March 6 at 1:30 p.m..

Purinton has already pleaded not guilty so a new hearing could mean he is changing his plea to guilty.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Police Department faces two big problems, violent crime and putting enough officers on the street to fight it.

But the department is coming up with new ways to recruit and is trying to find new paths to recruit minorities and women.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

This is just not the kind of news Kansans want to hear, but: Four of the ten most isolated towns in the United States are in Kansas.

Shawnee Mission School District

Shawnee Mission Board of Education hired Michael Fulton to be the district's next superintendent for $250,000 a year, but the other details of his contract have been finalized.

Fulton will receive $1,000 a month car allowance "for the purpose of offsetting all necessary operating expenses for travel required to perform duties" in the Kansas City area. In addition, the district will also provide a yearly $24,000 tax-sheltered annuity.

Fulton will get 31 vacation days a year in addition to all days off students and staff get.

Davids Campaign

Six Democrats are now in the race to try to unseat Rep. Kevin Yoder, the Republican who has represented the Kansas' 3rd District since 2011.

Sharice Davids from Shawnee jumped in the race Thursday.

"When elected, Davids will be Kansas’ first openly-gay Representative and the nation’s first female Native American member of Congress," Davids said in a statement announcing her run.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

If you want to know how much interest there is in the race for Rep. Kevin Yoder's congressional seat, you got a pretty good idea at a candidate forum Sunday afternoon.

Some 500 people packed the sanctuary at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park to hear the five Democrats and one Libertarian running for Yoder's seat.

Yoder, a Republican, was invited but didn't attend.


Updated Feb. 6 at 1 p.m.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says Raju Ahmed entered the U.S. legally in 2000 but his legal status was terminated in 2005 after two felony convictions, according to a statement from the agency.

He was ordered deported Aug. 22, 2006 but the U.S. could not secure travel documents for Ahmed from Bangladesh so he was allowed to stay "while the agency continued attempts to carry out his removal," ICE says.

He was arrested at his home on Jan. 24 and has no legal options and will be deported, according to the ICE statement.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Almost lost in the discussion about the 150 homicides in Kansas City last year is this: Why did the number of women murdered jump 52 percent between 2016 and 2017?

In 2016, 21 women were murdered in Kansas City. Last year the number was 32.

The Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee tackled that issue on Wednesday.

You might think that most women died from domestic violence or during arguments (as KCUR documented in the series The Argument), but the motive for most of the murders is listed as "unknown." 

City of Kansas City

A surveillance camera set up by the Kansas City Neighborhoods and Housing Services department catches a lot of illegal dumpers. Usually, they are tossing tires, trash bags, beer and water bottles. But at least twice this month, the camera captured what appears to be a U.S. Postal Service employee dumping mail.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, once a rising star in the Democratic Party, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court, effectively ending a promising career. 

Sanders, 50, entered his plea in a loud and clear voice before U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

We know that the flu outbreak around Kansas City is bad, and it's keeping doctors, emergency rooms and walk-in clinics hopping.

But local firefighters and paramedics are also carrying more of the load.

“I could say it’s probably increasing our call volume by 25 to 30 calls a day,” says Kansas City Fire Department Deputy Chief Tom Collins.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In the fight between the Jackson County Legislature and County Executive Frank White score one, at least for now, for lawmakers.

In a two-page ruling, Circuit Judge George Wolf made it clear that White and the county executive's office is to stay out of "the day-to-day supervision of the administration of the COMBAT tax and COMBAT Commission."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County jail is a mess. It’s overcrowded, understaffed and from elevators to toilets, there's a lot that’s broken.

Everyone agrees with that. But how to fix it is complicated and fraught with politics.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

This story was updated at 8:10 pm Tuesday with a statement from County Executive Frank White. 

A judge will decide who controls Jackson County's anti-drug program known as COMBAT after county legislator's filed a lawsuit.

For weeks, the Jackson County Legislature has been in a pitched fight with County Executive Frank White over who calls the shots for the $19 million program — White or Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

One of the most outspoken school superintendents in Kansas, often a lightning rod for conservatives in the Legislature, announced Tuesday night that she is retiring in June.

Cynthia Lane has led Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools for eight years and spent 29 years in the district. Before KCK she was director of special education in the Spring Hill District.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The first part of the regular Monday meeting of the Jackson County Legislature was perfunctory, nothing but routine county business.

By the end voices had been raised, the county's lawyer was pacing and it appeared the Legislature and County Executive were going to court to settle who controls the anti-drug program known as COMBAT.

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

In one of his last acts as mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, Mark Holland has called a meeting of the UG Commission today to discuss a report that KCK firefighters were paid for work they didn’t perform last year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Executive Frank White wasn't there to see it, but he took a beating Wednesday in the county Legislature.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the legislators discussed how the county paid for a truck driven by White's embattled chief of staff, Caleb Clifford, and suggested the county executive's office was trying to hide that purchase from the Legislature. 

The county auditor prepared a memo titled "Where did the money come from to pay for Chief of Staff's $33,945 vehicle?"

Ken Teegardin / Flickr - CC

Maintaining a healthy personal financial situation can sometimes feel constraining, but the pay-offs are many. Today, the Smart Money Experts are back to discuss the benefits of putting your money toward physical assets. We also discuss the ramifications of GOP tax reform, which has jumped its hurdles in Congress and is en route to the president's desk.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County Jail Task Force appointed by County Executive Frank White will spend a lot of time looking at alternatives to locking up people.

The panel's first meeting Wednesday had a Jail 101 component. Members heard about how many inmates are in the jail because they can't afford bail, how many have mental illnesses and how jail staff need to keep some inmates away from others.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

We’ve heard a lot about the soaring number of murders in Kansas City, a big problem to be sure.

But police are also dealing with a huge spike in traffic fatalities.

And as the year comes to an end, police aren’t really sure why there have been so many.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Several Jackson County legislators called for new leadership at the troubled downtown jail on Tuesday. It only took until Friday to get their wish.

Jackson County Corrections Director Joe Piccinini resigned, County Executive Frank White said at a news conference Friday. And pressure from the county legislature was not a factor, White said.