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 and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. 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

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. 

Johnson County, Kansas

The longtime manager of the biggest county in Kansas was ousted Thursday by a 4-3 vote of the Johnson County Commission. Hannes Zacharias has been county manager since 2009 and had been in county management since 2001.

“As I stated prior to and following the vote, I do not agree with the decision and believe it is not the correct action for our county commission to take," Commission Chair Ed Eilert said in a statement. "This vote does not reflect in any negative way on the moral, ethical or professional character of Mr. Zacharias, as I and others stated as the vote was taken."

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County Legislature had a full agenda Tuesday morning but, once again, problems at the downtown jail dominated the session. After an hour of grilling County Executive Frank White, legislators decided to punt on other work before them.

The focus of several legislators was on the task force recently named by White. The Legislature once again said another task force is a waste of time. The time to act, a majority said, is now.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A guard at the Jackson County jail is in critical condition after he was allegedly attacked while on duty, according to court documents.

The unidentified guard was allegedly attacked by 20-year-old Johnny R. Dunlap. Dunlap was charged with first degree assault and armed criminal action and faces up to life in prison if convicted, according to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

Kansas State University

Kansas State University President Richard Myers had promised to strengthen the university's commitment to diversity, and he did just that Tuesday.

K-State announced the hiring of Adrian Rodriguez as the school's first vice president for diversity and multicultural student affairs. "Adrian will serve a critical leadership role to promote a culture at Kansas State University where all students are able to thrive and be engaged," Myers said in a statement.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County Community College just received the biggest financial gift in its history and plans to use the money to expand its technical education.

JCCC says it received a $10 million donation from the Overland Park-based Sunderland Foundation. It's part of a $102 million project that will add two buildings to campus.

A banner displayed in the middle of the Kansas State University campus. K-State has been rated among the 25 campuses for LGBT students in the country.
Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

In the ongoing struggle on college campuses for LGBT equality and acceptance, Kansas State University is an unexpected leader.

K-State is best known for agriculture and football.

On a gorgeous fall day in Manhattan, with the K-State marching band entertaining tailgaters, many fans were surprised to learn that their school was ranked in the 25 campuses for LGBT friendliness by CampusPride.org.

City of Overland Park

Carl Gerlach was facing his first opponent in eight years for re-election as Overland Park, Kansas, mayor. In the end, he easily brushed aside challenger Charlotte O'Hara. 

Gerlach grabbed 63 percent of the vote. O'Hara got 37 percent.

The incumbent ran on the economic success of Overland Park during his time in office, including the revitalization of downtown and adding 23,000 jobs.

O'Hara tried to paint Gerlach and the city as too cozy with developers by granting millions of dollars in tax incentives.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission school board is going to have a very different look next year.

All three reform candidates won Tuesday night, replacing three veteran board members.

That now gives reformers a 4-3 edge on the board.

One of the reform leaders is at-large board member Brad Stratton who wasn’t on the ballot last night.

"The voters in the Shawnee Mission District came out and said loud and clear that they'd like some new voices at the board table," he says.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In an election that was all about trust, it's clear the St. Joseph School District does not have it with voters.

A proposed 38 percent property tax hike, which the district says it needs to stop eating into its reserve funds went down big--72 percent voted no, 28 percent voted yes.

The proposal would have raised an additional $11.5 million a year and cost the owner of an $80,000 house an extra $220 a year.

The levy increase was backed by some of the biggest businesses in St. Joseph, the local NEA chapter and the Chamber of Commerce.

Shawnee County Sheriff Office

A Topeka man accused of running a large human trafficking ring out of a strip club in Lawrence was sentenced to almost four years in federal prison Monday.

Forty-three-year-old Frank Boswell had pleaded guilty to one count of human trafficking.

YouTube

One of the biggest cases of human trafficking in our area ends Monday with a sentencing in federal court.

Dozens of women and girls from the most desperate of circumstances were lured into sex work by a Topeka man, according to the FBI.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

St. Joseph residents will decide Nov. 7 whether to raise their property taxes by 38 percent to provide more money for schools.

But you’re mistaken if you think the election is really about that. It’s more like a referendum on the school district’s past transgressions, which are almost legendary in the world of Missouri public education.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A former superintendent and school board president for the St. Joseph School District is out of prison and in an area halfway house.

Smithville Fire Protection District

This story was updated Thursday at 4:30 pm with comments from the fire district's lawyer.

In an unusual move, the Missouri State Auditor has subpoenaed the Smithville Fire Protection District for financial records. The auditor requests documents constantly from state and local governments, but very rarely is a subpoena needed.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

It doesn’t happen often, but this year there’s a competitive race for Overland Park, Kansas, mayor.

The race pits the longtime incumbent against an opponent who questions whether the city is too cozy with developers.

Jackson County Prosecutor's Office

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and  Sheriff Mike Sharp called a news conference Wednesday to say four inmates in the county jail had been charged with assaulting a corrections officer.

But the news conference turned into the two top law enforcement officials in Jackson County expressing their ongoing frustration with a string of problems at the jail. “Everything is a concern at this point. The whole thing is a concern,” says Baker. “We’re fed up with each of our weeks here at the county being filled with the jail as a problem.”

Kansas News Service

The Olathe School District says students who used anti-LGBT language at a homecoming parade last Thursday will be punished. However, the district suggests the incident at Olathe Northwest High School may not have been as bad as first reported.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Two prominent leaders in Kansas City called on Congress today to pass legislation that would continue to protect from deportation those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, or DACA. 

Ana Jimenez, a graduate student at the University of Kansas, says her parents brought her to America when she was just ten and sacrificed everything so she could go to college. DACA allowed her to get a social security number and a drivers license.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The massive hurricanes Harvey and Irma have people talking about how much, if at all, climate change adds to such storms’ destructiveness.

In a blog post authored by Paul Driessen, the conservative Heartland Institute disputes that global warming is worsening the weather or that it’s human-caused. And, Driessen writes, fossil fuels “bring rescue boats.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Despite the ongoing fight over how much Kansas should spend on schools, the Legislature did at least one thing this year that almost all educators were pleased with: For the first time, it included all-day kindergarten in the school funding formula.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

When you go to a University of Kansas football game this year, you'll notice some old things and some new things.

The old: KU seems to be heading toward another bad season. The Jayhawks were pounded Saturday by Central Michigan 45-27.

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