You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Staff photo by Matt Lunsford  

Eastern Redbud trees blossom outside the K-State Beach Museum of Art on Wednesday. The trees’ blossoms, which range from lavender to bright magenta, are a sign of spring. For some people, it’s a sign that it’s time to hunt for morel mushrooms.


Local
Wamego Tulip Festival, 'The Government Inspector,' and more

Celebrate spring this weekend with the annual Wamego Tulip Festival.

Each spring, the city of Wamego comes alive with thousands of visitors, vibrant colors of tulips and more than 150 craft vendors, along with amazing food and refreshment vendors.

The vivacious colors of the tulips from Holland are the backdrop for the April art and craft fair in Wamego City Park.

There is no admission fee, but some of the events have a small fee. Besides the vendors and booths, there will be inflatables for all ages, a petting zoo, face painting, virtual reality rides, carriage rides from noon to 4 p.m., live entertainment and more.

Cub Scout Pack No. 92 is hosting a pancake feed from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday only. There’s also a horseshoe tournament on Saturday and the Kaw Valley Quilters Show.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

For a complete schedule of events and information about this annual festival, visit visitwamego.com.

Here’s a look at other area events.

THURSDAY

K-State Theatre presents “The Government Inspector” by Nikolai Gogal, adapted by David Mackay, 7:30 p.m. through Saturday. Also May 2-5.

For tickets, visit ksu.universitytickets.com.

Chapman Theatre, Nichols Hall.

Sixth annual ATID Showcase of Excellence, 6-9 p.m.

Featuring a fashion show and mounted exhibit, this high energy event will reveal the excellent creativity and intellectual work of middle school, high school and K-State students.

Purchase tickets at Eventbrite.com. Search ATID Showcase. (No tickets sold at the door.)

K-State Alumni Center.

Columbian Theatre presents Wedding Murder Mystery, 7:30 p.m. through Saturday. Also May 2-4.

For information and tickets, visit columbiantheatre.com.

Columbian Theatre.

K-State Jazz Combos, 7:30 p.m.

K-State Student Union Ballroom.

Student Recital: Spencer McIntire, bass-baritone, 7:30 p.m.

All Faiths Chapel.

Field Day Jitters with Headlight Rivals, 9 p.m.

Cost: $5.

Auntie Mae’s.

FRIDAY

Zoofari Tails Storytime, 10 a.m. Friday.

For a complete list of storytimes and events, visit mhklibrary.org.

Manhattan Public Library.

International Coffee Hour: Slovakia, 4 p.m.

International Student Center.

Student Recital: Samantha Wedel, soprano, 5:45 p.m.

Kirmser Hall, McCain Auditorium.

Canvas & Cork: Spring Swing, 6 p.m.

Kid’s Pottery Workshop: Star Power Bowl, 10 a.m. Saturday.

For information and to register, visit straightuppstudio.com.

Straight Upp Creative Studio.

UPC Film: “Glass,” 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The 7 p.m. Saturday will be closed captioned.

Cost: Free for K-State students, $3 for adults, $1 off for military ID and children under 12.

K-State Student Union Forum Hall.

“Life is Like a Double Cheeseburger” by Flip Kobler and Finn Kobler, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tickets: $5 adults, $3 students, $15 families.

For tickets and information, call 785-776-2223.

Flint Hills Christian School.

K-State Theatre presents Barrier Free ’19, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

For tickets, visit ksu.universitytickets.com.

Purple Masque Theatre.

SATURDAY

Party for the Plant: Earth Day Celebration, noon-4:30 p.m.

Sunset Zoo.

15th Annual Enid Stover Poetry Recitation, 2-4 p.m.

Share your favorite poem from memory — or reading — and listen to others recite theirs. Also enjoy light refreshments and gift drawings.

Manhattan Public Library Auditorium.

Keats Lions Club’s annual spaghetti supper, 5-7 p.m.

This freewill donation fundraiser helps support club projects in the community.

Keats Center.

Film: “Strangers in Town,” 6 p.m.

Free screening and discussion with director Steve Lerner and KSU professor Matthew Sanderson.

The film tells the story of how global migration unexpectedly transformed and enriched Garden City, Kansas. It brought great challenges to the community, including demands for housing, social services, education, and infrastructure.

Manhattan Arts Center.

Immature, 7 p.m.

A live comedy album taping with Jeremy Ricci.

Cost: $10.

Auntie Mae’s.

Women’s Choir, Collegium Musicum, and University Chorus featuring Texas Youth Chorale, 7:30 p.m.

All Faiths Chapel.

SUNDAY

Jazz Brunch, 10 a.m.-noon.

Bluestem Bistro.

Student Recital: Nicole Buehler, euphonium, 1 p.m.

All Faiths Chapel.

Riley County Genealogical Society Lecture: “Klick Zero Swiss Kiss” by Jed Dunham, K-State writer and historian, 2 p.m.

His presentation is about the 1918 influenza pandemic that was rumored to start in Kansas before spreading across the globe.

Manhattan Public Library.


Mercury file photo  

Tulips bloom in City Park in Wamego in 2017. The city’s annual Tulip Festival will happen this weekend.


Courts
Local man sentenced to 7 years for overprescribing opioids in Colorado

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a former Colorado doctor who resides in Manhattan to more than seven years in federal prison for illegally distributing controlled substances and money laundering.

John Littleford, 73, will serve 87 months at a to-be-determined facility and will be placed on three years of post-release supervision.

According to a report from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, Littleford prescribed large amounts of opioids to patients without a diagnosis or with little documentation of necessity at his clinic in Parker, Colorado. It also says he often gave prescriptions to patients well before their prescription ran out and did not reduce the amounts of controlled substances to patients who were physically deteriorating.

It is unclear why he moved to Manhattan. An online search of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts licenses revealed that he never held a license in the state.

The report says Littleford advertised himself as a practitioner in pain management but did not have any certification in the field or completed a medical residency related to pain management.

The Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating Littleford in 2012 after doctors and pharmacists in the Denver area expressed concerns about his prescribing practices while police repeatedly encountered his patients. Littleford surrendered his DEA registration and medical license later that year.

Littleford pleaded guilty to distributing controlled substances after he prescribed a patient 840 oxycodone 30 milligram tablets, 360 Percocet tablets and several other opioids. His notes for that patient included a diagnosis that listed a question mark. The patient died a month later from oxycodone toxicity.

He also pleaded guilty to money laundering to promote illegal distribution of controlled substances at his clinic.


Staff photo by Matt Lunsford  

From left, Beach Museum workers Jennifer Harlan and Robin Lonborg check out knitted octopuses at the Soft Kitty Kreations table during the K-State Farmer’s Market on Bosco Student Plaza on Wednesday.


Area
Riley County changes reason for Senate bill opposition

Clancy Holeman told Riley County commissioners Thursday they should still oppose a proposed state Senate bill, but not for the reasons he initially brought forth.

Holeman, county counselor, said the commission does not oppose all of proposed Senate Bill 190. The bill, if passed, would remove funding avenues for road and bridge projects by local governments. SB 190 takes language from two current bills that dictate how county governments operate and would ultimately replace them if passed and the other bills repealed.

However, at an intergovernmental luncheon Monday, he told local leaders the biggest issue was in Section 3 of the bill, which he said repeals the local ad valorem tax reduction fund and the city and county revenue sharing fund.

At the meeting Thursday, he said he misinterpreted the bill on first reading, and talked with the Kansas Association of Counties. He said after speaking with representatives from the association and rereading the bill, he saw the bill does retain a form of city and county revenue sharing.

According to the bill, the money — $27 million taken from counties and cities — would be transferred from the state general fund back to the local fund in 2026. The state treasurer would pay the amounts “to the several county treasurers on January 15 and on July 15.”

Under the plan until 2026, cities and counties would submit their plans for expansion, modernization or improvements of roads or bridges to the secretary of transportation that might be approved. If approved, the secretary would distribute funds in the fiscal year the construction begins.

Holeman said he was cynical about the county receiving the funds it deserves in 2026, which Commissioner John Ford agreed with, noting the money would have to be redistributed among all the counties at that point.

Holeman also said having the money away from the counties that long harms the counties.

“We have reasons on merits to oppose this,” he said.

Health contract

At the meeting, the board also approved renewing a contract for the health department.

Jennifer Green, director of the health department, brought the Outreach, Prevention and Early Intervention contract to the board for approval.

The contract with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment gives the county $212,000 for a year for its Growing Great Kids program. The program, she said, includes intensive home visits for one to five years to help mothers bond with their infants. She said it connects parents with outreach services as needed, and helps with resources for new parents as well as looks for signs of abuse.

The other half of the $212,000 the contract requires as a match will come out of the annual budget, Green said.


Crime
Center pleads guilty in college admissions scam

BOSTON — Manhattan native Michael Center, the former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas, pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking $100,000 in bribes in connection with the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal, telling a federal judge in Boston he has been on medication to curb his anxiety and get through the nights since his arrest last month.

“I have been seeing someone since this incident, but not prior,” Center said when asked about the state of his mental health by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns. Center said he has been taking Lexapro, which treats depression and anxiety, and Xanax at night to help him sleep.

Center, 55, of Austin, Texas, a married father of boys ages 14 and 16, will face up to 20 years in federal prison when Stearns sentences him Oct. 30. But because Center struck plea and cooperation agreements with the government, assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said prosecutors will recommend a term of 15 to 21 months.

Center has been coaching tennis at the collegiate level for 30 years. Previous to the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, he had no criminal record. Rosen suggested to Stearns that Center could potentially serve even less time, depending on how much his cooperation helps the feds’ investigation and the prosecution of any other “Operation Varsity Blues” defendants.

Stearns remarked in court that Center was a “well-oriented and highly educated man.” He released him on personal recognizance.

Defense attorney John H. Cunha Jr. told reporters Center “is a very good man who made a bad mistake — a criminally bad mistake.

“He has helped countless people, he has mentored countless people, over the course of a long career. He’s very sorry for what he did and at this point he wants to make amends,” Cunha said as the lanky Center strode away through the Seaport District with supporters.

Cunha said it was “self-evident” that his client was motivated to help students when he accepted $40,000 in bribes on behalf of UT’s tennis program. Prosecutors said Center pocketed $60,000 paid to him in cash.

Center stared blankly at the defense table as Rosen told Stearns what the Kansas native did to find himself so far from home.

Rosen said Center was once at the helm of what has “consistently ranked as one of the top tennis teams in the nation,” but that in the fall of 2014 he conspired with the scheme’s mastermind William “Rick” Singer and Martin Fox, the president of a private tennis academy in Houston, to take bribes in return for getting a high school student from California recruited to UT as a tennis prodigy, “despite that fact that he had limited tennis experience,” Rosen said.

In return, the student’s father allegedly made three donations in stocks valued at more than $631,560 to Singer’s charity, Key Worldwide Foundation. In June 2015, Rosen said Singer flew to Austin and handed Center $60,000 cash.

The student remains at UT, Rosen said. His father was not one of the 33 parents originally charged in the “Varsity Blues” case.

Center, who graduated from MHS in 1982, was a standout in tennis and basketball, winning a singles title — the last Indian to do so — in 1982. He didn’t lose a match, finishing the year 31-0. In basketball, he averaged 11.4 points during his senior season.

He went on to play collegiately at Kansas, becoming a four-year letterwinner (1983-86) for the Jayhawks. In 1985, he captured the Big Eight No. 2 singles title, and became the first player in school history to win 40 matches in a single season.

Center’s coaching career began in 1989 with the women’s tennis team at KU. He later coached the men’s teams at KU and TCU before becoming the Texas tennis coach in 2000.

Center was among dozens of coaches, prominent parents and others arrested last month in the nationwide admissions scam.

Former coaches at Yale and Stanford have already pleaded guilty. Fourteen parents have agreed to plead guilty.

Singer, 58, a college and career counselor from California, pleaded guilty last month to racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States. He is free pending his June 19 sentencing. Fox, 62, of Houston, has pleaded not guilty to racketeering.

UT president Gregory L. Fenves announced on March 13 that Center had been fired and that the university was undertaking an internal investigation of the charges against him.