Friday, March 12, 2004

Kentucky briefs

Arrested school board member keeping seat

WHITESBURG, Ky. - An eastern Kentucky school board member will be able to keep his seat despite being arrested for allegedly selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Letcher County Schools Superintendent Anna Craft said last week that neither she nor the local school board has the authority to remove Tommy Vanover from office. Craft said that Vanover, like any other criminal defendant, is innocent until proven guilty.

Vanover, 49, was charged in early January by the Letcher County Sheriff's Department with four counts of selling prescription narcotics.

Vanover was elected to the school board seat in 2001. The position comes back up for election in November.

Hunt Helm, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said that neither Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit nor Marcia Ford Seiler, interim director of the Office of Education Accountability, plans to take any action against Vanover until the case goes through the court system.

Before his arrest, Vanover was being given high marks by many school observers who were impressed by his work in helping consolidate the Whitesburg, Fleming-Neon and Letcher high schools into one new school that is now under construction.

Columnist who lied about cancer dies

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - Kimberly Dawn Stacy, a reporter who wrote moving stories about a fictitious battle with cancer, has died of complications from diabetes.

She was 38.

Johnna Ingersoll, chief deputy coroner in Peoria County, Ill., said Stacy died from kidney failure in the emergency room at the St. Francis Medical Center on March 2.

The Tazewell County, Va., native was fired from her job as a reporter at the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer in 1999 after writing a series of stories about her fabricated battle with terminal brain cancer.

Student arrested for bringing gun to school

BELFRY, Ky. - A student at Belfry High School in Pike County has been arrested for bringing a handgun to school, authorities said.

The 15-year-old student was charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds, a felony, said Trooper Scott Hopkins, spokesman for the Kentucky State Police post in Pikeville. The student was taken into custody on Monday.

Principal Rodney Varney said the student brought the .25 caliber gun to school March 3 to sell to another student.

Varney said the student was "not a violent kid" and hadn't been in trouble before.

"He just really made a bad decision," Varney said.

Varney has asked for an expulsion hearing before the Pike County Board of Education. That could result in the student being expelled for the remainder of the school year.

Representative 'iffy' on malpractice bill

FRANKFORT - A House committee chairman was noncommittal Thursday on whether a proposed constitutional amendment on medical malpractice would receive a vote.

The measure, passed by the Senate in January, received a hearing Thursday in the House Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

If it reached the November ballot and was ratified by voters, the General Assembly would have the power to enact caps on "noneconomic" damages and create an arbitration system for malpractice claims.

Rep. Adrian Arnold, D-Mount Sterling, said he didn't know if the bill would be voted on by his committee.

Arnold said in an interview that his own position on the bill was "still iffy."

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