Municipal Court Dockets Cancelled Through December 18th, 2020

Administrative Judge Karan M. Thadani, in conjunction with City Manager Brent Trout, has made the decision to cancel court dockets, including trials, for an additional two weeks beginning December 7, 2020, and lasting through December 18, 2020.  The decision was made after careful consideration of the Shawnee County COVID-19 Community Transmission Index and reports from local hospitals that occupancy rates and community spread of COVID-19 remain high.

During this time, the Topeka Municipal Court will continue to conduct its jail hearings via video conferencing on Mondays and Wednesdays. The Court will remain open for walk-in business Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 4:30 pm.  Anyone with court business are strongly encouraged to conduct their business by telephone, email, or facsimile whenever possible.  Payments may be made online, over the phone, or by mail.

All cases during this time will be rescheduled and notices of hearing will be sent by mail to defendants and defense counsel. Defendants should call the Court Clerk’s office at 785-368-3776 to update contact information during normal business hours. Defendants are also encouraged to check the status of their case on the Court’s online public access portal at www.topeka.org/municpalcourt.org. Parties may also visit the Court’s website to determine if their matter qualifies for resolution via video conference hearing.

Clerk’s Office: 785-368-3776

Clerk’s Office Fax: 785-368-3782

Email: Motions@topeka.org (MOTIONS ONLY)

Mail: 214 SE 8th Avenue, Topeka, Kansas 66603

Anyone directed to report to the Probation Division should continue to report as scheduled.  Probationers who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 of other related illnesses should contact the Probation Division at 785-368-3783.

The presence of COVID-19 in the community will be reevaluated over the next two weeks and a decision will be made at that time in the best interests of its patrons and staff as to when dockets will resume.

Operation COVID-19 Basic Needs Assistance Program

Operation COVID-19 Basic Needs Assistance Program is a foreclosure/eviction mitigation and utility prevention shut-off program created by the City of Topeka and administered by the Community Resources Council (CRC). $1.5 million in CARES Act funds will be available to qualified applicants to help cover expenses and help keep people housed and with utilities in Topeka.

“Community Resources Council, is pleased to again partner with the City of Topeka on a social service program. CRC will be providing management over-site of this essential COVID Basic Needs Assistance Program. For almost a century, CRC has been serving the Topeka/Shawnee County community in ‘minding the gap’ of social service programing and the unmet needs within our community,” said Mary Thomas the Community Resources Council Executive Officer.

“The City of Topeka knows how much our neighbors are struggling during these difficult times. The Operation COVID-19 Basic Needs Assistance program is designed to keep our neighbors housed and with their utilities on so they can focus on other needs this year,” said City Manager Brent Trout.

The Operation COVID-19 Basic Needs Assistance program is by appointment only Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and on Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Appointments should take between forty-five minutes and one hour. Walk-in appointments will be scheduled for the next available appointment or what works best for them with no exceptions. Applicants must bring all required documents (as stated on the application) at the time of the appointment to proceed. If the applicant is lacking information/documentation the appointment will be rescheduled. Applicants must be on time, after 5 minutes of grace period the appointment will be rescheduled.   c

 

Required documents participants must bring to the appointment include:

  • ID or driver’s license,
  • Social security number for all household members,
  • Rent lease/mortgage statement,
  • Past 30 days pay stubs or SSI/SSDI or Unemployment statement
  • Current Utility Bills

 

Appointments can be scheduled over the phone from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling (785) 233-1365. If the line is busy, leave your name and phone number and CRC staff will call back to schedule an appointment.

City of Topeka Utilities Rolls Out Secure, Convenient, User-friendly Online Payment System

The City of Topeka Utilities Department has implemented a new, secure, convenient, and user-friendly online payment system for our customers. The new and improved interface provides multiple benefits to customers such as paying bills faster, improved user experience, one-time payments without having to register, view and pay multiple accounts at once, as well as text-to-pay capabilities. Our new system accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and electronic checks.
“We are excited about these changes and they reflect our continued commitment to providing a superior customer service experience,” said Nicole Malott, City of Topeka Utilities, Director of Business and Customer Services. “We recognize that customers want flexibility, accessibility, convenience, and user-friendly experience without sacrificing security. We believe these new features deliver all of these things.”
Informative inserts will accompany all of our customer’s physical bills for the next 4 weeks. They contain additional information about the transition, as well as instructions on how to register with the new system. We are encouraging all of our customers to register with the new system so that they can take advantage of the many new features. To register, customers simply need to go to Topeka.org and click on the blue banner at the top of the home page. This will take them to the new payment portal where they can quickly register or make a one-time payment.
Customers should know that if they signed up online for the AutoPay function in our previous system, they will need to cancel that service once they have registered with the new system.
Any customers that have questions regarding this transition or how to register can call the City of Topeka Customer Service Call Center at (785) 368-3111.

Municipal Court Closure to Public

Due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in our community, and in an effort to reduce community transmission, the Topeka Municipal Court is cancelling all dockets, including trials, from Wednesday, November 18, 2020 through Friday, December 4, 2020.  During that time, the Court will continue to conduct its jail hearings via video conferencing on Mondays and Wednesdays.

All cases during that time will be rescheduled and notices of hearing will be sent by mail to defendants and defense counsel.  Defendants should call the Court Clerk’s office at 785-368-3776 to update contact information during normal business hours. Defendants are also encouraged to check the status of their case on the Court’s online public access portal at www.topeka.org/municpalcourt .

The Topeka Municipal Court will remain open for walk-in business Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 4:30 p.m.  However, persons with court business are strongly encouraged to conduct their business by telephone, email, or facsimile wherever possible.  Payments may be made online, over the phone, or by mail.

Clerk’s Office: 785-368-3776

Clerk’s Office Fax: 785-368-3782

Email: Motions@topeka.org (MOTIONS ONLY)

Mail: 214 SE 8th Avenue, Topeka, Kansas 66603

Anyone directed to report to the Probation Division should continue to report as scheduled.  Probationers who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 of other related illnesses should contact the Probation Division at 785-368-3783.

The Municipal Court will reevaluate the presence of COVID-19 in the community during the week of December 1, 2020 and make a decision as to whether dockets will resume on Monday, December 7, 2020.

Remote Governing Body Meeting

The Governing Body meeting for Tuesday, November 17th will be entirely remote on Zoom due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Shawnee County. Due to this change, only action items on the meeting agenda will be considered. All non-action items will be moved to the December 1st meeting. Public comment can still be given, if submitted in writing, to the city clerk’s office at cclerk@topeka.org by 5 p.m.

The Governing Body meeting will be broadcast on City4, livestreamed to Facebook and can be viewed on the City of Topeka website at https://www.topeka.org/communications/live-stream/.

Topeka Zoo to Strengthen COVID-19 Guidelines

With a new Health Order in place for Shawnee County, the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center is strengthening its COVID-19 rules for visiting guests. “It’s part of our Help Us Keep You Safe campaign,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “Over the last six months we have seen how important it is to our community that we are open. We want to make sure we stay open and do everything we can to provide a safe and healthy experience here.”

The Help Us Keep You Safe campaign strengthens current protocols and makes changes to both ticket purchasing guidelines and mask wearing policies. The campaign focuses on the following points that become effective Saturday, November 14:
• Masks or face coverings will be required to be worn by zoo guests during the entirety of their stay except when eating or drinking. This includes times when guests are outside on zoo grounds. Masks or face coverings must cover both mouth and nose.
• Pre-order of online tickets will be encouraged for daily admission and is required for the Zoo Lights event beginning November 27.
• During the current health order, entrance into the zoo will be through the outdoor admission booth so that guests never have to enter a building if they don’t want to.
• Door foot pulls have been installed on many of the bathroom doors. Guests are encouraged to use those where available.
• As soon as they arrive, touchless fixtures will be installed in public bathrooms.
• Guests are encouraged to be conscious of others at viewing windows and not monopolize prime views for extended periods of time.
“The biggest change is guests being required to wear masks during their entire stay,” said Wiley. Prior to this, guests were allowed to remove masks when outside and they could social distance. “What we have seen is that even when outside, one group of guests can come close to another group of guests faster than they can put masks back on. As we are seeing the spread of COVID-19 ramping up, we have to do what we can to keep everyone safe.”

“It’s also about the animals,” said Wiley. The Topeka Zoo is home to a number of non-human species that are susceptible to coronaviruses including COVID-19. Some of those include tigers, giraffes, sloths, armadillos and the zoo’s critically endangered black-footed ferret. “We have an obligation to not only keep those animals safe and healthy but the staff that work with them as well.”

Bryan Wheeles Named as the Topeka Police Department’s Interim Police Chief

Deputy Chief Bryan Wheeles has been named the Interim Police Chief for the City of Topeka. Deputy Chief Wheeles will take over for Chief Cochran when he retires on January 1st. Wheeles will start his duties as Interim Chief on January 2nd.
“Deputy Chief Wheeles is the best candidate to be the Interim Police Chief for the City of Topeka,” said City Manager Brent Trout. “Chief Cochran has done a wonderful job with the Topeka Police Department and will be leaving it in capable hands. Bryan Wheeles has the experience in all aspects of police work with strong leadership abilities and a dedication to the community as a whole.”
Bryan Wheeles has worked with the Topeka Police Department for twenty-six years, starting his service on June 13th, 1994. Wheeles has worked in several capacities at the Topeka Police Department including; patrol, narcotics, criminal investigation, criminal intelligence and administration. Most recently Wheeles has been serving as the Deputy Chief of Police.
“I am very excited to continue my career in public service as the interim Chief of Police. I am truly honored to lead the brave men and women of the Topeka Police Department. We serve a great community and I look forward to continued collaboration in 2021,” said Deputy Chief Wheeles.
Wheeles graduated from Central Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice in 1994. He has been a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Topeka Board of Directors since 2015 and is currently serving as the Vice President. Wheeles’s salary as Interim Police Chief will be $131,192.
City Manager Trout will announce when he will begin the search for the next permanent Police Chief at a later date. Both internal and external candidates will be considered for the position.

Topeka Zoo Mourns the Loss of Avus the Lion

Veterinary staff at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center made the difficult decision to euthanize a 16 year-old African Lion named Avus Friday morning. “Avus had been experiencing age-related issues for some time.” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “Earlier this week we noticed a significant decline in his well-being. We did a comprehensive exam and tried new medication but did not see an improvement in his condition. Today is a sad day for our extended zoo family. Avus led an impactful life at our zoo, inspiring guests to care more about wildlife and conservation.”
Avus was born at the Henry Vilas Zoo on October 14, 2004. Following a recommendation from the AZA’s Species Survival Plan, Avus came to Topeka in the summer of 2006 to pair with lionesses Zuri and Asante. In 2007 Avus and Asante had one offspring, Adia, who in turn provided the pair with two grandsons that live in other AZA zoos. Avus was able to see his home at the Topeka Zoo transform with the opening of Camp Cowabunga in 2018. Zuri and Asante are also classified as geriatric at the ages of sixteen years as well. In the wild, the lifespan of lions is a range between 12-15 years of age.
Avus was an easy favorite to staff and guests alike. He had the most amazing eyes and a face framing mane. He was very laid back and known for pretending he didn’t hear zookeepers when it was time to go inside so he could get a few more minutes of sleep. Avus enjoyed enrichment like cologne and taco seasoning, and was excited about participating in training sessions.

Independent Police Auditor Investigation Concluded in Use of Force Incident with 14 year old Juvenile

The Independent Police Auditor has concluded his investigation into the use of force incident regarding the 14 year old juvenile and the Topeka Police Department. After a thorough review of officer statements, witness statements, and body worn camera videos the IPA concludes that the force utilized by the Officer was within the policy parameters outlined in Topeka Police Department General Order 4.2, et al. However, the Independent Police Auditor does express concern regarding the encounter with the juvenile and the officer’s judgment therein.

Topeka Police Department policies, including use of force policies can be found on the City of Topeka website: https://www.topeka.org/tpd/topeka-police-policies/

LeTiffany Obozele Hired as Chief of Prosecution

The City of Topeka has hired LeTiffany Obozele as the Chief of Prosecution. Obozele has eight years of experience practicing law in the State of Kansas as a public-service minded attorney, serving both as a prosecutor and civil litigator. Most recently Obozele worked as an Assistant District Attorney for the Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson.

“The City of Topeka is excited to welcome LeTIffany to be the Chief of Prosecution. Her knowledge and experience working in Kansas as a prosecutor and in the Kansas Attorney Generals Office will give the City a strong foundation in the Prosecution Department,” said City Manager Brent Trout.

Obozele has eight years of experience practicing law. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and sociology from Emory University in May 2007. She earned her juris doctor from Washburn University School of Law in May 2012.

“I am excited and grateful for the City of Topeka for selecting me to serve as the next Chief of Prosecution. I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue in public service and hit the ground running with the City of Topeka, Legal Department and Prosecution with my wonderful staff and all those that come into contact with our Department and the Court. I am enjoying learning all that this Department does for and with the City,” said Obozele.

Obozele has previously worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Sedgwick County and Douglas County. She also worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Kansas Attorney General as a post-commitment focused civil litigator. Obozele has been an Adjunct Professor and Trial Team Coach at Washburn Law School since December 2015.

Obozele began work on September 8th and is earning a salary of $90,000.