Thursday, September 30, 2004

While 127th District State Representative Steve Hunter accepted the largest amount of gifts from lobbyists this year, as was mentioned earlier this week in The Turner Report, he was not alone among area legislators in accepting gifts.
Missouri Ethics Commission records show that Ron Richard accepted gifts totaling $973.32, followed by Kevin Wilson at $825.41, State Senator Gary Nodler at $694.47, Ed Emery at $341.21, and Marilyn Ruestman at $229.09.
Of course, these totals only involve gifts that were given directly to the legislators. Not included are instances in which the lobbyists provide meals, drink, entertainment, or other gifts to the whole Senate, the whole House, committees or to the Republican or Democrat caucuses.
Following is a breakdown of the gifts accepted by each area legislator:
Marilyn Ruestman- The largest expenditure $50 was made by William Gamble. Gamble represents a number of interests, including Ameristar Casinos, but the lobbyists themselves have not filed thei reports for August so it is unclear who Gamble was representing. Ms. Ruestman also received smaller amounts in gifts from lobbyists representing Empire District Electric, Missouri Soft Drink Association, and DK Governmental Solutions, among others. All gifts were in the category of meals, food, and beverage.
Ed Emery- The largest amounts given to Emery, all in the category of meals, food, and beverage were about $39 apiece from loybbists representing Empire District Electric and the Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities.
Gary Nodler- Four hundred forty dollars of Nodler's $644.47, came in a 10-day span in August nearly two months after the 2004 legislative session ended. Ethics Commission records indicate Nodler received $67 in "entertainment" and $73 in "entertainment", both on Aug. 1, from former State Representative Jerry Burch, who appeared to be functioning as the lobbyist for the Branson Chamber of Commerce. Burch also represents Southwest Missouri State University and other interests. Ten days later, Nodler received $300 in the category of "other" from Kent Gaines, lobbyist for the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals. Nodler had received $50 in "entertainment" from Gaines on Jan. 11.
Kevin Wilson- Branson entertainment was provided to Kevin Wilson, who received $124.59 worth of entertainment on three separate occasions, once on May 28, and twice on June 7 from Burch, according to Ethics Commission records. Wilson paid back the money on one of those occasions. On April 13, he received $157.06 in "meals, food, and beverage" from Mary Scruggs of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Other amounts were $90 in entertainment Jan. 20 from Allen James Snider, University of Missouri;$50.95 meals, Randy Scherr, Chemical Council of Missouri; $85.04 May 9 from J. Scott Marris, City of Springfield, Missouri Hospital Association; and $30, May 14, from James Kistler, Associated Industries of Missouri.
Ron Richard- The final item in Ron Richard's gift listings for 2004 is the most intriguing. According to the Etchis Commission records. All other records are listed in chronological order through Aug. 23 when he received $61.61 from Chris Liese, who is a partner with former State Representative Gary Burton in a lobbying firm, which represents among other clients, the Isle of Capri Casinos. After that listing, Richard apparently belatedly filed a $168.37 gift given on May 1 by lobbyist Richard Doherty, representing Harrah's Entertainment of Las Vegas. Richard also received $60 in entertainment Feb. 18 from Allen James Snider, University of Missouri; $83.06 in entertainment April 19 from Daniel Mehan, Missouri Chamber of Commerce; another $46.38 in meals from Mehan on May 5, and $80 in entertainment from Kent Gaines, Kansas City Royals, on July 20. Richard also received meals from lobbyists for SWC, Gary Burton and Associates, Travel Club Association, Monsanto, Missouri Automobile Dealers, and Empire District Electric, among others.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

There was never any doubt that million dollar CEO Bob Parker would not have taken his new positoin at O'Sullivan Industries if he meant he had to live in Lamar.
The company confirmed today that Parker has it written in his contract that he can receive a whopping care package if he has to 'relocate from the greater Atlanta area." If that were to happen, he would receive at least $1 million and benefits.
According to the company's annual report. filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, O'Sullivan has termination protection agreements with all of its executive officers, other than Parker and the two other officers, Rick Walters and Michael Orr, who followed him to O'Sullivan from Newell Rubbermaid.
Those three have lucrative severance plans built into their contracts.
Parker and Walters, who okayed the report, briefly commented on the firing of a number of longtime O'Sullivan officers. "We are negotiating severance agreements with several executive officers who have left O'Sullivan since May 2004.
As usual in this kind of report, no mention was made of how these officials came to "leave" the company."
Federal officials are keeping a watchful eye on the executive director of River of Life Ministries of Joplin after he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this week in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri.
River of Life Ministries sounds like a group that might send missionaries to Africa or operate soup kitchens in the poor areas of town, and maybe it does, but its chief reason for existence appears to be the operation of two residential care facilities in the area, Guest House II in Joplin, and the Carthage Guest House.
Its executive director, Robert Joseph Dupont Jr, Joplin, is a convicted felon, having pleaded guilty in federal court on Feb. 13, 2002. to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Dupont was the primary target in a 22-count indictment issued June 15, 2000, alleging a health care fraud scheme involving several residential care facilities, thousands of claims, and more than 200 patients, according to court records.
Government prosecutors said Dupont and the others who were charged certified patients as homebound and submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. They said the agencies that were affiliated with Dupont worked with doctors to file the false claims.
Dupont's bankruptcy papers indicate that he owes $120,100 to the Department of Justice, money he is supposed to repay the government under provisions of his plea agreement. The paper say Dupont has $994,025 in asseets, including $975,000 in real estate, and $1,419,675 in liabilities, including $1,339,000 in secured claims.
Dupont is also the former owner of the Drake in Carthage and Guest House facilities in Lamar, Butler, St. Louis, and Springfield.
The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District ordered the revocation of a Jasper County woman's driving privileges Tuesday, reversing a decision by Jasper County Associate Circuit Court Judge Richard Copeland that gave the woman back her license on a technicality after she refused to take a blood alcohol test.
In the state of Missouri, refusal to take a breath test is automatic grounds for license revocation. This is at least the sixth time over the last several years and the second time in the last eight days that a high court has had to reverse Copeland's decisions to give people who had been arrested for alcohol-related traffic offenses the opportunity to do it again.
The five other sitting Jasper County judges, William Carl Crawford, Jon Dermott, David Dally, Steve Carlton, and Joe Schoeberl, have combined for one such decision. That one was made my Judge Dermott, who only made his decision after it became apparent that it wasn't clear who was driving a car the night in question.
In Missouri, the decision to revoke a driver's license is made is an administrative decision made by the Department of Revenue. The decision may then be appealed in a civil action at the circuit court level.
The most recent decision revolved around an incident which occurred on May 2, 2003, in Carterville, according to court records. Carterville police officer Ronnie Houdyshell was called to the corner of Main and Hatcher, where residents had said they had seen "an intoxicated person pull up in a vehicle and then slump over."
According to court records, Houdyshell found Ms. Spry sitting on the passenger side of the car, apparently asleep. After another officer arrived, Houdyshell woke the woman up, though it took a while. When Ms. Spry opened the passenger-side of the car, Houdyshell "observed a half-empty bottle of vodka and a beer bottle. Spry appeared to be extremely intoxicated," according to the court decision.
Houdyshell had not seen her driving and couldn't tell if the engine was warm, but he saw notning suggesting there had been another person driving. He asked Ms. Spry how she had gotten there. "She simply replied, 'Me.' "
She was taken to the Carterville Police Department for sobriety tests. According to the court records, she said she had been drinking earlier in the evening, but she did not say how much she had to drink. After the field tests, Houdyshell determined she was drunk and asked her to take a breath test. She was told that refusal to take the test could mean revocation of her license for one year.
According to the court record, she started to take the test, but did not give enough of a sample. She tried again, but she "just quit blowing." Houdyshell explained once more what refusal to take the test could mean. "She just quit," Houdyshell said.
Houdyshell told Judge Copeland the same information at the revocation hearing, according to the court opinion. Ms. Spry's attorney called no witnesses, but asked Judge Copeland for a directed verdict in Ms. Spry's favor. That's exactly what happened. In his ruling, Judge Copeland said there was "no probable cause to believe Defendant was driving while intoxicated."
As mentioned earlier, this is not the first time the appeals court has had to reverse one of Judge Copeland's decisions. Just eight days ago, the court rejected another of Judge Copeland's decisions.
The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals Monday backed the Department of Revenue's appeal to Copeland's decision that put Sara Ruth back on the streets.Ms. Ruth's license was revoked for one year after she refused to take a breathalyzer test following a DWI arrest. Ms. Ruth had appealed the Department of Revenue's decision, and after a hearing, Copeland determined that she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated, but had not refused the breathalyzer test and ordered her driving privileges reinstated even though the record clearly contradicted his judgment.
The record, as noted last week in The Turner Report, said that on the evening of May 29, 2003, Captain Jason Wright and Officer Wanda Hembree were on patrol in Joplin. While they were stopped at a traffic light, they saw a Ford Ranger stopped in the right hand lane in front of them. The passenger door was open and someone was leaning out of the car. The officers pulled up behind the car.According to their report, the officer smelled alcohol. They asked the driver if anything was wrong. She said "her friend had too much to drink and was sick." Wright saw vomit inside the car.Wright asked Ms. Ruth if she had been drinking. She said she had been drinking a couple of hours earlier. Wright detected a smell of alcohol coming from Ms. Ruth and wrote that Ms. Ruth's eyes were "watery, bloodshot, and glassy; she was wobbling and staggering; and her speech was slurred." Ms. Ruth had no problem with an eyetracking test, but failed the walk-and-turn test, the report said.A preliminary breath test indicated she was drunk, according to the report, so she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. When they arrived at the Joplin Police Station, Ms. Ruth was given her Miranda rights, answered some questions, then she said she did not want to answer any more.
"The records show she was asked to submit to a chemical test of her breath. Hembree determined (Ms. Ruth) refused to submit to the test and noted the refusal" on the report.At her trial, Ms. Ruth testified that since she had already been given the breathalyzer during the stop, she had asked if she could "have time to think about it" when the second request was made. She said she was never asked and that the officer simply said on the report that she had refused.Based on that testimony, Copeland restored Ms. Ruth's driving privileges.In the appeal, the Department of Revenue said Copeland's decision was wrong because there were reasonable grounds for arresting Ms. Ruth for driving while intoxicated and the record showed she had refused the breathalyzer test. Under Missouri law, all persons who drive on state highways are "deemed to have consented to a chemical test of their breath."According to the appellate court ruling, "The evidence presented at trial unequivocally shows that (Ms. Ruth) initially refused to submit to the breath test."The appellate court ordered Copeland to reinstate the one-year revocation of Ms. Ruth's license.
On Aug. 29, 2000, Judge Copeland made a similar decision in the case of Paul Riggin, 48, Joplin. According to the court record, in the early morning hours of Dec. 13, 1998, outside a Joplin nightclub, an officer tried to approach Riggin as he got into his car. Riggin waved him off, got into the car, and drove off. When he was stopped, the court opinion said, Riggin "had a strong odor of alcohol," admitted to having had four or five drinks and he failed three field sobriety tests. He also tested positive on a breath test given at the scene.
No witnesses were presented at the revocation hearing, only the officer's written report. Judge Copeland ruled that the Director of Revenue had failed to prove the case and restored Riggin's driving privileges.
On July 7, 2000, Judge Copeland restored the driving privileges of Paul Sutton, 59, Joplin. Sutton had been involved in an accident on Dec. 19, 1998, according to court records. Sutton "admitted to ingesting two beers just before the accident." He failed several field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test indicated "a high level of alcohol was present in his blood."
Riggin consented to another breath test at the station but "failed to give an adequate sample." Despite the officer's testimony, Judge Copeland ruled there was no evidence that Sutton had refused to take the test and put Sutton back on the streets.
The appellate court also overruled Judge Copeland in its Jan. 22, 1999, decision to revoke the driving privileges of Michael S. Delzell.
According to court records. on April 6, 1997, a Joplin restaurant manager noticed "a man sitting in the driver's seat of a car in the restaurant parking lot with the engine running." The car had not been there a few minutes earlier, the manager said.
It turned out the man had come to the restaurant to pick up his wife, who was a restaurant employee. The only trouble was she had left two hours earlier. The officer who investigated noticed that Delzell appeared to be intoxicated. Delzell failed field sobriety tests. He admitted he had been drinking and driving. When he was taken to the police station, he failed a breath test.
But since neither the officer nor the restaurant manager had actually seen Delzell driving, Judge Copeland restored Delzell's driving privileges.
Judge Copeland also restored the driving privileges of Jeffrey Lasley, a decision which was reversed by the appellate court on Oct. 21, 1997.
Even though Lasley had failed field sobriety tests and a breath test indicated he had a blood alcohol content of 1.2, Judge Copeland gave Delzell back his license, indicating that the arresting officer had no probable cause to stop Delzell.
Only one time over the past several years has the appellate court backed Judge Copeland in his decision to restore driving privileges. According to court records, the panel on March 6, 2003, allowed Alexandre Kisselev to keep his driver's license. Kisselev, who had only been in the United States since 1997 or 1998, was not "fluent in the English language" according to the court's opinion and may not have understood how to properly take a breath test.
A little commentary on the subject: If the cases in which Judge Copeland restored driving privileges were the only ones in the state, the situation might not be so bad, but as I reported in a series done by The Carthage Press in December 1998, there are other judges in Missouri who make the same kinds of decisions, even under the scrutiny of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. One St. Louis area judge alone had been reversed 25 times by higher courts for putting drunk drivers back on the streets.
If there was a way these judges could be bypassed on drunk driving cases, the situation might not be so bad. Unfortunately, Missouri lawyers know who they are and steer their clients into those oh-so-friendly courtrooms.
It doesn't matter how many tough drunk driving laws are passed, or how many tough judges are put on the bench, as long as there are a few who are willing to ignore basic evidence and play Russian roulette with people's lives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It has been more than a month since the annual Lamar Free Fair, but Fair-related information was featured in The Lamar Democrat last week...and it was great news.
Those who attended this year's fair missed an old staple, the display of past fair queens in the windows at Walters Studio. Allen Walters recently retired so no one was there to allow fairgoers to look at the four decades of beauty which were traditionally featured in the window, which had portraits of every queen since the first one was crowned in 1958.
Cait Purinton interviewed Allen and Edith Walters about that tradition in the first issue of the late, lamented Lamar Press on Aug. 15, 1996.
The tradition had started 30 years earlier when their daughter, Susan, was crowned queen. "We were so proud for her to be a queen," Edith told Cait, "so we went back and got senior pictures o all the past queens and started the display."
The first six pictures were handpainted by Allen's sister, Gene Youngs, according to that article. The rest of the pictures are in color.
The biggest challenge in setting up the display, Allen told Cait, was "finding room for another one every year."
The portraits will be on display from now on at the Thiebaud Auditorium, according to the Democrat article. Congratulations to everyone who played a part in the restoration of that tradition.
Also, thanks should be given to the Democrat for remembering that names do sell papers. The newspaper ran a complete list of Lamar Fair queens, something which had not been done since I did it in The Carthage Press in 1998. That was something that I used to do each year in the week preceding the contest. I was able to get hold of a list of past queens while I was working at The Democrat, ran it then and kept on doing it. It gave people an opportunity relive some pleasant memories.
Today's Joplin Globe features an article indicating that Southwest City's police chief has filed a lawsuit against the city. Seems like I read that somewhere else a few days ago.
The first presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday night. Hopefully, we can bury the swift boat issue and President Bush's days in the National Guard and actually get down to discussing issues.
Reviews are mixed on the new Spring River Valley Conference. Football coaches and football-loving administrators are enamoured with it, while those who emphasize academics believe it is a step down.
Teachers from old Midwest Conference schools Jasper and Lockwood, have indicated to me that the new conference has so far given short shrift to academics, something which was always emphasized in the Midwest Conference, which had strong programs in academic competitions, art, industrial arts, science, math, and music, among other things.
Teachers who attended the recent conference meeting at Diamond came away unimpressed, in fact dismayed, by the apparent lack of attention conference administrators have paid to the academic side of the equation.
The former Midwest Conference instructors also indicated their feelings were shared by teachers from the former Mid-Lakes Conference schools in the Spring River Valley Conference, and by teachers from Diamond, which had been in the Ozark Eight Conference.
It is no secret, that despite what administrators from the schools have said, the driving force behind the new conference is football. It was the only area in which these schools have had any particular difficulties. Diamond had no conference affiliation in football since none of the other Ozark 8 schools, except McAuley, field a team. Jasper, Lockwood, and Liberal, had to travel all over the state to play teams in the Western Missouri (WEMO) Conference.
Hopefully, the administrators will put some extra effort into establishing academics as a driving force in the new conference, but I'll have to see it to believe it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I had always wondered why so many copies of Missouri Conservationist were sent to South Middle School and the other schools around the state.
You can almost have as many copies as you want and all of them are free, courtesy of our state Conservation Department. That always seemed a little wasteful to me.
The free copies were explained in a page-one article in the Sunday Kansas City Star. Those free copies are furnished by the taxpayers courtesy of the one-eighth of a cent conservation sales tax we passed two decades ago. The Star investigation showed that the department has done many good things with the tax revenues, but it has already accomplished the goals it said it would with the tax long ago. Nevertheless, the tax continues. While the Conservation Department continues to do good things with the money, something the Star article stressed, money is also being spent frivolously, at a time when other state agencies are struggling to make ends meet.
Examples of this include those many free copies of the Missouri Conservationist, an excellent magazine as well, as having all employees, including secretaries and maintenance personnel, attending sensitivity seminars and bringing in an expensive new age pianist, at a high cost, to perform at a department function.
It appears it is past time to examine this perpetual tax, which is the envy, not only of other Missouri departments and agencies, but of every conservation department across the United States.
The Star report indicated that Missourians have no problem with the tax since the money is being used for the upkeep of state parks.
Only one problem with that isn't true. State parks are under the management of the Department of Natural Resources.
Joplin Globe editor Edgar Simpson's Sunday column about longtime reporter/columnist Gary Garton was well done and brought out more of what made Mr. Garton special, something which the next-day coverage of his death in the Globe did not.
I continue to have problems with the Globe's story selection. Garton's death deserved a page-one article, not just the little photo above the banner. A number of frivolous stories continue to make the Globe's display page. On the day following Gary Garton's death, it was a rehash...eight months later...of the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl fiasco. Today's page one features an article about World Wrestling Entertainment and not one word about the war in Iraq.
More revelations about the amount of gifts area state senators and representatives are receiving from lobbyists will be featured in upcoming editions of The Turner Report.
Fraud allegations have been made against employees in the Diamond R-4 School District. The State Teacher Retirement System has been informed that one teacher is skirting the requirements for a limited amount of pay from a school district after his official retirement.
This teacher is teaching the total number of hours part-time that he is allowed by law, but in addition to that, he is driving a school bus...under his wife's name.
The wife, who it has been reported does not drive the bus at all, receives the money. This causes a second fraud allegation since this woman also teaches in the R-4 School District. The amount of money teachers receive upon retirement is determined by the amount of money they make during their three highest-paying years at a school district. The money this woman allegedly receives fraudulently for driving a bus she has purportedly never driven, increases the amount of money taxpayers will pay her when she retires.
It also appears evident that this has been done with the tacit approval of school officials since it would appear they would know who is driving their buses.
The allegations have been brought to the attention of Retirement Fund and state education officials.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

A June 20, 2005, trial date has been set for a former Newton County Jail inmate's $2 million lawsuit against Sheriff Ron Doerge.
Though many lawsuits against Doerge based on conditions in the jail have been dismissed overe the yars, Donald Richard Allen's suit has been winding its way through the federal court system since June 2, 2000.
The trial, if it actually takes place, will be held in Springfield, in front of Judge Dean Whipple.
Allen's complaint stems from the way Doerge, head jailer Bob Sullivan and others responded to his erquest for medical treatment, according to the lawsuit. Allen's stay in the Newton County Jail began on Jan. 19, 2000. "I stated that I had emphysema and I need medication for this condition," he said. "I had my wife provide them with my medication and they refused to allow me access to it or refused to give it to me during med calls."
Allen said I was not given access to grievance forms to lodge his complaints.
He said he wants to see "a policy change within the Newton County Jail to insure no one else is treated in this manner." Allen is asking for $1 million in damages and an additional $1 million in punitive damages.
Mark Mayo, or people close to the Diamond R-4 superintendent, have once again started launching a smear campaign against me. It's not enough that they fired me two times from the Diamond School District and have attemped to cause me to lose my present job, it appears they have taken a leaf from the presidential campaign notebook and are throwing everything at me hoping something sticks.
I would like to point out that everything I have written about Mark Mayo or the Diamond R-4 School District has been done on my own time. I do not use the Joplin R-8 School District's time or money for my non-school district websites. And everything I have written is grounded firmly in fact or is clearly opinion. The truth has always been important to me.
It appears, however, that Mayo may very well have continued his long-standing vendetta against me on the Diamond R-4 School District's time and on the taxpayers' dime, with little or no regard for the truth. And this includes the most recent efforts to damage my reputation, whether it be Mayo or some of his sycophants who are responsible for them.
I should note that I have never written anything to damage the reputations of Mark Mayo or any member of the Diamond R-4 Board of Education. I don't have to. They do enough damage on their own without my help.
To paraphrase Harry Truman when a supporter told him to "give 'em hell," the president replied, "I'll give them the truth and they'll think it's hell."

Saturday, September 25, 2004

One of the important duties of every state legislator is taking fact-finding missions to see first-hand some of the problems that face his constituents.
Apparently, 127th District State Representative Steve Hunter takes that obligation seriously. Though the nature of his fact-finding missions was not spelled out in documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Hunter accepted travel expenses from lobbyist Sarah Topp on three occasions this year. He accepted travel expenses from lobbyist William Gamble one other time.
Though Ms. Topp and Gamble represent a number of clients, including the Missouri Sheriffs Association, the Ethics Commission records indicate the travel money to Hunter came courtesy of the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City. Ms. Topp and Gamble also represent all of the interests of Ameristar Casinos, a Las Vegas-based company which only recently moved its operations into this state.
On Jan. 22, Hunter accepted $91.32 in travel expenses, according to Ethics Commission records. He also accepted $91.32 in travel expenses, indicating he most likely went to the same place, as well as $125 for meals, food, and beverage from Ms. Topp on Feb. 20, $138 in travel expenses from her on March 8, and $455 for meals, food and beverage on March 20.
Hunter accepted an additional $250 in travel expenses from Gamble on Aug. 28, according to the Ethics Commission records. Legislators are allowed to amend the records if they pay the lobbyists back, though the original expenditure remains. The Ethics Commission records show that none of Ameristar Casinos' gifts to Hunter have been paid back.
Hunter was the only legislator to receive gifts from Ms. Topp in February and the only representative (there were three senators) who received gifts in March, records indicate.
The $1,150.64 Hunter received from the gambling interest is more money than any other area legislator has received from all lobbyists' gifts combined. And the gifts just keep coming.
Ethics Commission records indicate Hunter has been receiving "meals, food, and beverage" from a number of lobbyists on a fairly regular basis. These include:
-$84, Jan. 22 from William F. Waris and Ginger Steinmetz. Waris represents a number of health concerns, while Ms. Steinmetz is a lobbyist for the city of Joplin.
-$9.60 the same day from Michael Goessling, another lobbyists for health and insurance companies.
-$65 Feb. 17 from James Kistler representing Associated Industries of Missouri.
$43.69 March 2 from Kent Gaines. who represents Premium Standard Farms and Monsanto, among other interests.
-$124.16 on Feb. 18, and $67.26 on March 16 from Tom Rackers, who represents insurance interests.
-$30 March 30 from Kyna Iman, Missouri Southern State University lobbyist.
-$55.96 April 13 from Samuel Licklider, Empire District Electric lobbyist
-$35.50 the same day from David Martin, also representing Empire District.
-$64.50 April 26 from Greg Johnson, an insurance lobbyist.
-$46.38 May 5 from Daniel Mehan of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.
-$70 May 14 from Randy Scherr, city of Joplin.
Hunter also received $120.20 for "entertainment" from John Kristan Jones, an MCI lobbyist, on June 24, according to Ethics Commission records. He received $60 for "entertainment" from a Matthew Kohly on Jan. 24. Information on who Kohly represents wasn't available.
With the legislature in session for approximately 75 days between January and early May, Hunter received gifts of "meals, food, and beverage' from lobbyists on 30 days.
The drunk driving background of Southwest City's police chief appears to be more than what has been publicized.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, Sept. 24, in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the city's former police chief, Ron Beaudry claims that current chief Toi Canada was convicted of a "driving-related alcohol offense" on July 21, 1994, in Webb City, and on July 13, 2001, in Callaway County.
The information was included in Beaudry's lawsuit against Southwest City officials who fired him June 2, after he made an unsuccessful effort to fire Ms. Canada, who had been hired as a police officer.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the city of Southwest City, Mayor Al Dixon, and council members Farley Martin and Mildred Weaver. Beaudry noted in his petition that Ms. Canada is Martin's stepdaughter.
Beaudry was hired as police chief in June 2003, according to the petition. Ms. Canada was hired on a part-time basis last November.She was promoted to full-time status after a closed council meeting in March 2004, the petition says.
At that point, Beaudry conducted a background check and uncovered the alcohol-related offenses, he said. "On March 12, 2004," the petition says, "(Beaudry) received a fax from Angela Heckart, a representative with Beimdiek Insurance Agency, regarding the insurability of Ms. Canada." Ms. Heckart said Ms. Canada could not be insured because she had an alcohol-related driving offense in the three years before she was hired.
On March 30, the city received a fax saying that Ms. Canada was prohibited from using any city vehicle. At that point, Beaudry fired her. "On or about April 13, 2004," the petition said, "the city council refused to fire Canada, rehired her, and allowed her to operate her own vehicle to conduct police business."
On May 14, the council suspended Beaudry after he went public about his concerns about Ms. Canada, the petition said. On June 2, he was fired.
In the petition, Beaudry claims his First Amendment free speech rights were violated by the city officials. He is asking to be reinstated as police chief, to have all references to his suspension and firing removed from city files, and for damages and punitive damages. He is asking for a jury trial.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

You have one chance to handle the story of a prominent person's death correctly.
I pointed out in an earlier Turner Report how The Lamar Democrat botched its coverage of the death of O'Sullivan Industries founder Tom O'Sullivan earlier this year. For a man who brought economic prosperity to the entire area and whose philanthropic tendencies were legendary, a story and a small picture in a corner of page one were totally inadequate. It should have been a banner headline with a long retrospective of his life, complete with photos and comments from top officials and O'Sullivan workers alike.
But at least The Democrat put the story on page one.
Handling the story of a well-known person's death is always difficult and The Joplin Globe faced that situation in today's edition. Gary Garton had worked there for more than a quarter of a century. To people in certain parts of the Tri-State area, Gary Garton was The Joplin Globe.
I never knew Gary Garton, though I was flattered once when I was compared to him. The one similarity we had (at least as far as I know) was each of us could turn out a large number of stories in a short amount of time and neither of us had our accuracy questioned very often.
Mr. Garton also wrote a popular Sunday column in the Globe. He was a fixture in Globe households. The story of his passing should have been on page one.
To give the Globe editors credit, a small photo of him was placed above the banner at the top of the page with the headline "Longtime Globe reporter dies," directing readers to the story on page three. The story, written by Debby Woodin, covered all of the bases perfunctorily, but did little to actually tell what Gary Garton was all about. There were quotes galore, but no stories. And stories, especially to an old newspaperman, are what make newspapers worth reading.
It would have been understandable if Mr. Garton's story was on page three because of a raft of big ticket news items on page one. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The choices appear to have been made simply on the basis of the best photos the Globe had and the biggest scandal it could find.
How else can you explain the presence of a story and photo of the month-old Janet Jackson/Super Bowl fiasco. The other stories: Neosho is hoping to stop a leak that is draining the city's water system. Hey, another story about Neosho and its historic buildings, complete with three photos, one of them a large, vertical shot. The Globe must be pushing subscriptions in Neosho this week. Or how about the story about Galena giving its ex-city manager severance pay. Oh, there was a Joplin story (a vanishing breed) on page one. The city may move its rifle range because of problems with stray bullets.
I would be the last person to deny that these stories (except maybe the Janet Jackson story) belong in the Globe. But what kind of message are you sending the readers (and Mr. Garton's longtime co-workers) when you treat those stories with more respect than you do the passing of a fixture in area journalism.
You only have once chance to get the death story right.
The Globe blew it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Tuesday Springfield News-Leader featured a page-one story about my sister.
Kelly Finkbiner, the youngest of the three Turner children, is a state liquor control officer based in Springfield, one of only four remaining in southwest Missouri due to budget cuts. The article focused on how those budget cuts had affected the agency.
I wouldn't mind seeing a little investigative reporting done on what effect the powerful alcohol industry in this state, including St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, has had on those cuts and the attempts to take the teeth away from Liquor Control.
In Sunday's edition, The Joplin Globe finally listed its winners in the annual Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest, which were listed in The Turner Report six days earlier. That's a wonderful way to build up staff morale and to claim a reputation as a newspaper that is on top of the news...wait more than a week to tell the good news about your own publication, then bury it inside the paper. Some newspaper editors and publishers believe you should not play up your newspaper's awards, either out of some false sense of modesty or out of a belief that you should not write about your own awards any more than you would the awards earned by another business.
The difference here is that newspapers need to publicize their own products. The public needs to know when quality work is being rewarded and it is a great incentive for reporters when they see that their work has been recognized, not only by some out-of-state judges, but also by their own employers.
The Globe continues to miss the boat on this one year after year.
Whether it was because of the criticism from The Turner Report or perhaps I just missed it earlier, it appears the Diamond R-4 School District has added an archive of board minutes at its website, That is a good move. Another good move would be to put the minutes on the site on a timely basis and to publish what happens as a result of closed-session votes. These votes are public information, at least as far as they are concerned with the hiring, firing, disciplining, or promotion of school employees, and that information needs to be available. The public has the right to know what kinds of decisions are being made by the superintendent and the board of education.
It is one thing to devote a considerable amount of space to what kind of uniforms the volleyball team is going to wear (as the school district's website recently did). It is another thing to trust the public to be able to handle information on decisions that actually make a day-to-day difference in the education of the children and the use of tax dollars.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

First round bids in the auction for Liberty Group Publishing, the newspaper group that owns The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, The Neosho Post, and The Big Nickel are due by the end of this month, according to sources in the newspaper industry.
The newspaper company, which was formed in 1998 out of the smaller newspapers in the American wing of Canada-based Hollinger International, is expected to fetch more than $500 million, or 10 times its most recent annual earnings. The company includes more than 300 small publications, including The Miller Press and The Greenfield Vedette in southwest Missouri.
The same newspaper industry sources, say that at least three companies, Lee Enterprises Inc., the Heartland Media Group, and the Journal Register Company have received books containing bidding specifications.
Other companies said to be eyeing Liberty are the Hearst Group, and Advance Publications, Inc.
Liberty Group Publishing is owned by the investment firm of Leonard Green & Partners of Califonria.
The news that the company is for sale was first revealed in early August in articles from such sources as Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and The Chicago Tribune. I'll try to have a breakdown on the companies seeking to buy Liberty in an upcoming edition of The Turner Report.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Some soothing words during troubled times:

"Two facts are worth noting in the wake of (the decision to move the corporate headquarters from here to Atlanta:
-"The company left behind (more than 1,000) jobs here, most of them in manufacturing.
-"The company grew into an economic force here without ever leaving the area."

Those might be soothing words if they were written about O'Sullivan Industries in Lamar. They were not. They were written by Adam Lowenstein, a reporter for the Register Star newspaper in Rockford, Ill. The company that moved its corporate headquarters from Freeport, Ill., just west of Rockford, to Atlanta, was Newell Rubbermaid. As anyone who reads The Turner Report or the Joplin Globe knows by now, the three top officials at O'Sullivan Industries, which recently moved its corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta, including million-dollar CEO Bob Parker, all came from Newell Rubbermaid.
Newell Rubbermaid moved its corporate headquarters from Illinois to Atlanta in 2003. Company officials promised not to close the Amerock plant, a fixture in Rockford for more than 75 years, for at least three years.
They lied.
In March of this year, Register Star columnist Chuck Sweeny, who predicted just a week earlier that the compay would close the plant and ship the manufacturing jobs overseas, found out he was on the money and Amerock workers were out of it.
Sweeny wrote, "Last Thursday, after I wondered how long it would be before Newell Rubbermaid shed its Amerock workers, I received a phone call. I can't get it out of my mind.
"I'm not publishing the woman's name, but she is real. She has worked at the Amerock factory on Auburn Street for 29 years. Every day, she drives into Rockford from a town about 30 miles away.
"She has driven through sleet, snow, rain and gloom of night to come to work. She has done many jobs in the factory. She has had carpal tunnel syndrome, back disorders, and other aches and pains associated with a factory job."
The woman told Sweeny she was afraid she was going to lose her job. She had seen people in the plant with cameras, filming how the workers did their jobs. "They say they're updating our records," the woman said, "but we think it's to show the Mexicans how they're supposed to do the jobs when they take them away from us."
The woman said a meeting had been scheduled in two weeks to tell the workers what was going to happen. The Newell Rubbermaid officials did not wait two weeks. A day or two later they told the workers their jobs were history. Their jobs were headed overseas.
The woman was wrong about one thing. The Mexicans did not take away the jobs. Greedy American businessmen, with no loyalty toward workers or their country sold them down the river.
Corporate headquarters for O'Sullivan Industries are going to be in Atlanta. Bob Parker isn't being paid $1.5 million a year by the people of Lamar. All they did was help Tom O'Sullivan and his family creat the business that is making Bob Parker and his fellow Newell Rubbermaid expatriates extremely wealthy. If the company can save a few bucks by shipping manufacturing elsewhere, maybe even overseas, it will happen.
Those decisions become even easier when they are being made from hundreds of miles away. And don't blame what is happening to O'Sullivan Industries on the O'Sullivan family. Though many of them have been removed only recently, the major decision-making has been out of the family's hands for a while.
The worst thing that could have happened to Lamar was when the local effort, led by the O'Sullivans in the mid 1990s to buy the company back from Tandy fell just short. That was when the door opened wide for the corporate vultures who are now in charge.
Hopefully, the worst-case scenario I wrote about above will never take place, but the Lamar area has to be prepared if it does. It is unlikely that another Tom O'Sullivan will come around to save the area, as the O'Sullivan Industries founder did when he moved here 40 years ago shortly after Lawn Boy, the city's biggest employer closed its doors. Steps need to be taken to encourage growth and expansion by companies like Thorco, Finley Engineering, and Epoch and the city and Chamber of Commerce need to continue to work to attract small industries that employ 50 to 75 people apiece to come to the city. It is highly doubtful that a major employer on the scale of O'Sullivan is going to come to this area, though you never can tell.
It would be preferable if O'Sullivan Industries continued to be a major employer for Lamar and the surrounding area. As long as our political leaders place the needs of stockholders above those of workers, there is reason for concern.
One of the jobs of law enforcement is to get drunk drivers off the streets.
Sometimes our legal system puts them right back behind the steering wheel.
The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals Monday backed the Department of Revenue's appeal to Jasper County Circuit Court Judge Richard Copeland's decision that put Sara Ruth back on the streets.
Ms. Ruth's license was revoked for one year after she refused to take a breathalyzer test following a DWI arrest. Ms. Ruth had appealed the Department of Revenue's decision, and after a hearing, Copeland determined that she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated, but had not refused the breathalyzer test and ordered her driving privileges reinstated even though the record clearly contradicted his judgment.
The records said that on the evening of May 29, 2003, Captain Jason Wright and Officer Wanda Hembree were on patrol in Joplin. While they were stopped at a traffic light, they saw a Ford Ranger stopped in the right hand lane in front of them. The passenger door was open and someone was leaning out of the car. The officers pulled up behind the car.
According to their report, the officer smelled alcohol. They asked the driver if anything was wrong. She said "her friend had too much to drink and was sick." Wright saw vomit inside the car.
Wright asked Ms. Ruth if she had been drinking. She said she had been drinking a couple of hours earlier. Wright detected a smell of alcohol coming from Ms. Ruth and wrote that Ms. Ruth's eyes were "watery, bloodshot, and glassy; she was wobbling and staggering; and her speech was slurred." Ms. Ruth had no problem with an eyetracking test, but failed the walk-and-turn test, the report said.
A preliminary breath test indicated she was drunk, according to the report, so she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. When they arrived at the Joplin Police Station, Ms. Ruth was given her Miranda rights, answered some questions, then she said she did not want to answer any more.
"The records show she was asked to submit to a chemical test of her breath. Hembree determined (Ms. Ruth) refused to submit to the test and noted the refusal" on the report.
At her trial, Ms. Ruth testified that since she had already been given the breathalyzer during the stop, she had asked if she could "have time to think about it" when the second request was made. She said she was never asked and that the officer simply said on the report that she had refused.
Based on that testimony, Copeland restored Ms. Ruth's driving privileges.
In the appeal, the Department of Revenue said Copeland's decision was wrong because there were reasonable grounds for arresting Ms. Ruth for driving while intoxicated and the record showed she had refused the breathalyzer test. Under Missouri law, all persons who drive on state highways are "deemed to have consented to a chemical test of their breath."
According to the appellate court ruling, "The evidence presented at trial unequivocally shows that (Ms. Ruth) initially refused to submit to the breath test."
The appellate court ordered Copeland to reinstate the one-year revocation of Ms. Ruth's license.
One of the things that irritated me most during my last few years in the newspaper business was the growing use of "From staff reports" on articles. I had a sports editor who was a big fan of pasting that little byline on anything that wasn't written by him or me.
The only problem with "From staff reports" is it's a lie. The byline is normally used on articles that the staff had absolutely nothing to do with. Most of the articles are press releases from schools or companies or people involved with charity events or fund raisers. I argued the use of the phrase "From staff reports" with some success. Of course, the minute I was no longer with The Carthage Press, it was suddenly plastered on nearly every story that the staff did not actually write.
Usually, the only contribution the staff makes to these stories is to change a little wording to conform with newspaper style or correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, or capitalization. Most of the time, the press releases run exactly as they were written.
One of those press releases was featured in the Sept. 14 Neosho Daily News. It apparently is a press release from Newton Learning, the summer school arm of Edison Schools. The Daily apparently added a little phrase, saying that information came "according to a report released by Newton Learning." I am not sure about that, however.
The report itself said East Newton students posted a 26 percent improvement in reading and a 34.1 percent improvement in mathematics during the summer school program, which was operated by Newton Learning this year.
Admittedly, the information came from a self-serving press release, but it appears once again that another area school is satisfied with its dealings with Edison. I haven't heard of East Newton, Sarcoxie, or McDonald County filing lawsuits against Edison. Only Diamond. This is only a guess, but could it be possible that having a lawyer at the helm might have convinced the Diamond R-4 Board of Education to try to gain an edge on Edison, not realizing that Edison has lawyers of its own. Just a supposition.
It seems strange that all of the other area schools just make money from Edison and don't need to sue the company.
The Joplin Globe ran a series of interesting articles on O'Sullivan Industries Sunday. The main point, one which I have made in The Turner Report a few times, is that the board of directors of the formerly Lamar-based company decided to make Bob Parker the company's first million-dollar CEO while at the same time laying off 150 workers and making a costly move of its corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta just to satisify Parker and the two other Hessions from Newell Rubbermaid that the board hired for the top executive positions. It was a well-researched report and included some excellent information on the salaries of the O'Sullivan officials in comparison to officials with similar companies.
I would like to see just how well Parker operated the Sharpie division of Newell Rubbermaid. There was some information, but not much. He had better be pretty good to be pulling down that kind of salary and benefits.
In his weekly Cat News, Diamond R-4 Superintendent Mark Mayo notes the district is working to improve its middle school reading and writing MAP scores. Hmm, could it be that it wasn't such a wise decision to eliminate both the middle school reading and writing classes, two classes which had contributed to increased MAP scores the previous year. No, that would make too much sense.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I hadn't realized how much Southwest Missouri newspapers have turned into shills for Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt until yesterday when I read a column written in April by Sarah Overstreet of the Springfield News-Leader.
Ms. Overtreet, who at one time had a nationally-syndicated column before returning to Springfield to take a management position at the News-Leader, was addressing the conflict of interest issue Blunt has regarding the Phillip Morris company.
That conflict has been mentioned in a couple of earlier editions of The Turner Report. Abigail Blunt, the congressman's new wife, is the top lobbyist for Phillip Morris One of Blunt's sons (the one who is not running for governor) also has a top position with the company. Ms. Overstreet's argument was that she had known Blunt for more than 25 years, he was a good guy, so naturally he could not be doing anything wrong.
She was writing specifically to rebut a March 30 Gannett News Service article about legislators who have family members in companies that could affect the path of legislation. Blutn was mentioned in the article.
"I had to read the story twice," Ms. Overstreet wrote. "This wasn't the Roy Blunt I'd known over 25 years of reporting." Then she spent a few paragraphs writing about how Blunt had been helpful to her during his days as Greene County clerk
She interviewed Blunt about this alleged conflict of interest. The congressman pointed out to her that he could hardly recuse himself on every vote that came up that concerned Phillip Morris since that company also owns Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer and companies that employ 2,500 people in southwest Missouri. If he did that, he said, he would not be representing his constituents effectively. Blunt acknowledged receiving PAC money from Phillip Morris, but noted that the PAC money represents several industries in addition to the copmany's best-known product, tobacco.
"I've always taken money from their PAC," Blunt told Ms. Overstreet. "Kraft employees always put more money in their PAC than (the tobacco industry) would ever give me. I don't have any hesitancy in taking money from that PAC."
Ms. Overstreet concluded her column by commenting, "Yes, these relationships bear watching, but the next step is legislative spouses without the right to hold jobs."
Her column is based on two specious arguments. One, that Blunt was a good guy a long time ago so he must be a good guy now; and 2. This issue involves a woman's right to hold a job.
Neither of those arguments addresses the most important question...Is Roy Blunt letting his connections with the Phillip Morris company, his marriage to the company's top lobbyist and the fact that the company provided his son with a cushy job, affect his performance as this district's congressman.
Ms. Overstreet's column was written several months after Blunt attempted to attach a rider to the Homeland Security Act which would crack down on counterfeit cigarettes. While this country was attempting to put in place the machinery to deal with possible terrorist attacks, Congressman Blunt was looking for ways to help his new wife's company. His proposal was so outrageous that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, no stranger to placing pork in important legislation, made sure it was quickly removed. Blunt's argument was that Hezbollah, the Palestinian terrorist group was financing terrorist attacks with the revenue from selling these counterfeit cigarettes. Of course, his motives had nothing to do with the revenues the fakes cost Phillip Morris.
I could be wrong, but I don't recall the Springfield News-Leader ever running the story about the Homeland Security fiasco.
I, too, have covered Roy Blunt for a long time and have had no problems with him. I don't believe one incident should outweigh a long, respected career, but it may be more than just one incident.
As I wrote earlier in The Turner Report, the congressman has apparently used his considerable influence to convince at least 75 of his fellow congressmen to donate money to his son Matt's Missouti campaigns. These contributions would seem to be more about pleasing a powerful congressman than helping a candidate who is not even in their states. Matt Blunt has also received a considerable amount of money from people connected to Phillip Morris.
Southwest Missouri media need to keep a close eye on both Blunts, not with the aim of turning one or both out of office, but to make sure they know they are being watched and that even the appearance of conflict of interest is unacceptable. In this case, there is obviously more than just the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The final defendant in the Freeman Neosho drug scandal has pleaded guilty in Newton County Circuit Court. Dr. Jeffrey Wool pleaded guilty Thursday to a Class D felony of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. He received a suspended sentence and four years of supervised probation, according to articles in the Neosho Daily News and The Joplin Globe.
There is more to this case that hasn't been told and it probably could hvae been uncovered just by looking into the five malpractice lawsuits filed against Dr. Wool and lab technician Neidra DePuy, another defendant in the case,. All five lawsuits were filed against the two, plus Freeman Hospital, plus "John Doe Pharmaceutical Companies," in Jasper County Circuit Court.
I have been told that at least one media outlet is fully aware of the lawsuits, but does not plan on doing anything about it. Could this be laziness or is it just possible that the story might reflect unfavorably on Freeman, whch buys considerable advertising in local media outlets?
I have also received reliable reports that a top official connected with a governmental body in the Jasper/Newton county area has gone to considerable lengths to cover up at least two alcohol-related traffic offenses.
Both of the traffic stops were made in Jasper County. This official used his connections to have the cases transferred to a county that does not have, the system most Missouri counties use to put their court cases on the Internet. Initially, these offenses were listed on the Jasper County site with no real information given on what the offenses were, only that they were traffic offenses. Both cases had notations that they had been transferred to other counties, which not so coincidentally did not have Reportedly, this officials used a high-powered lawyer to whittle the offenses down to misdemeanors, with no mention of alcohol involved.
This blatant manipulation of the judicial process is not the only problem involved. This official has a serious drinking problem which has affected job perforrmance.
I am asking that anyone who has evidence of these arrests or of other incidents involving this official, get the information to me. I need documentation of this before I go on the record because this official has considerable influence. As those of you who have dealt with me over the past 25 years or so know, I do protect my sources.
The media continues to pile on Conrad Black, the former CEO of Hollinger International, the company which once owned The Neosho Daily News and The Carthage Press. The Chicago Sun-Times, a Hollinger newspaper, reported earlier this week that Black's wife, Barbara Armiel Black, continued to reap financial benefits from Hollinger after her husband was fired.
The article said Mrs. Black exercised options to buy company stock, valued at $5.4 million, or only $3.1 million, making an instant profit of $2.3 million. Earlier articles in the Sun-Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other newspapers reported on a Hollinger investigation which claimed Black and others milked Hollinger out of more than $400 million.
The case of Edward Meerwald Jr., the man who allegedly was driving drunk when his car smashed into James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and his seven-year-old granddaughter, Jessica Mann of Joplin, on July 31, will be heard in Jasper County on a change of venue. Meerwald is charged with two counts of manslaughter. If he had been convicted of DWI at least twice in the past 10 years, he could have been charged with second degree murder. If The Joplin Globe or some other media outlet does a thorough investigation, I would almost guarantee they would find at least one incident or maybe more in which Meerwald was stopped when driving under the influence and charged with lesser offenses. Despite the increased awareness of drunk driving, this kind of abuse continues to take place on a regular basis in our judicial system.
The life sentence of a Jasper County killer, was upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District Sept. 16.
Eldon Tinsley's lawyers claimed that two potential jurors were removed from the jury panel for no cause. The appellate court rejected the argument.
The court decision gave an account of Tinsley's crime.
On May 9, 2001 at the American Bank in Baxter Springs, KS, Myung Kyu Kim tried to cash three checks written to him by Tinsley. Kim was told the checks were no good because Tinsley's account had been closed for more than three years.
The Baxter Springs Police Department told Kim to contact the Joplin Police Department, but Kim took matters into his own hands, a decision he never had the chance to regret. Kim went straight to Tinsley's house. Tinsley was inside, but did not come out.
Tinsley's daughters came by and saw Kim there, but Tinsley still did not come out. According to the court record, Tinsley later called his daughter, Tonya, and told her to come home quickly and come alone.
When she got there, Tinsley told her he had killed somebody, according to the court record. He said he had gotten into an argument with Kim and had killed him. Tinsley's daughter, knowing her father kept a 9-millimeter gun in a cabinet, asked if he had shot Kim. He told her it was none of her business. She saw blood in Tinsley's laundry room.
At about 3 p.m. that day, Tinsley rented a storage unit and placed the contents of Kim's truck there. When they returned home, Tinsley told his daughter they were going to see a friend about buying a metal drum. The daughter told a friend about the murder and the friend told the Joplin Police Department.
Tje police put Tinsley's home under surveillance and caught him moving the drum. When the lid of the drum was removed, the police found Kim's body inside.
Tinsley was convicted after a jury trial in Jasper County Circuit Court.
After a good start yesterday, the Natural Disaster performance nearly turned into...well...a natural disaster. I didn't realize it until I listened to the audiocassette tape I made of the performance, but when I was introducing the band to the audience at the Newtonia Fall Festival, for some unknown reason I said I was originally from Diamond. Of course, I was born in Newtonia and spent the first 22 years of my life there. I am surprised no one booed me.
I also had a few difficulties with two or three of the songs we did. Let's just say that if Bobby Bare weren't still living, he would be turning over in his grave after my rendition of "500 Miles"
It was nice to see some of my friends from Diamond at the performance, DMS math teacher Nancy Berry, and her husband, Charles, were there, along with my former students Alicia Bradley and Ryan Baker. Reportedly, the Pepto-Bismol concessions were thriving after my singing.
I also had the pleasure of running into three of my former South Middle School students at Norhtpark Mall last night when I stopped by Dairy Queen to have a banana split blizzard. Kristin Haddad, Staci Hoofnagle, and Erin McTaggart were in the food court and I had a nice conversation with them. They're doing well at Joplin High School. It's always great to see your former students succeeding.

Friday, September 17, 2004

A page-one story in today's Joplin Globe indicates that the case of Edward Meerwald, who is charged with two counts of manslaughter in connection with the July 31 deaths of a Neosho man and his granddaughter, will be heard in Jasper County on a change of venue.
Meerwald is charged with driving drunk when he hit James Dodson, 69, and Dodson's granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7. The two were standing in Dodson's driveway went Meerwald's car veered off the road and hit them, according to police reports.
The Globe still hasn't reported that the survivors have filed a lawsuit against Meerwald and the Pub Bar in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Apparently, they either need to add The Turner Report to their daily reading or try covering what goes on in Jasper County courts.
A sad anniversary passed a few days ago. It has been 10 years since the car accident that took the life of Heather Brandell, 20, of Lamar. Miss Brandell left a young son, Spencer Matty. She was the Lamar Fair Queen in 1992 and is the only one of the queens crowned since 1958 when the pageant began who is no longer with us.
I remember a touching ceremony a couple of years later in front of the high school when a tree was planted in Heather's honor and Kenya Marti read a poem she had written for Heather.
Though I remember the night Heather was crowned fair queen, my favorite memory of her was at a later fair when she entered Spencer in the baby show. The judges opted to pick other babies for the prizes, but that didn't faze Heather. She knew she had a winner in her arms.
Time for another plug for tomorrow's Natural Disaster performance beginning at 4 p.m. at the annual Newtonia Fall Festival. We had our final practice before the event last night at drummer John Scott's home in Neosho. I won't say everything sounded great, but it wasn't bad. I hope to see some of you there. It's free and food is available in the Newtonia Community Building.
It must be "Be Kind to Lame Duck Governors Week" since the Missouri General Assembly didn't even try to override any of Governor Bob Holden's vetoes during the just completed veto session. Apparently, most of it was spent saying goodbye to legislators who can no longer run for re-election due to term limits.
The quality of the General Assembly has decreased dramatically since Missouri voters put term limits on the House and Senate. The law sounds like a good one, but it has done four things:
1. It keeps voters from returning to office people who are doing a good job and who have gained valuable experience.
2. It has created a laughable jockeying for position as term-limited officials attempt to move on to higher office, often at the expense of their constituents.
3. It says that people don't have the common sense to decide who should represent them in the General Assembly.
4. It has increased the power the lobbyists hold in Jefferson City. When legislators do not know what they are doing because of inexperience, they have a tendency to listen to anyone who does know and who knows better than the lobbyists who have been helping their clients milk the system for years?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Natural Disaster will perform 4 p.m. this Saturday (Sept. 18) at the Newtonia Fall Festival. We will perform for about an hour, or a little longer. The group, which includes Richard Taylor, Stark City, John Scott, Newtonia, and Mark McClintock, Neosho, as well as me, performs 1950s and 1960s rock and country music.
I'd love to see some of you there. There is no admission charge.
State legislative hearings have been held this week on a couple of matters that are of vital importance to the education of the children of Missouri.
One concern was the common practice of throwing beginning teachers into classrooms and letting them sink or swim. Yes, schools do have mentor programs as required by the state, but those only serve to have a veteran teacher who can offer advice to the beginner. When the bell rings, the young teachers are still on their own in the classroom with 25 to 35 students.
Bringing a teacher along slowly and letting that teacher spend a year in a classroom with another teacher, learning day by day and gradually gaining the experience and confidence needed to teach effectively seems to be the ideal solution, but, as always, that option does not appear to be financially viable.
Another concern is how the upbringing of the students is affecting learning. It appears that more and more students, many from broken homes, have not been taught proper manners and continue to cause disruptions in classrooms. This is a problem that affects veteran teachers, but it especially affects those who are new to the classroom. When teachers have to continually stop class to deal with these troublemakers, the quality of education suffers.
I don't know what solutions the legislators might offer, and most of the time they haven't shown any grasp of what actually goes on in a classroom, but I will be anxious to hear what they come up with.
One of the poorest ideas they have come up with in recent years is the Career Ladder program. I am eligible for it for the first time this year. Teachers who have been in the Missouri school system for at least five years are eligible to earn $1,500 by devoting 60 hours of their time for work, most of which should involve contact with students. The program has fostered the creation of many academic clubs for students and many solid tutoring programs. Those things are good, but the state of Missouri requires tons of paperwork to verify everything that goes on. I am fully in favor of verifying anything that is funded by taxpayer money, but, as usual, the state goes overboard.
I am also bothered by the fact that the state considers this to take care of the problem of low pay for teachers. Also, the teachers who need it the most, beginning teachers who often are devoting their time and enthusiasm free of charge, are not receiving a cent.
This kind of program is what happens when we allow state legislators, with their own political agendas, to dictate what happens in Missouri classrooms.
Donald Peckham, the Sarcoxie minister charged with two counts of felony sodomy, waived his preliminary hearing Wednesday in Jasper County Circuit Court.
His next scheduled hearing is Sept. 24.
The preliminary hearing for Michael Wells, the former Carthage R-9 Board of Education member and Carthage Police officer charged with several counts of sexual abuse and incest is scheduled for later today.
I mentioned yesterday that I would relate a few incidents that happened at newspaper awards ceremonies over the years.
One of my favorites took place in 1990 when I drove to Kansas City with Holly Sundy, Sandy Sundy, and Amy Lamb for a breakfast ceremony in which Holly became the youngest reporter (18 when she wrote them) to be honored in the Best Newspaper Column category. Among the people she beat was a columnist for a Kansas City weekly who later went on to write a well-received column for the Kansas City Star.
The state convention was being held in conjunction with the national convention that year and I was scheduled to receive my first national reporting award, for a sports feature story I wrote about the Lamar High School district champion volleyball team and how rival captains Holly Sundy and Renee Buffington had put their differences aside to lead the team to the title.
I called the day before and asked if I would be able to pick up my award when I got to Kansas City. I discovered that the award had already been mailed to Doug Davis at the Democrat...more than a month earlier. I was already working for The Carthage Press at this time. To this day, I have never seen that original award. They were gracious enough to send me a duplicate.
When we arrived in Kansas City, we discovered that a program had been printed featuring the names of all of the contest winners...except for Holly. After the incident with my award, my first thought was that Doug had sabotaged Holly so I angrily went through the hotel searching for him to confront him. I never found him and it eventually occurred to me that he probably wasn't even in Kansas City. (Good thing I didn't find him. I'm a little guy. He would have killed me.)
They did have Holly's actual award and it turned out to be a great experience.
Another great experience was at the Kansas City Press Club Heart of America Awards Banquet in 1999 when Cait Purinton was honored as the only person to ever win a writing award for the late, lamented Lamar Press. She was also the youngest person to ever win a solo award writing for a weekly. (Kari Wegener and Peggy Brinkhoff were the youngest to ever win awards in that contest when they took first place in general reporting in 1987 for work they did at the Democrat.)
The award ceremony was great. The year before when Cait joined Ron Graber, Amy Lamb, Randee Kaiser, and me at the KC Press Club Banquet, she was looking over our awards and she quietly told me, "I'm going to win one of those one day." She probably never thought it would happen just a year later.
After the ceremony, which Cait and her sister, Colleen, attended. I drove back in a pouring rain. Of course, I can't see well at night, so it was an adventure. I mistook a pole for an exit and rammed my car into it. (That's where they get the term exit pole) I was able to drive away, but I got lost and didn't get home until about 3 a.m. The next day I drove to my parents' home in Newtonia. When I started to leave a couple of hours later, I discovered I had a flat tire, and a severely damaged one at that. How I got that far I will never know.
Oh, well. More adventures later.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Joplin Globe ran what could have been a positive story on the Joplin R-8 School District ACT scores this morning...on page 6A. Of course, the Globe had to mention in the opening paragraph that the district's scores had "dipped slightly" from last year.
Thank God reporter Jeff Wells didn't write that they had "plateaued."
If the Globe had taken the time and effort to research scores statewide and nationwide, I am sure it would have discovered that Joplin's scores compared favorably. As usual, that effort wasn't taken. A mention of favorable scores was made late in the article, but apparently, that was not important enough for the Globe to find out more or to play it near the lead of the article where it belonged.
The results of the Missouri Press Association's annual Better Newspaper Contest were released Saturday, Sept. 11, and no area newspaper broke into the top 10 for the first time in recent memory.
The winner of the Gold Cup, the award presented to the top daily newspaper in Missouri, was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, displacing the Kansas City Star, which had won for the last several years. The Star finished second, followed by the Springfield News-Leader.
The Joplin Globe finished 11th, behind the Columbia Missourian, St. Joseph News-Press, Sedalia Democrat, Lebanon Record, the Hannibal paper, the Independence Examiner, and the Branson News.
The Neosho Daily News finished 14th and The Carthage Press 15th.
The Globe has broken into the top 10 several times recently, while The Press was a top 10 fixture during the 1990s, including finishing in third place behind the Star and the Post-Dispatch in 1999, my last year at the helm, and in fifth place four other times.
Unless I have missed it somewhere, and that is quite possible, the Globe has yet to publicize its winners. It has never placed these announcements prominently in the past, even when it has done well.
That is quite a disservice to the reporters who have led to those accomplishments, especially veterans like Andy Ostmeyer, Susan Redden, and Wally Kennedy, whose reporting skills remain a bright spot in an increasingly hard-to-read newspaper.
Following are the awards won by the Globe:
1. First place in general excellence among medium-sized newspapers. The judges said the Globe had a "strong emphasis on local news, prominently played"
2. First place, best news story- A Wally Kennedy article entitled "Legacy Looms."
3. Honorable mention, best editorial, larger newspapers, school funding.
4. Second place, best feature photo- T. Rob Brown
5. Third place, best news content, larger newspapers. The judges said, "Nice concise coverage, lots of it."
6. Honorable mention, best sports story, Craig Hull, something called "Dailey captures."
7. Second place, best coverage of government, Susan Redden about a sheriff who wasted tax dollars.
8. Honorable mention, best coverage of government, coverage of problems in Missouri's child welfare system.
9. Honorable mention, best education story, Andy Ostmeyer, cost of college in Missouri and across the nation.
Awards won by the Neosho Daily News included:
1. Second place, best news story, Michelle Pippin, about Red's Tire Dump in Monark Springs.
2. Second place, best feature story, Michelle Pippin, "Box Full of Memories," about an area soldier who died in Iraq.
3. Third place, general excellence- The judges wrote, "Wide range of news and features- your strong point. Some glaring grammar errors."
4. Third place, best editorial, MoDOT priorities in wrong place by Buzz Ball.
5. Third place, best photo package, Senior Hill, by Buzz Ball, layout by John Ford.
6. Honorable mention, best rural life/agriculture story, a feature on walnut harvesting written by Kay Hively.
7. Best Special Section- About soldiers serving overseas.
Winners from The Carthage Press included:
1. Second place, general excellence. Judges said, "Paper has strong local flavor.
2. Second place, best news content. Judges said, "Good coverage of local events. Well displayed and well written."
3. First place, best sports news story, Michael Sudhalter, "Pin heard 'round Carthage."
4. Honorable mention, best young people's coverage, articles by Sudhalter on teen lawbreakers and the consequences of their actions.
5. Honorable mention, best investigative reporting, same group of stories by Sudhalter.
6. Honorable mention, best sports page.
As I looked over these awards, I couldn't help think about that last year at The Press, when we finished third in the state. Unfortunately, I was no longer with The Press when the news was released, but I took pride in knowing that I had worked with what I still believe was the best staff that has been put together in southwest Missouri, Jo Ellis, formerly of the Globe, Ron Graber, the current Press managing editor, John Hacker, the Globe's top reporter and probably the most underappreciated reporter in the area, Rick Rogers, who also won a couple of awards this year for his work with the weekly Webb City Sentinel, and young standouts Cait Purinton and Stacy Rector.
I looked over Rick's story that ran in the Nov. 8, 1999, Press about those awards. I couldn't find the jump from page one but it seemed like we were tackling some meaty topics at that time.
The Press won five first place awards that year, including:
-Best Investigative Reporting- a week-long series on drunk driving, Jo Ellis, John Hacker, Rick Rogers, Ron Graber, Cait Purinton and me
_Best Community Service- same series
- Best Feature Story- Stacy Rector's article on a teen mother's difficulties
-Best Sports Coverage
-Best Design
We had second place awards for a sports feature by Rick Rogers and for my feature story on the Phipps family of Lamar and how it was dealing with the aftermath of the drunk driving incident that killed their eight-year-old daughter in 1995.
Ron Graber, Brooke Pyle, and I took third in best news story for our coverage of Carthage native Janet Kavandi's space shuttle trip with Brooke and I covering it from Carthage and Ron covering it from Cape Canaveral.
We also had a second place finish in best coverage of young people, thanks to the hard work put in by Stacy Rector on Teen Tuesday, the weekly page she wrote and edited specifically for teens.
It's a shame that there aren't many stories like the ones mentioned above that our area newspapers could work on. It sure seems like things were more interesting five years ago.
Probably just my imagination.
I'll probably write a little more about newspaper awards tonight, just to give me a chance to reminisce about some of the great work done by Cait Purinton, Stacy Rector, Brooke Pyle, Kari Wegener, Peggy Brinkhoff, Amy Lamb, Holly Sundy, Randee Kaiser, Mindy Atnip, Cherie Thomas, and other talented young writers who worked with me over the years.
The Globe reports this morning that the $250 tax deduction teachers have received for the past two years to help defray the costs of paying for classroom supplies out of their own pockets has been allowed to expire.
It is amazing that the deduction, which especially helped elementary teachers, who often spend three times that much or more, was allowed to expire by the President and Congress, while we keep hearing that they want the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to be increased. At least now all of us who are so inclined can pick up assault weapons, another law that was quietly allowed to expire.
How in the world can these elected officials justify their priorities?

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Rubbermaid transplants to the operating team at O'Sullivan Industries were made to try to stave a flow of red ink, according to statements released today by million-dollar CEO Bob Parker.
The statements also featured a defense of the company's decision to move its corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta.
"While our top line has shown a little improvement, the bottom line results of O'Sullivan Industries continue to be a challenge," Parker said, in a statement accompanying the company's announcement that it was reporting a net loss of $27.4 million on $268.8 million in sales in 2004.
The total was a huge dropoff from the $1.6 million net income on $289.2 million in sales in 2003.
"In an effort to alter the long-term direction of the company, the board of directors of O'Sullivan Industries has added several new key members to the company's executive team," Parker said. "The O'Sullivan Industries executive team is now in the process of strategically realigning the company and focusing the entire organization on the vital tasks of creating new top line growth and improving profitability."
In the statement the company released, Parker said the following are among strategic initiatives that are planned.
-"Creation of a new sales and marketing organization that will focus on targeted market segments and the key customers in those segments;
-"Expansion of new product initiatives that already include successful launches of our Coleman garage and business storage assortment and Intelligent Designs commercial office furniture;
-"Building a more capable and far reaching sourcing organization;
-"Focusing our factories on improving productivity and controllinmg costs;
-"Improving working capital management and cash flow through better planning, reduction in required inventory levels, improving vendor and customer terms, etc.; and
-"Moving O'Sullivan Industries' corporate headquarters from Lamar, MO to the Atlanta, GA area which will make the company more accessible to our valued customers as well as expanding our management recruiting opportunities."
Reasons given for the losses in 2004 included:
-Reduction in operating income a well as higher interest expense related to the September 2003 debt refinancing.
-A $3.3 million non-cash writeoff of debt issuance costs.
Of course, mentioned nowhere in the company's statements were the fact that the three new top company executives, including Parker, are all from Atlanta and that the state of Georgia is offering a tax incentive for companies that relocate their executive offices there.
Also not mentioned is the fact that the million-dollar CEO and other top executives have seen fit to eliminate from the company nearly every remaining vestige of the O'Sullivan family and others who have helped make it a success story in Lamar for the past 40 years.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Healthy debate is a key to the success of our American system of government, but there are some who don't believe it is necessary.
A letter to the editor in the Springfield News-Leader this week addressed the topic of Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's initial refusal to debate his Democratic opponent. When I copied and pasted the letter, I unfortunately cut off the letterwriter's name, but not his message.
"Save yourself a coronary with this simple solution," the man wrote. "If you don't like Roy Blunt, don't vote for him! Usually, the proponents of such debates have only one thing in mind anyway and that is merely an attempt to make the incumbent look bad. Hopin for a mistake, a slip of the tongue, or some meeans to cast them in a bad light.
"The vast majority of voters in the 7th District are very satisfied with Roy Blunt's performance in Congress and have every intention of returning him to Washington this November. A debate of any kind will do little to change that opinion."
I certainly hope not everyone is as close-minded as that man. He is probably right about Roy Blunt's prospects in the upcoming election, but he is dead wrong about debates. These public forums are one of the ways in which voters have an opportunity to test the mettle of our representatives and those who would like to replace them.
Roy Blunt was quite rightly challenged about his numerous votes in favor of cigarette maker Phillip Morris. Unquestionably, Blunt made a dead-of-night attempt to slip in legislation favorable to Phillip Morris in the bill that created the Homeland Security Department, the kind of bill that should have been immune to such tomfoolery.
Even Dennis Hastert, a man who has never met a lobbyist he didn't like, thought Blunt had gone too far and hastily removed Blunt's amendment.
When you add to Blunt's amendment, the fact that he recently married a Phillip Morris lobbyist, his son works for Phillip Morris, and the company donated a sizable amount of money to his son Matthew's races in Missouri and you have the kind of hard-hitting question that should be asked at a debate and should be asked (but hasn't been) by the Joplin Globe and our other area newspapers. It should be mentioned that Blunt finally agreed to debate his opponents and did so Saturday in Springfield during the last day of the annual Missouri Press Association Convention.
It is also time these newspapers followed up on the story the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran today on the contributions Matt Blunt has received in his campaign for governor. According to the article, no occupation is listed for more than 150 donors to the Blunt campaign, a violation of Missouri election laws. Supposedly, Blunt is trying to find out what the occupations are. He seems to be the only candidate who is having this kind of difficulty.
It is vital that we know how the donors are connected so we can see who is trying to influence elections and why. A few years back, I did a story on a state representative race in which a number of donors were listed as housewives or government consultants. I cross-checked these people with the registered lobbyist list for the state of Missouri and found more than a dozen matches.
Another state representative, who had spent years as a champion of the small,independent farmer, suddenly became an outspoken proponent of large hog-farming operations. It turns out he was receiving considerable money from executives and employees of one of these businesses.
I have had one elected official after another tell me that their vote cannot be bought just because they accept a campaign contribution from someone. I have rarely doubted their sincerity. What the money buys is access and that can be just as important.
The common, everyday citizen does not have a lobbyist in Jefferson City or in Washington. Full disclosure is one way in which we can keep tabs on our elected officials.
The York, PA newspaper reported in August that La-Z-Boy, which has a plant in Neosho, is lahing off 645 employees and closing three plants in Pennsylvania and idling one in Ohio The company had reported a loss of $3.5 million or seven cents a share in the quarter that ended July 26. Apparently, some of the jobs are going to be outsourced, according to published sources.
O'Sullivan Industries is scheduled to discuss its fourth quarter and year-end results in a conference call Monday.
The Neosho Daily News reported last week that Neidra DePuy pleaded no contest to a felony charge of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. She was sentenced to four years of supervised probation and will have to perform 80 hours of community service.
Dr. Jeffrey Wool, facing the same felony charge, is scheduled to appear Friday in Newton County Circuit Court.
I can't help wonder why the Daily and the Globe have not checked into the five malpractice lawsuits filed in Jasper County Circuit Court against Wool, Ms. DePuy, and John Doe Pharmaceutical Companies among other defendants. It would appear that the information contained in those lawsuits could contribute to a better understanding of this case. I would much prefer that to the information we are being spoon fed by the prosecutor's office and the Newton County Sheriff's Department.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

It seems hard to believe that three years have passed since Sept. 11, the day that stripped awary Americans' sense of security in their sanctity of their own borders.
That was one of those days when I kept thinking about what I would do if I were still editor of The Carthage Press and having to direct the paper's coverage of that event. I can't remember any problems with the coverage offered by The Press, the Globe, or any of the other newspapers in this area. Probably the only different thing I would have done would have to been to write some columns to try to bring some perspective to the event.
As it was, I had the opportunity to bring perspective of the event to an entirely different group. At the time, I was in my third year of teaching a writing class in a small trailer located by the Marlin Pinnell Gymnasium on the Diamond school campus. The middle school secretary, Missy Snow, came to the trailer and told me that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.
The television I had in my classroom was not very good, but it was better than most of the others in the middle school at that time. It only picked up one TV channel, KODE-TV, so the students and I watched, almost without words, as Peter Jennings anchored ABC's coverage of the most terrifying event to ever occur in the United States.
For some strange reason, the news department at Channel 12 had the horrible idea that the station needed to break away from ABC's coverage for about 10 minutes each hour to give local perspective. Unfortunately, the people they interviewed didn't provide much information and did little to help us understand what had happened.
However, those breaks gave me the opportunity to have discussions with my students and answer their questions to the best of my ability. I didn't know this until later but the elementary principal at Diamond had ordered that no students be told anything about the attack. Fortunately for the fifth graders in Chris Rakestraw's class on the other side of the trailer, he never received that order. He brought his kids into my classroom for a couple of hours to watch the coverage and to participate in our discussions.
The events of 9-11 have continued to provide fodder for many classroom discussions in the last three years. Students have talked about weighing civil rights against the need for greater security. We've talked about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, of course, we have talked about the students' personal feelings and how they dealt with news of 9-11.
Teachers across the United States played a huge role in the days after 9-11. The event helped make students understand the importance of history, a course some of them had never held in high esteem. It also provided opportunities for government teachers and for teachers of creative writing courses to help students understand what happened and to appreciate the way of life they have in these United States.
The blue ink on the flimsy piece of lined notebook paper has faded a little over the past 32 years. I keep it in a gray, metal box with some of my other valuables like important letters, contracts, insurance policies, and all of the other supposedly important things that these heavy-duty containers are designed to protect.
Debbie Kruse handed me that sheet and another one one day while she was a sophomore and I was a junior at East Newton High School. I was on the school newspaper, The Fife and Drum (that name is a perfect example of the danger of having Patriots as a school nickname), and Debbie wanted the poems on those two pages to be printed. The author did not know Debbie was going to do that. Both poems were done in free verse and they were quite good. I agreed to put them in the newspaper and after discussing it with the editor, Paul Richardson, the poems were added to the list of things that would go into the next edition.
"Remember the days, when we were young and free to roam and play like goofy kids." Those were the only few first words of Barbara McNeely's poem, "Remember the Days." When her poems were published, she acted like she was upset, but I could see she was secretly pleased about the universal positive reaction she received.
I don't know if Barbara wrote other poems. I never asked. I hope she did. She had a real talent for it. Her words became more poignant in September 1977, when Barbara, then a sophomore at Missouri Southern State College, was stabbed to death in the parking lot at Northpark Mall. Each year when September rolls around, I think of Barbara.
I can't imagine how her family dealt with that tragedy, Her parents, her brother, her baby sister who never had a chance to get to know Barbara. She had done some work for me, typing manuscripts as I tried unsuccessfully to become a published teenaged novelist. We were good friends. For years, I thought about her every day. I could hear her voice clear as a bell in my mind.
One of the saddest days in my life came a few years ago when it occurred to me that I couldn't remember what her voice sounded like. Every once in a while, it will come to me, but it makes me sad that I can't conjure up that voice when I recollect conversations we had and things she said. All I remember are the words.
. Her voice was silenced after she had barely spent two decades on this earth by a lunatic who mistook her for the mother he hated.. That man, a student at Ozark Bible College, was found not guilty of her murder after a rare successful use of the insanity defense. I will never forget how the good people from Ozark Bible College and Rev. Cecil Todd of Revival Fires, were far more concerned with the killer than they were with the family of his victim.
Barbara's murderer has been a free man for several years, thanks to the Missouri Department of Health and former Attorney General Bill Webster, who defended the department's decision to release the killer back into society. Last I heard, and this was several years ago, Barbara's killer was married, had children, and was working as an EMT. The last I heard, he was leading the kind of life Barbara should have had, but never had the chance.
That's why the poem is so important to me. I can't always hear the way she sounded, but her words will keep her alive in my heart forever.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Nothing makes news in a small town quicker than a controversy in the police department as Southwest City residents have been finding out for the past few months.
John Ford's article in The Neosho Daily News earlier this week chronicling the latest occurrences was fascinating.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this case, Southwest City's former police chief, Ron Beaudry was suspended in May when he tried to fire policewoman Toi Cannada after discovering she had been convicted on a DWI charge three years ago when she was living in Jefferson City. She was not in law enforcement at that time.
The city council overruled him, even though Beaudry had a letter from the city's insurance carrier saying it would not cover Ms. Cannada because of that conviction.
According to the Daily's article, the Southwest City mayor said the only reason Beaudry wanted to get rid of Ms. Cannada is because she is a woman.
I will leave it up to individual preference whether you think someone who has been convicted of DWI should be allowed to work in law enforcement. What bothered me was her explanation for the drunk driving offense, which Ford printed in his article.
"Cannada said she was at a co-worker's home in Fulton the night of her arrest when the host and another co-worker got into an argument. The host got mad, she said, and ordered everyone out of the house, locking the door behind them."
After telling what led to the incident, Ms. Cannada continued, "It was on the bad side of town. I weighed the situation and asked myself: Did I really want to be a white female out walking by myself? I then decided to drive to where I was working at the time and sleep it off."
Apparently, she got lost, was stopped by the police and had a blood alcohol content far above the limit at which a person is legally intoxicated.
I was disturbed by her comment about being a "white female" out walking by herself. While I would guess she meant no harm by that comment, I am not sure I would want a police chief who doesn't think before making racially-tinged comments. After all, she has to work with the entire community.
I would suggest Southwest City officials should clean out the police department and start all over again, but then again no one asked me.
The Diamond R-4 School District's attorneys filed their response to Edison's counterclaim Sept. 8 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
They pretty much denied everything they didn't like and agreed with everything they did. Imagine how much simpler and more understandable the law would be if they actually put it in basic, simple terms like that.
Dorothy Parks prevented me from making a lot of mistakes during the time I worked as a sports editor for the Lamar Daily Democrat in 1978. Dorothy, who worked as a typesetter and proofreader at the time, was an expert speller, an expert on grammar, and knew Lamar front and back. She and the composing room foreman, Russell Pierson, saved my bacon numerous times and helped me turn the road toward having a little success in journalism.
Fortunately for me, Dorothy still knows her business. Dorothy worked for the Lamar Journal beginning in 1953, her first job in the newspaper business, and told me that it was the Journal, not the Lamar Leader as I wrote in an earlier entry, that folded in 1954, leaving the city with only one daily newspaper, the Democrat.
My entry was wrong. The Missouri Press News had it right, but I wrote the item without looking back and got my defunct Lamar newspapers mixed up.
Thanks, Dorothy!
Natural Disaster practiced last night in preparation for our 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, performance at the annual Newtonia Fall Festival. We've added the old Johnny Rivers standard "Secret Agent Man," Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" to our repertoire, as well as bringing back the Beatles "Please Please Me," which we haven't done since Old Mining Town Days in Granby in July 2003. I hope to see a few of you in Newtonia.
The short week has gone by even faster than I expected. This morning eighth grade teachers will meet before school, then my communication arts classes will work in the computer lab today, continuing to learn research techniques. School has come a long way since my day.
USA Today reported Thursday that President Bush has opened a 14-point lead over John Kerry in Missouri. Isn't it a shame that our system leaves us with these two as our choices? The reforms that started for both parties when the 1972 Democratic National Convention nominated George McGovern have really damaged our chances of getting the nomination for anyone who is qualified.