A bill that should alarm proponents of open government received its first reading in the Missouri House of Representatives today.
HB 379, filed by 120th District Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Columbia, creates exceptions to Missouri's Sunshine Law. Under Cooper's bill, requests for documents from any public governmental body can be turned down if the requests are termed to be "vexatious."
The bill defines a "vexatious request" as any request for documents which is "frivolous, repetitive, or unreasonable and made for the primary purpose of harassing a public governmental body or any member of a public governmental body."
The bill also says that if a request is found to be vexatious, "the court may award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party."
Undoubtedly, there are frivolous (maybe even vexatious) requests for documents, but that is the price we pay for living in a free society. Keeping our records open ensures that our public officials are doing what they are supposed to be doing. This law could put a chilling effect on open government. Any group trying to uncover wrongdoing can be silenced by the people committing the wrongdoing. The old boys network can make sure that no one can break their stranglehold on City Hall or the County Courthouse or the local board of education.
Sunshine laws are part of what makes America great. You don't have to be a policeman or an elected official to request public records. All you have to do is be a citizen.
The connection between O'Sullivan Industries and Newell Rubbermaid grew even stronger today with the announcement that William J. Denton, former president of Rubbermaid Home Products, has been named to the O'Sullivan Board of Directors. Denton worked for Rubbermaid for 25 years.
More recently, Denton served as president and CEO of Fiskar Brands, Inc., from August 2000 to December 2004. Denton will serve as a member of the Compensation Committee, determining the pay and contracts of O'Sullivan's top officials.
Those top officials include three who formerly worked at Newell Rubbermaid, including million-dollar CEO Bob Parker, Rick Walters and Michael Orr.
The company also named Keith E. Alessi to the board and designated him as chairman of the Audit Committee.
The two men will serve on the boards of directors of O'Sullivan Industries Holdings, Inc., O'Sullivan Industries, Inc., and O'Sullivan Industries- Virginia, Inc, according to a company press release filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
Carthage's Fortune 500 company, Leggett & Platt, reported record fourth quarter sales today. According to documents filed with SEC, Leggett had fourth quarter sales of $1.28 billion, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.
Full year revenues were a record $5.09 billion, up 16 percent from 2003.
Earnings were 33 cents per diluted share for the fourth quarter, a 10 percent gain over last year.
In a news release issued today, Felix E. Wright, Leggett chairman and CEO, said, "2004 was a very good year for Leggett's investors. Our stock price rose 31 percent during the year and traded at an all-time high of $30.68 in December. Sales exceeded our prior record by 16 percent and pre share earnings improved substantially." Wright said Leggett was one of only two Fortune 500 companies to have increased dividends for at least 33 consecutive years at a compound annual rate of over 14 percent.
Reporters and news personnel are not thrilled at KODE and KSNF are not thrilled with the way their news operations have been compromised by owner Nexstar Broadcasting since its war with Cable One and Cox Communications heated up late last year.
The Turner Report has noted how the station's news personnel were forced to air a bogus protest against Cable One, which was actually staged by Echostar (Dish Network) as one of a series of similar protests in cities across the U. S., including Seattle and Oklahoma City.
News personnel were also required to read what amounted to advertising for the satellite company and slanted its coverage of the battle with Cable One over payment for airing Nexstar programs.
The KODE and KSNF websites have had an open letter from Nexstar to Cable One customers as their lead news story for the past month, moving other, more important local stories down the list. Of course, the local stations do not decide the placement of stories on their websites. All stories are sent to Nexstar's corporate headquarters where they are then placed on the individual stations' websites.
I have received communications from personnel at both stations who are not pleased that Nexstar officials seemingly have no interest in maintaining the credibility of the local news departments and appear to have no ethical guidelines other than do what is necessary to line their pockets and the pockets of their stockholders.
Tonight at midnight, barring any last-minute settlement or reprieve, KODE and KSNF will no longer be carried by the Cox Communications franchises in Lamar and Carthage. In today's Carthage Press, lifestyles editor Kaylea Hutson quotes Tim Tippitt, vice president for Cox Communications' public affairs, as saying his company is trying to negotiate with Nexstar. "But we can't negotiate with an empty chair."
Tippitt told The Press Nexstar is asking Cox to pay nearly half a million over a one-year period to carry KODE, KSNF, and another Nexstar station in Bossier/Minden, La., and Magnolia, Ark., area.
Plans have been made to add HBO Family and ESPN News to Cox in place of KSNF and KODE, Cox officials told The Press.
It must be a matter of perception.
In his most recent column for his constituents, State Representative Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, saw a different State of the State speech than the one I watched on KOZJ. Wilson wrote, "The governor gave a rousing speech punctuated by a multitude of standing ovations." I watched as Blunt paused and waited, sometimes uncomfortably for a few seconds to get these "spontaneous" standing ovations started.
Even scarier, Wilson writes that he and the governor are cut from the same cloth. "I was especially pleased to hear his proposals for education and for streamlining state government. He is thinking outside the box that we had put around several issues and is challenging those of us in government to come up with new ideas and better ways to deliver services. In education, he talked about looking at different ways to fund education. I have been proposing that for the last two years so I was glad to hear that he was thinking along the same lines."
Let me get this straight. In a speech in which the state had its first opportunity to hear what the ideas of our new governor, his main idea is that we have to do things differently? We already knew that.
State Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, chairman of the Senate's Education Committee, will be interviewed on MSSU's program "Newsmakers" 5:30 p.m Monday, Feb. 7, and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, on KGCS-TV, 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 20, on KOAM- TV, and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20, on KOZJ.
Cable One will live up to it promise and not raise rates this year.
In a news release issued today, the company said the price freeze will apply to "all residential services encompassing basic cable, digital video recording, digital cable, and high speed Internet.
In the release, Cable One CEO said, "We are pleased to freeze rates in 2005 just as we did in 2003."
The purchase of the Pulitzer chain by Lee Enterprises Sunday gives Lee the fourth largest number of daily newspapers, 58, in the United States behind three companies with newspapers in this area.
The top company, with 101 is Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader and a loser in the Pulitzer sweepstakes. Coming in second with 96 newspapers is Community Newspapers Holdings, Inc., owner of The Joplin Globe. Liberty Group Publishing, owner of The Carthage Press and The Neosho Daily News, owns 66 daily newspapers.
While Enesco, owner of the Precious Moments line of collectibles is working on a long-term credit agreement, it entered into a temporary one today, according to an SEC filing. The company entered into an agreement with Fleet National Bank and LaSalle Bank to commit $101 million worth of credit.
A nurse who served as ICU and emergency room director at Freeman Neosho is suing the hospital for wrongful dismissal. In the suit, which was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Kelli Whitehead says she was fired due a seizure disorder from which she suffers.
Ms. Whitehead had worked for Freeman for more than 14 years before she was fired on July 16, 2004, according to the petition. She says Freeman officials made "no good faith effort to assist (her) to determine what reasonable accommodations could be made to keep her employed" and "failed to assist her in finding other job openings within (their) hospitals."
She also charges hospital officials with violating the Family Medical Leave Act.
Ms. Whitehead is asking for a permanent injunction against the hospital, barring these alleged illegal actions and is asking to be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.
Ms. Whitehead is acting as her own lawyer.