State lawmakers were wise to require those operating group homes such as Robert Dupont's many and varied Guest Houses to be owned by those with enough financial responsibility to take care of those least able to care for themselves.
The problem has been with state agencies' follow-up on those regulations. Today's Joplin Globe, with some excellent investigative reporting by Derek Spellman, notes two times Dupont has filed for bankruptcy, once in 2004, when he described himself as executive director of Joplin River of Life Ministries, which operates four local Guest Houses, including the Anderson Guest House, which burned to the ground this week killing 10 people, and in 1973 in North Dakota.
However, the Globe investigation failed to turn up a third bankruptcy in Dupont's past. On June 17, 1994, Dupont's original Guest House corporation, Sandhill, Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri. Only the name of the corporation was listed in the bankruptcy filing, though it lists Sandhill as doing business as "Lamar Guest House," "Butler Guest House," "St. Louis Guest House," and "Springfield Guest House." As noted earlier this week in The Turner Report, two of those facilities, the ones in Lamar and Butler, were closed due to severe violations, while the Springfield Guest House, was closed after city officials failed to give it zoning permits due to numerous problems.
The bankruptcy case was terminated on Sept. 22, 1995, according to court records.
On March 7, 1997, Dupont, represented by a Kansas City, Kan. law firm, filed suit against the city of Springfield and numerous city officials, claiming they had failed to issue necessary licenses and were discriminating against the mentally ill. The city of Springfield was represented by former State Representative Doug Harpool. Among Sandhill's creditors, according to court records, were the Missouri Department of Revenue seeking overdue tax returns, county collectors in Greene and Barton counties, the Missouri Division of Employment Security, and Lamar Supermarket.
Karl Householder was listed as the registered agent for Sandhill in the incorporation documents filed with the secretary of state's office, but it was Dupont who served as spokesman for the organization during newspaper interviews at the time the Springfield Guest House was being closed, and it was he who spoke to Carthage and Lamar Press reporter Cait Purinton in 1997 about the lawsuit and the bankruptcy.
Householder, as you might recall, was a codefendant of Dupont's in the federal fraud scheme that ended up sending Dupont to prison for 21 months.
The secretary of state's records show Sandhill, Inc., was dissolved in 1999 just before Guest Houses of Missouri was incorporated. That corporation, of course, was dissolved when Dupont ran into his difficulties with the federal government. That was when Joplin River of Life Ministries came into existence.
Apparently, that was all Dupont had to do to keep state officials off his back.