Sunday, September 30, 2007

Highway Patrol trooper honored for work following church shooting

Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Walter "Corky" Burr III was named Employee of the Month for October, for his actions Aug. 12 following the shooting at the First Congregational Church in Neosho.
According to the news release, Burr, along with officers from the Neosho Police Department and Newton County Sheriff's Department "entered the church and confronted the suspect (Eikan Elam Saimon), who was holding a female hostage at gunpoint and other hostages in the church, some dead and some injured."

Globe explores effect of political contributions on CAFO issue

Veteran reporter Wally Kennedy provides an incisive look into the effect campaign contributions is having on the CAFO issue, which is a major issue in many Missouri communities.
Large poultry and swine operations are popping up all over the state, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has been doing nothing to stop them:

Going up against a CAFO isn’t just big business, it’s big politics.

Take the CAFO proposed by Michelle and Rodney Ozbun near Roaring River State Park in Barry County, one of more than 500 such operations in the state raising cattle, swine and poultry.

The lawyer the Ozbuns have hired to represent their interests in Jefferson City is Michael Schmid, an associate in the firm of Schreimann, Rackers, Francka & Blunt in Jefferson City. The Blunt in the firm is Andrew Blunt, son of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt and brother to Gov. Matt Blunt. Matt Blunt appointed Doyle Childers to head the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which licenses and oversees large CAFOs in Missouri.

There is no record of Schmid giving money to Matt Blunt’s 2004 campaign, but the principals in the law firm now representing Ozbun, or the principals’ relatives, gave at least $7,600 to directly underwrite Matt Blunt’s political ambitions in 2004, according to the database maintained by the National Institute for Money in State Politics.

Direct giving is just a piece of the puzzle.

Since the 2000 election cycle, companies with a stake in CAFO legislation have given thousands of dollars to the Republican Party — which can then be given to Matt Blunt or other Republican candidates in the form of “soft” money.

The Globe accompanies the article with an editorial suggesting that if DNR head Doyle Childers and Governor Matt Blunt do not represent the people on this issue, elect a governor who does:

The process is a simple one, and outlined in today’s story on 1A: A Barry County woman puts in a CAFO to raise birds for George’s Processing Inc., a major poultry company with connections in Missouri and Arkansas. She hires the firm of lawyer-lobbyists that includes Andrew Blunt, son of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt and brother of Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt. You can’t get more connected than that. The principals in the firm gave thousands to get Matt Blunt elected in 2004. The companies themselves, and their executives and their political action committees and their relatives, gave thousands more.

Then Blunt appoints Doyle Childers, who, with apologies to Will Rogers, has never met a CAFO he doesn’t like, and turns the Missouri Department of Natural Resources into the can-do arm of corporate agriculture.

This agency says it is unable to even protect one of the Ozarks’ crown jewels, Roaring River, from the explosion of CAFOs in Missouri, and in particular, Southwest Missouri. And this, despite the fact that our state parks also fall under the control of DNR.

Get the picture? DNR is unwilling to stop CAFOs from fouling even itself.

The Globe reporting is solid and the editorial is a welcome one, but where has the newspaper been all of this time? If the Joplin Globe had been reporting on campaign contributions and the effect of special interests on this issue (and many others) on a regular basis, perhaps its readers would have had enough information to have made some different choices at the ballot box. The effect special interests, campaign contributions, and lobbyists have on the political process and on the issues that affect our everyday lives is ongoing. It is not a responsible approach to drop in every few years, investigate and then never follow up. There are new developments all of the time.

Hopefully, today's stories and editorial mark a new approach for the Globe and we will continue to see this type of important investigative work.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Turner Report book available from Barnes & Noble

As of Friday, The Turner Report book is available online through Barnes & Noble.

It is also available online through, BooksAMillion and from the publisher, IUniverse.

Locally, it can be found at Always Buying Books and the Changing Hands Book Shop in Joplin, and more outlets will be added over the next few weeks.

Those who do not want to give out credit card information, or who are not able to get to any of the stores where The Turner Report is available, can order it directly through me by sending $20 to cover the price of the book, tax, and postage to:

Randy Turner
2306 E. 8th, Apt. G
Joplin, MO 64801

Court documents: Lamar Grain and Feed different from Lamar Feed and Grain

The reason why creditors are wanting a closer examination of Lamar Grain and Feed's record became more evident with a filing this week in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Norman Rouse, lawyer for the Ellis family, says Lamar Grain and Feed and Lamar Feed and Grain are not the same company and the family should not be forced to supply Lamar Feed and Grain's records when a hearing is held Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the law office of Checkett and Pauly in Carthage. See if you can makes heads or tails out of this document:

Comes now, the debtor, Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC, by and through its attorney of record, Norman E Rouse, and for its response states to the Court as follows:

1. The debtor, Lamar Grain and Feed, LLC does not object to the 2004 Examination being conducted on October 9, 2007 or the documents requested by the Trustee with respect to the

2. However, in paragraph 2, the Trustee is requesting that Lamar Feed and Grain, LLC produce all bank statements, cancelled checks, and tickets of Lamar Feed and Grain, LLC for the years 2005 through 2007, the original corporate minute book of Lamar Feed and Grain, LLC, the original corporate minute book of Lamar Grain and Feed, LLC, tax returns for 2004 through 2006 for both Lamar Grain and Feed, LLC and Lamar Feed and Grain, LLC.

3. There is no Lamar Feed and Grain, LLC. There is Lamar Feed and Grain, Inc.

4. Lamar Feed and Grain, Inc., is not the debtor in these chapter 7 proceedings. The debtor, Lamar Grain and Feed, LLC, is owned by Ronald Ellis and Carolyn Ellis, and was operated for the last two (2) years by Jared Ellis and Jessica Ellis.

5. The primary business of Lamar Grain and Feed, LLC was the buying and selling of grain and feed by-products.

6. Lamar Feed and Grain, Inc., is a corporation owned by Mr. Ronald Ellis and operated by Mr. Ronald Ellis, whose primary business is buying rejected dog food and grinding it for resale as hog feed.

7. The Trustee has not reviewed the records of the LLC and there is no evidence that Lamar Grain and Feed, LLC is inter-related with Lamar Feed and Grain, Inc.

8. At this stage, Lamar Feed and Grain, Inc., should not be forced to give up its private business documents.

9. WHEREFORE, Lamar Grain and Feed, LLC prays that this Court enter an order
striking paragraph 2 of the Amended Motion for Order Directing Examination Pursuant to 2004 of the Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and for such other and further relief as the court may deem just and proper.

Based on this filing, it is easy to understand why Checkett might have some concerns about the Ellis family finances.

A federal bankruptcy court judge on Sept. 21 ordered owners of Lamar Grain and Feed to undergo a 2004 examination, which means far greater scrutiny of company financial records.
As originally detailed in the Sept. 18 Turner Report, the motion which the judge okayed calls for an Oct.17 meeting at the law offices of Checkett and Pauly in Carthage. A 2004 examination is called for when it appears there are problems with the records of someone who has filed for bankruptcy.

Company owners Ronald Ellis, Carolyn Ellis, Jared Ellis, and Jessica Ellis will be required to "produce all computer hardware of Lamar Grain & Feed LLC, all bank statements, cancelled checks, and deposit tickets of Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC for the years 2005 through 2007."

It also requests "the original corporate minute book of Lamar Feed & Grain, LLC, the original corporate minute book of Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC, tax returns for years 2004-2006 for both Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC and Lamar Feed & Grain, LLC."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cooper asks for 30-day continuance

Former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, who pleaded guilty in August to immigration fraud, is asking for his sentencing hearing to be delayed for 30 days, because his defense attorney, Joel J. Schwartz, Clayton, has two trials scheduled in October.
Cooper is currently scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 19. According to the motion, Assistant U. S. Attorney James Crowe does not object to the continuance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Webb City native named to top NASA post

Webb City native Brandon Brown has been named deputy chief financial officer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.:

Brown, who joined NASA and the Marshall Center this month, will assist the chief financial officer in overseeing implementation and administration of all integrated Marshall and NASA financial management systems tied to the NASA field center's annual budget of approximately $2.6 billion. "Mr. Brown's professional skills and abilities extend beyond the scope of traditional financial management," said Pam Cucarola, chief financial officer at Marshall. "His skills and experience make him uniquely qualified to serve in this position in the Marshall Center's high-tech science and engineering environment."

Previously, Brown was executive director of finance operations for ConAgra Food Ingredients of Omaha, Neb., a $1 billion specialty food ingredients business. He was responsible for managing finance, information technology and supply chain initiatives for 34 ConAgra plants nationwide.

During this period, he also served as an adjunct professor of accounting at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Neb. From 1999 to 2005, Mr. Brown was a director and officer of the Kerry Group of Kerry, Ireland, an international food ingredient manufacturing corporation.

Brown is a graduate of Missouri Southern State University.

Oronogo woman sentenced to three years for preparing false income tax returns

Carrie Shafer, 38, Oronogo, was sentenced to three years in prison today for preparing false income tax returns:

Carrie A. Shafer, 38, of Oronogo, received the statutory maximum penalty when she was sentenced in Springfield federal court, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Shafer, who operated TC’s Taxes & More from her home in Oronogo, pleaded guilty Feb. 21 to assisting in the preparation of a false tax return.

Between 2002 and 2004 Shafer represented prepared tax returns for clients and represented them during audits by the IRS. During that time she prepared more than 1,475 tax returns, nearly all of them false and fraudulent, the press release said.

Shafer has admitted to inflating or fabricating deductions and exemptions for clients and including false income so they could earn larger refunds — refunds the clients now must repay with interest.

More information can be found in the April 25, 2005 Turner Report.

Guilty pleas entered in fraud, identity theft cases

Guilty pleas were entered in U. S. District Court in Jefferson City today by two defendants in an identity theft scheme that involved employees of the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Missouri Department of Revenue.
According to court records, Clayton Deardorff, 29, Kansas City, pleaded guilty to two counts and faces up to 20 years in prison. The following description of his role in the scheme was provided by the Attorney General's office:

Clayton Deardorff was incarcerated at various Missouri prisons, including Tipton Correctional Facility. He allegedly recruited his wife, Robin L. Deardorff, and others to steal identity information so he and others inside prison could make the collect calls. Robin worked at a Jefferson City nursing home operated by New Horizons Community Support Services Inc. She had access to identity information of residents of the home, which she allegedly stole to set up the phone lines and order cell phones. Robin Deardorff, who has a criminal background, was employed by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division as of June 11.

Also pleading guilty was Angie Roark, described as "an employee of Sprint PCS at various times, where she had access to identity information of Sprint customers. Her position at Sprint and her knowledge of the company’s methods and operating procedures enabled her to assist the other conspirators in the scheme, the indictment alleges. In addition, she allegedly had landlines installed and cell phones delivered to her residence as part of the scheme."

As noted in the July 30 Turner Report, two other defendants have already pleaded guilty.

Among those who still await trial are Deardorff's wife, Robin, who was employed by the Department of Social Services right up until July 11, despite a record that should have kept her from ever being hired.

As I noted in the June 14 Turner Report and the June 16 Turner Report a simple five-minute check uncovered enough information to keep her from ever working for the state. That check, however, was never made.

Smith turns to lobbyist for help with misdemeanor charge

A lobbyist-sponsored junket ended in a misdemeanor charge against Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, and according to Pettis County Circuit Court records he is looking to a lobbyist to defend him against that charge.

Joe Bednar, a longtime Missouri Democratic Party powerhouse, is listed as Smith's attorney. Bednar, a partner with the powerful Armstrong Teasdale firm, served as chief counsel to Governors Mel Carnahan and Roger Wilson...and is also a registered lobbyist representing Ameren UE, Centene Corporation, St. Louis University, Devry, and BJC Health Systems, as well as Armstrong Teasdale.

It would appear Smith is well aware of how damaging a charge like this, misdemeanor though it may be, could be to what appears to be a promising political career.

More information about the charges against Smith, Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, and lobbyist Lynne Schlosser can be found in the Sept. 25 Turner Report.
Check out this site to find out about the newly published Turner Report book.

Nixon issues statement on arrest of Anderson Guest House owner

Attorney General Jay Nixon issued the following statement concerning the arrest of Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont on federal Medicaid fraud charges.

"Immediately after the deadly fire last November at the Anderson Guest House, investigators from my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit responded to the scene in southwest Missouri and conducted interviews and obtained records. I am pleased that the efforts of my office, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, and other federal investigative agencies have led to the charges filed today. We will continue to assist the U.S. Attorney on this matter."

The statement also noted Nixon’s civil lawsuit filed last December against Robert Dupont, Laverne Dupont and Joplin River of Life Ministries alleging fraud and seeking the return of almost $700,000.

While I have no problem with Nixon issuing a statement, state government as a whole has nothing to trumpet concerning its handling of Robert Dupont. Dupont was allowed to break one law after another during the Carnahan, Holden, and Blunt administrations, and it took 11 deaths for someone in state government to take him to court. At least the federal government has gone after Dupont twice.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Turner Report book available at Always Buying Books

As of today, my book, The Turner Report, is available at Always Buying Books in Joplin. Copies of my novels, Small Town News and Devil's Messenger, are also on the shelves at the store.
All three books are also available at Changing Hands Book Shop, 5th and Virginia, Joplin, and can be purchased online at and numerous other sites.

Anderson Guest House owner released on bond

Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont was released from jail on $25,000 bond following a 27-minute detention hearing in U. S. District Court in Springfield. Dupont is charged with Medicaid fraud, the same type of charge that landed him behind bars in 2003.

In a motion filed today, Assistant U. S. Attorney Richard Monroe attempted to have Dupont remain behind bars while awaiting trial. "This case involves an offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment on account of the deaths of 11 persons as a result of this offense."

Monroe said Dupont "is clearly a danager to the safety of other persons in the community. Due to the mismanagement of the Anderson Guest House, to include failure to expend funds on physical facilities, eleven persons died as a result of a negligent fire."
While Dupont was cutting corners on safety concerns, the documents note, "Dupont personally paid himself $52,000 in salary, not to mention other payments to his family members."

Despite the money Dupont paid himself, Judge James C. England ruled Dupont was "financially unable to employ counsel," and appointed Stuart Huffman to represent him.

Monroe said Dupont "poses a serious risk of flight" considering the severity of the charges.

Legislators, lobbyists charged with misdemeanors in casino case

Big deal!

That's what some people are saying about the misdemeanor charges facing Sen. Jeff Smith, D- and Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, in connection with events that occurred July 31 at the Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville.

Arraignments for both men, plus former Isle of Capri lobbyist Lynne Schlosser are scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 6 in Pettis County Circuit Court. Smith allegedly attempted to gamble with Aull's identification card at the instigation of Ms. Schlosser.

While I have a problem with people violating the law, even when it comes to misdemeanors, I am more concerned with the part of the story that has remained totally unmentioned in the media.

Smith, Aull, Aull's wife Candee, Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, were having a night out on the town at the expense of a lobbyist representing a special interest with a stake in numerous bills that will come before the legislature during the 2008 session.

Chris Liese, a former state representative from St. Louis, and now a lobbyist for Isle of Capri spent $910 wining and dining the legislators and Mrs. Aull on July 31, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents. Sadly, this kind of occurrence is so commonplace that the media simply does not care, or more likely, has failed to do their research. A total of $130 was spent on "meals, food, and beverage" for each person, the documents indicate.

What happened at the Isle of Capri casino on July 31 may not be a "big deal" to some people, but it includes nearly everything that is wrong with our state legislature. We have elected officials deciding that their own laws do not apply to them. We have a former state legislator, Liese, cashing in on his taxpayer-financed expertise to represent the monied special interests, and we have legislators who, quite legally, are allowing their way to be paid by the same special interests who are behind many of the bills that make their way through the legislature.

This is a case made for the media, and if they choose to concentrate simply on the charges facing Smith, Aull, and Ms. Schlosser, they are missing the story.

Thanks to library officials, readers

A big thank you to Jacque Gage and the people at the Mary K. Finley Library in Lamar for making my first official signing for The Turner Report a success Monday.
It was especially enjoyable to see many of my former co-workers at the Lamar Democrat and Lamar Press. The first people to greet me after I set up last night were Lou Nell Bath, the editor who hired me to be sports editor at the Democrat in May 1978. Dorothy Parks, the typesetter/proofreader at the newspaper at the time, was also there, and I was able to relive old memories with them.

The Lamar Press was represented by two of the stable of columnists that made that newspaper so enjoyable during its brief existence: Nancy Hughes, who had columns in each of the newspaper's 49 issues, and Katie Young. I will have more information over the next few weeks about Nancy's new book, a guide for helping widows deal with the loss of their husbands.

Thanks again to everyone who came to the signing.

Government, media share blame for Anderson Guest House blaze

Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont faces more federal Medicaid fraud charges, which may have never been brought to light had it not been for the November 2006 fire in which 11 people lost their lives.

In my new book, The Turner Report, I point out that Missouri's state government had one opportunity after another to run Dupont out of the business, but overlooked what should have been obvious.

In the book, I also placed a share of the blame on the media. It took 11 deaths for the media to finally shine the spotlight on Robert Dupont. An 18-year-old reporter, Cait Purinton, working for me at The Carthage Press and The Lamar Press, wrote one story after another, backed by county, state, and federal documents which showed that Dupont was gaming the system, something which should have been obvious, but somehow was not. Not one media outlet, print or broadcast picked up on this story.

The events that brought Dupont under the Press' scrutiny 10 years ago included a fire and the near fatal beating of a resident at his Lamar Guest House facility. Cait uncovered the information that Dupont's Butler Guest House and Springfield Guest House had been closed, and that Dupont and his partner at the time, Karl Householder, were not meeting state requirements for financial solvency. In fact, their company, Sandhill, Inc., had filed for bankruptcy, and had not paid federal or county taxes. When Cait brought that information to the attention of officials at the State Division of Aging, it was the first time they had heard of it.

The following excerpt comes from my book:

The Lamar Guest House was also hit by the fire bug, according to Division of Aging documents. On March 17, 1997, in a small upstairs room, a resident piled paper and combustible materials and set a small spark that grew into a fire. He panicked and left the room. The Guest House was evacuated, but after firefighters had the blaze under control, they found a woman asleep in her room. A tragic situation was averted, but things could have been far worse. A Dec. 16, 1996, inspection of the Guest House showed the fire alarm had been silenced, problems existed with the emergency lighting, the facility did not have the proper amount of fire extinguishers, the smoke separation barrier code had been violated, and the fire alarm panel was not functioning properly.
It wasn’t as if Dupont and Householder were not aware of what could have happened. Between 1994 and 1997, four fires had been set at the Lamar Guest House. In one of her articles, Cait noted, “According to the documents, the basic structure of the facility creates a situation in which the building could burn rapidly if a fire occurred.”
“At the time of a previous fire, a fireman said he did not know why the building did not burn to the ground,” the inspection report said.
As Cait pored over the documents, she discovered fire problems everywhere. “Problems have escalated with aggressive residents and residents who do not follow the smoking rules set at the facility,” she wrote. “One resident was found in her room asleep with a cigarette in her hand that had burned down.”
The inspection report said, “The facility has not provided supervision to prevent harm to this and other residents, nor have they followed their own policies which are present in each incident report.”
The state allowed Sandhill to get away with one violation after another from 1993 until it finally closed the Lamar Guest House in 1997, as one of Cait’s articles in the July 11, 1997 Lamar Press revealed:
“The Lamar Guest House is not meeting the needs of the residents required by the regulation that every resident is to be clean, dry and free of offensive body and mouth odor.
“Checks by the Division of Aging included the finding of five residents who smelled of perspiration and body odor, were unkempt with oily, uncombed hair and were wearing the same clothes for more than two days in a row.
“According to one resident’s records, a psychiatric evaluation and care plan suggested her caregivers bathe and shampoo her hair. Inspectors found her hair to be oily and uncombed.
“Another resident was reported to have such foul odor ‘his room smelled and his route about the facility could be traced by his foul odor,’ according to the documents.”

Cait’s article noted roaches were found all over the Lamar Guest House in inspections in 1994, 1995, and 1997.
Cait Purinton did a remarkable piece of reporting, one which was recognized by the Kansas City Press Club as she received an investigative reporting award, the only award ever won by The Lamar Press. It would be nice to say that her brilliant investigative work led to the closing of the Guest House facilities. Only one, however, the Lamar Guest House, closed as a result of Cait’s tenacity. The name Sandhill, Inc., passed into history and Robert DuPont continued to expand on his Guest House empire.
A large part of the responsibility for that oversight, no doubt, belongs to the state of Missouri’s Division of Aging. I have always believed the media also contributed. If the same kind of pressure had been placed on the Division of Aging in 1997, as the Joplin Globe, the Joplin television stations, the Neosho Daily News, and other media outlets as the pressure put on state officials after the Anderson Guest House fire, 11 lives might have been saved. No one ever picked up on the story and it was far easier for the state to close the Lamar Guest House and simply forget about the wanton way in which Robert Dupont and Karl Householder ignored and took advantage of state regulations that were designed to protect the people.
It would be easy to say that the passing of nine years between the closing of the Lamar Guest House and the Anderson Guest House fire made it difficult to foresee what might have happened, but the media did not connect the dots even when the clues were right in front of them.
Just as the state was blissfully unaware that Dupont’s company had filed for bankruptcy protection in the 1990s, it also failed to note that he filed for bankruptcy a second time in 2004, something that was only mentioned in The Turner Report.
Though Dupont had already been convicted of fraud at that time, he still listed his job as executive director of River of Life Ministries. The Guest House locations in Anderson, Joplin (2), and Carl Junction were listed as belonging to Dupont.
At that time, he owed $57,500 to the Internal Revenue Service, and $120,100 in fines connected with his fraud conviction. In another court case pending at that time, he was being sued by Land Purchase of Jasper County, which he owed $370,000, according to the bankruptcy court documents. He listed $994,000 in assets with $975,000 of that coming from real estate, and $1,419,675 in liabilities.
According to the bankruptcy court documents, at that point Dupont not only served as River of Life Ministries' executive director and pulled down a salary of $60,000 plus, but he also charged the not-for-profit organization $12,000 per month rent, with $11,400 going to the bank and the other $600 to Dupont.
The bankruptcy petition was later dismissed with Dupont and his wife filing a document saying they "would prefer to pay their creditors off on their own."
Until the Anderson Guest House fire, the state never bothered to check and see if these Guest Houses with connections to a man who had twice filed for bankruptcy, were financially solvent.
As much information as Cait uncovered in the 1990s, and I dug up from bankruptcy court records a few years ago, action was finally taken after the media onslaught that followed the Anderson fire. Apparently, it takes 11 deaths to get the media to take notice.

The book also contains more information about Dupont, his operation of the Guest House facilities, and the efforts made by some state legislators to gut reforms to the nursing home industry even after the fatal fire at the Anderson Guest House.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Anderson Guest House owner behind bars

Anderson Guest House owner, and convicted felon, Robert Dupont is behind bars once more.
Following a five-minute hearing today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Dupont was ordered to jail by Judge James England pending a Wednesday, Sept. 26, hearing. Taxpayer money will be used to appoint a lawyer for Dupont, who is accused of hiding his control of the Anderson Guest House and defrauding the government. Dupont was the owner of the Anderson facility in November when it burned to the ground, killing 11.
An affidavit signed by Special Agent Peter H. Blackburn of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health of Human Services says Dupont was executive director of Guest House facilities from 1993 through 2006, including the time following his 2002 conviction for Medicaid and Medicare fraud.
Facilities owned by Dupont, according to the affidavit, included the Anderson Guest House, Carl Junction Guest House, Carthage Guest House, Guest House I in Joplin, Guest House 2 in Joplin, Guest House 3 in Joplin, Lamar Guest House, and St. Louis Guest House. Apparently, the government missed the Springfield Guest House.

According to the affidavit, "Robert J. Dupont was owner and president of Guest Houses of Missouri. Inc., a for-profit corporation Dupont created in January 2000" that operated the Guest Houses in Anderson, Joplin, Carl Junction, and Carthage.

"On June 15, 2000, Dupont was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States relating to billings he caused to be submitted on behalf of Butler Guest House, Lamar Guest House, and St. Louis Guest House. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States on Feb. 13, 2002, and was sentenced on Feb. 21, 2003, t0 21 months federal imprisonment. The offense to which Dupont pleaded guilty involved his conspiracy with others to conceal his ownership and control of a company that submitted billings to Medicare and Medicaid." Because of this, the affidavit said, Dupont was excluded from participation in any federal health program, including Missouri Medicaid.

"During March 2002, shortly after Dupont's guilty plea but prior to his sentencing, Dupont formed a new corporation, Joplin River of Life Ministries that began assuming operational control over the residential care facilities," the affidavit said. "On April 10, 2002, Guest Houses of Missouri, Inc. notified the Division of Medical Services, the agency which administers Missouri's Medicaid program that as of May 1, 2002, Joplin River of Life Ministries was taking over the operation of the residential care facilities formerly operated by Guest Houses of Missouri, Inc."

The affidavit continues, "On or about April 15, 2002, JROL submitted applications to the Department of Health and Senior Services for licenses to operate long-term care facilities specifically Anderson Guest House, Carl Junction Guest House, Guest House 2, and Guest House 3." Robert Dupont and his wife Laverne were listed as owners and landlords and Robert Dupont was listed on the Joplin River of Life Ministries board.

On July 31, 2002, the company applied to participate as a Missouri Medicaid personal care provider and was approved.

"On March 19, 2003, prior to Dupont's surrender on March 21, 2003, to begin serving his federal sentence, Dupont convened and oversaw a Joplin River of Life Ministries board meeting in which he announced the employment of Laverne Dupont, his wife, as the incoming executive director of JROL and corporate documents after that date list her as executive director," according to the affidavit.

Dupont was released to a halfway house in August 2004 and completed his sentence the following month. "In contravention of state and federal law, Dupont resumed the operation and control of JROL upon his release from prison," the affidavit said. "In day to day operation of the facilities, Dupont makes unilateral hiring decisions, terminates employees, directs staffing levels, and unilaterally decides whether to accept potential residents referred to local hospitals. Dupont has prohibited facility managers from seeking decision making authority from Laverne Dupont, his wife and the individual listed as executive director of JROL, and threatened to terminate employees who fail to seek his authorization for decisions."

The affidavit concludes, "During an interview conducted on Nov. 28, 2006 (following the Anderson Guest House fire) Dupont denied any control over Joplin River of Life Ministries and asserted that he was an uncompensated employee. However, W-2, wage and tax statements filed by JROL indicate that Dupont received a salary in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005."

Oct. 29 pre-trial conference set for accused church shooter

A 2 p.m. Oct. 29 pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Eikan Elam Saimon, who faces three counts of murder in the first degree in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting at the First Congregational Church of Neosho.

Saimon entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment today in Newton County Circuit Court. Saimon is also charged with six other felonies in connection with the shootings, which happened during an afternoon worship service of a Micronesian congregation.

Those killed were senior pastor Kernal Rehobson, 43; church deacon Intenson Rehobson, 44; and church deacon Kuhpes "Jesse" Ikosia, 53.

Skelton: "Culture of corruption" in Iraq contract fraud

One hundred ninety thousand weapons intended for Iraqi soldiers are unaccounted for and legislators, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo. are angered:

Members of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday they were saddened and appalled at the number of military officers and civilian officials implicated in as much as $6 billion in contract fraud in Iraq and by the mismanagement that left 190,000 weapons intended for Iraqi security forces unaccounted for.

Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., opened a hearing on incidents of bribery and fraud that occurred in a major contracting office in Kuwait by saying they "were so severe that I fear they represent a culture of corruption," a term repeated by others.

Military officials have another answer for the missing weapons:

The Defense officials sought to deflect some of the committee's ire, noting that the Government Accountability Office, which reported last month it could not account for 30 percent of weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces, did not say weapons were actually missing.

The weapons went into Iraq by different means, some went directly to Iraqi troops and others to the warehouses, Velz said. "There just weren't enough people to document them" and no one can be sure if the weapons were ever transferred, he said.

Bond: Leave whistleblower alone

Senators Kit Bond, R-Mo, and Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, have joined to issue a warning to the Marines to stop punishing the whistleblower who let Congress know of slowdowns in providing armored vehicles to protect soldiers from roadside bombs:

Franz Gayl has been targeted by his superiors for “adverse personnel action,” wrote Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Kit Bond, R-Mo. Gayl is the science and technology adviser to the deputy Marine commandant. He helped disclose “life-threatening” problems in the Pentagon’s efforts to field Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, the letter said.
Gayl should be commended and “embraced as a hero,” they wrote.
“We expect much better from our Marines, particularly the leadership,” the senators wrote to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway. “The Corps’ apparent retaliation against a conscientious whistleblower is reprehensible.”

Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson, a spokesman for Conway, said the Corps does not persecute somebody who raises legitimate complaints.
Gayl filed for whistleblower protection with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in May. USA Today quoted Gayl in a July 16 report about how the Pentagon had balked at repeated appeals from commanders in Iraq for MRAPs. The story quoted Gayl as saying that military bureaucrats didn’t want the MRAP sooner “because it would compete against” armored Humvees and “many other favored programs” for funding.
Marines in Iraq sought 1,169 MRAPs in February 2005. It took more than a year for the Marines to approve a request for large numbers of the vehicle. Conway has said the Marines delayed seeking more MRAPs because they believed armored Humvees were the best response to the threat of roadside bombs. Conway has also said there were not enough producers of MRAPs at the time to meet the Marines’ demand.
Gayl declined Thursday to comment on the letter.
“Mr. Gayl helped disclose these life-threatening procurement problems from his position in the Pentagon,” Biden and Bond wrote. “Eliminating these problems and ensuring they do not happen in the future will save hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Turner Report book signing set for Monday in Lamar

The first official signing for The Turner Report book will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24 (tomorrow) at the Mary K. Finley Library in Lamar.
Copies of my novels, Small Town News and Devil's Messenger will also be available for purchase. The cost for the books will be $18 for The Turner Report, $15 for Small Town News and $15 for Devil's Messenger.
I hope to see some of you there.
For those who cannot make it, you can order the book through, and in Joplin it is available at Changing Hands Book Shop, 5th and Virginia. More outlets will be added during the next few weeks.

Furor continues over Jetton remarks about poor

Missouri Ethics Commission records indicate that on July 29 Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, did some traveling with fellow Representatives Shannon Cooper and Tom Dempsey. Though the records are not specific, they do indicate each of the three representatives received $63 for travel from Kyna Iman. Since the entity she was representing was the Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association, it is fairly easy to guess what that travel might have signified.

On June 20, Jetton was the recipient of a meal costing $102.19 (mighty fine eating in these parts) from superlobbyist William Gamble, allegedly representing the Kansas City, Missouri, the Missouri Beverage Association, and the Missouri Railroad Association.

A month earlier, on May 24, it was Nancy Giddens, lobbyist for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, who bought Jetton a lunch worth $40, one of two $40 meals she bought him during the month.

In fact, in the three years since the Missouri House of Representatives, in good part due to Jetton's leadership, passed bills stripping thousands of poor Missourians from Medicaid, the speaker has received $2,964.33 worth of gifts from lobbyists, including $820.81 during the first seven months of 2007, and $1,230.88 in 2006.

It would be surprising to hear that any of the lobbyist-supplied meals included Pop-Tarts or Twinkies. That is why it is so disappointing to hear Jetton disparage the poor during his remarks at the Ozarks Food Harvest Conference in Springfield last week, which were the subject of Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger's column in today's Springfield News-Leader. In the column, Messenger notes Jetton talked about the fact that at one time he was on food stamps:

But unlike Jetton, I don't feel it's appropriate to throw those shoes in the trash now that I can afford new ones.

That's what Jetton did when he implied that the problem with the food stamp program is that single women on welfare are spending their food stamp money on "Twinkies, Pop Tarts and steak."


Let's blame the lazy single parents on welfare.

It must be their fault.

"Americans pay their taxes, and they want to help other people," Jetton said. "We're a generous country. But they get frustrated when they don't see it going to the people who really need it."

Let's apply Jetton's logic to the legislative body he's been leading the past couple of years.

Did the Missourians who pay their taxes really want to see more than $100 million worth of tax credits going to well-heeled business interests in the form of the so-called economic development bill that Jetton supported, a bill that was thankfully vetoed by Gov. Matt Blunt? Even the slimmed-down version passed by Jetton et al. takes about $70 million in tax credits and applies it to big business in a variety of different fashions. Who's eating steak in that equation?

Access to money is a nice thing that many Missourians, especially the ones disparaged in Jetton's speech, long for. This "pop-tarts, twinkies, and steak" group of single women, a quick easy applause line that backfired on the speaker, would love to have some of the big bucks Jetton's leadership committee received during the second quarter of 2007, according to the July disclosure report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Jetton's committee received $5,000 from Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt, $10,000 from the Missouri Health Care Association, the same group that did its best to water down reforms sought by Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, following the Anderson Guest House fire, $2,000 from the Missouri Insurance Coalition, and $25,000 from retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield.

Yes, that kind of money would buy a lot of "pop tarts, twinkies, and steak," but more importantly, it would be a great start in keeping people from going hungry.

(Associated Press photo)

Drug testing students is a misguided approach

Long-time Turner Report readers know that I am strongly opposed to drug testing of students. Not only is it an invasion of privacy that goes against everything that the students should be learning about American freedoms in their government classes, but there are no statistics to show it works, and many reasons to believe that it does not.

Drug testing students is a feel good measure taken by well-meaning boards of education to try to do something about the drug problem in today's society. Since the law currently does not permit testing of all students, the testing is restricted to those who wish to participate in extracurricular activities. I have seen many instances in which these activities are the only things that keep a borderline student in school. Unfortunately, there are some who will avoid these activities because of the testing, and end up becoming involved in activities which, not only could cause them to drop out of school, but might also cause them to wind up in jail.

What I have found most troubling is how easily students roll over for these intrusions into their privacy. They use the same twisted logic that is used by those who want to give the government carte blanche to listen in on our telephone conversations and intercept our e-mails: "If they aren't doing anything wrong, they don't have any reason to worry." I am sure the same arguments were used by the Gestapo.

When these intrusions are allowed to take place in one area, it makes it that much easier for more liberties to be taken. Well-meaning elected officials can turn out to be the greatest enemies of the American way of life.

(For more information on drug testing of students, read this article from today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

"Bewitched" actress, dead at 81, was born in Vernon County

Former Bewitched actress Alice Ghostley, who died Friday at age 81, was the most famous native of the small burg of Eve in Vernon County, which is now pretty much a ghost town.
Ms. Ghostley was also a regular on Designing Women and appeared in numerous movies, including To Kill a Mockingbird.

VanGilder profiled in Joplin Globe

Today's Joplin Globe features a long-overdue profile of one of this area's greatest living treasures, Carthage author-historian Marvin VanGilder. I had the good fortune to work alongside Marvin from the time I arrived at The Carthage Press in April 1990 until his retirement in December 1993, and then talked with him hundreds of times over the next six years during the time I was editor of The Press and Marvin was writing three columns a week for the newspaper. (He increased that number to four during the 49 weeks that The Lamar Press was published.) Check out Melissa Dunson's article, which includes this information:

Even now, in poor health and past the age of retirement, VanGilder insists on keeping himself busy. He continues his lifelong passions of writing poetry and composing music, as well as giving private music lessons and continuing his historical writing.

“My whole life has been like that, it’s been work, work, work, and I don’t understand anything else,” he said. “I’ve always said that I hope I die with one foot in the air, on the way to something else.”

His contributions to the Carthage community are particularly longlasting, as he was part of the committee that organized the first Maple Leaf festival so many years ago. In the 1970s, he was eventually honored with the title of Maple Leaf Grand Marshal. He served as the chairman of the Jasper County Courthouse preservation committee, and helped with the renovations of the city’s Memorial Hall. It was VanGilder’s research that helped motivate legislators to designate the Battle of Carthage State Park, signifying the first Civil War battle fought.

He served on the Carthage R-9 Board of Education during the time of reorganization, and was the first honoree of Carthage’s now annual Citizen of the Year award in 1970.

(Joplin Globe photo by Roger Nomer)

Former Lamar band director taking another group to Rose Bowl

Former Lamar High School band director Jerry Hoover is taking another university band to the Tournament of Roses Parade this year, but this time with a slight difference- it will be the first time his band will represent the state under the university's new title of Missouri State University. The Springfield News-Leader's article in Saturday's edition began like this:

More than a decade ago, a parade organizer saw something special in the Missouri State University Pride Band. He never forgot.

C.L. Keedy, now organizer for the Tournament of Roses parade, tapped the pride band to lead off the parade. He first heard the band perform in 1995.

"It was impressed with the band when I first heard them," said Keedy, who was in Springfield on Friday to meet with the Pride Band leader. "When I was appointed to the executive committee, I knew I'd be president in 2008 and I said I had to have
Missouri State back when I was president. I didn't tell anybody. I kept it a secret."

(Photo by Springfield News-Leader)

More attention being paid to Sunshine Law

The recent attention being paid to apparent violations of Missouri's Sunshine Law is turning out to be a positive thing since it is forcing people across the state to take a serious look at the light regard elected and appointed officials have for the public's right to know.

One method public officials have used over the years to diffuse criticism of the Sunshine Law is to make it appear as if the only ones who are complaining about it are the media. And let's face it, the media has not done a good job of promoting the real reason this issue is so important- when decisions are made illegally behind closed doors, it is the public which suffers.

Over the years, I have run into countless instances of people who have run into roadblocks from public bodies when they try to get their hands on information which is clearly public information. Officials use a variation of their media tactics. Instead of a prying media, it is just "troublemakers" who are taking up too much time and money.

But now, thanks to Governor Matt Blunt's incredible statement that e-mails are not public documents (a belief which differs from his own words of a few years earlier), plus the deliberations of the body attempting to find candidates for a Supreme Court vacancy, and the Missouri Ethics Commission's behind-closed-doors decision to require candidates to return excess campaign contributions, the Sunshine Law is once again a major issue in Missouri politics.

The situation also has a local parallel in the clearly illegal actions of the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors to secretly appoint a search committee to find a new university president.

An editorial in today's Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian spells out the problem:

Every public official -- and every voter and taxpayer as well -- needs to again read the opening of the Sunshine Law:

"It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public government bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 and 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy."

Public officials who look for ways to sidestep that admonition are not "public" servants. They are merely preserving their "private" interests while pretending to obey the law.

It is hard to beat that assessment and I don't even intend to try.

But it is time to make the Sunahine Law more than just a policy. The first place to look, as I have written before, is in the punishments for violating the law. Right now there are none. A public official can receive a fine, but only if it can be proven that the official "knowingly" violated the law, which is almost impossible to prove. If a person is elected or appointed to a public body, that person needs to know the law, and needs to be ready to ask each time the idea of a closed session is brought up- is this legal?

Also, though this will probably never happen, officials need to stop looking for reasons to take their deliberations behind closed doors. Just because it is legal to do so does not make it the right decision.

Open deliberations would benefit most public officials...and they would benefit all citizens. Hopefully, this increased attention to the Sunshine Law will bring about some much needed change.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fort Smith city director asks for investigation of former Joplin police chief

A member of Fort Smith's City Council is asking for an investigation of Police Chief Kevin Lindsey and is requesting that Lindsey be placed on leave.
An article in today's Arkansas Democrat Gazette features excepts from a letter from City Director Cole Goodman, who said Lindsey was "mishandling" an internal investigation of two officers who are on leave:

Reed said Friday he hasn't take action against Lindsey and didn't anticipate any in the near future. The city directors should wait for the investigation's conclusion before considering Lindsey's performance, he said.

Jeff Barrows and Capt. Steve Howard were placed on administrative leave Aug. 23 pending an investigation by the department's Office of Professional Standards. The office investigates whether officers violated department rules.

Lindsey said last month the two men were being investigated for major violations. He would not specify the allegations against them.

Court orders increased scrutiny in Lamar Grain bankruptcy

A federal bankruptcy court judge on Friday ordered owners of Lamar Grain and Feed to undergo a 2004 examination, which means far greater scrutiny of company financial records.
As originally detailed in the Sept. 18 Turner Report, the motion which the judge okayed calls for an Oct.17 meeting at the law offices of Checkett and Pauly in Carthage. A 2004 examination is called for when it appears there are problems with the records of someone who has filed for bankruptcy.

Company owners Ronald Ellis, Carolyn Ellis, Jared Ellis, and Jessica Ellis will be required to "produce all computer hardware of Lamar Grain & Feed LLC, all bank statements, cancelled checks, and deposit tickets of Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC for the years 2005 through 2007."

It also requests "the original corporate minute book of Lamar Feed & Grain, LLC, the original corporate minute book of Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC, tax returns for years 2004-2006 for both Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC and Lamar Feed & Grain, LLC."


The Lamar signing for The Turner Report book will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, at the Mary K. Finley Library.

Turner Report interview on KZRG website

I noticed a few moments ago that my interview last Tuesday with Mark Kinsley on KZRG, News 1310 can be accessed through the radio station's website.

Kinsley's blog has also been added to the links on the right hand side of this page.

Standard: Ashcroft charged MSU less than he normally charges

Apparently in an effort to lessen criticism of former Attorney General John Ashcroft for not allowing recording devices to be used by the media during his recent Missouri State University, a university official notes that Ashcroft charged far less than his normal fee to speak to students at the university where he once taught.
This passage was featured in MSU's student newspaper, The Standard:

(University Attorney John) Black said Ashcroft came to speak at the university for less money than he would normally charge.

"He came to help students where he first taught students. That's what I hope doesn't get lost here," Black said.

According to the contract between the Harry Walker Agency and Heartland, Ashcroft agreed to give the speech for $7,500 plus travel expenses. McNiff from the Harry Walker Agency refused to comment.

The contract also said Ashcroft himself held final approval of media coverage.

This contract was signed by Olen Greer, accountancy professor and Heartland board member. Greer could not be reached for comment.

The speech was also funded in part by three student organizations.

College Republicans, Young Americans for Freedom and the Accounting Club contributed $4,000 each. The $12,000 was distributed to the organizations from the Student Organization Funding Allocation Council, according to SOFAC Chair Thomas Lane.

While the university made the right decision in returning its archival copy of the speech after Ashcroft said the recording could only be viewed by current faculty and students, it is troubling that professors and organizations at a public university, which should always be a repository of information for all citizens, should have so easily acquiesced to Ashcroft's terms, especially when it appears public money was spent for Ashcroft's appearance.

Sept. 24 arraignment set for accused church shooter

A 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 24, arraignment is scheduled for Eikan Elam Saimon, 52, Neosho, who is charged with three counts of murder and six other felonies in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting at the First Congregational Church of Neosho during an afternoon service of a Micronesian church.
Those killed were senior pastor Kernal Rehobson, 43; church deacon Intenson Rehobson, 44; and church deacon Kuhpes "Jesse" Ikosia, 53.

February trial scheduled for former Neosho officer

A Feb. 20 jury trial has been scheduled for former Neosho Police officer Justin Keith Pickup, 24, who is charged with a misdemeanor, endangering the welfare of a minor, for allegedly supplying vodka to 16-year-old Kassie Schenck, Neosho, shortly before she died in a one-car accident Dec. 21.
All pre-trial motions are due by Feb. 1, according to Newton County Circuit Court records.
Pickup, whose case is being prosecuted by the Missouri attorney general's office, is free on $5,000 bond.

MSU returns Ashcroft tape

Missouri State University no longer has the only authorized tape of former Attorney General John Ashcroft's recent speech there, according to an article in today's Springfield News-Leader:

Ashcroft's contract did not allow the media to make an audio recording of his speech, although the same restrictions were not placed on the audience.

The archival audio recording was made, but Ashcroft's representatives said it could only be accessed in the school's library by "current students and faculty," even though the library is open to the public.

MSU attorney John Black said the university could not abide by that restriction.

"If that condition cannot be met," Black wrote in a letter to the Harry Walker Agency, which books Ashcroft's appearances, "the recordings should be returned to your office on behalf of Mr. Ashcroft."

University officials made the proper decision. Now they need to make sure that no contract of that kind is ever signed with anyone who appears on the taxpayer-supported campus. No matter what negative concept some people have about the media, they are the conduit through which most people find out about newsworthy events. Ashcroft's restrictions were not only ridiculous for a speech being given at a taxpayer-supported university, but they are also somewhat paranoid.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pre-trial hearing for alleged Cooper confederate delayed

A pre-trial hearing for Omega Penalosa Paulite, the woman accused of being involved in an immigration fraud scheme with former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, has been moved to 9 a.m. Oct. 10. It had originally been scheduled for Oct. 4.
Judge Frederick Buckles ruled Thursday that conditions for Ms. Paulite's release on bond should be modified. She will now be allowed to conduct business with more than one bank account, have fewer travel restrictions, and not be subject to GPS tracking.
Rep. Cooper is scheduled to be sentenced next month after pleading guilty in August. After nailing Cooper dead to rights on the fraud charge, the government appears to have allowed him to run for re-election to his 158th District state representative slot so he could help build a case against Ms. Paulite.

Another 70-cent increase for Nexstar Broadcasting

Nexstar Broadcasting stock was up another 70 cents in trading Wednesday, closing at $10.82 per share. The stock price has increased $1.22 per share in the last two days.
Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Globe: No Child Left Behind needs reform

No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration gift (as well as Teddy Kennedy's) to education, needs to be reformed, the Joplin Globe editorial board said today:

One problem most frequently heard is that the act concentrates on reading and math, but leaves out science, history, art and music. According to a recent column by Dale McFeatters, there is “evidence that this is so, with the non-tested subjects being scanted by about a half-hour a day.”

In Southwest Missouri, for instance, several area school districts received high marks from the state, including Accreditation With Distinction, but were given failing grades by the U.S. Department of Education under NCLB standards.

The editorial notes that the goal of having 100 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2014 is unrealistic, which is an on-the-mark observation, but it fails to hammer home the point that school districts are being called failing even while they are surpassing federal guidelines in all but one area. For instance, if you have any group of students (white, African American, Hispanic, students who receive free or reduced lunches, for example) which falls short of the arbitrarily set government goal, even though the rest of the school has high scores, the school is still listed as failing and required to tell all of its patrons that it is failing. If that is not undermining public schools, I don't know what you would call it.
In the Joplin R-8 School District, in which I teach, math and reading scores were up across the board. The school is listed as failing because its graduation rate did not meet the federal level. And to be called a failure for not meeting that standard is particularly galling since so many factors that are totally outside the school's influence pay a big role in whether a student stays in school, including home environment, pregnancy, parents' attitudes about education, problems with the law, things school teachers and administrators have little or no control over.
The Globe's editorial is a welcome sight, but it should be the first of many editorials and news articles designed to bring to light the problems with No Child Left Behind, an ill-advised governmental program that is failing in every one of its categories.

Reporter: Ashcroft tactic was a miserable failure

Reporter Ryan Cooper, in a letter to the editor in today's Springfield News-Leader, says former Attorney General John Ashcroft's tactics in prohibiting cameras and other electronic newsgathering devices at his speech at Missouri State University last week was a miserable failure:

Maybe he didn't want the public to know that the Juanita K. Hammons auditorium was less than half full. Students required to attend for a class assignment and members of Ashcroft's religious faith composed most of the audience.

Had cameras been allowed, the public would have seen that the three co-sponsoring student groups had little to do with this event. Other than a brief mention during Greer's 20 minute introduction, group members were practically invisible. No students shared the stage with Greer and Ashcroft.

Maybe (Dr. Olan) Greer had a good reason for the media blackout. It didn't work. Even with limited equipment, we still covered the event. Greer's antics, rather than Ashcroft and his remarks, are now the main focus of media attention.

Rather than blame Greer for his poor media relations, local conservatives will blame the media
for being biased. It's easier to hate the invisible boogeyman than to tell the truth.

Cooper is right. Even my mentions on this blog about Ashcroft's tactics have brought the usual knee-jerk anti-media (and anti-Turner Report) comments. Ashcroft professes to love this country, and I am sure he does, but one of the things that makes this country great is that no one citizen, even a former attorney general, is above scrutiny, especially when he is using taxpayer-financed facilities.

On the other hand, if the whole plan was to bring attention to Ashcroft's Springfield appearance, it was a brilliant media ploy. Ashcroft's speech would have drawn limited attention without the electronic blackout.

Judge rules Missouri State professor does not have right to sue

Talk about an about face.
After totally ignoring the story for two years, the Springfield News-Leader today has the dismissal of former drama instructor George Cron's wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the university as the top story on its website:

But U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Maughmer ruled that George Cron could not sue the university. Under the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, an individual cannot sue a state, and MSU successfully argued that a suit against the university is a suit against the State of Missouri. That's because state funds would likely be paid out in any rulings against the institution.

Maughmer also ruled that Cron's defamation claims against Rhythm McCarthy and Jay Raphael, his former superiors, should not move forward.

In an order, the magistrate called Cron's assertions "self-serving, speculative guesswork."

The ruling didn't comment on the truth of the defamation claims, but rather said Cron was not specific enough and failed to prove his reputation had been damaged.

The lawsuit was first reported in the April 3, 2006 Turner Report. It received its first News-Leader mention 17 months later on Sept. 2, 2007. The initial Turner Report entry detailed the lawsuit:

In a lawsuit filed March 31 in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, George Cron, Springfield, lists Rhythm McCarthy, a professor in the Theatre and Dance Department; Jay Raphael, department head; Bruno Schmidt, vice president of academic affairs; John Black, Missouri State's general counsel; and The MSU Board of Governors as defendants; and alleges wrongful dismissal and defamation.
Cron, who also has acted in such films as "Flying Tiger" and "Larva," says his problems with Ms. McCarthy began even before he was hired at Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State University) in October 1998 when she was chairman of the Search Committee which hired Cron. Ms. McCarthy, in addition to her duties at Missouri State, is a professional dancer who has appeared with the California Ballet Company and the North Carolina Dance Theatre.
"(She) began to aggressively pursue a personal relationship with Mr. Cron," the lawsuit said. Cron says Ms. McCarthy helped him with his application and supported his hiring, which took place in May 1999.
After he was hired, Cron told Ms. McCarthy "that he did not reciprocate her romantic feelings and did not intend to consummate an affair," according to the lawsuit.
After that, he claims, she began "a series of actions designed to undermine (him) and ruin his reputation within the Department of Theatre and Dance." These actions, the lawsuit claims, included a series of statements about Cron's teaching methods, his fitness to teach, and his being "sexist" and "bigoted." Still, Cron was rehired each year until he came up for tenure in 2004. The Tenure Committee voted 6-2 to offer him tenure, the lawsuit said, with Ms. McCarthy and Sara Brummell casting the dissenting votes.
The committee recommendation was forwarded to Raphael, who rejected it. Cron appealed to Schmidt, who denied the appeal. On April 12, 2004, Cron appealed those decisions to the Academic Personnel Review Commission, which in a split decision, said "Cron's complaint was not frivolous." His appeal was again rejected. The case eventually went to an arbitrator, who ruled in Cron's favor July 29, 2005. Nonetheless, the board voted Oct. 4, 2005, not to extend tenure. Cron is asking for reinstatement and damages.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reports: Charges may be filed this week against Democratic legislators

Cooper County Prosecuting Attorney Doug Abele did not do himself any favors when he answered questions from St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman concerning possible criminal charges against Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, for Smith's illegal use of Aull's identification at the Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville July 31. The article concerned possible charges against the legislators, which may be filed later this week.

In the first place, six weeks have passed since the crime allegedly took place and no charges have been filed. While the case is only a misdemeanor the fact that it involves two state legislators would seem to put it on a bit higher level:

Abele said that the delay in the case comes because he had trouble reaching legislators, who were busy with the recent special session.

Were those legislators witnesses? Or are other lawmakers with Smith that night, all Democrats, also facing possible charges?

Abele, a Republican who took office in 1983, wouldn't say.

“What I'm saying is, during special session, legislators are pretty well focused on what they are doing,” Abele said. “They don't want to, nor do they have to, respond to things that aren't part of the session."

If memory serves correctly, out of that six weeks, the legislature was only in session for a brief time, so that excuse appears to be a bit of a stretch. And so what if their minds were on the session. The same sort of deference would not be shown to a doctor, a plumber, a teacher, or a minister who was charged with the same kind of crime, nor to any of them who happened to be witnesses to the crime. Why couldn't they take a few minutes out of their busy schedules to answer Abele's questions.

While the law that was broken may not be a major one, it is still a law, and the worst thing law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys can do is to give the impression that legislators are special individuals who are somehow above the law, or who need to receive special concessions that would not be provided to the rest of us.

Abele does not seem to understand that distinction, judging from the final comment in Wagman's article:

“It's not that I view this case any more special than any other case – we have processed a number of cases under this statute,”Abele said. “I will say that when every media outlet in the state is calling and is interested in the case, it does put a different perspective on it than what we usually have in Cooper County.”

The case is special because we have people who have been elected to make the laws accused of breaking them.

For some reason, media outlets have been slow in naming the people who were at that lobbyist-financed excursion to the Isle of Capri that night. Missouri Ethics Commission documents, first noted in the Sept. 1 Turner Report, indicate Chris Liese, lobbyist for Isle of Capri, paid the freight for six Democratic legislators and one spouse:

Smith, Aull, Aull's wife Candee, and four other Democratic legislators, Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, had their meals and drinks paid for by an Isle of Capri lobbyist, according to the documents, but that lobbyist was not Lynne Schlosser, who allegedly suggested that Smith use Aull's identification. Ms. Schlosser no longer works for Isle of Capri, and does not list any gifts for the month of July.
A total of $910 for "meals, food, and beverage" is listed on the disclosure form filed by Chris Liese, $130 each for the six legislators and Mrs. Aull.
The July junket is far from the only effort Isle of Capri has made to woo Democratic legislators.
Liese's disclosure report for March indicates Isle of Capri spent $1,602.85 for meals, food, and beverage, and $225 for gifts for the House Minority Caucus and like amounts for the Senate Minority Caucus on March 12.

Smith, Graham, and Shoemyer, were all named to the latest Turner Report Hall of Shame for being in the top 10 among Missouri senators in taking gifts from lobbyists. The entire list can be found in the Sept. 15 Turner Report.
Find out more about the newly published Turner Report book at this link or order it through

A big thanks to Kinsley, News 1310

I thoroughly enjoyed my first radio program with News 1310's Mark Kinsley Tuesday. It was fun to talk Missouri politics (and promote the book) during the 90-minute session.
It appears I am going to return on the second Tuesday of each month. I am looking forward to the next one.

Blunt: It is important to keep your inbox manageable

Displaying a wide knowledge of e-mail techniques, Governor Matt Blunt defended his administration's destruction of e-mails Tuesday. This gem comes from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article:

Blunt, in explaining his staff's intentions, said with a chuckle, "I think people are trying to have a clear and manageable in-box. That's what they're trying to do."

Hasn't anyone heard of creating folders to put these extra e-mails in. It is hard to believe our government does not have the storage space to take care of the public's business. It appears that, once again, we have public officials who put their own personal convenience ahead of the public's right to know.

Nexstar Broadcasting back over the $10 mark

Nexstar Broadcasting stock moved over the $10 per share mark Tuesday, closing at $10.12, up 52 cents from Monday. Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and manages KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.
Meanwhile, Saga Communications, owner of KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin/Pittsburg market, fell 35 cents per share in trading Tuesday, closing at $7.17.

News-Leader: E-mails are public record

The Blunt Administration's cavalier attitude about the destruction of e-mail records has led to editorials from the state's leading newspapers, including one in today's Springfield News-Leader:

The problem in Missouri as it relates to Sunshine Law is twofold. First, as is obvious by the governor's office response, even our elected officials at the highest level of state government either don't understand the law or specifically seek to avoid compliance. In light of the attorney general's opinion, we asked Blunt spokesman Chrismer if the governor has changed his mind regarding the public nature of e-mails. He responded: "Emails can be a public record if they meet the other criteria of a public record," which sounds like the governor might be changing his tune, but in light of previous admission of destruction of public documents, we wonder what that really means.

And that's the second part of the problem with the Sunshine Law. The standard for a violation — proving that somebody "knowingly" violated the law — is too often impossible to prove. The law also has very limited penalties, and prosecutors, including the attorney general's office, are frequently unwilling to bring cases because the expense is worth far more than the penalty will ever provide.

This is what must change if Missouri citizens are to have a reasonable belief that their business, the state's business, is being conducted in public: The Sunshine Law mus really needs is for both parties to work together to make the law we have stronger. t be improved. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been quick to refer to the Sunshine Law as their ally when trying to point out their opponent's flaws. What Missouri really needs is for both parties to work together to make the law we have stronger.

What needs to change is the attitude about open government. Too often we have public bodies and officials searching for ways to take potentially embarrassing items behind closed doors. During my years covering city council and school board meetings, I can recall dozens of times when closed meetings were held illegally simply because the subject matter had some tenuous connection to "personnel."

The News-Leader editorial is right on the money. It is time to hold public officials accountable for open meetings violations. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Church shooter waives preliminary hearing, bound over for trial

Eiken Elam Saimon, 52, Neosho, the accused killer of three during a shooting Aug. 12 at the First Congregational Church of Neosho, was bound over for trial today after waiving his preliminary hearing in Newton County Circuit Court.
Saimon is charged with three counts of murder and six other felonies. Those killed during the afternoon service of a Micronesian church were senior pastor Kernal Rehobson, 43; church deacon Intenson Rehobson, 44; and church deacon Kuhpes "Jesse" Ikosia, 52.

Lamar Grain and Feed owners to come under closer scrutiny

Owners of Lamar Feed and Grain, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy July 20, could have their records pored over with a fine tooth comb during an Oct. 17 meeting at the law offices and Checkett & Pauly in Carthage.
In a motion filed Monday in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri, Checkett asked for a Rule 2004 examination, indicating that the records of Lamar Feed and Grain owners need a closer examination than usual.

The motion asks for company owners Ronald Ellis, Carolyn Ellis, Jared Ellis, and Jessica Ellis to "produce all computer hardware of Lamar Grain & Feed LLC, all bank statements, cancelled checks, and deposit tickets of Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC for the years 2005 through 2007."

It also requests "the original corporate minute book of Lamar Feed & Grain, LLC, the original corporate minute book of Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC, tax returns for years 2004-2006 for both Lamar Grain & Feed, LLC and Lamar Feed & Grain, LLC."

The motion continues, "The Trustee desires to conduct an examination pursuant to 2004 of the Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure of the Deponent concerning the acts, conduct, property, liability and financial condition of the debtor; and/or matters which affect administration of the debtor's estate; and/or the operation of the business."


The Lamar signing for The Turner Report book will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, at the Mary K. Finley Library.

Cooper attorney asks for continuance

Former Rep. Nathan Cooper's sentencing on immigration fraud may be a few days later than scheduled.
Citing a trial conflict, Cooper's attorney, Joel Schwartz, filed a motion for a continuance today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Schwartz asked that the sentencing be pushed back from Oct. 19 to Oct. 23.
Cooper, a Cape Girardeau Republican, resigned his seat after pleading guilty in August.

Contributions from "self-employed" among those Richard may have to return

The Missouri Ethics Commission decision last week requiring politicians to return campaign contributions in excess of the state's recently restored limits may force Speaker-of-the-House-in-waiting Ron Richard to return contributions from the self-employed.
Yes, those who work for themselves, have shown their support for the Joplin Republican by donating their hard earned cash, including James Harris and Nathan Adams, both of Jefferson City, both of whom dropped $1,000 into Richard's campaign account.

While Richard's campaign treasurer Nick Myers, a Joplin CPA, lists Harris and Adams' occupations as "self-employed," the Missouri Ethics Commission lists both men as registered lobbyists.

Harris' clients include Comcast, while Adams represents Alanco, a Scottsdale, Ariz., firm that sells tracking technology to trucking companies and correctional systems, and also numbers several state medical concerns among his clientele.

In addition to the "self-employed" lobbyists, who donated more than the maximum amount, the Sept. 12 Turner Report lists a number of other lobbyists and special interests who contributed to Richard.

An Associated Press story published this weekend indicated Richard had more to lose if he has to return the money than any other 2008 House candidate. The story indicated Richard has not decided whether he will claim a hardship and ask the Ethics Commission not to require him to return the money.

Jetton: GOP likely to lose House seats in 2008

Speaker of the House Rod Jetton told Missourinet Republicans will maintain their House majority next year, but it will not be the 90-70 advantage they now enjoy:

He says it is likely that Republicans will lose three to four House seats in 2008. The map doesn't favor Republicans, who have to defend more vulnerable seats than Democrats in 2008. Also, national trends don't help.

Jetton insists Republicans remain strong in Missouri, but concedes the low public opinion poll numbers for President Bush dog Republicans and drag down their numbers. One factor could change that, according to Jetton, who says that Hillary Clinton carries such negatives in Missouri that if Democrats nominate her as their presidential candidate, Republicans could pick up some undecided voters. He says the only national candidate who worries him is John Edwards, the former vice presidential candidate, who he says would do very well in Missouri and help Democrats down ballot.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Preliminary hearing Tuesday in murder case against church shooter

A 9:30 a.m. Tuesday preliminary hearing is scheduled for Eikan Elam Saimon, 52, Neosho, who is charged with three counts of murder and six other felonies in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting at the First Congregational Church of Neosho during an afternoon service of a Micronesian church.
Those killed were senior pastor Kernal Rehobson, 43; church deacon Intenson Rehobson, 44; and church deacon Kuhpes "Jesse" Ikosia, 53.

Turner to appear on KZRG

I will be on News 1310 KZRG, Joplin, between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Tuesday, talking about the new book and anything else Afternoon Newswatch host Mark Kinsley has in mind.
Kinsley has talked with me about coming on his show once a month. Radio is a new medium for me, but I am looking forward to it.

Current Sunshine Law encourages politicians to remain ignorant

An article in this morning's Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian points out the problem state residents have with officials who completely disregard the intent of the state's Sunshine Law, sometimes because of ignorance, sometimes by exploiting loopholes.

What has been apparent in every version of the Sunshine Law that has been approved is that no one is looking out for the interest of the average citizen. The law is written in such a way that any politician can simply claim he did not understand the law and did not mean to violate it. By doing that, he can avoid the penalties (which aren't that much anyway) and can also avoid paying the legal costs of those who challenge him in court:

Chapter 610 of the Missouri Revised Statutes opens with a strong statement in favor of public access. "It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy."

The law allows any taxpayer, citizen, aggrieved person, county prosecutor or the attorney general to go to court to enforce the law.

But proving a violation is difficult and the penalties are so small that private enforcement lawsuits are rare. And unless the case proves a "knowing" or "purposeful" violation, the penalty does not include the costs of bringing the lawsuit.

"Enforcement of this law for the average citizen is next to impossible," said Jean Maneke, attorney for the press association.

It is time for the legislature to re-examine the Open Meetings Law and make the penalties severe enough that politicians will think twice, and maybe even three times, before going into a closed session. Until that happens, we will continue to have our elected officials going into a closed meetings on any flimsy pretext to avoid public scrutiny of their actions.
Find out more about the newly published Turner Report book at this link or order it through

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ethics Commission decision to cost Richard a bundle

Speaker-in-waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, stands to lose more than any other House member from the Missouri Ethics Commission decision that contributions above the limits must be returned.
An Associated Press story by David Lieb outlines the problems numerous politicians, including Richard, face:

The House candidate with the most money at stake is newly nominated House Speaker-Designee Ron Richard, R-Joplin. The AP analysis shows he could owe almost $136,000 in refunds.

Richard had about $166,000 in his campaign account as of June 30. After spending some additional money, Richard guessed that now stands at between $120,000 and $140,000.

"That would be just about a zero balance" if the refunds are made, said Richard, adding he hasn't decided yet whether to return the money or seek a hardship exemption.

Find out more about the newly published Turner Report book at this link or order it through

Richard says he represents all Missourians

Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, bristles at the idea that he is simply a southwest Missouri legislator. In an article in today's Columbia Daily Tribune, Richard says he intends to represent all Missourians:

"That is absolute BS," Richard said last week when asked whether his effort to succeed House Speaker Rod Jetton cemented southwest Missouri’s dominance of Missouri politics. "Let me tell you something: I've worked with the entire state of Missouri since I've been elected. And anybody who wants to say that I'm regional can just leave the building."

Regardless, the three-term Republican lawmaker’s likely ascension to one of the most powerful legislative posts in the state is part of an intriguing shift to the southwest in state politics.

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, was recently named chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, while Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, was elected assistant majority leader last week.

The article continues:

Richard said his tenure will be "for everybody."

"I can be for St. Louis, I can be for Sikeston and I can be for Maryville," he said
Find out more about the newly published Turner Report book at this link or order it through

News-Leader- Cox setting aside money for grand jury probe

The Springfield News-Leader reports CoxHealth officials have set aside $26 million as a potential settlement in the case which has brought Cox under the microscope in a grand jury investigation:

A form prepared for the IRS and a statement by a Cox official show that Cox has been preparing for a possible payout since fiscal 2005, although Cox officials have declined through the years to publicly discuss the effects of the investigation on the Springfield-based health system.

The federal probe, which includes looking at possible Medicare billing fraud, began in 2004 and became public in 2005.

Asked about the IRS form, Cox Chief Financial Officer Jake McWay confirmed that a $26 million entry under a category "loss contingency reserve" is, in his words, "a liability reserve for a potential government settlement."

The grand jury investigation was first revealed in the June 8, 2005 Turner Report.