Monday, December 31, 2007

First lobbyist Blunt does it again

Lobbyist Andrew Blunt added to his remarkable record of most consecutive months without spending a penny to lobby on behalf of his powerful clients.
A no-expenditure report for Blunt was posted today on the Missouri Ethics Commission website. Blunt has not spent a cent lobbying for his clients since his brother, Matt, became governor of Missouri, but somehow his work keeps getting done.

Southwest Missouri senators lay off lobbyists' gifts in November

Documents posted a few moments ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website indicate Southwest Missouri's five senators received only a combined $43.04 in lobbyists' gifts during November...with two, Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, and Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield, not accepting any.
According to the documents, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, had a $23 meal; Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, a 10.50 meal; and Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, a $9 meal.
For the year, Nodler still tops the senators from this corner of the state with $1,703.81, more than twice the amount of gifts he accepted in 2006, followed by Scott $1,128.35, Clemens $1,012.25, Goodman $626.20, and Ms. Champion $531.81.

Sinquefield hires third lobbyist

Retired billionaire voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield continues to prepare for another assault on Missouri public education.
Missouri Ethics Commission records indicate that Sinquefield, who had no lobbyists on his payroll until July, now has three. In addition to veteran lobbyist Travis Brown and former Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, Mark Tucker, now works for Sinquefield.

An example of how the Sinquefield money is being spread around can be found in this passage from the Nov. 1 Turner Report:

Former Rep. Carl Bearden, now the lobbyist for retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield, continued to spread the cash for his new employer, according to documents posted this morning on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.
Bearden spent $4,325.30 on state legislators, nearly all of it during a two-day period, apparently at a pair of St. Louis Cardinals home games against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The documents indicate on Sept. 18 Bearden paid for $178, combined meals, beverage, and entertainment, for each of the following: representatives Tom Dempsey,R-St. Charles, Rodney Hubbard, D. St. Louis, Talibdin El-Amin, D.St. Louis, Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, Scott Muschany, R. St. Louis, Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, and senators Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, and Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis.
The following day, the Sinquefield lobbyist paid for $100 in entertainment and $69.71 for meals and beverage for representatives Charles Portwood, R-Ballwin, Ted Hoskins, D-Berkeley, Walt Bivins, R-St. Louis, Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, Rachel Storch, D-St. Louis, Rick Stream,R-Kirkwood, and Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis.
Sinquefield's lobbyist also paid for tickets and meals for several family members and staff.

SiriComm bankruptcy to be handled out of Kansas City

Proceedings in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Joplin-based SiriComm will be handled through the federal court in Kansas City.

Judge Jerry Vinters issued the order Dec. 27, at the request of SiriComm and its attorney. In their motion, SiriComm officials said:

The Debtor’s officers reside in the Kansas City area. Upon information and belief, most counsel will need to travel to Missouri to attend the various proceedings in this matter. Kansas City is, therefore, the most convenient forum. Additionally, counsel for Debtor is located in Kansas City.

A motion is pending before the court to allow SiriComm to continue operating during the bankruptcy.

More information about the bankruptcy can be found in the Dec. 21 Turner Report.

McCarthy, Raphael dismissed as defendants in former MSU instructor's wrongful dismissal lawsuit

Missouri State University dance instructor Rhythm McCarthy and former head of the Department of Theater and Dance Jay Raphael have been dismissed as defendants in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by former drama instructor George Cron.
Documents filed Dec. 4 in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals indicate Cron, Raphael and Ms. McCarthy reached an agreement and the case against the two was dismissed with each side bearing its burden of the costs. The case was dismissed with prejudice meaning Cron can no longer sue the two.
The action leaves the Missouri State University Board of Governors as the only remaining defendant.
Cron filed the appeal after his suit was dismissed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The following description of Cron's lawsuit comes from the April 3, 2006 Turner Report:

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.

Wyrick accused of stealing car

An arrest warrant has been issued on a car theft charge for Travis Wyrick, 21, Joplin, according to Jasper County Circuit Court records.
Wyrick was reportedly the driver during the Jan. 17, 2005, hit-and-run accident that took the life of Jamison Alexander, 17, a Joplin High School student. A felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident was initially filed and the case was well on its way to trial when the charge apparently was dropped. A civil suit has been filed against Wyrick in connection with Mr. Alexander's death.
Since that time, Wyrick has continued having trouble with the law. Court records show Wyrick has pleaded guilty to assault charges in Jasper and Newton counties.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Globe promises more state coverage

The Joplin Globe plans to step up its coverage of Missouri state government, according to Editor Carol Stark's column in today's edition.
That plan includes coverage from Missouri Southern State University student Alexandria Nicolas, editor of the university's newspaper, The Chart, as well as an unspecified form of coverage from Globe reporters:

We’ll be watching the Legislature more closely this session, using Alexandria Nicolas, editor of Missouri Southern State University’s paper, The Chart, to help us in our reporting. We’re also committed to putting out own reporters in place to cover some of the events as they unfold in the Legislature.

We’ll be giving the Missouri presidential primary special attention, beginning with a series of Sunday stories next month, an in-depth preview of the primary, and of course, coverage of that event.

Hopefully, the Globe's coverage will not be limited to simply self-serving quotes from our elected officials on whatever legislation may be the center of attention.

Denver Post: Rod Smith era may be over

The most famous athlete to ever come out of Missouri Southern State University, Denver Bronco wide receiver Rod Smith, may be nearing the end of the line as he faces hip replacement surgery, according to an article in today's Denver Post:

The end is near, if not here. Forget weeks or months. Rod Smith's final appearance on the Broncos' sideline could come this afternoon at Invesco Field at Mile High.

You won't be able to feel his pain, but you can see it. Smith, the most prolific receiver in Broncos history, won't be walking off into the sunset. Hobbling is more like it.

His left hip is hurting so badly, he could undergo replacement surgery in a matter of weeks. If his career, the one that has been equal parts unlikely and illustrious, ends on such a downer, Smith can live with it.

"I was always told that you play this game as long as you can, and if I've played my last football game, I did that," Smith said. "So I'm OK with that. I'm happy, I'm happy. Trust me, to be here 14 years, I'm happy. It is what it is. It's part of life. I'm not going to dwell on it."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The year in review concludes with December 2007

And now for the conclusion of our review of the final six months of 2007 in The Turner Report:

Dec. 27- Sen. Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield, filed a joint resolution asking for a change in term limits. Clemens, of course, in close to the end of his final term.

Dec. 26- A lawsuit in federal court in California reveals the extent of the debt that led Joplin-based SiriComm to file for bankruptcy.

Dec. 26- Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson announced he will resign next month.

Dec. 26
- GateHouse Media announced the "resignation" of Randy Cope, the former Neosho Daily News publisher who has been with the company from the outset.

Dec. 22
- Ron Richard, R-Joplin joined the Mitt Romney team.

Dec. 21- The Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office opposes Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White begin put under house arrest.

Dec. 21- Joplin-based SiriComm files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Dec. 20- Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, pre-filed a bill which would prevent legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists.

Dec. 19- A Jasper County public defender filed a motion with the Missouri Supreme Court to have Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White released and put under house arrest.

Dec. 19- Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, pre-filed a bill which would require Missouri teachers to be tested every five years.

Dec. 19- Roy Leon Willis, who killed a Lamar woman, had been freed over the prosecuting attorney's objections after he violated a protection order.

Dec. 19- Rep. Ed Emery, a former supporter of Fred Thompson's presidential candidacy, jumped ship and opted for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Dec. 14- Another co-defendant of Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, pleaded guilty in a bank and credit card fraud case.

Dec. 14- A pre-sentencing investigation was ordered for a former Department of Social Services worker who pleaded guilty of identity theft and fraud charges.

Dec. 12- A February trial date is set for the bank and credit card fraud case of Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis.

Dec. 12- A political action committee was formed by Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City.

Dec. 11- I issued an appeal to the authors of the sealed letters sent to the judge in the Nathan Cooper trial, asking them to share their letters with The Turner Report. As you might expect, I have not received any responses.

Dec. 11- Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, will head former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's Missouri campaign team.

Dec. 6- The judge in the Nathan Cooper case was bombarded with letters asking for leniency for the disgraced former representative.

Dec. 5- Rep. Marilyn Ruestman announces support for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for president.

Dec. 3- GateHouse Media completed the purchase of the Pittsburg Morning Sun and more than a dozen other newspapers.

Dec. 3- Rep. Charles Portwood, R-St. Louis County, continues to pile up gifts from lobbyists.

Dec. 2- Some of the Joplin-area legislators have dramatically increased the amount of gifts they have received from lobbyists from 2006 to 2007.

Dec. 1- Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, accepted football tickets from MU lobbyists.

The year in review: November 2007

Among the stories featured in The Turner Report in November:

Nov. 30- A former Department of Social Services employee pleaded guilty to identity theft charges.

Nov. 30- KOAM anchor Rhonda Justice announced her departure after three years.

Nov. 27- In an excerpt from The Turner Report book, I noted how Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, attempted to derail nursing home reform, shortly after accepting a considerable amount of campaign cash from a new lobbyist for the Missouri Health Care Association.

Nov. 26- The Missouri Supreme Court will hear a request on Feb. 28 to have Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White's case returned to the juvenile division.

Nov. 21- Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, has filed papers indicating she will seek statewide office in 2012 when she will be 79 years old.

Nov. 17- The MySpace page of David Sesley Spears, who is accused of murdering his nine-year-old stepdaughter Rowan Ford of Stella, disappeared.

Nov. 16- A Bell County, Texas jury convicted East Newton High School graduate Timothy Doan Payne of murdering two people connected to a Killeen strip club.

Nov. 15- Only four of the original 17 defendants, including Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, remain in a bank and credit card fraud case.

Nov. 14- Rep. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, a recipients of loads of casino-connected contributions, says he will reintroduce legislation to remove loss limits.

Nov. 10-
The MySpace page of Chris Collings, 32, Wheaton, one of two men accused of the rape and murder of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella, is examined.

Nov. 9- The Missouri Supreme Court issued a writ preventing Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Mouton from proceeding with the trial of Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White.

Nov. 9- Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, will be tried separately from other defendants on bank and credit card fraud charges.

Nov. 8-
Rep. Rodney Hubbard, D-St. Louis, has received more than $5,000 in lobbyists' gifts this year.

Nov. 6- The stepfather of murdered nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella, David Wesley Spears, admitted to committing a crime, driving without a license, as the police continued to gather evidence prior to arresting him. This post also noted a DWI charge against Spears and its slow progress through the judicial system.

Nov. 6- A settlement, so far undisclosed, was reached in a civil rights lawsuit against Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Nov. 5- Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, explained why he supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president.

Nov. 4- Court documents show Evan R. Daniels of Polymer Wood Technologies, the company set to take over part of the old O'Sullivan Industries plant in Lamar, has a record of bankruptcies and broken promises.

Nov. 1- Missouri Ethics Commission documents show a lobbyist for retired billionaire voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield lavishing gifts on St. Louis city officials.

Nov. 1- Former Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, spread more of billionaire voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield's money around to state legislators.

The year in review: October 2007

October 2007 was another busy month for The Turner Report:

Oct. 31- Another defendant in the bank and credit card fraud case in which Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, is charged, pleaded guilty.

Oct. 30- The Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear Freeman Health Systems' appeal of a decision keeping it from taking over control of METS.

Oct. 26- The federal government filed papers indicating it wanted to try Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis separately in a bank and credit card fraud case.

Oct. 24- The corporate hog farming industry added a big gun when it hired former Rep. Jewell Patek as a lobbyist.

Oct. 23- GateHouse Media purchased the Pittsburg Morning Sun, Independence Examiner, and more than a dozen other newspapers.

Oct. 22
- A former Missouri Department of Revenue employee entered a guilty plea in an identity theft case.

Oct. 19- The indictment against an alleged accomplice of former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, was dismissed.

Oct. 19- Two more guilty pleas were scheduled in the bank and credit card fraud case in which Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, is one of the defendants.

Oct. 19- The Plaster family of Lebanon has contributed $13,400 to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Oct. 17- State Board of Education member Peter Herschend and his wife contributed the maximum amount to the Senate campaign of Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, the House's top educational voucher supporter.

Oct. 17- Seventeen oversized contributions were made to the campaign account of Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, after the Missouri Supreme Court ruling reinstating the limits.

Oct. 17- Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, received $6,375 in contributions from sources connected to Robert Plaster of Lebanon, less than a month after he inserted wording in legislation that would benefit Plaster.

Oct. 16- Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, once again paid her National Rifle Association dues with money from her campaign account.

Oct. 16- Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, helped ensure his election as speaker-in-waiting by contributing nearly $100,000 to the campaign accounts of his fellow Republican House members.

Oct. 15
- Former Missouri State University drama instructor George Cron appealed the dismissal of his wrongful discharge lawsuit in federal court.

Oct. 15- Sen. Chris Koster, D-Harrisonville, a candidate for attorney general, received nearly $100,000 in contributions from committees established by retired billionaire voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield.

Oct. 15
- Lobbyists contribute $3,500 to the campaign account of Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin.

Oct. 13- Retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield contributed $100,000 to the nation's leading voucher supporter organization All Children Matter.

Oct. 12- Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, closed his campaign committee, and indicated he plans to run for the Carl Junction R-1 Board of Education.

Oct. 12- A former Missouri Department of Revenue employee agreed to plead guilty to fraud and identity theft charges.

Oct. 10- Rep. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, told the Springfield News-Leader that he did not accept lobbyists' gifts, but his campaign finance documents indicate he received more than $8,000 in campaign contributions connected to lobbyists during a two-day period in 2005.

Oct. 10- Friends of the 158th, a shell committee formed by former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau closed, distributing its money to local charities.

Oct. 10- Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, returned excess campaign contributions according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.

Oct. 10- A settlement was reached in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Joplin Globe.

Oct. 9- Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, accepted a $7,500 campaign contribution from retired billionaire and voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield.

Oct. 6- Rep. Rodney Hubbard, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, topped the latest Turner Report Hall of Shame as the representatives accepting the most gifts from lobbyists.

Oct. 6- Justice for Juveniles, the group fighting for the release of Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, is also battling to free Charles "Andy" Williams, the killer at Santee High School.

Oct. 1- Ameristar Casinos paid for a cruise for Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, and a number of legislators.

Oct. 1- Former Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, began his lobbying work for retired billionaire voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield, paying for tickets and meals for a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.

The year in review: September 2007

The year 2007, as has been previously noted, was a busy one for The Turner Report,as the blog has continued to focus on stories that have gone unnoticed, undernoticed, or simply ignored, as well as providing links and offering commentary on information from other sources.
Some of the stories first featured during September 2007 in The Turner Report included:

Sept. 26- Two more defendants pleaded guilty in an identity fraud scheme that was underreported by the traditional media after the initial press release from the attorney general's office. The case pointed out the vulnerability of our personal information to unscrupulous workers in the state's Revenue and Social Services departments, and the slipshod way the government has of checking the backgrounds of its employees.

Sept. 26- Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, hired a powerful lobbyist to serve as his lawyer in the Isle of Capri case.

Sept. 25- This excerpt from The Turner Report book showed how the government and the media were in large part to blame for the November 2006 Anderson Guest House fire in which 11 people were killed.

Sept. 18- Speaker-elect Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has a number of lobbyists, some listed as "self-employed" included among his campaign donors.

Sept. 15- Eight Democrats, including recent newcomer to the party Chris Koster were among the 10 tabbed for the Missouri Senate version of The Turner Report's Hall of Shame, earning the honor by accepting the most gifts from lobbyists.

Sept. 15- This commentary made the point that the federal government disrespected Missourians with the way it handled the investigation of former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau.

Sept. 14- Former Rep. Col. Jack Jackson paid $258,000 to a consulting firm with ties to Saudi Arabia and Enron. At the time, Jackson was considering a primary battle against Gov. Matt Blunt.

Sept. 12- The path to speaker-elect status for Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was lined with contributions from special interests and lobbyists.

Sept. 12
- The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals thwarted Freeman Health System's efforts to gain full control over Metro Emergency Transport System (METS).

Sept. 11- The Sept. 11 edition of the Joplin Globe featured no page-one coverage of Gen. Petraeus' report on Iraq, and no mention at all of the anniversary of 9-11, but did have a page one photo and story about Britney Spears.

Sept. 1- The Turner Report noted that the ill-fated visit to the Isle of Capri casino in which Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, Rep. Joe Aull, D-Kansas City, and lobbyist Lynne Schlosser were arrested for Smith's attempts to gamble with Aull's identification, was part of a lobbyist-financed junket, in which other legislators also participated, a bit of information which I cannot recall being featured anywhere else to this date.

Sept. 1- Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, has more than doubled the amount of gifts he received from lobbyists from 2006 to 2007.

Murder conviction of Granby man among Texas newspaper's top stories for 2007

Today's Killeen Daily Herald in Texas features an article reviewing top trials of 2007 in its reading area. Among those are the trials of Timothy Payne, an East Newton High School graduate for his involvement in the 2004 strip club murders in that city, as well as the conviction earlier in the year of his accomplice, Richard Lee Tabler, the man who actually committed the murders. The following passage about Payne is included in the article:

A Bell County jury, after six hours and six minutes of deliberating, found Timothy Doan Payne guilty of capital murder on Nov. 15, the last murder trial of 2007 in Bell County.

Payne was most known for his involvement with Tabler in the killings as the follower who tagged along with the quadruple murderer, videotaping the second killing.

The jury of seven women and five men came out to announce their verdict shortly after 10 p.m. in the trial of the 21-year-old former Fort Hood soldier.

Payne told the jury his account of the night, portraying himself as a man who got caught up in the secret revenge plot of Richard Tabler's, one that put him in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Brett Marti resigns as Monett coach

Monett head boys basketball coach Brett Marti, a Lamar High School graduate, has resigned from his coaching and teaching duties, according to an article in the Friday Monett Times. No reason for the abrupt resignation was given:

According to Superintendent Dr. Charles Cudney, the letter submitted offered a resignation from all positions with R-1 district, effective immediately.

The board moved to place Ty Goetz, who had served as the assistant head boys basketball coach, as the interim head coach for the remainder of the basketball season.

Cudney said no further details surrounding the resignation would be released.

Boston Globe: Romney approved funding for abortion clinic

Approval for funding for an abortion provider was okayed by Gov. Mitt Romney's administration just a couple of months before he proclaimed his newly-found steadfast opposition to abortion, according to an article in today's Boston Globe:

Former governor Mitt Romney's economic development agency granted initial approval to a tax-exempt bond last year for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Worcester that will provide abortions, just two months before he left office and began highlighting his antiabortion position as a presidential candidate.

more stories like this
With a week to go, conservative Iowans like Huckabee
Evolving history
Romney dismisses photo suggesting he attended Planned Parenthood event
Romney says he will keep campaign promises despite changing views
Romney to run ad against Huckabee
Asked about the $5 million financial deal yesterday, the Romney campaign said the former governor was not aware it was under consideration when Planned Parenthood won preliminary approval in November 2006.

Romney repeatedly used the power of his office while governor to advance socially conservative positions, including restricting stem cell research, pushing abstinence-only sex education in schools, and vetoing a bill to increase access to emergency contraception in hospitals.

In the case of the abortion clinic funding deal, the Republican candidate's spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney would have attempted to block it - if he had known about it.

"Mitt Romney is prolife," Fehrnstrom said. "He did not know about this loan. It was made by an agency that does not report to the governor. If it did, he would have told them not to do it."

The year in review: August 2007

The Turner Report review of the final six months of 2007 continues with the blog's top stories from August:

Aug. 30- Former Sen. Jim Talent received $15,000 from a senator caught up in a prostitute scandal.

Aug. 29- Former Rep. Nathan Cooper asked for (but eventually did not receive) permission to take a two-week trip to the Phillipines as he awaited sentencing on immigration fraud charges.

Aug. 28- The leadership committee of the infamous Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, contributed nearly $25,000 to former U. S. senators John Ashcroft and Jim Talent.

Aug. 27- Two years after his death, Wal-Mart heir John Walton is continuing to fund the educational voucher movement.

Aug. 26- Voucher proponents All Children Matter poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into an Ohio election.

Aug. 20- Sen. Chris Koster, after jumping from the Republican to the Demcoratic side of the aisle, pulled a photo of him with former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Rep. Sam Graves from his website.

Aug. 18- Sen. (and attorney general candidate) Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, failed to provide information about many of his contributors in his campaign finance reports, and also failed to mention the occupations of numerous lobbyists who contributed to his campaign.

Aug. 13- Former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, was involved with some "dangerous" people during his immigration fraud activities, according to court records.

Aug. 11- Sen. Chris Koster, D-Harrisonville, continued his purge of his Republican past, removing a photo of him shaking hands with Vice President Dick Cheney from his website.

Aug. 10- Disgraced former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, had planned a run for statewide office, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.

Aug. 10- The first federal lawsuit was filed against ESSI and its CEO Michael Shanahan.

Aug. 9- Former Rep. Nathan Cooper shut down his campaign committee and gave $65,000 to the 158th District Committee.

Aug. 8- Lobbyist Lynne Schlosser, one of those charged in the Isle of Capri case, has a long history of ignoring rules.

Aug. 6- Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, arrested in the Isle of Capri incident, is a big-time recipient of casino cash.

Aug. 3- Former Rep. Carl Bearden, now a lobbyist, added retired billionaire and voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield to his client list.

The year in review: July 2007

2007 has been another good year for The Turner Report, thanks to its readers. According to CQ Counter, one of the three counters I use to keep track of the blog's readership, the site has already received more than 173,000 unique visitors during the year, over 30,000 more than last year, reaching an all-time high on Aug. 13 of 1,154 readers. Sadly, that was the day the blog was sought out by those wanting more information about the murder of three Micronesian church leaders in Neosho.
The Turner Report has also received more than 1,000 visitors on several other occasions, according to CQ Counter.
CQ Counter does miss some traffic, which is usually caught by one of the other two services I use, Site Meter or Go Stats. The Turner Report has recorded more than 1,500 during a 24-hour period on both of those sites. While this blog is a far cry from The Daily Kos or the Huffington Post or Talking Points or any of those other blogs that draw tens of thousands in traffic daily, it is still continuing to grow. It was only a couple of years ago that I was excited when I first broke 50 visitors in one day.
On July 3, I ran a review of the first six months of 2007. For those who are new to The Turner Report, or for those wanting to refresh their memories about the top stories of 2007, many of which were either printed only on this blog or were published here first (my detractors will quickly say this was because no one else wanted them), this post will begin a review of the final six months of the year, beginning with July:

July 31- Sen. Chris Koster, D-Harrisonville, accepted $891.23 in gifts from the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys during a three-day period in June.

July 31- Former Department of Revenue Division of Taxation employee Krystal Stephens pleaded guilty to identity theft.

July 24- Retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield poured $6,400 into Republican Steve Helms' 2006 effort to unseat Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield.

July 24- Former Rep. Carl Bearden becomes a lobbyist for Pelopidas, an organization pushing educational vouchers.

July 20- In a story of particular importance to the Lamar community, The Turner Report was the first to note that Lamar Grain and Feed filed for bankruptcy leaving several creditors high and dry.

July 19- Mr. and Mrs. Rex Sinquefield make maximum contributions to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

July 19- The top two contributors to the Swift Boat campaign that helped derail Sen. John Kerry's presidential bid in 2004, contributed thousands to Gov. Matt Blunt's campaign.

July 18- The Turner Report detailed how educational voucher proponents are preparing to make a major push in Missouri.

July 18- In another story totally ignored by the traditional media, the blog provided information about the early release from prison of Paul Murray, the Turnpike Killer, who murdered Sheila Mayfield of Jasper in 1994.

July 14- Voucher proponent Charles Norval Sharpe contributed $5,000 to the campaign of Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City.

July 13- Campaign documents show Rep. Carl Bearden, who left the House to become a lobbyist was representing special interest and not his constituents.

July 1- It took the Missouri attorney general's office more than seven weeks to return tickets to a Kenny Chesney concert provided by MU lobbyist Steven Knorr.

July 1- Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, the most steadfast foe of the minimum wage increase, had no problems when it came to latching on to lobbyists' freebies.

July 1- University of Missouri lobbyist Stephen Knorr doled out $1,587 in tickets to a Kenny Chesney concert.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Jan. 25 pre-trial hearing set in Neosho church killing case

A Jan. 25 pre-trial hearing is scheduled in Newton County Circuit Court for Eikan Elan Saimon, charged with three counts of first degree murder and six other felony charges, in connection with the Aug. 12 shootings at the First Congregational Church in Neosho.
The killings took place during an afternoon service of a Micronesian church. The three murdered men were the church's pastor and two deacons. Saimon's trial is scheduled for June 23. A Greene County jury will be brought to Newton County for the trial.

Neosho rapist to remain behind bars

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals rejected a Neosho rapist's claims that he did not receive a fair trial.
In a decision handed down today, the court ruled no errors were made in the trial of Jeffrey Jendro, 40, Neosho, who was found guilty of statutory rape and statutory sodomy Feb. 8 by a Newton County jury. Jendro was sentenced to 30 years on the rape charge and 40 years on the sodomy charge, with the sentences to run consecutively.
Jendro had sex with a 13-year-old girl on Aug. 3, 2006.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Turner Report book available at Lamar Democrat

As of Thursday, copies of all three of my books are available at the Lamar Democrat, where I spent approximately nine years as a reporter and editor.
Copies of the latest book, The Turner Report, are on sale there, as well as my two novels, Small Town News and Devil's Messenger.
Copies of The Turner Report are available in Joplin at Hastings, Always Buying Books, and Changing Hands Book Shop, in Carthage at Pat's Books, and in Neosho at Books N Java.
The books can also be purchased online at and numerous other websites.

Marshfield senator wants term limit changes

Sen. Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield, has prefiled a joint resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would increase the time legislators can serve and make their terms longer.
SJR 39, prefiled Dec. 19, calls for representatives to be elected every four years instead of every other year, and be eligible for three four-year terms.
Senators, currently elected every four years would be eligible to serve two six-year terms under Clemens' proposal.
Clemens was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and is coming to the end of his time under the current limit of two four-year terms.

Comments will be moderated from now on

Since I started this blog more than four years ago, I have allowed readers to post comments and have removed only a few of them, these being for the most part for libelous content or for use of the type of language I do not want associated with this blog.

I have allowed readers to make all kinds of comments on my teaching ability (or lack thereof), my ability as a reporter (or lack thereof), and have even printed a large number of personal attacks from people, always anonymous, who would not dare make such comments if they had to make them in person.

Over the last few weeks, I have had a reader (perhaps more than one) who has taken this freedom to a gutter level, making continuous personal comments about me, many of which have been allowed to remain on the blog for hours since I am not checking it every minute of every day.

Because of this gutless coward, and others like him, I have finally been forced to take a course of action I had hoped to never more comments will be added to this blog until I have approved of them.

This does not mean that the comments that make it through will be restricted to those which agree with what I have written. People who disagree with me will have their comments printed as long as they refrain from using obscenities or making libelous comments.

I am sure the person or persons who have been making these remarks over the past few weeks and their ilk will begin crying "censorship." They can cry all they want. This has nothing to do with censorship. No one is preventing these people from following my rules, and if they are not comfortable with those rules, there is no one stopping them from starting their own blogs and ripping into me every day if that is what they want to do. They can even do something novel and actually put their names on what they write.

I have worked hard to make this blog a daily stop for hundreds of people, most of whom, even those who vehemently disagree with me, would never dream of stooping to the reptilian level of this small group of anonymous cowards. I do not intend to let these people continue to ride on my coattails any longer.

I apologize for the inconvenience this will cause for many readers, most of whom have done nothing to merit this kind of treatment, but, as with most of things in life, it is always a few inconsiderate people who create problems for the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

When did Rebecca Kanan become Globe editor in chief

Apparently, former Joplin Business Journal Editor Rebecca A. Kanan has jumped to the top of the ladder at the Joplin Globe.
On Wednesday, the Globe promoted its new "Profiles" section, and now the official introduction has been posted online...written by Rebecca A. Kanan, in what is referred to as "a note from the editor in chief."
Just what place that puts her in the hierarchy of the Globe, or if it just means that she is simply the head honcho of the Globe's latest frivolous niche magazine is not certain and no clues are offered in the article.

There are stories everywhere. They are a fact of our existence. We would have no life without stories, for they are the substance of our days, the fabric of our conversation, the essence of our history.

Many years ago, people were more in tune with their story-telling selves. If someone asked how a person was, the resulting answer might be a ten-minute account of the past few hours or few days. Correspondence used to be composed in rich details turning daily routines into delightful trips. The first poetry was written to capture the sagas and epics of existences that have long since passed from our eyes and views.

In the pages this new publication, PROFILES, we will seek to revive the story element of life but also play up the unpredictability of the lives it delivers.

You’ll read about people who have prospered despite the odds, adventurers who have challenged the rules, artists and craftspeople who have risen to the heights with their specialties, teachers and students whose lives have inspired or whose perseverance has moved others to continue trying, and everyday folk whose desire and determination have affected the spirit of people they meet. You will learn “the rest of the story” about people you might not even know live in your community.

The stories will seek to enlighten and entertain, to uplift and inspire, and perhaps to evoke a new interest in storytelling.

We would like to hear from the readers about people they believe would make good subjects of a profile. It’s your neighbors and your friends that make our PROFILES.

Pardon me for misunderstanding the nature of journalism, but isn't that what newspapers are supposed to do anyway? Instead of hiring an editor and wasting reporters on these niche magazines and the useless Joplin Herald, the Globe would be making a wiser investment, putting more reporters in the field to deliver copy for the print and online editions.

Blunt offers plan to help Empire deal with ice storm costs

During a visit to Joplin today, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt offered a plan for the federal government to help cover the costs of the recent ice storm:

Blunt said he intends to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to seek reimbursement for Empire.

“Under the Federal Emergency Management Act, co-ops and public-owned utilities can get up to 75 percent reimbursement,” Blunt said. “I think it’s reasonable to ask for federal aid to keep ratepayers’ costs down.”

Blunt said he wants to allow federal aid to help with repairs so costs aren’t passed along to ratepayers.

Empire reported that it sustained $31 million in damage from the January ice storm and $15 million from the ice storm this month.

SiriComm stock trading at three cents per share

In its article on Joplin-based SiriComm's Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Kansas City Star notes that the company's stock price closed at three cents per share today:

Since its beginning in 2000, Siricomm has installed about 450 Wi-Fi hot spots in 44 states, according to regulatory filings. But the company has been in turmoil for the past year, firing its former chief executive in June and accepting the resignation of its chief financial officer in May.

KOAM News dominates November sweeps

KOAM News continued to dominate Nexstar Broadcasting KODE and KSNF in the November sweeps, according to the Nielsen ratings.
Channel 7 recorded more viewers than KSNF and KODE combined for the morning news show, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. At noon, when KODE shows the soap opera All My Children, KOAM had more than three times as many viewers as KSN.

KSNF took second place in each time period, except for the 5 p.m. news, where KODE, likely helped by its Oprah lead-in, edged KSNF.

6 a.m. to 7 p.m. KOAM 14,000, KODE 4,000, KSNF 7,000
Noon- KOAM 13,000, KSNF 4,000
5 p.m.- KOAM 25,000, KODE 10,000 KSNF 9,000
6 p.m.- KOAM 34,000, KODE 13,000, KSNF 15,000
10 p.m.- KOAM 35,000, KODE 11,000, KSNF 13,000

KFJX, Fox 14's 9 p.m. newscast drew 9,000 viewers.

California lawsuit holds key to SiriComm bankruptcy

A lawsuit filed in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of California reveals the massive debt that led Joplin-based SiriComm to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday. In court documents filed Nov. 19, officials from ViaSat, a Los Angeles company, said SiriComm owned the company $1,114,246.48, plus 9.5 percent interest per annum. After giving SiriComm numerous opportunities to pay off the debt, while continuing to work with the networking company, ViaSat terminated service on Nov. 16, the court documents indicate.
The company asked for $1,153,305.10 in damages.
Though the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed the following day, the huge debt was one of those listed in SiriComm's bankruptcy filing.

SiriComm reported $3,991,222 in assets and $3,912,400.16 in debts. Among those listed as unsecured creditors in court documents are ViaSat, Los Angeles, Calif. $1,850,041.32, Henry P. Hoffman, 3820 Old Orchard Road, Joplin, $187,872,60; and Idling Solutions, Plano, Texas, $168,432.

Newton County prosecuting attorney will not seek re-election

Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson will not run for another term.

In a letter addressed to the citizens of Newton County, Watson, who has been prosecuting attorney for the past 14 years, explained his reasoning:

To the citizens of Newton County:

Thank you for allowing me to serve fourteen years as your Prosecuting Attorney. It has been an honor and a privilege. Many of you I have served have become enduring friends. You entered my office under stressful circumstances and were always kind to me. I will be forever thankful for you. I hope my staff and I have been good public servants.

While I have been most richly blessed by the opportunity of being your prosecuting attorney, I am today announcing my resignation effective January 11, 2008. I decided some time ago that I would not seek a fifth term of office in 2010. Fresh ideas from new leadership can provide positive changes to any office. Perhaps now is the time for that to occur here.

The Newton County Republican Committee Chairman has been notified of my gratitude for their support and service to the County. They shall send their recommendation to Governor Blunt for an appointed replacement until the next general election.

As for the future, it is a wonderful thing when the opportunity comes to fulfill a lifelong dream. That has arisen for me now, and I look forward to an exciting 2008.

Happy New Year to all,

Scott Watson

Anderson Guest House owner's trial reset for April 21

The fraud trial of Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont, originally scheduled for Jan. 7, has been postponed until April 21, according to an order filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Dupont's attorney, Stuart Huffman, Springfield, asked for the delay because he has trials scheduled in January and February, according to court records.

Dupont is charged with defrauding the Missouri Medicaid program from Sept. 20, 2003, to Sept. 20, 2007. The fraud charges surfaced during the investigation of a November 2006 fire at the Anderson facility in which 11 people were killed.
Dupont remains free on bond.

Globe launching new magazine

In the "Tomorrow's News Now" e-mail sent out by the Joplin Globe a few moments ago, the newspaper mentioned it will have an article Thursday on a new magazine it is launching, a magazine that profiles "your neighbors and your friends."

The last thing we need is another Joplin Globe niche magazine designed to appeal to some segment of the advertising sector (sometimes with initial success, but seldom long-lasting). Each time one of these niche publications has started, it has diverted valuable resources from the main product.

Why doesn't someone actually try pouring resources into the newspaper and website and forget about meaningless niche publications and special editions?

GateHouse Media cuts ties with Cope

GateHouse Media officially announced the "resignation" of co-president and co-chief operating officer Randy Cope today in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
According to the filing, Cope told the company Dec. 19 that he planned to resign effective Jan. 2:

In connection with his resignation, and in lieu of any payments or benefits to which he would be entitled under his employment agreement and management stockholder agreement with the Company, the Company will (a) accelerate the vesting of all of Mr. Cope’s outstanding restricted share grants to the effective date of his resignation, (b) continue to pay Mr. Cope his base salary for a period of two months following the effective date of his resignation, and (c) continue to provide Mr. Cope, for a period of up to 12 months following the effective date of his resignation, coverage under the Company’s medical plan at the same levels as such benefits have been provided to Mr. Cope and, in connection therewith, Mr. Cope will continue to make contributions at the employee-required levels.

Cope's departure will apparently end more than half a century of involvement of the Bush/Cope family in the Neosho Daily News, one of the newspapers owned by GateHouse Media. The family sold the Daily to American Publishing, the United States subsidiary of Hollinger International. Cope and his father, former Neosho Daily News Publisher Ken Cope, remained with the company and, in fact, climbed quickly to the upper levels of company management.
The smaller newspapers in the company broke away (with the help of payments to Conrad Black and David Radler) in 1998 to become Liberty Group Publishing. The name was changed to GateHouse Media two years ago.

Cope appeared to be on the fast track to success with the company, especially after the departure of former Liberty Group Publishing CEO Ken Serota, but his star began to diminish after the arrival of former Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc (owner of the Joplin Globe) CEO Michael Reed and the hiring of several Reed confederates at positions with more power than that held by Cope.

Cope's position as of today's announcement is "co-president and co-chief operating officer responsible for our Southern Midwest Region," according to the GateHouse Media website. Cope had been executive vice president from April 2002 to June 2005.

From 1995 to 1998, Cope was publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times in Fayetteville. Prior to that, he had been publisher of the Neosho Daily News, a position he resumed when he joined Liberty Group Publishing in 1998 and held until he ceded that responsibility to Rick Rogers in June 2005, when a news release from Liberty indicated Cope and Scott Champion were the new heads of the company replacing Serota. As noted in the June 7, 2005, Turner Report:

Neosho's Randy Cope is officially the top man at Liberty Group Publishing. At least he will be one of two who will share that position.
The announcement was made today, along with the announcement that the purchase of Liberty by Fortress Investment Group LLC has been finalized. The move had previously been publicized in the Daily, with the announcement that Rick Rogers had been promoted to the publisher position, and in Editor & Publisher, a newspaper industry trade publication.

When Fortress Investment Group purchased Liberty, it pushed for the hiring of Reed, after which Cope's power and influence in the company diminished.

It will be interesting to see what the removal of Cope will do to the area newspapers which have been affected so much by his decisions of the past few years. Chip Watson,the manager for the newspapers in this region, who has been with Cope from the American Publishing days through the years at the Northwest Arkansas Times and then back to Liberty and GateHouse, has been under fire in recent months and no longer has his chief protector.

The news could also spell trouble for Carthage Press Managing Editor Buzz Ball, whose close ties with the Cope/Bush family extend to the days when his father, Bill Ball, was the Daily's sports editor. Ball has done little to endear himself to Press readers during the months he has been at the helm.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lamar killer dies at Freeman Hospital

Roy Leon Willis, 37, who shot Kelly Dawn Wolfe, 33, to death Tuesday in Lamar, died at Freeman Hospital in Joplin Friday.
More information about the case can be found in the Dec. 19 Turner Report.

Magazine names former Lamar resident named Springfield Person of the Year

GO Magazine, Springfield, has named former Lamar resident Paul Sundy Springfield's Person of the Year. The following passage is taken from the article:

Consider this: less than a year and a half ago, Icon Nightclub, along with the Skinny Improv, Geekerz, Trolley’s, Little Tattoo parlor and a now-defunct plasma clinic, were the only consumer businesses to call Park Central East home (Riad has a Park Central Square address). Since then, the Gillioz has opened along with Tonic Ultralounge, resale boutique Zoey’s, an expanded Skinny and Big Smile Photography. Sundy has added two businesses to the mix—Fedora Social House, set to open in January, and the ultra-successful Big Whiskey’s, the casual beer and bar-food haven that has wrested downtown’s “every man” mantle from the likes of Harpo’s, Springfield Brewing Company and Patton Alley Pub. Park Central East is a thriving block in a downtown struggling to find itself long after most thought it would be over its growing pains.

All of this can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to the well-defined business strategy laid out by Paul and his business partners—upscale but accessible, affordable but not cheap. It’s a strategy that began at Icon but doesn’t end on Park Central East; Paul and friend Jay Hickman opened Parlor 88 on the south side just last summer. From there, Sundy says, he’d like to see a Parlor in every suburb in the country—“the Starbucks of lounges”, as he puts it. In truth, Paul doesn’t know where his journey ends.

Paul Sundy's mother, Sandy Sundy (now Rogers) taught several years at Lamar Elementary School, while his older sister Holly Willhite, is the journalism teacher at Lamar High School.

(Go Magazine photo)

Speaker-elect Richard joins Romney team

Speaker of the House in waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, is the latest to join the presidential endorsement merry-go-round.
Richard has joined those backing the candidacy of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, along with Rep. Barney Fisher, according to a news release from the Romney campaign:

Announcing these new endorsements, Governor Romney said, "With the additions of Speaker-elect Richard and Representative Fisher, we are making our Missouri team even stronger. This leadership team will be instrumental in helping our campaign toward victory in February. I look forward to working with these leaders and am honored they have endorsed my campaign."

Missouri Speaker-elect Ron Richard said, "Governor Romney has a vision for making America stronger, with a strong economy, strong families and a strong military. His vision for conservative change in Washington is resonating with Republican voters in Missouri. Whether it was turning around companies, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Governor Romney has demonstrated that he is the kind of leader we need to lead our country forward. We are proud to be on Mitt Romney's Missouri team."

Richard joins Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, and Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, on the Romney team, which now includes 12 state legislators, including Speaker of the House Rod Jetton. Governor Matt Blunt is also a Romney supporter.

In the Joplin area, Representatives Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, are backing former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, while Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, is in the camp of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office opposes house arrest plan for Memorial Middle School shooter

The Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office opposes any plan to put Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, 14, under house arrest, according to documents filed today in the Missouri Supreme Court.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Nicholas filed "suggestions in opposition" to public defender James Christopher Egan's proposal to either allow White, who will turn 15 on Monday, to be placed under house arrest or to be released on bond.
White was 13 and a seventh grader at Memorial Middle School when he entered the school with an assault rifle on Oct. 7, 2006, fired a shot into the ceiling, and pointed the gun at Principal Steven Gilbreth and tried to pull the trigger, but the gun jammed, according to authorities.
White is charged with two counts of assault and one count each of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape. He has been in jail since that time.
Judge David Mouton ordered that White stand trial as an adult. White's attorney has asked the Supreme Court to overrule that decision. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

SiriComm files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

SiriComm, a Joplin based company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri. The decision to file was made at a special meeting of the company's board of directors on Dec. 10, according to court records.
SiriComm reported $3,991,222 in assets and $3,912,400.16 in debts. Among those listed as unsecured creditors in court documents are ViaSat, Los Angeles, Calif. $1,850,041.32, Henry P. Hoffman, 3820 Old Orchard Road, Joplin, $187,872,60; and Idling Solutions, Plano, Texas, $168,432.

SiriComm employees' difficulties collecting back pay from the company were detailed in an article in the Dec. 20 Joplin Globe:

Asked about the back pay allegedly owed to workers, Mark Grannell, SiriCOMM president and chief executive officer, said Wednesday: “We are really not in a position to comment on it at this point in time.”

He characterized the amounts allegedly owed to the former workers as “extremely misleading” and “grossly misstated.”

When pressed for more answers, he said: “I am not in a position to talk about personnel problems.”

Grannell said former employees are to contact him if they have questions about pay. But some of the employees say they have moved past that, and that attempts to talk to company executives about pay issues have been ignored.

For the company, this is the latest in a string of problems, including lawsuits filed in Newton County. One of those lawsuits was filed in November by Hank Hoffman, a former president and chief executive officer, alleging breach of contract.

Hoffman said he would not comment on the lawsuit.

Accused Rowan Ford killer waives preliminary hearing

A Jan. 22 arraignment is scheduled in Barry County Circuit Court for Chris Collings, 32, Wheaton, one of two men charged with the brutal rape and murder of Rowan Ford, 9, Stella.
During a hearing today, Collings waived his preliminary hearing and was bound over for trial. His new attorney, Monett public defender Clate Baker, represented Collings at the hearing.
Collings is being held without bond in the Barry County Jail. He faces counts of first degree murder, forcible rape, and statutory rape. Authorities contend Collings and Rowan Ford's stepfather, David W. Spears, raped and killed the nine-year-old on Nov. 2.

First lobbyist adds Maryland retirement firm to client list

A Maryland company planning to build a retirement center in St. Louis has hired one of the most influential lobbyists in the state...Andrew Blunt...according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.
Blunt began representing Erickson Retirement Center, Baltimore, Wednesday.
According to an article in the Nov. 24 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Erickson proposal is "to build 1,500 housing units for the elderly and a 225-unit assisted living and skilled nursing center on 88.4 acres along Gravois Road in Affton across from Grant's Farm."

The article says the project "includes housing units in a series of mostly four- or five-story buildings west of Gravois Creek and its flood plain."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Former Lamar Democrat publisher takes top position at Texas newspaper

Former Lamar Democrat Publisher Dennis Garrison took over the reins of the Huntsville Item in Texas today:

Garrison said he was happy to accept the publisher’s position.

“I’m very pleased with the appointment,” Garrison said. “I’ve got some new plans and ideas for the newspaper and it’s going to be a fun and exciting time.”

A Missouri native, Garrison began his work with newspapers as a pressman in 1974 at the Lamar Daily Democrat in Lamar, Mo.

“Working in a small newspaper setting, I learned all aspects of the newspaper business,” Garrison said. “In 1975, I became editor and publisher for the Lamar Daily Democrat along with two small weeklies nearby.”

In 1979, Garrison joined the advertising sales team at the Pittsburg Morning Sun in Pittsburg, Kan., that gave him a new interest in sales.

“I was asked to go and serve as the advertising manager at the Newton Kansan in Newton, Kan., in 1983 and I stayed there for 19 years,” Garrison said. “I love advertising and sales. I really just love the newspaper business as a whole because I get to meet a lot of interesting people.

“I guess the old saying is true — “the ink’s in your blood.’ And that’s pretty much me. I loved the business and stayed with it.”

Garrison and his wife, Karen, who is director of communications at Spring Independent School District, moved to Huntsville in 2002 when he took the position of advertising director at The Item.

“Living in Huntsville has been a great experience for me,” Garrison said. “The people here are fantastic and we just love the community.”

Garrison and Karen enjoy spending time with their two sons — Brandon and Alexander.

Garrison, also an active community member, is a member of the Huntsville Church of Christ and the Huntsville/Walker County Chamber of Commerce Preferred Partners Networking Group.

“It’s great to work with people in the community,” Garrison said. “When people are in need and I am able to help them out through the newspaper, it’s more of a one-on-one experience.”

Dennis Garrison gave me my first job at a daily newspaper when he hired me to be sports editor of the Lamar Democrat in May 1978. I worked there for eight months until Dennis was ordered to cut about half of his staff and I was one of the ones who was let go. A few weeks later, he hired me again to be the editor of the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald. Unfortunately, Dennis was cashiered by Boone Publishing in late February 1979, paving the way for the disastrous Tommy Wilson era, which led to Lamar losing its daily newspaper.

Nodler: Businessman better than academic choice for MU president

Count Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, among those who think the selection of former Sprint Nextel CEO Gary Forsee as president of the University of Missouri is a good one:

State Sen. Gary Nodler, a Republican from Joplin, said a businessman was actually better suited to carry out the duties of university president.

“I don’t believe the president’s duties involve any academic role whatsoever,” Nodler said.

“The University of Missouri is a very large, complex corporate entity with national and international connections, responsibilities and relationships. I absolutely prefer somebody who has the skill set that matches the job.”

Farmington Republican takes aim at lobbyists, awarding of license fee offices

Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, has taken direct aim at two sources of corruption in state government with two bills he has prefiled.
Engler, who has not accepted any gifts from lobbyists, wants his fellow legislators to follow his example and remove the appearance of impropriety. SB 807 calls for the following:

Under the act, members of the general assembly, judges, state-wide elected officials, agency heads, department and division directors of state government, members of state boards and commissions, and decision-making public servants shall not accept expenditures from any lobbyist or lobbyist principal. Public officials shall avoid an ethics violation if they reimburse the lobbyist or lobbyist principal within 45 days after the expenditure is reported to the Ethics Commission.

A news release issued by Engler's office Nov. 29 said, "In order to limit the gifts that elected officials, judges, and other public servants can accept, Sen. Engler will file a bill that would put an end to any gift that is defined as an expenditure by the Ethics Commission. Specifically, the bill would ban public officials from accepting meals, beverages, tickets to sporting events, and other forms of entertainment from lobbyists. Since Sen. Engler was elected to the legislature in 2002, he has not accepted any such gifts from lobbyists.
“I strongly believe that public servants should be in government to serve,” said Sen.
Engler. “Accepting meals, drinks, tickets or other gifts from lobbyists often leaves the public with the perception that public officials become involved in public service for reasons that are less than wholesome. I believe that by banning lobbyist gifts, we can reassure the public that their elected officials have sought their office not for self-serving, but honorable reasons.”

Another bill prefiled by Engler, SB 808, would change the way fee offices are awarded in Missouri. In the same news release, Engler said, "“License fee offices should be awarded to charitable or non-profit entities whenever possible. This bill will put an end to the system of political patronage which has been in effect for far too long, and hopefully result in a situation where the profits are utilized to the benefit of those people who patronize the license fee office.”

These would be great bills for the legislature to pass, but considering the general procedure followed by the Senate, don't expect this bill to ever emerge from committee, and if it does, expect it to be in an extremely watered down version.

Representative wants to raise driving age to 18, ban use of cellphones when driving

Rep. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, has prefiled a bill which would the raise at which teens can apply for a driver's license from 16 to 18.
HB 1492 should be a favorite with the younger set.
Smith has also filed another bill designed to increase safeties on the highways and I would love to see this one enacted. HB 1429 would make it illegal to drive and talk on cellphones at the same time. Exceptions would be made for drivers of emergency vehicles, tow trucks, etc., and for hands-free devices.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Public defender attempts to have Memorial Middle School shooter placed under house arrest

In a motion filed Dec. 17 with the Missouri Supreme Court, public defender James Christoper Egan asked that Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White who has been in jail awaiting trial for the past 14 months, be placed under house arrest.
White is charged with two counts of assault, and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape. White, who will turn 15 next Monday, took an assault weapon into Memorial Middle School Oct. 7, 2006, fired the gun into the ceiling then pointed it at Principal Steven Gilbreth and tried to shoot again, but the weapon jammed, according to the police.
White's trial is on hold while the public defender attempts to have the Supreme Court overrule Judge David Mouton's decision to have the teen stand trial as an adult. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 28.
According to court records, Egan requested that the court consider revisiting bond if the house arrest idea is not approved.

(Photo by Ron Graber)

Lamar police chief: Victim did not have protection order against accused killer

Lamar Police Chief Ron Hager told the Joplin Globe that people at the home where 33-year-old Kelly Dawn Wolfe died this morning had protection orders against accused killer Roy Leon Willis, but Ms. Wolfe did not have one:

Officers found Wolfe shot in the head at her home in the 1700 block of Cherry Street in Lamar shortly before their confrontation with Willis. Hager said the two previously had been in a relationship.

“It’s probably a relationship-based problem,” he said. “But we’re going to have to look into that.”

Police believe Willis sneaked into the home through a back door while Wolfe’s two children were at school, and she was home with her mother and 5-year-old nephew.

Hager said Wolfe’s mother told police that she didn’t realize anybody else was in the home until a shot was fired.

Hager said his department arrested Willis at Wolfe’s home on Oct. 19 for violating a protection order.

“There are some orders of protection against him from people in the home, but not from (the victim),” he said.

Empire: Ice storm damage estimated at $15 million, but don't worry , customers will cover the costs

In a news release issued today, officials with Empire District Electric Company said this month's ice storm, which featured power outages of more than a week for thousands of customers in the Joplin area, cost an estimated $15 million.
A news release from Empire is roughly equivalent to a report on Empire by many area news outlets, since most of those reports sounded or read like news releases from Empire. Naturally, buried at the end of the release is the news that Empire customers will eventually pay the freight for recovery of the costs. The news release reads as follows:

Beginning on Sunday, December 9, a large portion of The Empire District Electric Company (NYSE: EDE: 23.00, +0.13, +0.56%) service area suffered substantial damage as the result of a major winter storm system that brought sleet and freezing rain. Over the course of the three-day storm, approximately 65,000 customers, or nearly 40 percent of the Company's electric customer base, lost service. As of this evening, we expect service to be restored to all customers who are able to receive it.

Property damage and reconstruction costs are currently estimated at approximately $15 million. The allocation of costs associated with the storm is not yet finalized, but Empire expects a significant portion of those expenditures to be capitalized. The impact on earnings per share for the fourth quarter of 2007 is likely to be material. The recovery of these costs is an issue that will be addressed in future rate cases.

Cunningham wants to test teachers, cripple teacher organizations, and crush Missouri State High School Activities Association

Public education's enemy number one Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, has prefiled a bill which would require teachers to be tested every five years.
HB 1476, is co-sponsored by five representatives, including Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City.
The bill was one of three prefiled by Ms. Cunningham, head of the House Education Committee and an outspoken critic of public education.
HB 1477, inappropriately described as establishing a "teachers' bill of right. What it actually tries to do is control any money that goes to teacher organizations and lessen their influence in the state. The bill's 11 co-sponsors include Stevenson and Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin.

Ms. Ruestman and Stevenson also co-sponsored Ms. Cunningham's other pre-filed education bill, HB 1480, which strips the Missouri State High School Activities Association of its power and puts it under the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to be controlled by the State Board of Education.

Accused Lamar killer was freed on his own recognizance after violating protection order

The man accused of killing a 33-year old Lamar woman today was freed without bail less than two months ago, despite the pleas of Barton County Prosecuting Attorney Steven Kaderly.
Barton County Circuit Court records on indicate Roy Leon Willis, 37, Lamar, was arrested Oct. 19 by the Lamar Police Department, charged with violating a full order of protection. At a hearing five days later, court records show Judge Charles Curless released Willis on his own recognizance despite the prosecuting attorney's recommendation.
Court records show Willis failed to show for a Nov. 13 pre-trial hearing. At that point, Judge Curless issued a warrant for his arrest and set his bond at $5,000.

The alleged protection order violation occurred only 52 days after Willis pleaded guilty on Aug. 28 to third degree domestic assault in Vernon County Circuit Court for an incident that occurred July 30. Court records show the charge was amended, indicating Willis was initially charged with a more serious offense. Judge Neal Quitno, a former Vernon County prosecuting attorney, gave Willis a suspended sentence, and then placed him on two years of supervised probation. One of the requirements of the probation was that Willis enter an impact program, something he did, attending his first meeting Sept. 19.

Willis received the suspended sentence four days after three ex parte protection orders were issued against him, one for an adult and the other two for children, in Barton County Circuit Court. The records do not indicate if the adult was Kelly Dawn Wolfe, 33, who was shot to death this morning. A full order of protection in the three cases was issued Aug. 29, the day after Willis' guilty plea in Vernon County.

According to the Joplin Globe, Willis remains in critical condition at Freeman Health Center in Joplin after shooting himself in the head.

Lamar Boosters honor veteran coach Marti

I was unable to get to Lamar High School Tuesday night to see the Booster Club honor Coach Richard Marti, who has been pacing the sidelines for the Tigers for the past 35 years. I did see the coverage of the event on KSN's 10 p.m. newscast.
I enjoyed covering many of Coach Marti's team for most of the years between 1978 and 1999, and first saw his teams play when I was attending high school at East Newton and saw his great 1973-74 team with Kim Rohlfing, Jack Sportsman, and Jamie Hammons that went all the way to the state quarterfinals.
I covered some of his great 1980s boys teams and the two girls teams he guided to district championships in the 1990s.
It is a well deserved honor for Richard Marti, and fittingly his team defeated Stockton, adding to the more than 500 victories Marti has earned.

Joplin man receives life sentence in drug case

A Joplin man received a life sentence Tuesday after being convicted in federal court on drug charges:

Devin Lee Melcher, 30, of Joplin, Mo., was sentenced Monday in Tulsa's U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Prosecutors allege Melcher was the ringleader of a major drug ring that distributed methamphetamine and marijuana in Tulsa and Joplin, Mo.

Melcher, who has a previous state drug conviction, was arrested with two co-defendants in January after an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper stopped the vehicle in which he was riding near Vinita and found 1 1/2 pounds of methamphetamine.

Co-defendants Santana McCauley, 19, and Anthony McCauley, 25, two brothers from Tulsa, and Luis Felipe Faz, 30, also of Tulsa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and are scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.

Shores said prosecutors are pleased with the sentence the judge gave Melcher.

"He was a violent guy, and he was dealing large quantities and large amounts of drugs in Oklahoma and Missouri," Shores said. "This sentence is a great deterrent for the 20-somethings out there who are thinking about dealing drugs."

Melcher initially was charged with several drug counts, possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors allege that Melcher, while in jail, directed people to destroy evidence and solicited someone to harm witnesses and his co-defendants in an effort to prevent them from cooperating with authorities.

A search of Melcher's Joplin apartment in January uncovered more than $17,000 in cash and about a dozen weapons, Shores said.

Emery abandons Thompson, jumps on Huckabee bandwagon; Hunter also backs former Arkansas governor

Eight months ago, Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, jumped on the bandwagon for Law and Order star Fred Thompson, as noted in the April 12 Turner Report:

Add Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, to those who have jumped on the Fred Thompson for President Bandwagon.
Emery and 55 other Republican House members support Thompson, according to a news release issued earlier today by Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles. Bearden did not release the names, but three legislators, including Emery, were quoted in the release, according to Jason Rosenbaum's Columbia Tribune political blog:

Rep. Ed Emery (R-Lamar) said, "Fred Thompson is the kind of conservative Republican that will win big in rural Missouri."

Since Thompson's campaign hit the ground walking, Emery has apparently had a change of mind. On Tuesday, he was included on a list of legislators supporting the presidential candidacy of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
The list also includes Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, Rep. Don Ruzicka, R-Mount Vernon, and Rep. David Sater, R-Cassville, from southwest Missouri.
As noted last week, the chairman of Huckabee's state campaign is Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Aftermath of the ice storm

Power was finally restored at my place at approximately 4 p.m. Monday, more than eight and a half days after it was knocked out by the ice storm. Unfortunately, there are others who are still without power.
The Joplin R-8 School District was back in session Monday. It felt good to get back to work and for once, the students were actually happy to be at school. About 25 percent of them still did not have power as of Monday morning and many had stayed in cold homes, without electricity and without generators. I would say closer to 70 percent of the students and teachers did not have power restored before the weekend.
It makes me wonder about the statistics Empire District Electric Company was throwing around. To give you an idea of how good Empire's public information spokeswoman Amy Bass is, just consider what you heard on the television and radio newscasts and read in the newspapers. It as always something like "less than 16,000 people are now without power." Not one said, "More than 15,000 people still do not have electricity."

When a crisis like this happens, why are the media settling on a p.r. person to provide information? When more than 60,000 are without power (and remember, we are talking about meters here, the number of people without power could very easily have been double or triple that amount), shouldn't the media be demanding comments from the head honcho? And if he does not want to comment, the media should make a note of that.

Jeff Wells, editor of Joplin Tri-State Business, said it best in his column in that publication's latest edition. I don't have it with me now so I will paraphrase. Wells complimented the work of those from Empire and other companies who have been working long hours to restore power, but he pointed out that questions need to be asked concerning why the company appeared to be so unprepared for the ice storm.

Hopefully, Joplin Tri-State Business, the Joplin Globe, and the rest of the media will keep digging until they find some answers.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Schurman candidate for Texas police chief position

Former Joplin Assistant Police Chief Richard Schurman is one of two dozen candidates for the police chief position in Waco, Texas, according to an article in today's Waco Tribune.

Schurman was assistant police chief from 1973 to 1998 and has since worked as police chief in Grandview, Missouri, and Colonial Heights, Va. He current works a homeland security specialist, according to the article.

A decision on the position is expected to be made by the first of the year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Plant closing a consideration as Modine shares fall to 52-week low

Modine Manufacturing stocks fell to a 52-week low after company officials announced they are considering plant closings and other measures to deal with a downturn, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Modine has plants in Joplin, Jefferson City, Camdenton, and Trenton in Missouri:

Modine Manufacturing shares fell to a 52-week low after the company said it was considering plant closures and additional restructuring measures, including talks with lenders.

The Racine-based maker of heating and cooling systems for vehicles and buildings said it was hurting because of a difficult business climate and a slower-than-expected recovery in sales to heavy-duty truck manufacturers.

Modine employs about 7,800 people at 33 facilities worldwide. In a news release, the company said it was "actively formulating plans" for additional restructuring, including plant closures and other significant measures in North America and Western Europe.

After the announcement, Modine shares fell nearly 17% to close at $16.91.