(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)
After waiting for far too long, the Neosho City Council fired City Manager Jan Blasé Monday night.
It is hard to tell what final misdeed finally convinced the council members to lower the boom on Blasé. After all, they kept him after he admitted to illegally putting some of an $895,000 state transportation loan into general revenue to cover budget shortfalls. Under the terms of the loan, the money could only be used for airport hangar construction.
Blasé was still on the job after he admitted to playing a shell game with other city funds. He moved money out of the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) revenue, water and wastewater funds, and the city’s hotel/motel tax to general revenue, when all of that money is earmarked by law for specific purposes.
Those actions have been the subject of a just-concluded investigation by the Newton County Sheriff’s Department. The information has been turned over to the prosecuting attorney.
On top of everything else, Blasé did not even have the guts to take responsibility for his own actions. It was the mold spores that made him do it.
The following Jan Blasé quote comes from a Dec. 14 Joplin Globe article:
“I believe that excessive mold spore levels at City Hall severely affected the health of the finance director and the city manager and that the exposure to high levels of mold spores affected overall performance. The vents in the City Manager office were not hooked to distribution system and that forced all air in the attic directly unto the City Manager every time any unit turned on at the request of a thermostat.”
That was Blasé’s excuse for his illegal use of the state transportation funds. The Globe article continues:
“Asked for further information this afternoon, Blase told the Globe that ‘everybody (at City Hall) was sick’ because of the mold, that he himself suffered from allergies, that he was ‘ill’ for ‘many’ months, and that he suffered from a ‘compromised’ immune system.”
Blase, of course, was referring to the same mold spores which the city paid more than a quarter of a million dollars to remove from City Hall, with only about $32,000 of that amount covered by insurance.
And after all of this, the Neosho City Council just got around to firing him Monday night? Sounds like those mold spores are even more contagious than we thought.
Even after his dismissal, Blasé shows no signs of accepting responsibility for his actions. On the contrary, the now-unemployed former city manager counts himself as one of the good guys.
Blasé told the Joplin Globe, “If good people run when confronted with personal attacks, then local government is a much worse place for that.”
As much as I hate to agree with someone whose immune system has been compromised by mold spores, Jan Blasé is absolutely right. Local government does suffer when good people run from personal attacks.
But what does that have to do with Jan Blasé?
Good people follow the law. They don’t break it just because it is more convenient to do so.
Good people don’t spend more than a quarter of a million of the taxpayers’ money to turn their offices into a Taj Mahal, especially not at a time when the city’s revenues are rapidly shrinking.
Good people take responsibility for their own actions. They don’t blame mold spores for their shortcomings.
To paraphrase the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s quote from the 1988 vice presidential debate. I have known good people. Good people have been friends of mine. You, Jan Blasé, are not good people. And hopefully, you will have the decency not to waste more extremely scarce taxpayer money by fighting your firing.
Please have the class to just walk away and the next time you’re in Neosho, just hope it is not in a Newton County jail cell.