Friday, July 21, 2017

Former Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr sues League City, Texas, mayor

Former Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr filed a lawsuit against League City, Texas, and its mayor Pat Hallisey Wednesday in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas alleging his First Amendment rights were violated when he was fired December 12.

Rohr took the city manager position in League City March 31, 2014, after the Joplin City Council fired him by a 5-4 vote a month earlier.

In the petition, Rohr claims that he was fired after he filed ethics complaints against Hallisey, accusing him of interfering with the city manager's job and staff and violating confidentiality rules.

Despite the significance of Mr. Rohr’s allegations against Mayor Hallisey, in October 2016 the City Council declined to take any action. 

Immediately after the Council announced its decision, Mayor Hallisey remarked that Mr. Rohr was “not good for the city” and would “not be there much longer.”

Less than a month after the investigation into the Mayor’s ethical conduct, an article was published in The Daily News titled “Mayor Wants Manager, Attorney Fired.” 

The article examined the Mayor’s efforts to retaliate against the City Attorney and Manager, including his decision to add their terminations to the City Council’s formal agenda. 

In the same article, Mayor Hallisey is quoted stating that he has “lost confidence in Rohr and (City Attorney Nghiem) Doan” pointing out that the two have worked against him.

Unfortunately, Mayor Hallisey’s efforts to oust the City Manager and the City Attorney were rewarded by the City Council. On December 13, 2016 Mr. Rohr was terminated by a 5-3 vote and City Attorney Nghiem Doan barely retained his position by a 4-4 vote. 

This indicates that the two individuals who dared to report and investigate Mayor Hallisey were targeted for termination based on a Council recommendation strongly pushed and advocated by Mayor Hallisey. 

Rohr says he was punished for exercising his First Amendment rights and filing the ethics complaints against Hallisey.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

St. Louis area man charged with shooting Jasper County deputy asks for change of venue

A request for change of venue is expected to be decided when a pre-trial conference is held July 31 for a Florissant man accused of the March 1 shooting of Jasper County Deputy Nolan Murray.

The lawyer for E. F. Fitchpatrick, 43, filed the venue change motion July 6 in Newton County Circuit Court.

Fitchpatrick was arrested after a two-hour standoff at the Econo Lodge on Range Line in Joplin. He was only a few months removed from his last stay in a federal penitentiary.

Fitchpatrick's arrest was detailed in a news release issued by the Joplin Police Department:

On March 1st, 2017 at 3:48p.m. officers with the Ozarks Drug Enforcement Team were attempting to serve a search warrant at the Econo Lodge Hotel, 3510 South Range Line Road. As officers attempted to make entry into the second floor room a gun shot (s) was fired at the officers through a window striking Jasper County Deputy Nolan Murray. Deputy Murray, who was wearing a bullet resistant vest suffered injury from the gun shot and was transported by EMS to Freeman Hospital. Officers on scene requested assistance through Joplin Dispatch.

Officers with the Joplin Police Department arrived and a SWAT operation was activated. After failed attempts to establish contact with the suspect in the room, officers deployed chemical munitions into the room. EF Fitchpatrick Jr (43) of St. Louis, exited the room and was taken into custody and transported to Mercy Hospital by EMS.

When Fitchpatrick was arrested, he was only a few months out of prison.

Court records show Fitchpatrick was sentenced to 37 months on prison in 2012. He was released early and placed on probation for one year, but was not able to make it stick.

On two different occasions, the latest on July 6, 2016, Fitchpatrick's probation was revoked and he was returned to prison. Each time he was sentenced to six months. After the second stay, he was free and clear.

A motion for a detention hearing filed November 18, 2010, in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri offers a breakdown of Fitchpatrick's felony convictions:

The defendant has prior felony convictions for Tampering with Service Utility, Burglary, and Possession of an Illegal Weapon in March 1991, Possession of an Illegal Weapon in March 1995, three counts of Forgery in November 1998, and two counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance in May 2005. The defendant is presently incarcerated in the Missouri Department of Corrections as a result of a parole violation predicated on this pending case, and is therefore not eligible for pre-trial release.

Online court documents also show Fitchpatrick being charged numerous times with domestic assault and on two occasions, in 2000 and 2005 had protection orders entered against him.

Former Granby wastewater plant operator receives probation for Clean Water Act violations

A U. S. District Court Judge Monday sentenced former Granby wastewater treatment plant operator Charles Ranslow to five years of probation for submitting false reports to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Judge David P. Rush also filed Ranslow $2,500.

Ranslow, 50, Neosho, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Springfield charged in a three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield in March 2015.

According to the indictment, Ranslow conducted wastewater sampling at the facility and submitted Wastewater Discharge Monitoring Reports to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from June 2013 through March 2014. The indictment charged Ranslow with two counts of making false and fraudulent statements in those reports. Ranslow submitted monitoring reports that contained false data, for example, with regard to the levels of ammonia.

The indictment also charged Ranslow with one count of making false and fraudulent statements in a Domestic Sludge Report that was submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Ranslow represented sludge monitoring results to be indicative of the Granby Wastewater Treatment Facility sludge, when he knew the data was false.

R-8 Board bills include Victory Ministries attorney fees, half a million for computers, Chamber membership

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will be able to put one of the remaining follies of the C. J. Huff era behind it Tuesday when it approves bills, including attorney fees for the lawyers who represented Jane Doe in her First Amendment lawsuit over the May 2015 Victory Ministries field trip.

During a closed session at its June meeting, the board agreed not to oppose Judge Douglas Harpool's awarding of $103,976.45 to the American Humanist Association and $46,935 to Arthur Benson and Associates.

The fees were less than the $211,000 the lawyers originally requested. Harpool noted that while the basic decision had been in their favor, they had not totally won.

Contrary to what has been reported in some media, including the Joplin Globe, Harpool did not rule that the R-8 School District can no longer take field trips to Victory Ministries or other religious venues, only that no type of religious activities can take place. Trips that are made solely for social purposes, which would include the type of field trip North Middle School students took when they celebrated the conclusion of MAP testing would not violate Harpool's ruling.

The problem, according to Harpool's decision, did not stem from the trip itself but from the permission slip. The district used Victory Ministries' permission slip, which gave its employees authorization to not only deliver religious messages to the students, but also to use photos of them to advertise the facility.

Huff ignored warnings that the trip could bring legal action. He acknowledged there were problems with the permission slip, but only said something would be done about that next year. Even after Victory offered to substitute a permission slip that would have corrected the problem, for some reason Huff did not follow through.

Among the other items on this month's bills:

MAC airbooks- The district will pay $499,040.30 to Apple for the final shipment of MAC Airbook computers for Joplin High School students. Approximately $2 million has been spent over the past four years, enabling the district to replace the computers the district received thanks to a $1 million gift from the United Arab Emirates in 2011.

Joplin High School sink hole- The district paid $17,148.90 to Asbell Excavating to repair a sink hole at the high school.

Chamber membership- The list includes $360 to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce listed as "membership investment."

Bus Wi-Fi- $376.21

Numerous Meals- Among the meals the board is expected to approve are $345.50 to Moe's Southwest Grill listed under "supplies," $161.51 to Red, Hot, and Blue for brisket, pork, potato salad, and cole slaw listed under "miscellaneous supplies," $274.67 to Red Onion Cafe, a lunch for 42 people, plus tip and delivery fee and $191.23 to Schlotzsky's Deli for "sandwiches for 42 people."

Shocker- No trips to Vegas on Billy Long campaign report, $10,000 in meals

For the first time in the past few years, the latest FEC quarterly disclosure report filed July 14 by Seventh District Congressman Billy Long includes no visits to Las Vegas.

The trips to Vegas have become a staple of Long's reports, which have sometimes included as many four trips to gambling capital of the United States.

Though Las Vegas was not on Long's itinerary for the past three months, the report did show a trip to Beverly Hills April 17, which included paying two bills to the Hilton Hotel, one for $924.67 and the other for $799.92, and $162.08 to the Beverly Hills Limousine Service

Long's report also included at least 51 meals totaling $10,479.49.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Joplin R-8 Board to act on school lunch price increase

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will act on a proposal to increase lunch prices when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Administration Building.

Under the proposal, prices would go up five cents for elementary, middle school, and high school students and 50 cents for adults.

Elementary- $1.75 to $1.80
Middle School- $1.90 to $1.95
High School- $2.10 to $2.15
Adult- $2.50 to $3

Sullivan Republican: Greitens executive order good first step in fighting opioid epidemic

(From Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan)

Despite the fact that regular session ended May 12, between legislation the governor has signed, an executive order, and the call for extraordinary sessions, there is plenty to report on this week.

On Monday, the governor signed an executive order to make Missouri the final state in the nation to create a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). During this past legislative session, I filed two bills that had the same intent as the governor’s signed order. I filed Senate Bill 231, the Narcotics Control Act, also known as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). And I also filed Senate Bill 314, which is the same as Senate Bill 231 in that it would have established a PDMP.

The purpose of the legislation I filed was to help control the ever-growing opioid epidemic in our state. The governor’s executive order will do that and I am thankful that our state now has a program to monitor these addicting medications. The executive order will not track patients’ personal information and will only alert staff within the Department of Health and Senior Services of possible suspicious activity based off abnormal prescribing and dispensing patters. While the governor’s executive order is not exactly what I proposed, it is an important step in fighting the opioid scourge that has hit our community so hard.

The first bill I filed in advance of the 2017 Legislative Session was Senate Bill 64. This bill was passed by the Legislature and recently signed by the governor. It will name a Franklin County bridge for Lyndon Ebker, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) employee who was tragically killed in an accident while inspecting a bridge after 30 years of service. The Ebker family joined me, Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, (the House sponsor of the bill), and MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna in the governor’s office for the bill signing. Gov. Greitens spoke with the family before signing the bill in Lyndon’s honor. Director McKenna told the family that a framed copy of the bill will be placed in MoDOT shed where Lyndon frequently worked.

The Senate is also reconvening soon to finish consideration on Senate Bill 5 of the second extraordinary session of the summer. This important pro-life bill has my complete support and I am hopeful that we will pass the strongest possible version of this bill to protect life and protect alternatives to abortion centers in our state.

New study gives Missouri high marks for fiscal solvency

(From State Treasurer Eric Schmitt)

Missouri is in a strong fiscal condition according to a new study conducted by researchers at George Mason University. The study ranks Missouri 11th among all states for fiscal solvency.

“This study confirms Missouri is in good fiscal health but that doesn’t mean we should stop thinking ahead,” said Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who serves as the state’s Chief Financial Officer. “We can protect Missouri taxpayers by learning from the mistakes of states like Illinois and planning for the future. Stakeholders in Jefferson City must ensure our state remains a leader on fiscal solvency by addressing our pension liabilities, protecting our AAA credit rating, reducing our tax burden and shrinking the size of government.”

The full study is available here:

Hartzler introduces bill to promote jobs, infrastructure in rural areas

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) announced today she introduced the Expanding Rural Investment in Jobs and Infrastructure Act (HR 3242), which directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to open up federal funding for more rural community facilities.

“The Expanding Rural Investment in Jobs and Infrastructure Act would allow more community colleges, hospitals, technical schools, and other training centers to access funding for rural infrastructure improvements,” said Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. “The forefront of job training takes place in rural community colleges and technical schools with programs that focus on important skills like medical training and agricultural, educational, and mechanical certifications. Without these schools, such as State Fair Community College, our local economy would not have the workforce it needs. We need to ensure our rural communities have quality infrastructure and career opportunities that set the next generation up for success.”

USDA set up the Rural Community Facilities Program in 1985 to provide financial assistance through loans and grants to community facilities — such as police stations and community colleges — for towns with a population of 20,000 or less. In fiscal year 2016, the program had $500 million left unused that was reprogrammed to other areas. The Expanding Rural Investment in Jobs and Infrastructure Actwould take that funding and make it available to rural areas that narrowly missed the 20,000 cutoff.

The legislation allows towns with a population of 20,000-35,000 to access funding during the second half of the year while preserving primary access for towns with a population less than 20,000. In addition, funding for the larger towns of 20,000-35,000 would be more narrowly tailored for purposes of job training, healthcare, and public safety services.

“It does not make sense to have a program which is designed to invest in job creation, health infrastructure and public safety but cannot make those investments where many of our rural colleges and hospitals are located,” Hartzler added.

The Expanding Rural Investment In Jobs and Infrastructure Act includes provisions to ensure institutions serving regional areas, such as community colleges, hospitals and public safety offices, can receive funding to benefit their surrounding communities.

“We greatly appreciate the support of Congresswoman Hartzler for rural Missouri and community colleges,” said Dr. Joanna Anderson, President of State Fair Community College. “Specifically, this would give State Fair Community College the potential to apply for competitive funds to expand much needed technical training. SFCC is seeking to construct a new technical education facility that would provide space for a diesel mechanics program and an agricultural mechanics program--two areas of high job demand and growth in our region. This legislation is needed to help growing communities like Sedalia in rural America.”

Rural community colleges serve 3.4 million, or 37%, of the 10.2 million community college students enrolled across the nation. These 589 colleges represent 60% of all the community colleges nationwide.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Jerry Moran: Why I opposed the Republican health care plan

(From Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas)

On Monday evening I announced my opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – the Senate healthcare bill. 

This and an earlier version of the BCRA missed the mark for Kansans. The BCRA neither adequately repealed or replaced Obamacare. It was drafted behind closed doors and without committee hearings.

After my decision, the Majority Leader set aside the BCRA and announced his plan to have the Senate vote on a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act, effective in two years. 

If the bill is adopted it would establish an expiration date for Obamacare and set the stage for a full legislative process – expert witnesses, public hearings, amendments and votes by all one hundred senators. 

I would work to craft healthcare policy that provides less government involvement in healthcare decisions, greater personal choice, protection for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower costs. I recognize that decisions made regarding healthcare have real consequences for Kansans and their families. We need a thoughtful and less political process.