Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The families of two drunk-driving victims have filed lawsuits against the drunk driver in Jasper County Circuit Court. The family members are also suing the owners of the Joplin bar where the man allegedly was drinking before the accident.
According to court records, two wrongful death lawsuits were filed Aug. 23 against Edward James Meerwald Jr., 51, Noel. Missouri Highway Patrol reports indicate that Meerwald was behind the wheel of a car that ran off 86 Highway and hit James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and his granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7, as they were walking in Dodson's driveway. Dodson was pronounced dead at the scene. Miss Mann was flown to Freeman West Hospital where she died several hours later.
Meerwald, who is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, is being held in the Newton County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bond. He waived his formal arraignment Aug. 26, entering a not guilty plea. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Sept. 16.
The lawsuits against Meerwald were filed by Dodson's widow, Betty Jean Dodson, and by Miss Mann's parents, Amy and Michael Mann. Also listed as a defendant in both lawsuits is Midwestern Music Company, Joplin, doing business as The Pub Bar, 904 South Main, Joplin. The agent listed for that company in the court records is Denia Kay Beason, Joplin.
The cases have been assigned to Jasper Circuit Court Judge William Carl Crawford.
On the same day the lawsuits were filed against Meerwald, his wife, Kyung Suk Meerwald, 44, filed for divorce, according to Newton County Circuit Court records. The case is listed as a dissolution with children.
In a case that has flown under the media radar, a 1:30 p.m. Sept. 16 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for former Carthage R-9 Board of Education member and former Carthage Police officer Michael Lloyd Wells.
Wells is charged with one count of forcible rape, one count of sexual assault in the first degree, and two counts of incest.

Monday, August 30, 2004

I swear I didn't laugh when I read that the Diamond R-4 Board of Education had voted on a code of ethics at its August meeting.
That information was featured on www.diamondwildcats.org. the propaganda site for the R-4 School District. School boards are required to submit such codes to the State Ethics Commission, showing how they deal with conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, there are no laws to prevent the out rages that have been inflicted upon the Diamond community by the present board of education.
As usual, I will mention my own bias in this instance. As readers of this website and www.wildcatcentral.com know, I was rehired as a teacher in the Diamond district for the 2003-2004 school year, then just a scant few weeks before the school year started (and shortly after I rebuffed an attempt by Superintendent Mark Mayo to control the content of my website, I was put on an unpaid leave of absence. The only other who received such treatment was a counselor who Mayo had unsuccessfully tried to fire earlier in the school year. Then this past April, even though there was no doubt that I was not planning to return to Diamond, the board uselessly and unnecessarily voted not to rehire me for the 2004-2005 school year, then wasted taxpayer money by having both Mayo and Board President Dr. Wayne Webb send me letters (the one sent by Mayo was a more expensive registered letter) letting me know the board's decision. Mayo has also attempted to silence me by talking to my bosses in the Joplin R-8 School District telling them I have been shortchanging my students by continuing to write items about the Diamond schools.
All right. Now that my disclaimer is through, let's talk about ethics. In an earlier post, I mentioned the policy put into place by the Webb City R-7 School District last year, prohibiting board members' relatives from working for the school district.
It is obvious there is no such policy in Diamond. I received an e-mail message recently pointing out how deep and wide the connections with the board are. The board president's sister and brother-in-law are employed by the district, with the brother-in-law recently promoted to full-time status to replace a teacher who was let go, allegedly due to budget considerations.
Another board member has a wife who was recently promoted from library aide to middle school secretary. Another board member's wife serves as the school's librarian. It was only a few months ago that five of the seven board members had family members working for the school district.
Add to that the hiring of the superintendent's secretary's husband, who is purportedly making $40,000 a year, with duties that include mowing the grass, while there are veteran teachers who have not even cracked the $30,000 barrier.
Sadly,none of this is illegal. But don't talk to me about the ethics involved. Of course, they don't vote on measures that directly affect their relatives, but they vote on many things that indirectly affect them. And with so many conflicts of interest, how is a board member going to vote against another board member's relative when: 1. He or she has a relative to protect or 2. They still have to work with the other board member until at least the next election.
The question here is not whether these people are qualified for the positions they hold. I have no doubt they are. It doesn't matter. What matters is the perception that it's who you know and not your ability is going to land you a job. This is a stigma that attaches itself to both the board members and the relatives and it dramatically lessens the community's faith in the school system.
This is the kind of conflict of interest story the Joplin Globe or The Neosho Daily News needs to be working on. What is happening in the Diamond R-4 School District is nepotism at its worst.
Natural Disaster, the 50s and 60s rock group I perform with, was back in action tonight with our first practice in the past couple of months. We are scheduled to be the final act to perform at the annual Newtonia Fall Festival Saturday, Sept. 18. I'll write more about that later.
Since I recently criticized The Lamar Democrat for its failure to do a local story on the O'Sullivan situation, I feel obliged to mention that Editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis conducted an interview with an O'Sullivan official in last Wednesday's paper.
Unfortunately, the article still read like a press release and never went into some of the substantial matters raised here and in The Joplin Globe about the company's move of its corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta. Nowhere it was mentioned that the three top O'Sullivan officials, including million-dollar CEO Bob Parker, were all hired in the past few months and all came from Newell Rubbermaid, which has its corporate headquarters in Atlanta.
Nowhere was it mentioned that O'Sullivan was taking advantage of Georgia tax breaks, which could pay big bucks to land the corporate headquarters. Nor was it mentioned that the tax breaks for moving 50 employees were approved by the state legislature two years ago to convince Newell Rubbermaid to move its quarters to Atlanta.
Nowhere was it mentioned the sweetheart deal Parker and his two Atlanta confederates received to take over O'Sullivan Industries.
A comprehensive news article does not have to be confrontational, but it should dig deep and at least ask, if not answer the questions readers want to know.
The Saturday Democrat featured a page one story about the operation of the city swimming pool and little coverage, except for some uncaptioned photos, about the Lamar Fair. Where are the features? There are a lot of stories to tell about the Lamar Free Fair.
A Saturday article in the New York Times on the new concept of cyberbullying was discussed in my communication arts classes Monday and will be the subject of the students' papers today.
It seems that students have been bullying each other through use of e-mail and instant messaging and most of the time parents are completely unaware that this is happening.
The Internet is a wonderful tool and serves many useful purposes, but it can also be a danger to young and old alike if misused. Apparently, this is one more thing parents need to be on the lookout for.

During my second stint as editor of The Newton County News, sometime early in 1982, I decided to write about the serious drug problems in Granby and in the East Newton R-6 School District.
I took a poll of parents, students, teachers, and district patrons asking how serious they thought the problem was. I expected the results would be shocking. They were even more shocking than I had anticipated.
People told me of drug dealers working the streets of Granby in broad daylight. When it came to East Newton students, the near consensus had it that nearly 60 percent had tried marijuana, the drug of choice at that time. Those taking the poll estimated that more than 90 percent had tried alcohol.
When my poll and the editorial that went with it hit the streets, it set off a firestorm. Apparently, the Granby Police began putting the heat on the dealers and they didn't like it a bit.
One night as I returned from covering a Granby City Council meeting, four young men were waiting in the alley by the Newton County News building. Two of them had baseball bats. One had a knife. The other one may have had a weapon, but I never saw it.
They let me know in no uncertain terms that they were not thrilled with what I had written (though it appeared none of them had actually read it). They were being hassled and they wanted it to stop. One of them said, "We're going to teach you a lesson." They were vicious, but they weren't very original.
Before they could begin supplying me with an education, I began talking quickly. The pressure wouldn't last for long, I said. The police were just putting on a show for the benefit of the public. I told them if the heat didn't die down in a few days, come on back down and they could beat me up.
As hard to believe as I find it now, looking back on that not so fond memory, they bought it and let me go. Sure enough, the pressure on the dealers didn't last long and it was business as usual on the streets of Granby within about two weeks.
My problems were far from over, however. When I made my rounds at East Newton High School the next week, I was told to leave. I wasn't welcome any more because I "was out to get the school." That wasn't true, of course. I had used considerable news space covering the positive things that went on in all three district school buildings.
The ban didn't last more than a few days, but my job didn't last much longer. The next week, high school officials took their own poll which indicated that only one percent of the students had ever used marijuana, while not more than 10 percent had ever even touched a drop of alcohol.
At the time, I had a cartoonist at the Newton County News named Scott White. His next (and final) cartoon showed two angelic-looking high school students (complete with halos over their heads) carrying ballots to a ballot box marked "drug poll." His caption read, "First Annual East Newton Naivity Pageant." Within two weeks, I was unemployed, though it was more because I wasn't very good at selling advertising (another part of the job) than because of my controversial writings.
As I discovered in later years, it didn't take a full-scale drug scandal to get on the wrong side of school officials. When I was at The Carthage Press, I made my rounds at an area school one Monday and discovered I was persona non grata. I had just completed running a series based on the school district reports cards that each district has to release by Dec. 1 each year. The articles had no commentary. I merely released just the basic information that each school had released.
One particular school had put its report card in its school calendar, a novel approach. I used just the information in the calendar. When I arrived at the high school, believe it or not, I was called into the principal's office (a place I was very familiar with from my days attending East Newton High School). The principal and the school newspaper advisor immediately began criticizing my lack of journalistic ethics. How could I write these stories, which mentioned the high school's low test scores without checking with them for a response?
I pointed out I was just using the information they had supplied. If they had put more information in the calendar I would have put it in my articles. Why didn't you do that, I asked.
"Nobody reads those things," the principal said. "Everybody sees it when it's in the paper." I probably should have been flattered.
Public officials like to have control over what information goes to the public. That's only natural. In this day and age, when new forms of media are starting all the time, it is harder and harder for these control freaks to limit the message that gets out to what they want it to say.
Web logs like this one and public message boards like www.neoshoforums.com and www.lamarmo.com, to name just two, offer the public new sources of information that have never been available before. The days of the public receiving only the information public officials and their carefully cultivated media friends supply are long since over.
I was reminded of that over the weekend when I read an item on Neosho Forums about their new site, www.neoshoschools.com It was mentioned that Neosho Superintendent Mark Mitchell will probably do his best to stop the site. That may be right. Any time you allow the public to have its say, some of them are going to say something that's going to hit you the wrong way. If a negative situation develops, you can't hide it by just keeping it away from the television stations and the daily newspaper as you could in the past.
Diamond R-4 Superintendent Mark Mayo tried that last year with Diamond Forums, claiming he never read what was posted on the site, while all the while he was threatening lawsuits and complaining about the content of the posts.
When Diamond Forums vanished, Mayo still had to contend with my Diamond school website, www.wildcatcentral.com , regular mentions on Neosho Forums and the oldest and still most potent of information sources...the community grapevine.
Mayo has tried to combat sources which don't agree with his company line by decrying them, threatening them (it is no secret that he attempted last year to have me fired from South, claiming with not one shred of evidence that I had to be shirking my duty toward the Joplin R-8 School District, because I kept publishing new information on Wildcat Central.), and using his own website, www.diamondwildcats.org to spread his carefully-tailored self-serving propaganda.
It is good that Mayo has this outlet. Maybe Mark Mitchell will develop a similar one at Neosho. The public should be able to receive information from a number of sources and be able to weigh the validity of those sources.
Thankfully, the day of small-town school, city, county officials and others totally manipulating the media to serve their own purposes is over. They may be able to do it with the traditional media (and most of the time do), but the public has access to other sources of information...and the willingness to use them.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The arson fire that tore through Strong's Corner Florist in Lamar during the wee hours this morning reminded me of just how much the square means to the fabric of Lamar life.
I spent a great deal of my younger years, probably up to my mid-20s, on the Neosho square on Friday and Saturday nights, but even that square doesn't ring with history the way the one in Lamar does.
When Lamar residents, especially long-time ones, think about the square they probably have a truckload of memories. Despite the fire, the Lamar Rotary Parade was still held today and I guarantee that you after the parade is finished and again tonight the square will be wall-to-wall humanity.
When I was with the Lamar Democrat in the mid-1980s, I decided to time how long it takes to walk completely around the square on the final Saturday night. It took 22 minutes and some seconds. There were so many people and there was almost no way you could go all the way around without having to stop and talk with someone. It is a long and hallowed tradition to be in Lamar on the Saturday of the Free Fair.
The Fair is probably the first memory of the square that comes to mind to most, but another long-time tradition has been the Football Homecoming Parade. The first one I covered was in 1978. I can't remember how the homecoming game went, but I do remember Coach Chuck Blaney's football team winning the most important game of that year, the Silver Tiger game against Nevada. My best memory of that game came the following week during a pep assembly in the high school gymnasium when Oscar (for those unfamiliar with Lamar tradition, an actual silver tiger goes to the winner of that annual contest) was officially presented to the student body and one of the senior football captains, Kim Morris, held it aloft as the gymnasium rocked with applause.
The square has always been a hotbed of activity on election nights. One tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation is the election watch in the hallways of the courthouse. Three to four generations of Lamar residents roam the halls waiting for the latest results to be posted on a chalkboard that stretches down an entire hallway. Normally, one county official or a relative of a county official climbs a ladder to write in the results on the top half of the chalkboard as someone else reads off the numbers.
One of my favorite election nights was in 1984 when the results from the Lamar R-1 bond issue showed it had been approved by a wide margin and a new high school was going to be built. I remember the loud war whoop that came from R-1 Board of Education member Ron Wegener when the final tallies were counted. Years later, I remember the more subdued reactions from long-time board member Ronnie Means when the voters decided not to reelect him after more than two decades of service. Few people would have been as gracious as he was in granting me an interview after he knew his time on the board had ended.
Just like the Neosho square and the Carthage square, the Lamar square also has been a center of activity for young people every Friday and Saturday night year after year, decade after decade.
If memory serves me correctly, the square was also a place of horror one night early in the 20th century when a man named Jay Lynch (ironically) was lynched by an out-of-control mob.
The 60th anniversary of what may have been the most important event to take place on the Lamar square will probably be overlooked later this week.
It was Aug. 31, 1944, when Lamar native Harry S Truman officially accepted his nomination as FDR's vice presidential running mate. More than 10,000 people were gathered around the square as the president delivered his speech on the west side of the courthouse. A plaque commemorates the place where he gave his speech. For a long time, the lectern he used was a cherished keepsake of the activity, but it was destroyed in a fire in the early 1960s.
The crowd included Senator Happy Chandler of Kentucky, who later became major league baseball commissioner, and J. W. Fulbright, who later became a U. S. Senator from Arkansas and a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.
As a group of opportunistic pickpockets worked its way through the crowds, according to newspaper accounts from that time, the future president told his audience it was not a time for partisanship. He stressed that it was important to stay the course and elect Roosevelt to an unprecedented fourth term as president.
"The welfare of this nation and its future, as well as the peace of the whole world depends on your decision on November 7," Truman said. "You can't afford to take a chance. You should endorse an experienced leadership. You should re-elect Franklin Roosevelt president of the United States."
Joplin Globe accounts from that time indicate the city of Joplin did everything it could to steal Lamar's historic moment, trying to get Senator Truman to just attend a brief ceremony in Lamar then come to Joplin for the main event. The attempt failed so for one evening 60 years ago, the eyes and ears of the nation were focused on Lamar. Every radio network and even a fledgling television network or two were on hand.
In November 1944, Roosevelt, who was nearing death (something Truman didn't know) was elected to his fourth term, beating New York Governor Thomas Dewey, the same man Truman defeated four years later.
One of the reasons that the Lamar square has continued to thrive long after similar community centers have vanished is that it continues to open its arms to every segment of the community.
Can there be any doubt that that Neosho square began to vanish after city officials listened to the shortsighted continually griping businessmen who claimed all the young people were giving the square a bad reputation and scaring away their customers.
I can remember being on the square well after midnight during my late teen years and there were no drunken brawls or incidents of vandalism going on except on rare occasions. Nevertheless, city officials set an 11:30 p.m. curfew and later moved it up to 10 p.m. and effectively took away all ownership of the square from the community. They took young people (who almost always grew up to be responsible adults) out of the habit of going to the square and you can see the result by driving around there today.
When Neosho officials decided to rip away one part of the fabric of the community's heritage and sacrifice it on the altar of the Chamber of Commerce, they took away part of the small-town tradition that has helped make this country strong.
It would be extremely difficult to come up with a list of memories for the Neosho square that would even remotely resemble the one I just wrote for the Lamar square.
Ready for another waste of taxpayer money?
The Jasper County Jail is the subject of yet another lawsuit filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. James Edward Phillips, Joplin, is suing Sheriff Archie Dunn and company for $50,000, claiming the jail has an inadequate law library that didn't help him prepare for a lawsuit he filed against the county in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Whenever one of these useless lawsuits winds its way through the courts it's being funded by the taxpayers. Prisoners should retain their constitutional rights but the line needs to be drawn somewhere.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Now this is irony!
It is hard to explain exactly what I felt when I read a post on www.lamarmo.com last night that said I must be spending all my time doing research and not spending much time with my students in order to keep doing this blog.
The importance of blogs and sites like www.lamarmo.com and www.neoshoforums.com is that they offer an opportunity for people who would not have had a voice in the past to have an impact. Unfortunately, they also offer an opportunity to cheapshot artists to do their thing.
This is the same thing that my former superintendent was saying last spring when he was trying to get my new bosses to fire me. He claimed that I had to be shortchanging my students because I was writing so much about the Diamond R-4 School District on www.wildcatcentral.com
Now for the irony. I read this item shortly after 7 p.m. last night, just moments after getting home from 12 hours at South. I arrive at school each morning at about 6:45 a.m. I normally stay for at least an hour after the final bell rings. At least once a week I spend a couple more hours grading 130 1 1/2 page essays and giving credit for 520 writing prompts. Last night, I attended an after-school meeting on the Career Ladder program, graded papers and talked with four former students who came in.
This was after attending a meeting before school started to implement South's ZAP program (Zeros Aren't Permitted), an attempt to help students succeed by encouraging them to meet deadlines and turn in their work. I might add that this program adds a lot of paperwork that teachers have to do. And you aren't going to hear me or most of the other teachers complain. This is an important program that has worked in many school districts.
Later in the year, I will be helping sponsor the academic team, working on South's newsletter, working with a student journalism club, in addition to my responsibilities as a so-called technology leader in our building, which I became after attending a four-day workshop at the high school this summer.
This is not an unusual workload for a teacher and I don't mind it. These are things I enjoy doing. One thing I don't do is waste the taxpayers' money by doing research for The Turner Report or working on it in other ways while I am at school.
I require my students to write every day so I started this blog after telling the students that I wasn't going to require them to do anything that I wouldn't do. Writing every day improves your skills and I have done it nearly every day for over 27 years.
It doesn't take an incredible amount of research to come up with the items I put on this website. You do have to know where to look and I spent all of those years learning where to go to find certain records. The O'Sullivan investigation was not difficult. Most of the information came from filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). I also knew other sources that could provide me with background iinformation.
Any person who has done any amount of investigative reporting knows that you need to have good files and I have always kept good files. I know where to look when I need some information from something I have written in the past or articles that I have saved from other publications because I thought they might come in handy at some point.
I don't mind criticism of writing style or comments from people who disagree with the things I say. As my old-time readers from The Press and the Lamar Democrat know, I was never one of those who wouldn't publish letters to the editor from people who criticized something I had written or disagreed with it. That type of exchange is important for small-town newspapers.
But I will take issue when someone says I am not giving my all for my students. They are my number one priority and South Middle School and the Joplin R-8 School District are going to get my best every day (and as most people who know me well know, I have only missed one day of work in the past 27 years and that was because I was hospitalized, receiving 12 units of blood last December.)
I hate to even dignify what that cheapshot artist (and the one I used to work for) said by responding to it but this accusation has no merit whatsoever.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The double-decker bus on its way out in Carthage.
The bus, which has been a staple of Carthage tourism for a little over a decade, has been sold, according to this morning's Joplin Globe.
The decision to sell it was a wise one. Though it was an interesting novelty, it had absolutely nothing to do with Carthage's rich history and spent more time in repairs than it did on the road.
This was another case in which someone had a bright idea and kept pushing until finally the people gave in. Occasionally, those ideas work brilliantly. This one never did.
State Auditor Claire McCaskill, the Democratic nominee for governor, has some intelligent proposals for education in her platform.
Wednesday's Kansas City Star detailed her ideas, which include an audit of each school district in Missouri, held once every three years, to cut down on waste.
This is an idea that is long overdue. Currently, school districts have annual audits, but these are conducted by accounting firms which, honest as they may be, still want to make sure they are able to get the contract to do next year's audit.
With impartial state auditors, perhaps we can cut down on poor accounting practices, misuse of taxpayers' money, instances in which money is being used improperly or unwisely in certain areas, or instances in which nepotism has become a way of life. I would guess bureaucratic problems would be the biggest obstacle in urban schools, while rural schools would have problems with incestuous relationships between elected officials and employees (I'm talking about hiring relatives) and both sides would be plagued with an overload of unnecessary administrators, who continue to earn big bucks while teachers have more than 30 students in their classrooms.
Ms. McCaskill had some other good ideas. Naturally, John Hancock,(the Missouri Republican spokesman, not the guy who signed the Declaration of Independence) says they won't work.
My guess is that if Matt Blunt had suggested the same ideas Hancock would be hailing him as a genius.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

It was rather flattering in the summer of 1999, which was a pretty depressing summer for me, I received a phone call from a reporter researching a story for American Journalism Review.
She told me she had received a tip that I had been fired as managing editor of The Carthage Press and they were interested in doing a story about it.
My head swelled more than a little bit. Being considered as the subject of a national magazine story is not something that happens to a guy from Newtonia.
We reviewed the circumstances behind my departure, she told me she would be contacting my former employer then she would get back to me. Her angle seemed to be that I was fired because I was in my 40s and making too much money.
That seemed to be the logical reason, even though that would have been illegal. After all, during the nine years I was at The Press, the newspaper earned more than 120 awards, including the approximately 70 I won. That figure, by the way, was more than any other reporter in the state of Missouri during the 1990s and that was one reason AJR was considering doing the story. These awards included more than 30 for investigative reporting, a number for community service and several for feature writing and sports reporting.
The Carthage Press featured strong writing from a lot more people than just me. Young reporters such as Ron Graber, Cait Purinton, Brian Webster, Amy Lamb Campbell, Keegan Checkett, and Jana Blankenship were featured, along with strong, experienced writers such as Marvin VanGilder and Jack Harshaw. We took pride in competing with the Globe on big stories and more often than not, beating the Globe.
This probably sounds like bragging (and that is something I do not like to do), but after reading over the comments on one of my other websites, Wildcat Central, for the first time in a while last night, I feel like it is time to answer some of these critics (most of whom, I am sure, are connected to the superintendent of the Diamond R-4 School District).
Some of those who are posting on that website (usually under the poll results, sometimes on the guestbook) are spreading that old story that I have never been able to hold a job. Considering the source, that accusation takes a lot of gall, but never mind that.
Those who have read the articles on the Wildcat Central Diamond Daily and Archives pages know what happened to me at Diamond. I simply ran into a bully who was not comfortable having someone with a strong journalism background near him. If the decision on whether to keep me on the staff had been left up to the principal, the parents, the community (or even the students) I would still be there. Things worked out well for me, however. One posting last night insists that I must be continuing to write things because I hold a grudge. I will admit, I have spent a quarter of a century exposing wrongdoing and there is a lot of wrongdoing going on in Diamond, but I have not posted anything new on Wildcat Central for almost six weeks and before that, it had been nearly two months. This is not an obsession.
The last job I left before that one was at The Carthage Press. I am still not altogether certain why that job ended after more than nine years. It could be because of the money aspect, but someone who was in a position to know told me later it was fallout from Terry Reed's lawsuit against me and Liberty Group Publishing after the 1998 American Heritage Festival in Carthage. It was the only time I was ever sued for something I wrote (it was an article on the Press's opinion page). The judge threw out the part of the suit aimed at me because I wrote was clearly labeled opinion and was constitutionally protected. Unfortunately, by that time, Liberty had to pay $10,000, the deductible on our libel insurance, and company president Ken Serota was none too happy about that. So I am still really not sure what happened, but that seems likely.
Before that, the last job I had was as managing editor of The Lamar Democrat, a post I held from November 1982 until the end of March 1990. That job I left on my own to take the job at Carthage. In other words, in 22 years, I was fired from two jobs. I don't consider being fired by Ralph Bush or Mark Mayo to be black marks on my record. I might add, that in both cases, it didn't take me long to find a job.
There was also a post (which didn't stay on long because of the obscenities) that said I had been run out of journalism. That was definitely not the case. After I left the Press, I was offered positions as managing editor at Miami, Okla, Siloam Springs, and The Neosho Post, as well as reporting positions at two other newspapers in northwest Arkansas. I worked very briefly as a fill-in at the Nevada Daily Mail and was offered a job there. By that point, I wanted to go into teaching.
When I was put on an unpaid leave of absence at Diamond, something school districts are allowed to do by claiming financial hardships so they can break signed contracts, I was talking with the Neosho Daily News about a reporting position. They understood that if a teaching position came up before the 2003-2004 school year started I was going to take it and just a few days after our conversations, I was hired at Joplin.
I doubt if this post is going to stop the character assassination campaign that has been aimed at me by the superintendent and his sycophants, but I am a bit tired of these lies.
And at least I give people who disagree with me the opportunity to express their viewpoints (even those which are being orchestrated) unlike some of my critics.
American Journalism Review never did the story and I was somewhat relieved by that. As in most cases, it was one man's word against another.
I might conclude by saying that I was fired twice, but Ralph Bush was kind enough to give me glowing recommendations to the people at Miami and Siloam Springs, and perhaps others I am not aware of. No one has ever questioned my loyalty, my skill, and most of all, my work ethic. When people hire me, I have always done my best to see that they are getting their money's worth.
The East Newton R-6 Board of Education is considering drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities.
As those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know, I am unequivocally opposed to this for two reasons.
First, we are sending the wrong message to our youth. We are teaching them about the freedoms they enjoy as American citizens at the time as we are beginning to invade their privacy more and more. Those who favor drug testing use two arguments. They say the looming threat of drug tests will keep people from taking any drugs or if they do take them, these tests will find that out and the students can receive help. The people who want to test the students are well meaning, but shortsighted.
Though there obviously are athletes, band members, etc., who do take drugs, a higher percentage of those who are taking drugs are not participating in extracurricular activities. We would probably be wanting to test these people, too, but the U. S. Constitution doesn't permit that. You can test students in extracurricular activities, according to court rulings, because it is a privilege not a right to play sports or be in clubs. Everyone has to go to school. So we are penalizing people who get involved.
Drug testing is also a waste of taxpayer money. I remember when it was first being talked about in the Carthage R-9 School District, school officials said it would cost $10,000 a year. Get more library books, get more computers, hire a teacher's aide or two, but don't spend that money on drug testing.
Proponents of drug testing always use that old phrase, "If it just saves one student, it will be worth it." These are the same people who said if we put in metal detectors and armed guards at the Jasper County Courthouse and it saves one life it will be worth it. I am strongly in favor of saving students from drugs, but there are other, better ways to do it. I hope the East Newton School Board doesn't follow through with this.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

One eight ball of methamphetamine was all it took to convince Bobby Lingle to participate in the murder of a woman, her three children and the full-term baby she was carrying. Lingle, 38, Joplin, suffered another blow today in his continuous effort to escape the life sentence he received for making that unfortunate decision.
The Missouri Supreme Court will not hear Lingle's appeal. That decision was among a list issued by the court this afternoon.
Erin Vanderhoef, 36, her children Darlene Vanderhoef, 8, Jimmy Vanderhoef, 11; and Chris Franklin, 10, were strangled Jan.19, 1999, in her north Springfield home. The murders, police say, were committed by Lingle, Richard DeLong and DeLong's live-in girlfriend, Stacie Leffingwell.
DeLong and Leffingwell and their son, Scooby, lived in the same apartment complex as Lingle and his wife, according to court records. DeLong had previously had a relationship with Ms. Vanderhoef, who allegedly was trying to get back together with him.
At times, when Ms. Leffingwell was out of town, Ms. Vanderhoef would come to Joplin and sleep with DeLong, according to the court decision. Instead of dropping DeLong and getting as far away from him as possible, Ms Leffingwell, who was dying from AIDS, according to the court record, decided on another course of action. She did not want Ms. Vanderhoef to replace her as Scooby's mother.
"Because (Ms. Vanderhoef's) children would be witnesses to the event," the court decision said, "DeLong and Leffingwell also intended to kill the children. They asked Lingle if he wanted to participate"
At first, Lingle said no. All it took to change his mind was the promise of a little methamphetamine.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1999, the three drove to Springfield, carefully planning the brutal murder along the way. They decided on just the right way to murder three innocent children. Lingle said he did not want to have any part of killing the kids, so he was asked to lure Ms. Vanderhoef away while DeLong and Leffingwell eliminated the children.
After they arrived, Lingle took Ms. Vanderhoef to Dillon's Supermarket to buy doughnuts. While they were gone, the demented duo strangled the three children and waited for their final victim to return.
When Lingle and Ms. Vanderhoef returned, they sat down on the couch and began watching television. DeLong told her the children had been disciplined and had been sent to their rooms. DeLong moved behind Ms. Vanderhoef, on the pretext of putting a necklace on her, then wrapped a cord around her neck. She struggled , grabbing at the cord. They fell off the couch onto the floor. She was winning the struggle when Lingle stepped in, grabbed her hands and pulled them down to her waist, according to the court decision.
That gave Leffingwell the opportunity to shove a rag in Ms. Vanderhoef's mouth so her screams could not be heard. It took another 10 minutes for Ms. Vanderhoef to pass out. DeLong and Leffingwell bound Ms.Vanderhoef's feet with another cord, pulled them up tightly behind her back, then wrapped the end of the cord around her neck so the weight of her feet and legs would help suffocate her.
After another 10 minutes passed, Ms. Vanderhoef and her unborn child were dead.
Having completed their task, Lingle, DeLong, and Leffingwell returned to Joplin. "Later that evening," the court decision said, "DeLong gave Lingle the promised eight ball of methamphetamine for participating in the murders." Lingle immediately spent his pay.
In his appeal, Lingle claimed that the trial court made a mistake when it did not force DeLong to testify in Lingle's behalf and by not ordering a mistrial when Lingle asked for one. That argument was rejected by the Southern District Court of Appeals on June 15. It won't be heard by the Missouri Supreme Court.
The last two days have been big ones for court decisions that relate to moral issues. This morning, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose rulings are law in the state of Missouri, backed the claim of an eastern Arkansas teacher that he should not have to go to in-service meetings that include prayers.
Steve Warnock, an art teacher and part-time bus driver in the Devalls Bluff School District, was required by the district to go to a local college for in-service sessions. At those sessions, the court decision says, Charles Archer, the district superintendent, conducted prayers. Archer also displayed his Bible and a framed scriptural quotation in his office.
When Warnock asked Archer to stop praying at the meetings, the superintendent refused. Warnock filed his lawsuit against Archer and the school district, claiming he had been harassed by students, parenets, and a fellow teacher because of his strong opposition to the prayer.
At the district court level, both sides won part of their arguments. The court ruled that the meetings could not begin with prayer, but said Archer had the First Amendment rights to have the Bible and the framed verse in his office.
Even though evidence had been presented that Warnock had been harassed, it was also obvious that school officials had taken appropriate action each time it happened. Warnock was awarded $1,000 in damages, plus attorney fees.
In his appeal, Warnock asked the court to award him additional damages. The school district countersued, asking that it not be forced to pay Warnock's legal fees.
In the ruling, the judges said, "We agree with the district court that the practices at issue in this case are unconstitutional, but we think they are constitutionally unfirm not because they offended Mr. Warnock, but because they endorsed religion."
The decision continued, "We believe that prayers at mandatory teacher meetings and in-service training convey a decisive endorsement (of religion)."
At the district court level, the school board was ordered to allow Warnock to opt out of these meetings if the prayers offended him. The appellate court ruling today says it does not matter if Warnock is offended and that even if he is not at the meetings, the prayers should not be given.
The appellate court rejected Warnock's claims that the religious items in Archer's office constituted religious harassment. "People do not give up their free-exercise or free-speech rights when they become government employees," the decision said.
Warnock also claimed it was harassment when two students, at the request of their parents, walked out of his class to protest against his beliefs. The court decision said that even if the state's compulsory education laws could make the students return to class, "even (those) laws must yield to the free-exercise claims of parents in rearing their children."
In the other case, which was little more high profile, the U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear Michael Newdow's latest effort to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The court had initially rejected Newdow's effort on behalf of his 10-year-old daughter, claiming that he had no standing to sue because he did not have custody of the daughter.
This lawsuit was frivolous in the first place. There may come a time when someone brings a legitimate lawsuit against this in U.S. courts. Newdow is just an egotist who wants to put his name in the history books.

Gary Black may not need to go through the effort of trying to get his death sentence set aside.
The 49-year-old Joplin man whose brutal, racially-motivated murder of Missouri Southern State College student Jason Johnson was detailed in the Aug. 18 Turner Report, may be getting help from the courts already.
Missourinet reported yesterday that an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment may already be in place in the state. Attorney General Jay Nixon is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to clarify its position so survivors of murder victims can at least know the truth about what is going on.
The Carthage R-9 Board of Education voted to increase its levy 42 cents, even though voters approved a 67-cent increase. That modification still isn't enough for a group that claims (with good evidence) that Governor Bob Holden was misleading the state about the need for tax increases in Carthage and other districts.
While I can sympathize with the group, no one doubts the effect property taxes have, there has to be a better way to go about this.
First, let's see just how the R-9 Board spends the money. More money into education is a good thing, especially if it is used properly.
Second, let's remember that Bob Holden is a lame duck governor. Whichever person replaces him has to be an improvement.
Third, isn't it about time we talked to our legislators about finding a more equitable way of funding our educational system than property taxes? (And no, I am not talking about lottery proceeds.)
The Joplin R-8 Board of Education reviewed MAP scores last night. For some reason, the board did not leave the meeting feeling scores had "plateaued" as a headline in The Joplin Globe last week indicated. The test results were positive. Again, my major concern being a middle school communication arts teacher was how well Joplin students did in that category. Compared to the other 17 schools listed in Sunday's Globe, Joplin had more students in the top two categories than 12 and was virtually even with two others. The scores were also slightly better than those posted across the state. Thank God we "plateaued."
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that The Globe had a semi-correction on page one of its Saturday edition. The correction didn't really mention what it was correcting, however. They might as well have not wasted the space.
I am still shaking my head about The Lamar Democrat's coverage of the announcement that O'Sullivan Industries is moving its corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta. The story was buried at the bottom of page one, where it was not visible at the rack. The prominent space at the top of the page was awarded to routine stories written by editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis and Dick Cooper about the Lamar R-1 School Board and the Lamar City Council. Were those stories worthy of page-one attention? Of course they were, but as far as people in Lamar were concerned (and I have already received several comments) the only two major stories going on in the city are the O'Sullivan situation and the fair.
The Saturday Democrat featured no staff-written stories about either event. The coverage of O'Sullivan was limited to a word-for-word reprinting of the self-serving press release issued by the company, right down to the Lamar dateline.
The Democrat's coverage of all things O'Sullivan over the past several months has mystified me. When Tom O'Sullivan Sr. died, the story was featured on page one, but not bannered across the top as you would have expected with the death of the man who probably had a bigger effect on the city than just about anyone.
That decision was especially appalling when I recall something that happened in April 1985. I received a call from Democrat Publisher Doug Davis, who was in Alabama at the time, if memory serves me correctly. He wanted to scrap the page one we had been preparing in place of the big news that the Democrat was back under local ownership. Doug had purchased the paper. He required me to put a 144-point (war is usually declared in 72-point type) headline with the words "Democrat sells" bannered across the top of page one.
The return of the Democrat to local ownership was actually treated with larger headlines than the newspaper used for the death of another Lamar man who contributed a lot...former President Harry S Truman in 1972.
I will repeat what I said a few weeks ago...the way a newspaper plays the stories tells the public what that newspaper feels is important. The minute that press release came through, Democrat reporters should have been manning the phones trying to keep their readers informed by filling in the gaps. They should not have to wait to find out what's going on in their city by reading The Turner Report or The Joplin Globe.
It's getting close to time to head to school for some more nouns, pronouns, and adjectives so I'll catch you later.

Monday, August 23, 2004

As people who know me aware, one of the most enjoyable years of my life was the year I lived in Lockwood and served as editor of the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald in 1979. I am still proud of the work I did at that newspaper. When I lived in Lockwood, I was able to listen to my work being read over the radio every Friday morning on the Greenfield radio station KRFG. An older gentleman (or at least he seemed like an older gentleman from the vantage point of a 23-year-old) would read my articles word for word leaving out only two things...my byline and the fact that the stories came from the Luminary-Herald. Stealing stories from newspapers was a tradition for radio stations at that time. It doesn't happen as often today because most radio stations have totally eliminated their news shows. But don't worry. The tradition lives on in local television. That was obvious to me this summer as I tuned in to Channel 16's noon newscast each day and listened to the Joplin Globe's stories being read. It was easy to tell which ones came from the Globe. First off, all you had to do was look at that morning's Globe. Plus, most of the time there was either no video footage or stock footage taken for an earlier story. It happened again last night and this morning on channels 12 and 16 (both of which are owned by the same company by the way). Both carried the story that O'Sullivan Industries' relocation of its corporate haadquarters from Lamar to Atlanta was likely caused by the company receiving more than a million dollars worth of tax breaks from the state of Georgia. It was a worthwhile story for the TV stations since Lamar is in their viewing area and O'Sullivan Industries is that city's major employer. No question the story deserved air time. The only problem is the TV stations did no original reporting. All they did was take the Globe story and run with it, without giving credit to the Globe. The news teams on Channel 12 and Channel 16 should be embarrassed and they should be ashamed of themselves. No one would think less of them if they gave credit where credit was due. Obviously, this story came from The Joplin Globe. (I would like to think they got it from The Turner Report, where it appeared first, but that doesn't appear to be likely.) Maybe it's time for the news directors at these stations to take a refresher course in ethics.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Ron Doerge controversy in Newton County has shown no signs of dying. Posters on Neoshoforums. com have been talking about a letter to the editor printed earlier this week in The Neosho Daily News defending Sheriff Doerge's right to endorse someone in the race to be his successor.
One person posted a comment that Doerge had asked this person to write a letter. I read the earlier letter today and I have no doubt that was not what happened. The letter was written by Kurt and Vickie Guinn of Stella. Having gone to high school at East Newton with Vickie (I don't recall ever meeting her husband though he too, went to East Newton), I guarantee you the letter was sincere.
You see, Vickie's mother, Wilma Bragg, who lived in rural Stark City, was brutally murdered a few years back by a man named Alis Ben Johns, who led law enforcement officials on a chase across the state. Ms. Bragg, who was living alone at the time of her death was murdered at her home by Johns. Sheriff Doerge was one of those who investigated the murder and I am sure that he showed kindness to the Bragg family and kept the family updated on any developments in the investigation.
Vickie's letter however obscured the main point of the controversy. Of course, Ron Doerge has every right to support someone for Newton County sheriff (even though he had earlier indicated he would not). That is his right as a citizen. What he should not have done was support one candidate then secretly come up with a list of questions for a sheriff's candidate forum on KBTN. He also should not have been using a taxpayer-financed computer for that purpose. These and Doerge's ever-changing, incredulous accounts of what has happened (as well as his efforts to punish those Sheriff's Department employees who have disagreed with his choice in the election) are what has created the turmoil in Newton County.
Of course, Ron Doerge should be allowed to support whatever candidate he wants, but he should be aboveboard about it and should not be using taxpayer money and equipment to further that cause.
One of my favorite people, Lou Rix Scroggs of Lamar, e-mails to tell that history was indeed made in the Lamar Fair Queen Contest Saturday night at the Thiebaud Auditorium. Kelly Williams, daughter of Rick and Denise Williams, was crowned queen. She follows in the footsteps of her older sister, Joni, now a student at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, and her mother, the former Denise Todd. Joni and Denise had been the only mother-daughter combination in the 47-year history of the pageant to be crowned. Now another member of the family has joined the fun. Another member of the family, older sister, Holly, was one of the top runners-up during her time in the contest. She did win a nice consolation prize, however. If memory serves me correctly, Holly later did extremely well in a couple of statewide competitions, including the Miss Missouri USA Pageant.
Now that I have read the Joplin Globe's Sunday print edition, I was not particularly impressed with the hodgepodge main story on the MAP scores. I would hope the Globe reporters continue to explore just what these tests mean.
I am anxiously awaiting the Saturday Lamar Democrat to see how that newspaper handled the situation with O'Sullivan Industries. Nothing has been put on the Democrat's website so far. Too often during the past few years, the only stories the Democrat has run about the city's largest employer have been the thoroughly cleansed press releases. It is at times like this that a newspaper can best serve its community by doing some hard, in-depth reporting.
Thanks to those of you who have been e-mailing to send me information for The Turner Report. I love receiving information for this weblog and I love receiving comments, positive or not-so-positive about the site. Feel free to e-mail me at rturner229@hotmail.com or leave a comment at the space at the end of each of these postings.
I can't wait to get the print version of today's Joplin Globe to examine the MAP scores for all of the area schools. The lead story on the Internet Globe this morning was a bit of a hodgepodge showing that Globe reporters had diligently called officials from a number of area schools. It didn't help me understand the scores any better. Of course, that may be too much to expect from The Globe, education officials, or The Turner Report.
Missouri newspapers need to examine the flaws in the MAP assessments, a big one of which was spelled out in The Turner Report yesterday. And how will Gary Nodler's bill realigning the MAP tests to coordinate with No Child Left Behind affect the equation?
A listing of scores and heaping scorn on schools that did not do so well and praise on those that did is not serving the public need. The scores definitely need to be reported, but there also needs to be a close examination of just what these scores mean and what value, if any, they have.
Hopefully, the Globe, the News-Leader, the Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star, as well as other newspapers across the state will start digging and bring the MAP tests into perspective.
The Internet version of the Globe also carried a major story on the tax incentives offered O'Sullivan Industries to convince the company (and I'm sure company officials didn't need much convincing) to move the corporate headquarters from Lamar to Atlanta. It is a well-researched story. I wouldn't expect any less from a story with Andy Ostmeyer's byline. He and I competed on numerous stories during my early years at The Carthage Press.
Of course, those of you who read The Turner Report over the past few days were already aware of the major points that were brought out in the Globe article.
You already knew that:
-O'Sullivan was taking advantage of changes made in Georgia law in 2003 that lowered the number of jobs created necessary to qualify from tax credits from 100 to 50.
-The legislature changed the number to convince Newell Rubbermaid to locate its corporate headquarters in Georgia.
-O'Sullivan's new command center, top three leaders Bob Parker, Richard Watkins, and Michael Orr, all were top officials with Newell Rubbermaid at the time the company relocated its corporate headquarters to Atlanta.
-Bob Parker is the first million dollar CEO in the history of O'Sullivan Industries and that his salary is more than double that of his predecessor.
I imagine there are other items that you picked up here first, but those are the ones that quickly come to mind.
So pass along the word about The Turner Report. This website has 12 times the readership it had just two weeks ago and the number is growing steadily.
If you have any items for The Turner Report or comments, e-mail me at rturner229@hotmail.com Anyone who has any documents of interest can send them to: Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. G, Joplin, MO. 64801.
A few personal items.
I ran into Stephanie Taylor, who was one of my students at Diamond Middle School during her sixth and seventh grade years, at the mall Friday night. She is making the same move I made last year...from Diamond to Joplin. She is now a freshman at Joplin High School. The local television news mentioned that a number of students became lost on opening day on the mammoth Joplin High School campus. Fortunately, Stephanie was not among them...except for just a few minutes, she says. Best of luck, Stephanie.
I had a nice visit after school at South Thursday from Melissa Summers, who was one of my best students at South last year. She, too, is a freshman at Joplin High School, and reports that things are going well. I always enjoy seeing my former students.
I'm curious as to who won the Lamar Fair Queen Contest Saturday night. One of the contestants, Kelly Williams, was attempting to add another chapter to contest history. Her older sister, Joni, and her mother, Denise (Todd) Williams, were previous winners.
I may have overlooked this in the regional newspapers, but I haven't seen any mention of a momentous court decision that was handed down Wednesday morning by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision, made in the case of Jane Doe vs. The Little Rock School District, said the district's policy of conducting random drug searches of classes was unconstitutional.
Until that decision was made, the district had a policy of selecting a random class, forcing the students to empty their pockets, leave their backpacks and purses behind then move into the hall while their belongings were searched.
When Jane Doe was in the seventh grade five years ago, her purse was searched during one of these sessions, and the authorities found a container filled with marijuana. I asked one of the students in my class how his parents would react in such a situation. He said they would be pretty upset that he was carrying a purse. After the laughter, the students seemed to agree their parents would be very upset that they had marijuana in their possession.
Jane Doe's parents sued, claiming their daughter's constitutional rights had been violated. They lost at the district court level, but the Court of Appeals overturned that decision. So for the time being, the law in the states covered by the Eighth Circuit, one of which is Missouri, prevents this type of search from being conducted.
It remains to be seen whether the Little Rock School District appeals the decision to the U. S. Supreme Court.
As a firm believer in civil liberties, I'm with the appeals court on this decision. While I applaud school officials' efforts to cut down on drug abuse, this clearly is not the way to go about it. The Fourth Amendment stipulates that there will be no illegal search or seizure. If there is enough evidence for law enforcement officials to obtain a search warrant, that is a different matter. How can we teach students about what makes this country great if they see contrary evidence right in front of them?
There are other ways of dealing with these situations and thankfully, school officials are almost always able to handle them without violating anyone's constitutional rights.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Joplin Globe's article on Joplin R-8 map scores has R-8 officials steamed and I am not happy about it either.
The Globe headline said that the school district had "reached a plateau" in MAP scores, making it sound as if Joplin schools were stuck and not moving forward. The district has 34 schools and 26 of them saw improvements, some substantial, in their scores. Once again, it is a case of the Globe showing its the big bully on the block by emphasizing the bad just because it can.
The Joplin R-8 schools, and many others in southwest Missouri, are improving on their scores. That needs to be emphasized. If the Globe wants to do some investigative reporting, it should look into the inherent flaws of the MAP tests, something that I discussed with the students in my communication arts classes at South on Friday.
These kids had improved the school's communication arts scores when they took the test last year as seventh graders. That result, however, does not tell us anything. It does not show that these students are improving in their reading and writing skills because they are not being compared against what they have done in the past. They are being compared against what the previous year's seventh graders did.
Let's use a hypothetical example to show how this logic is flawed. Take a high school basketball team with five senior starters, including a talented seven-foot center, a 6-11, 6-10 front line, a 6-6 point guard and a 6-4 shooting guard. The team does extremely well. The following year, none of those players return, the tallest player is 6-2 and the team is expected to win more games. That is ridiculous.
Testing can be a useful tool, but it should not be the be-all and end-all of education. As long as these decisions are being made by legislators who are looking for campaign issues and bureaucrats who want to justify their continued existence, we will continue to have major problems in education.
As for The Joplin Globe, shall we talk about how its circulation has really plateaued?
Speaking of MAP scores, I have decided not to print any more results at the present time. The Globe will be doing a more complete article lilsting these scores in its Sunday edition. I may have some commentary after I have looked over those scores.
The Lamar Fair queen will be crowned tonight and that brings back some fond memories. I covered my first Lamar Fair Queen Contest in 1978. I believe Beth Joyce was the queen that year. I covered the contest every year from 1983 through 1999, except for 1990. But that year's queen, Renee Buffington, helped me get one of my better photos. I talked to Renee during a break in the 1991 pageant, which was the first one to be held in the Thiebaud Auditorium. I told her if she stood to the side of the queen when she crowned her successor, I would be able to get both girls' faces in the picture. One of the biggest problems of trying to take a picture of the actual moment of the crowning is that the girl usually has her face blocked by the person crowning her, whose rear is facing the camera. That is not a good photo.
Renee remembered and I was able to run a good photo of Queen Melissa Main in The Press the next day.
Other memories of the queen contest include:
-Interviewing Queen Jennifer Lenz, who later was crowned Miss Arizona USA, who talked about the lucky penny she carried in her shoe and about her mother's battle with breast cancer.
-1986, when Leisha Maupin came out of nowhere to win the crown. I anticipated Leisha was going to win it and had the camera trained on her when the announcement was made. She had a great reaction which would have made a wonderful photo, but I didn't get it in focus.
-1987, I believe, when I tried the same tactic, anticipating that Tanya Tahhan would be crowned. This time, I got the photo. It was a little out of focus, but I got the photo, by golly.
-The year Heather Brandell was crowned. Heather, I believe, is the only Lamar Fair Queen who is no longer with us. She was a wonderful interview. I remember she was worried about her interviews. She had talked about her love of reading, which would seem to be a positive. However, it was her love of reading romance novels.
-Checking out the photos of all of the queens from 1958 on that were in the display window at Walters Studio every August.
If I thought about it, I know I could come up with many more memories.That was always an event I loved covering.
The price of dental care must be skyrocketing in Jasper County.
In a case that might be deemed laughable if it weren't so pathetic, a Jasper County Jail inmate awaiting trial on child molestation charges is suing Sheriff Archie Dunn for denying him dental care. According to the petition, which was filed Thursday in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Martin Anthony Eck, 41, Joplin, is asking for $100 million. Those must be some teeth he has.
Eck has been in jail in lieu of $25,000 bond since he was arrested in April. According to Jasper County court records, he is charged with four felony counts: two counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree and two counts of child molestation in the first degree. His bond was initially set at $100,000, but was reduced.
Eck told what happened to him in his petition. "I arrived at Jasper County Jail on April 2, 2004," he wrote. "I told the booking officer that I had bad teeth that needed taken care of. I was told at that time Jasper County Jail did not have a dentist. I filed a grievance on May 12, 2004 and got no response. I told the nurse numerous times and have written the sheriff on July 15, 2004.
"I still have not seen a dentist. As I understand it, it is the County Commission's job to make sure health care is available. It's been four months, still no dentist."
Eck's case is scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. Sept. 22 jury trial, according to court records.
The Joplin Globe article on O'Sullivan Industries' decision to relocate its corporate offices to Atlanta had company officials saying that 35 to 50 jobs would be moved. Count on that number being at least 50.
If O'Sullivan officials move have anything less than 50 jobs, the company will not be eligible for tax breaks offered by the state of Georgia to induce companies to relocate there.
At one time, the state of Georgia required a company to create at least 100 jobs in order to qualify for tax incentives worth millions of dollars.The legislature lowered that number to 50 in 2003. It is no coincidence that the change was made to convince Newell Rubbermaid to relocate its corporate offices from Illinois to Atlanta.
As pointed out in an earlier edition of The Turner Report, three former Newell Rubbermaid offiicials all of whom played major roles in that company when the decision was made to move to Atlanta, are now in charge of O'Sullivan Industries...million-dollar CEO Bob Parker, chief financial officer Rick Allan Watkins and executive vice president Michael Orr.
That 2003 legislation allows companies to qualify for five years of tax credits for jobs created in each of the first five years after they relocate, according to the Atlanta Business Journal.
What is surprising that Atlanta officials are still willing to deal with people who have been associated with Newell Rubbermaid. Newell Rubbermaid officials apparently did not live up to their end of the bargain, according to the Business Journal.
The state is attempting to stop payment on approximately $900,000 in incentives to Newell Rubbermaid, claiming the company did not create enough jobs or develop as much real estate as it has promised. That is most of the $1.3 million in incentives the state promised. Apparently, Newell Rubbermaid officials had indicated they would eventually increase the number of employees at their corporate offices to 1,000. So far, only 75 are employed there and the company does not appear to be in a hurry to add any more.
The good news for Lamar residents who are concerned about O'Sullivan Industries taking manufacturing jobs to Atlanta is that Newell Rubbermaid indicated from the beginning they would not be moving any manufacturing jobs to Atlanta and there are no hints of any kind that the company is going to change its mind.
The same sort of promises have been made by current O'Sullivan officials. Of course, these are the same people who indicated that no layoffs were planned when the announcement was made about the move of the corporate offices then turned around a couple of days later and laid off 150 people.
Another positive sign is that Atlanta officials apparently are not interested in attracting manufacturing jobs. They are on the prowl for the type of high-salary, executive-types who will be moving there when the offices are relocated.
According to the Atlanta Business Journal, the city is trying to develop a reputation as a desirable spot for companies to relocate their corporate headquarters.
Ironically, when Newell Rubbermaid moved, its officials cited as one of the reasons the Atlanta location was desirable was that it was much closer to one of their major customers...Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas. Think about it. O'Sullivan Industries is moving to big city corporate headquarters to help it do business, when the biggest business in the world is comfortably located in little Bentonville, Arkansas.
MAP results have been released and naturally, since I have been a middle school communication arts teacher for the past six years, my attention turned to seventh grade communication arts scores.
The Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education puts MAP scores into five categories. The top scores are advanced, followed by proficient, near proficient, progressing and Step One.
The main figures state officials look at are how many students a school has in the top two categories and how many it has in the bottom two. I examined all of the school districts in Jasper, Newton, Barton, and McDonald counties, except for Westview and Avilla (which I simply forgot and it is nearing 2:30 a.m. so I will have to go back and get them later.)
Schools with the highest percentage of students in the top two categories were:
1. Seneca 43.1
2. Liberal 38.9
3. Carl Junction 38.7
4. Neosho 34.8
5. Joplin 33.0
5. East Newton 33.0
7. Webb City 32.3
8.Carthage 30.9
9. Diamond 29.6
10.Lamar 28.3
11. Sarcoxie 26.9
12. McDonald County 24.3
13. Golden City 16.7
14. Jasper 13.6

Schools having the fewest students in the bottom two areas were:
1. Liberal 22.2
2. Seneca 23.9
3. Carl Junction 26.1
4. East Newton 27.8
5. Webb City 29.5
6. Neosho 30.3
7. Joplin 34.5
7. Jasper 34.5
9. Sarcoxie 37.0
10. Carthage 37.8
11. Diamond 38.9
12. Lamar 39.6
13. McDonald County 47.9
14. Golden City 50.0

Area schools that improved in the top two categories from their 2003 scores were: Carl Junction 5.2 percentage points; East Newton, 4.9; Joplin 1.3; Lamar 11.1; and Neosho 2.5.
Schools with fewer students in the bottom two categories were: Carl Junction 4.7; East Newton 2.0; Joplin 2.2; Lamar 2.8; Liberal 9.4; Neosho 2.3; and Webb City 5.3. Golden City had the same amount of students in the bottom two categories.
I'll try to supply a little more information about the MAP tests later.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The long-awaited announcement that O'Sullivan Industries, the backbone of Lamar's economy for the past 40 years, will move its corporate headquarters to Atlanta should have come as no surprise.
After all, during the past three months, O'Sullivan has hired three new executives to run the company, all of whom come from Atlanta-based Rubbermaid Newell.
The O'Sullivan press release said, according to this morning's Joplin Globe, that the move was necessary for continued business. Million dollar CEO Bob Parker said, "We are excited about moving the corporate headquarters to the Atlanta area. By moving to a larger metropolitan area, we will make our corporate headquarters more accessible to our valued customers."
What Parker did not say in the press release was that the move to Atlanta was a done deal before he signed on the dotted line to become CEO. Without the move, Parker, the new chief financial officer Rick Allan Watkins, and Michael Orr, all Rubbermaid Newell transplants, would not have taken their new positions.
Looking at it from Parker's perspective, it is probably difficult to figure out enough ways to spend a million dollars a year in Lamar. Though the press release indicated manufacturing, accounting, engineering, customer service, and distribution will all remain in Lamar, you can't blame O'Sullivan employees for being more than a little bit skeptical, especially after the recent bloodbath of long-time company officials.
This move by the Atlanta mafia is just another slap in the face to the memory of Tom O'Sullivan Sr.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

It wasn't the first time Jason Johnson had heard the names. When you're African-American and live in southwest Missouri, the unfortunate fact of life is there are going to be times when you're going to be called every vile racial epithet in the book.
But this time was different. This was the last time anyone would ever call Jason Johnson by that evil name, that six-letter word that starts with the letter n. The fountain of red spurting from his throat spelled the end of the line for Jason. In a few moments, he would pass out due to lack of oxygen. After he was rushed to Freeman Hospital, it was determined quickly that he had suffered brain damage.
Within a couple of days, Jason Johnson, a student at Missouri Southern State College, was dead. He had drowned in his own blood, the victim of a fatal stabbing.
The man who stabbed him, Gary Black, 44, Joplin, was arrested shortly afterward in Oklahoma. An officer attempted to give him the Miranda warning. Black snarled, "F--- the Miranda warning. You tell that m-----f----- Dankelson (Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson) that I never attempted to kill anybody. The people I've attempted to kill, I've killed. Remember that, remember that." He pointedly added, "Cops, too."
At some time in the near future, Gary Black is scheduled to be executed by the state of Missouri for the murder of Jason Johnson. His last chance to avoid the ultimate fate will come Sept. 14 when his plea his heard before the Missouri Supreme Court.
Gary Black was no stranger to crime long before he ever met Jason Johnson. At the age of 21 in 1976, he robbed a Newton County man and shot him in the back. He was sentenced to prison where he did not make any friends. At the sentencing phase of his trial in Jasper County Circuit Court, a Department of Corrections official noted that Black had committed assault five times during his decade-long prison stay.
Black received a new three-year lease on life in November 2001 when the Missouri Supreme Court stayed his execution. Now his attorneys are throwing everything into their appeal and hoping that something sticks.
The details of Black's crime are laid out in documents filed with the Missouri Supreme Court. The road to Gary Black's execution began Oct. 2, 1998, in Joplin. Jason Johnson finished his work at a store at Northpark Mall in the later afternoon and joined his friends, Andrew Martin and Mark Wolfe, at Garfield's for a few beers.
They left at 9:30 p.m. and stopped at a convenience store, according to the court records. Johnson bought some more beer and some tobacco.He stood in line with a woman named Tammy Lawson, Gary Black's girlfriend. It was that fateful coincidence that ended up costing Johnson his life.
Court records indicate that Ms. Lawson went to Black's car and told him that Johnson had said something "perverted" to her while they were standing in line. She pointed him out as he left the store. Johnson opened the passenger-side door on Martin's pickup and they drove away, followed by Wolfe in his Camaro, and though they didn't know it, by Black and Ms. Lawson.
Johnson, Martin, and Wolfe were headed toward the Dolphin Club. When Martin stopped at the light at 5th and Joplin, Black pulled alongside him in the right lane. The cars stopped in front of the club. Black and Johnson shouted at each other. Martin testified at Black's trial that Black leaped out of his car, reached through the passenger window of Martin's pickup, and stabbed Johnson in the neck, severing his jugular vein and nearly severing his carotid artery. Before he left his car he told Ms. Lawson he was going to "hurt that n-----." As he wawlked away after stabbing Johnson, he said, "One n----- down."
Johnson was able to get out of the pickup and came at Black with a 40-ounce beer bottle. He managed to throw it at him. Black got back into his car and drove away. Blood was flowing everywhere. Bystanders did what they could to help Johnson, using towels and clothing to attempt to stay the flow. Paramedics arrived and did what they could, but it was too little, too late. Black had effectively executed Jason Johnson.
At the trial, prosecutors convinced the jury that the murder was premeditated. By following Johnson, then killing him, Black had shown cool reflection. It was the first time in nearly four decades that a Jasper County jury had handed out a death sentence.
Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments from Black's attorneys claiming that he received ineffective counsel during his trial and that the evidence did not support a first-degree murder verdict. Within a couple of months, the court will determine whether the will of the Jasper County jury is carried out.
The stabbings over the weekend at Club Miami in Joplin were reported thoroughly on the TV news. The club has made a name for itself in this area for the raucous behavior that goes on inside its doors. It was only two years ago that the club, owned by Entertainment Concepts of Joplin ran afoul of the State Liquor Control for having a simulated sex act.
According to state records, the entertainment at Club Miami on March 22, 2002, put on by Kirk Keller, formerly of Carthage, was called "What Would You Do for a Sea-Do?" The records indicate Keller arranged for a woman named Darla Jo Marquardt to be one of the contestants and fixed it where she would say she would be willing to commit an oral sex act with a member of the audience to win the prize. Of course, the person had been chosen beforehand. The two went behind a screen where the audience could only see them in silhouette. Once they were behind the screen, the audience appeared to be watching a sex act. In reality, Ms. Marquardt was simulating the act with a footlong rubber fascimile.
Sex acts and simulated sex acts are not allowed at places that hold state licenses to serve alcohol. State liquor control officers investigated Club Miami. First-time violators usually have their license taken away for a few days and are placed on probation.
While the liquor violation would probably be considered minor in the grand scheme of things, another case involving Club Miami may not be and though you haven't read about in the area newspapers or seen anything about on on the local television stations, it is part of a nationwide story.
In February, one of the two great music publishing businesses in the Unied States, BMI, along with Sheryl Crow, John Fogarty of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Kid Rock, among others, filed a lawsuit against Club Miami.
It was one of a number of lawsuits filed against nightclubs across the country. According to the lawsuit, Club Miami has been playing songs written or owned by these people without paying the licensing fees.
BMI made its decision to file the lawsuits based on information given to its officials by a team of verifiers who visited the establishments and documented how the music was being played.
According to federal copyright law, any nightclub or restaurant that plays recorded music, whether it is used as background music or in karaoke or otherwise, has to pay a licensing fee based on its size and dining capacity. The only exceptions are made for bars and restaurants that are smaller then 3,750 square feet that play the radio.
If the licensing fees are not paid and the laws are not enforced, then the writers would be robbed of the profits that are due them. According to published sources, most of these kinds of lawsuits are settled out of court.
No court date has been set.
Missouri school districts have received their MAP scores. The State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will allow school officials to release them tomorrow (Thursday). The Joplin Globe is scheduled to have a major story on the scores in its Sunday edition. I'll see what I can come up with before then.
The Bush Administration apparently tried to hide a recent study that showed that fourth graders in public schools had higher reading and math scores than those who attended charter schools, which are a centerpiece of what President Bush calls an education plan.
When the figures were crunched, even allowing for the fact that many charter schools are located in areas with poor families, fair comparisons showed the public school students leading.
Normally, when these studies are completed, the results are released immediately with much fanfare. This time, they were hidden where you almost had to have a magnifying glass to find the information. When confronted about this, an Education Department official told the New York Times that the department planned to release the information, but wanted to wait until it could put it in its proper perspective...sometime like after the November election, I'm sure.
The Bush Administration in particular and the Republican Party in general, have a long history of promoting private schools, religious schools, and unproven charter schools over public education. They always cite comparisons between scores from this country and scores from other countries. The simple fact is Americans receive a better education than any other country in the world. Scores are sometimes lower because we believe everyone deserves an education. The top students in other countries are being compared with all students in this country. It is time that education stopped being used as a tool for political demagogues. It is easy to say that education is broken and offer quick, unproven fixes. Education has problems and probably the biggest problem are the uneducated elected officials who keep using it as a political football.

Monday, August 16, 2004

One of the stops I made on my last day as a Carthage resident was at the Jasper County Courthouse so I could transfer my voter registration from Carthage to Joplin. Despite the fact that I had lived on the Carthage square for more than six years I had not been at the courthouse for at least three. I absolutely hated the draconian security measures that were put in place back in the late 1990s.
The Jasper County Commission, using what I considered to be bogus evidence, decided that metal detectors and armed deputies were needed to protect the courthouse workers. I strongly disagreed in three or four columns on The Carthage Press opinion page. People should not have to feel like felons when they go into the courthouse to conduct their business. Especially when the courthouse workers, whose salaries are made possible by the taxpayers, did not have to go through the system, and in many cases were arranging for their friends to bypass it also.
As I walked into the courthouse, I immediately noticed the metal detectors were gone. There were no armed deputies in the lobby. I asked about that as I changed my voter registration and was told the security measures had been removed late last year. I remembered reading something in The Press about Sheriff Archie Dunn saying his department could no longer afford to provide the security. Apparently, the current County Comimission didn't think it was worth spending the extra money to keep it going. The Commission made a wise decision.
In these days after Sept. 11, it is hard to fault anyone who opts to provide extra security. That's what my communication arts classes are going to discuss tomorrow (Tuesday) as they prepare for their first opinion paper of the 2004-2005 school year.
High school students in Biloxi, Miss., were greeted by new security measures when they returned for the 2003-2004 school year. Digital surveillance cameras had been placed in every classroom and hallway in the building. The only places where the students had privacy from these Orwellian devices were the bathrooms and locker rooms.
The security measures cost the Biloxi school district hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the cameras were affordable because of a large influx of casino money the district had received. Instead of putting that money into tutoring programs or additional laptop computers, they put their all-seeing eyes in every corner of their buildings.
Some students didn't mind. They said the cameras made them feel safer. In this era, that feeling is understandable. Obviously, the cameras take the he said/she said argument out of student-student or student-teacher disputes. Some students did decry the invasion of their privacy. Some teachers were concerned that the cameras would be used by principals to evaluate them. District officials said that would not happen.
My classes discussed this topic last year and had some interesting observations. I can't wait to see what my new students have to say.
The first day of school went well. It is so much easier the second year. Everything is new last year, plus as many of you know as I was at death's door at this time last year and didn't even know it. So last August I felt lousy and having to adjust to a new job after four years at Diamond Middle School, well, it was a stressful time to say the least.
This year, I am healthy, I know my way around, and the kids appear to be nice and well-behaved. You can't ask for anything more.
An addition to the item in Sunday's Turner Report about the impending sale of The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, the Big Nickel, and the Neosho Post. Published reports in The Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal indicate experts believe Liberty Group Publishing will receive in the neighborhood of $500 to $600 million for its collection of more than 300 daily and weekly newspapers.
The experts gave two reasons for the prediction: 1. The properties are attractive because of the recent decisions turning back the clock and stopping the larger companies from creating monopolies in the big markets, and 2. Almost all of Liberty's newspapers, including the ones in this area, have no competition.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, The Big Nickel, and The Neosho Post are for sale.
I don't recalled seeing anything about this in The Daily this week and I confess that since I have moved to Joplin I have not seen every issue of The Press.
Liberty Group Publishing, which has owned these publications and more than 300 others since 1998, plans to offer its stable of newspapers to the highest bidder. Liberty formed six years ago when the Los Angeles leveraged-buyout company Leonard Green and Partners bought many of Hollinger's small dailies and weeklies for $310 million.
The plans were revealed in the Aug. 5 Chicago Tribune. Of course, Liberty's CEO, a lawyer named Ken Serota, had no comment.
According to the Tribune article, "Liberty's newspapers and shoppers, based mostly in suburban and rural areas, are seen as attractive because they face little competition for local advertising dollars and generate consistently high cash flows. Though few of Liberty's community newspapers have a circulation of more than 20,000 (the Daily and The Press are probably lucky if they have circulations of 4,000 and more likely pushing 3,000) the group posted 2003 sales of close to $189 million on a readership of about 2.3 million per week."
An unnamed private equity investor told the Tribune, "Liberty is an interesting, stable business. They dominate advertising in these towns and small cities where they don't have to go up against broadcast, cable or radio like newspapers in large markets."
Another attractive quality of Liberty, the article said, is that its newspapers are located in clusters, or several in certain geographical areas like The Daily, The Press, the Big Nickel, the Post, the Greenfield Vedette and The Miller Press in this area.
What that enables the company to do is to gut a newspaper as Liberty has done with The Carthage Press, taking away its press and laying off its press workers, taking away its composing department and laying off its workers, and having these and other functions, such as insertions, done at Neosho.
Recently, The Carthage Press announced that it will move from its present historic location just off the square to a site on Central Avenue, amongst the fast food places. In truth, a three-story building such as The Press is currently in, is far too large since most of the functions have been taken away from Carthage and sent to Neosho, improving the bottom line for The Daily and for Liberty, but damaging the Press and the Carthage community.
The lack of competition cited in the Tribune article is definitely the scenario in this region. The Daily went without competition for years until Jimmie Sexton started The Neosho Post. The Post made inroads on the Neosho advertising dollar until Liberty bought it and turned it into an adjunct of the Daily. The only competition in Carthage for years has been a free weekday news sheet called The Mornin' Mail, put out by H. J. Johnson of Heritage Publishing, a small Carthage print shop. It has concentrated primarily on city news and has not made a dent in The Press's advertising, though it has scooped it some major governmental stories over the past decade.
The Press was at one time (during the times when Neil Campbell and I served as managing editors) a worthy competitor to The Joplin Globe for area stories, including some Joplin stories.
That has come to an end for the most part as the Press has turned to less experienced reporters and has been hamstrung by the early deadlines forced on it by having to have it printed in Neosho each day.
What would a sale mean for the area newspapers? It's hard to tell. It would be easy to say that things couldn't get worse, but as long as there are people who put the immediate bottom line ahead of the long-term health of the newspapers and the community, things could get worse. There is already a dearth of investigative reporting, a lack of in-depth coverage, and an inclination to accept every handout from every public official without even checking them out.
Newspapers can be the lifeblood of a community, a source of light that keeps officials on the up and up. When no one performs these watchdog activities, that is when you have the kinds of self-serving shenanigans area officials in Jasper and Newton counties have gotten away with for years.
I hope that the editors and publishers of the area newspapers keep us informed. I don't expect that to happen. Newspaper people always talk about publishing the truth. They usually make a genuine effort to do just that...unless, of course, their own newspapers are the story.
When Liberty is sold, at least one longtime official will not be part of the deal. The South Sebring Florida News-Sun reports that its new publisher is Ralph Bush. Bush, the son of the late Channing Bush of Neosho, was publisher of The Carthage Press for six years. Before that, he served as director of national advertising for Liberty Group Publishing, based in Neosho. His grandfather, Howard Bush, was the owner of The Neosho Daily News. His cousin, Randy Cope, is the current publisher of the Daily, as well as Liberty Group Publishing's regional manager for this area.
Bush was moved into the publisher position at The Press after the firing of Jim Farley, who had been publisher for more than a decade.
According to an article in The News-Sun, "(Bush) has a strong history of community involvement. In Carthage, Bush served on the chamber board and its executive committee, was a founding member of Leadership Carthage, was a board member of Children's Center of Southwest Missouri and also was on the Fair Acres Family YMCA Board. That involvement is exactly what he plans to continue in Highlands County."
The article quotes Bush as saying, "The News-Sun has a long history of being involved in the community and plays a vital role in Highlands County. I look forward to the opportunity to become a part of that involvement. That is what a community newspaper is all about."
The timing is lousy since we are only a few short days away from the beginning of the high school sports seasons, but The Carthage Press is on the lookout for a new sports writer. Sports Editor Michael Sudhalter's last day was Saturday. According to a farewell column he wrote in Saturday's paper, he has taken a sports position at a newspaper in Moscow, Idaho.
An Aug. 17 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Edward J. Meerwald, Jr., who is alleged to have killed two Neoshoans, James Dodson and his seven-year-0ld grandaughter July 31 while driving under the influence.
On Friday, the judge ruled that Meerwald can wear his own clothing, rather than the county orange jumpsuit and he will not have to be shackled "as long as he is not a danger to escape or cause a disturbance" according to court records.
Meerwald is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he can be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison. Area Mothers Against Drunk Driving officials are trying to find other DWI charges within the past 10 years. If they can find two, Meerwald can be charged with second degree murder.
Meerwald is being held in the Newton County Jail in lieu of $250,00 bond.
School starts in the Joplin R-8 School District tomorrow (Monday) and I am ready to see the kids again. R-8 teachers returned to work last Thursday, beginning with a meeting/pep rally in the high school auditorium, followed by departmental meetings and a luncheon for all district employees.
Building meetings were held Thursday afternoon and Friday. On Friday morning, South teachers went through an in-service session to learn a new electronic gradebook, which will enable parents to be able to see how their children are doing simply by going to an Internet address and typing in a password. Parents can also check how many absences their children have had and how many times their children have been disciplined.
Open House was held Thursday night. Parents picked up their children's schedules, attended a brief meeting in the South auditorium, then attended five to six-minute sessions in each of their children's seven classes. We had a sizable attendance.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

A former Freeman Neosho physician who was recently hit with a felony drug charge has also been targeted in civil court. For the fifth time in the past couple of years, Dr. Jeffrey A. Wool has been sued for malpractice. On Aug. 10, Ronald Taylor filed suit against Wool in Jasper County Circuit Court.
The five lawsuits would appear to have some connection with the criminal charges since a common factor has been the presence of lab technician Neidra DePuy in the suits. Ms. DePuy has also been sued in each of the five cases, four of which are still pending. The fifth case was dropped by the plaintiff. Another common factor has been the listing of John Doe Pharmaceutical Companies as a defendant, as well as Freeman Medical Systems and Freeman Neosho.
It would seem to make sense for The Joplin Globe or The Neosho Daily News to head over to the Jasper County Courthouse and examine those lawsuits. At the least, they should provide interesting reading. Quite possibly, they could provide a wealth of background information on this scandal which has enveloped the Neosho hospital.
Another important aspect to using court documents is that it lessens the reliance the media has on statements from prosecutors and law enforcement officials. Anything that does that has to be a welcome development.
Officials from Edison Schools have filed a response to the Diamond R-4 School District's lawsuit. In the response, which was filed Aug. 12 in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Edison claims, "Diamond has refused to fully compensate Edison Schools for its programs and service."
Diamond contracted with Edison on Feb. 15, 2002, to provide summer school that year. The two sides dispute how much money Diamond should have paid. The R-4 School District has paid about $212,000. Edison claims the school owes an additional $87,635.51, plus late fees and interest. Diamond filed a lwsuit against Edison in Newton County Circuit Court. Edison filed to have the case moved to federal court.
You can find more background information about this case on the home page and on the Diamond Daily and Archives pages of my Diamond website, www.wildcatcentral.com
A state appeals court has helped keep the Jasper County area safe, though it has received little, if no, publicity.
In an opinion issued Aug. 10, the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals affirmed a Jasper County jury's decision to commit Michael Goddard, 32, to a state institution under a law which allows the state to continue to hold dangerous sexual predators.
According to court records, Goddard's attorney tried to have the decision reversed, claiming that testimony given by Dr. Rinta Khan, using statistical models to show that Goddard, who has a long record of pedophilic sexual attraction to boys, would continue to commit sexual crimes if he were allowed to reenter the community.
Goddard's criminal record began at age 15, when he molested a seven-year-old boy, according to court records. Three years later, at age 18, he sodomized an 11-year-old boy, and was sentenced to four years in prison. Other molestations might have been prevented, if he had actually gone to prison. Court records indicate Goddard actually spent 50 days shock time in jail, had his sentence suspended and was placed on probation.
Part of the probation deal was that Goddard was to go through a sexual offender treatment program. He refused to do so. Finally, he was sent to the state hospital at Fulton for in-patient treatment, which also did no good because Goddard contined to refuse to participate. He also "totally lacked remorse, " according to the appellate court opinion.
Apparently, Goddard's probation officer didn't know or wasn't concerned when Goddard began to date a woman with three children under the age of 10. One month after he was released from Fulton, he admitted to
molesting her son several times, according to court records, as well as molesting other boys. In November 1192, he pleaded guilty to sodomizing his girlfriend's son and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be served concurrently with his original four-year sentence, since he had obviously violated the terms of his probation.
During his decade in prison, he did not take part in any treatment for his problem, insisting that there was nothing wrong with him. Court records indicate he blamed others for his problem.
Thanks to the appeals court decision this man won't be victimizing any more young people at least for the time being.
Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge refuses to go quietly. Doerge's attempts to anoint a successor to his position (he is retiring at the end of the present term) has brought him under the microscope of the media, a place where he should have been for some time.
Doerge's continued success in Newton County has been in large part due to the media. It is hard to investigate a public official who has continued to provide one news story after another to the local media and has gone out of his way to make sure that the area television stations and newspapers have been kept busy with positive news stories about his department. These carefully staged photo ops and well-crafted news releases prevent the media from having to do any work, which is just the way they like it.
Now that he won't be around much longer, the media is finally casting a critical eye on him. It started with Doerge's endorsement of Mike Copeland as the man he wants to succeed him. Despite that endorsement and his apparent conflict of interest in doing so, Doerge agreed to KBTN Radio talk show host John McCormack's request to provide him with a list of questions for a sheriff's candidate forum. Candidate Mike Langland, a sheriff's deputy, but not the anointed one, somehow managed to come up with a copy of the questions, which were being kept on a computer in Doerge's office.
Stories in yesterday's Neosho Daily News and this morning's Joplin Globe gave Doerge's convoluted reasoning for having these questions on his computer, even though it is obvious this was a political function and did not have anything to do with the operation of the Newton County Sheriff's Department. Doerge reasoned that since the forum had to do with who would be running the sheriff's department that made it sheriff's department business.
It is amazing how a man who has been in law enforcement for so long can have so little knowlege of or respect for the law. I am sure the story will continue to develop.
On a lighter note, an old friend e-mailed me a few days ago to let me know she is getting married. Nothing unusual about that, but she was proposed to in Pittsburg in front of a standing-room-only crowd at an Oak Ridge Boys concert.
Tyleen Winterbower II, a Pittsburg, Kan., social worker who can also be heard occasionally as an announcer on KKOW-AM radio, accepted the proposal. She is scheduled to get married next May. Tyleen is one of this area's true success stories. I first met her when she was a high school student at Golden City. I wrote articles about her for The Carthage Press, both when she was in high school and later. She succeeded despite a childhood that might have broken other people. She was beaten by her stepfather, shunted from home to home, spent time in foster care, but she always kept her eyes pointed toward success. Because of the things that had happened to her Tyleen went into social work to try to help others facing similar situations. Recently, she was featured in a Pittsburg Morning Sun article detailing the success of a program she and another woman started to get poor children involved in music.