Monday, September 27, 2004

I had always wondered why so many copies of Missouri Conservationist were sent to South Middle School and the other schools around the state.
You can almost have as many copies as you want and all of them are free, courtesy of our state Conservation Department. That always seemed a little wasteful to me.
The free copies were explained in a page-one article in the Sunday Kansas City Star. Those free copies are furnished by the taxpayers courtesy of the one-eighth of a cent conservation sales tax we passed two decades ago. The Star investigation showed that the department has done many good things with the tax revenues, but it has already accomplished the goals it said it would with the tax long ago. Nevertheless, the tax continues. While the Conservation Department continues to do good things with the money, something the Star article stressed, money is also being spent frivolously, at a time when other state agencies are struggling to make ends meet.
Examples of this include those many free copies of the Missouri Conservationist, an excellent magazine as well, as having all employees, including secretaries and maintenance personnel, attending sensitivity seminars and bringing in an expensive new age pianist, at a high cost, to perform at a department function.
It appears it is past time to examine this perpetual tax, which is the envy, not only of other Missouri departments and agencies, but of every conservation department across the United States.
The Star report indicated that Missourians have no problem with the tax since the money is being used for the upkeep of state parks.
Only one problem with that isn't true. State parks are under the management of the Department of Natural Resources.
Joplin Globe editor Edgar Simpson's Sunday column about longtime reporter/columnist Gary Garton was well done and brought out more of what made Mr. Garton special, something which the next-day coverage of his death in the Globe did not.
I continue to have problems with the Globe's story selection. Garton's death deserved a page-one article, not just the little photo above the banner. A number of frivolous stories continue to make the Globe's display page. On the day following Gary Garton's death, it was a rehash...eight months later...of the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl fiasco. Today's page one features an article about World Wrestling Entertainment and not one word about the war in Iraq.
More revelations about the amount of gifts area state senators and representatives are receiving from lobbyists will be featured in upcoming editions of The Turner Report.
Fraud allegations have been made against employees in the Diamond R-4 School District. The State Teacher Retirement System has been informed that one teacher is skirting the requirements for a limited amount of pay from a school district after his official retirement.
This teacher is teaching the total number of hours part-time that he is allowed by law, but in addition to that, he is driving a school bus...under his wife's name.
The wife, who it has been reported does not drive the bus at all, receives the money. This causes a second fraud allegation since this woman also teaches in the R-4 School District. The amount of money teachers receive upon retirement is determined by the amount of money they make during their three highest-paying years at a school district. The money this woman allegedly receives fraudulently for driving a bus she has purportedly never driven, increases the amount of money taxpayers will pay her when she retires.
It also appears evident that this has been done with the tacit approval of school officials since it would appear they would know who is driving their buses.
The allegations have been brought to the attention of Retirement Fund and state education officials.

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