One of the important duties of every state legislator is taking fact-finding missions to see first-hand some of the problems that face his constituents.
Apparently, 127th District State Representative Steve Hunter takes that obligation seriously. Though the nature of his fact-finding missions was not spelled out in documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Hunter accepted travel expenses from lobbyist Sarah Topp on three occasions this year. He accepted travel expenses from lobbyist William Gamble one other time.
Though Ms. Topp and Gamble represent a number of clients, including the Missouri Sheriffs Association, the Ethics Commission records indicate the travel money to Hunter came courtesy of the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City. Ms. Topp and Gamble also represent all of the interests of Ameristar Casinos, a Las Vegas-based company which only recently moved its operations into this state.
On Jan. 22, Hunter accepted $91.32 in travel expenses, according to Ethics Commission records. He also accepted $91.32 in travel expenses, indicating he most likely went to the same place, as well as $125 for meals, food, and beverage from Ms. Topp on Feb. 20, $138 in travel expenses from her on March 8, and $455 for meals, food and beverage on March 20.
Hunter accepted an additional $250 in travel expenses from Gamble on Aug. 28, according to the Ethics Commission records. Legislators are allowed to amend the records if they pay the lobbyists back, though the original expenditure remains. The Ethics Commission records show that none of Ameristar Casinos' gifts to Hunter have been paid back.
Hunter was the only legislator to receive gifts from Ms. Topp in February and the only representative (there were three senators) who received gifts in March, records indicate.
The $1,150.64 Hunter received from the gambling interest is more money than any other area legislator has received from all lobbyists' gifts combined. And the gifts just keep coming.
Ethics Commission records indicate Hunter has been receiving "meals, food, and beverage" from a number of lobbyists on a fairly regular basis. These include:
-$84, Jan. 22 from William F. Waris and Ginger Steinmetz. Waris represents a number of health concerns, while Ms. Steinmetz is a lobbyist for the city of Joplin.
-$9.60 the same day from Michael Goessling, another lobbyists for health and insurance companies.
-$65 Feb. 17 from James Kistler representing Associated Industries of Missouri.
$43.69 March 2 from Kent Gaines. who represents Premium Standard Farms and Monsanto, among other interests.
-$124.16 on Feb. 18, and $67.26 on March 16 from Tom Rackers, who represents insurance interests.
-$30 March 30 from Kyna Iman, Missouri Southern State University lobbyist.
-$55.96 April 13 from Samuel Licklider, Empire District Electric lobbyist
-$35.50 the same day from David Martin, also representing Empire District.
-$64.50 April 26 from Greg Johnson, an insurance lobbyist.
-$46.38 May 5 from Daniel Mehan of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.
-$70 May 14 from Randy Scherr, city of Joplin.
Hunter also received $120.20 for "entertainment" from John Kristan Jones, an MCI lobbyist, on June 24, according to Ethics Commission records. He received $60 for "entertainment" from a Matthew Kohly on Jan. 24. Information on who Kohly represents wasn't available.
With the legislature in session for approximately 75 days between January and early May, Hunter received gifts of "meals, food, and beverage' from lobbyists on 30 days.
The drunk driving background of Southwest City's police chief appears to be more than what has been publicized.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, Sept. 24, in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the city's former police chief, Ron Beaudry claims that current chief Toi Canada was convicted of a "driving-related alcohol offense" on July 21, 1994, in Webb City, and on July 13, 2001, in Callaway County.
The information was included in Beaudry's lawsuit against Southwest City officials who fired him June 2, after he made an unsuccessful effort to fire Ms. Canada, who had been hired as a police officer.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the city of Southwest City, Mayor Al Dixon, and council members Farley Martin and Mildred Weaver. Beaudry noted in his petition that Ms. Canada is Martin's stepdaughter.
Beaudry was hired as police chief in June 2003, according to the petition. Ms. Canada was hired on a part-time basis last November.She was promoted to full-time status after a closed council meeting in March 2004, the petition says.
At that point, Beaudry conducted a background check and uncovered the alcohol-related offenses, he said. "On March 12, 2004," the petition says, "(Beaudry) received a fax from Angela Heckart, a representative with Beimdiek Insurance Agency, regarding the insurability of Ms. Canada." Ms. Heckart said Ms. Canada could not be insured because she had an alcohol-related driving offense in the three years before she was hired.
On March 30, the city received a fax saying that Ms. Canada was prohibited from using any city vehicle. At that point, Beaudry fired her. "On or about April 13, 2004," the petition said, "the city council refused to fire Canada, rehired her, and allowed her to operate her own vehicle to conduct police business."
On May 14, the council suspended Beaudry after he went public about his concerns about Ms. Canada, the petition said. On June 2, he was fired.
In the petition, Beaudry claims his First Amendment free speech rights were violated by the city officials. He is asking to be reinstated as police chief, to have all references to his suspension and firing removed from city files, and for damages and punitive damages. He is asking for a jury trial.