Monday, February 28, 2005

Neosho Daily News Managing Editor and General Manager Buzz Ball was kind enough to fill me in today about his trip to Roggen, Colo., to see the illustrious House No. 6, the revolutionary way of taking care of chicken odor which should keep any Neosho resident from being worried about any potential problems that could be caused by Moark's upcoming expansion.
"I flew out there and back on Wednesday, Feb. 9, I was given the opportunity to see the plant first-hand," Ball wrote.
He added, "Nothing in that story was from a press release. All was original from me based on interview and first-hand experience. Plus,all the photos were taken by me."
Ball said, "We flew out from KCI on Frontier Airlines at approximately 10:30 a.m. and returned that evening about 6:45 p.m., I think. So it was a very long day."
I appreciate The Daily's help in clearing the air about the House No. 6 story. It is good that the Neosho Daily News and Liberty Group Publishing were willing to foot the bill to allow the Daily to be able to investigate first-hand a subject of great importance to many readers.
The next battle between Nexstar and cable officials will take place in Amarillo, Texas.
Nexstar CEO Perry Sook told those attending the Bear Stearns Media Conference in Palm Beach earlier today that Nexstar will pull its Amarillo station off the cable provider there at the end of this month.
That will make five markets in which Nexstar has refused to grant retransmission rights to cable providers unless they pay 30 cents per customer per month. In addition to KODE and KSNF being removed from Cable One in Joplin, the company has taken its stations in Shreveport, La., San Angelo, Texas, and Abilene, Texas, off the cable providers in those cities.
"This is a fight we have to fight as an industry and we need to win," Sook said, adding that he has had "a dozen and a half (broadcasters) behind us."
Nexstar had been anticipating this battle for quite a while, Sook said, noting that the company had only negotiated two-year deals, instead of the more typical three-year deals with cable companies during the last negotiating sessions.
Sook insisted that the strategy is paying dividends for Nexstar and the company has only lost about a third as much advertising as it had anticipated, saying that it was a "low six-figure number."
Sook said the cable companies in Joplin, Shreveport, Abilene and San Angelo have lost 15 to 20 percent of their customers and that Echostar's Dish Network has done extremely well in Joplin, Shreveport and Abilene. Abilene turned out to be a fortuitous situation for Nexstar as Echostar pushed up its timetable to coincide with Nexstar's battle with Cox Communications. Dish Network had not been scheduled to begin transmitting local signals in Abilene until the end of 2006.
Not only have some advertisers stayed right with Nexstar during these confrontations, but the company has even brought in new advertising, Sook said, citing Grandy's, a fried chicken restaurant in San Angelo. Grandy's started advertising after the San Angelo station was removed from Cox, Sook said.
"Their business is up 38 percent. People are finding a way to get our signal."
Sook was challenged by one of the investor-types in attendance who noted that Nexstar is leveraged seven and a half times and is confronting the cable systems and losing advertisers. "This is scary stuff," the questioner said, adding, that he could see a possibility of Nexstar filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in two years.
Sook suggested that his questioner keep his eye on the prize, which is the extra stream of revenue which could come if the cable systems give in. That would mean an additional $20 million a year for the company, he said. "We are fully backed by our board. Our advertising losses have not been catastrophic."
If the Nexstar strategy is not working, Sook said, then why is Cox Communications offering its customers in Bossier City, La., 20 percent off their cable bills if they stick with Cox despite the loss of Nexstar's local station. Sook said he had talked to a Cox customer there who could not understand why Cox was paying $20 a month to its customers to avoid paying $30 a month to Nexstar.
Nexstar CEO Perry Sook emphasized his company's dedication to its local news product during his presentation at the Bear Stearns Company's annual Media Conference today. "Our strength has been our local news franchise," he said. The news franchises, the company's duopolies (markets in which it owns and operates more than one station such as Joplin and Springfield) and its dedication to cost control will make it successful, Sook said.
Nexstar offers more news programming than anyone other than the 24-hour news stations, Sook said. The company has 529 1/2 hours of local news, more than any TV company out there."
Sixty-eight percent of Nexstar's money comes from local advertising, Sook said, saying that the company, on average, gets 63 percent of the ad revenue in the communities in which it has duopolies.
The decision by the National Democratic Committee to write off Missouri in the 2004 presidential election, cost Nexstar $750,000, Sook said. The Democrats elected to put their money into other battleground states.
The decision not only damaged Nexstar, but probably enabled Matt Blunt to defeat State Auditor Claire McCaskill for governor.
The lack of a competitive U. S. Senate race in Arkansas also hurt the company, Sook said.
Investors and employees of Leggett & Platt, the Carthage-based Fortune 500 company, received good news today with the issuing of the company's annual report.
"Sales in 2004 exceeded our prior record," the report, which was filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, said, "and earnings increased substantially. Margins also improved for the full year. During the year, we were challenged by rapidly escalating steel costs, but we were successful in recovering most of the higher costs through selling price increases."
The company also set record sales of $5.09 billion in 2004, according to the report. "Same location sales increased from the combined effect of inflation, unit volume growth, and currency rate changes."
Net earnings were up 39 percent to $285 million, the report said, with earnings per share increasing from $1.05 in 2003 to $1.45 in 2004. Factors contributing to the increase, according to the report were:
-Sales increase
-Gains from the company's steel rod mill
-Improvements in the Fixture and Display operations
-Gains on sales of buildings no longer used in operations
Leggett & Platt Chairman of the Board and CEO Felix E. Wright, 69, received nearly $1.3 million in compensation from the company during the past year, according to the company's annual report, filed today with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
Wright received $816,000 in salary and a $474,096 bonus for a total of $1,290,096. Other top officials of Leggett and their compensations for last year were:
-David S. Haffner, 52, president, chief operating officer, $652,000 salary, $325,094 bonus, $977,094 total.
-Karl G. Glassman, 46, executive vice president, president, residential furnishings segment, $489,000 salary, $203,184 bonus, $692,184 total.
-Robert A. Jefferies, Jr., 63, senior vice president, strategic planning, $278,615 salary, $115,626 bonus, $394,241 total.
-Jack D. Crusa, 50, senior vice president, president specialized products segment, $250,000 salary, $99,138 bonus, $349,138 total.
The report noted that Leggett pays the non-employee members of its board of directors $24,000 annually and an additional $4,500 for attending each meeting. Non-employee advisory directors receive $3,000 annually and $4,500 for attending meetings. The directors are paid $500 for each telephone meeting and $1,200 for each committee meeting they attend. The chairman of the company's Audit Committee receives $6,000 annually, while the chairman of the compensation committee receives $3,500, the chairman of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee $3,500, and the presiding director receives an additional $6,000 annually.
Directors may elect to defer their cash compensation into the company's deferred compensation plan, according to the report.
The attorney for former Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge filed suggestions to support the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Doerge by a former jail inmate.
Donald R. Allen claims that Doerge, Bob Sullivan, and C. O. Topper of the Sheriff's Department failed to make sure he was provided with proper medical treatment while he was in the county jail.
Attorney Peter Lee of Springfield claims that Allen did not go through the proper channels at the jail. "(Allen) was quite familiar with the request/grievance process at the Newton County Jail, and easily could have filed grievances regarding his medication by marking the form as a grievance and stating his complaint. The evidence shows he failed to do so."
Lee also said that Allen has not provided any medical evidence to back his claims. "plaintiff himself admits he could not discern a difference in his physical condition due to the alleged failure to provide him with medication."
Finally, Lee said Allen had not produced any evidence that Doerge, Sullivan, and Tupper knew of the risk to Allen's safety and disregarded that risk.
This is the third time, the former sheriff's lawyer has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
Former Sarcoxie minister Donald Peckham's appeal of two sodomy convictions was dismissed with prejudice today by the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals, meaning he cannot refile his motion.
Peckham filed a motion Feb. 18 asking that his appeal be dismissed.
He pleaded guilty in October to two counts of sodomy with underage boys. He was sentenced to seven years on one count and 15 years on the other.
The scheduled trial for former O'Sullivan Industries official Gary Reed Blankenship was put on hold today.
The trial, which was scheduled for April 4, was postponed, according to Newton County Circuit Court documents.
Blankenship is awaiting trial after being arrested last month as a result of another of Diamond Police officer Jim Murray's Internet stings. Blankenship allegedly set up a meeting over the Internet with someone whom he believed was a 13-year-old girl. When he arrived at the meeting, he was arrested by a Newton County officer and charged with eight counts of possession of child pornography, one count of enticing a child, and one count of promoting obscene material to a minor.
It seems like it has been a long time since KHST, 101.7 on your radio dial, was Lamar's radio station (the HST, of course, stands for Harry S Truman). In its latest incarnation, started this month, KHST is now Joplin's Classic Rock- 101.7.
Radio and Television Business Report says EchoStar's Dish Network and DirecTV are making a killing off Nexstar Broadcasting's battle with Cox Communications and Cable One. The magazine offers no figures, but does quote the latest Echostar advertisements in the Abilene-Sweetwater Texas area, where Echostar just last week added the local Nexstar NBC affiliate, as well as other local stations.
"Television viewers in the Abilene-Sweetwater area who want to watch NBC now have two choices - - rabbit ears or the crystal clear, all-digital quality of Dish Network at a price still lower than cable."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I received an e-mail a few moments ago telling me that Neosho Daily News Managing Editor Buzz Ball has, indeed, visited House No. 6, the egg-laying operation of Boulder Valley Egg Co. in Roggen, Colo., so he did have first-hand knowledge of the operation and could give a first-hand description of what the area looks like. That is good to know, though I wish it could have been pointed out in the article.
Apparently, there were photos taken by Buzz Ball that ran with the article in the newspaper. I don't believe those photos were included with the internet Daily (though I could be wrong about that, too).
I would still like to see a closer look at Moark's operations across the U. S. Anytime a commercial farming operation locates in an area you have an ongoing news story...the constant weighing of the value of the jobs the facility creates and the money it pours into the community, as opposed to the possibility of damage to the environment, reduction in property values, and the possibility of odor.
What is it that makes Moark a villain to the people of Riverton, Kan., but nothing more than another corporate friend to the people of Neosho, at least according to the local coverage?
A program that is helping approximately 360 students in this area and has helped many others in the past is on the chopping block in President Bush's budget proposal.
At a time when President Bush is suggesting extending the so-called reforms of his No Child Left Behind to ensure accountability in high schools, he is suggesting the elimination of a program that has long been proven to be successful with just the kind of people who have not been receiving a quality education. In fact, the president is suggesting that this program be eliminated and all of the savings be directed to his new initiative.
At Crowder College in Neosho, Upward Bound serves 300 students, while 60 students are enrolled in the program at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. An explanation of the program is provided on Crowder's website:
"The Crowder College Upward Bound programs provide 300 high school participants in Newton, McDonald, Barry, Jasper, Lawrence, Dade, Barton, Bates, Vernon, and Cedar counties in southwest Missouri with an opportunity to complete a course of college preparatory study, which equips them for success in postsecondary education.
"The highlight of the project is the College Prep Academy in which the participants spend five weeks in residence on the Crowder College campus. Participants engage in college prep curriculum part of the day and work with faculty on topical research projects (e.g alternative energy, stream ecology, archaeology, etc. for math/science participants and journalism, art history, health, etc. for regular Upward Bound participants) for the remainder of the day.
"Participants who have completed their secondary education and are preparing to attend college in the fall to take part in the Bridge. The Bridge gives graduates the opportunity to enroll in Crowder College courses and make final preparations for college. The final week of the College Prep Academy consists of a cultural trip to a metropolitan area (Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D. C., etc.). Participants are awarded for academic progress during the summer and can earn up to $60 a month.
"During the academic year, participants attend Closer to College, once per month. Participants work on study skills, technical writing, data analysis, attend student success workshops, and receive ACT preparation assistance. Participants also receive tutoring after school and are awarded up to $40 per month for academic progress during the academic year."
The participants do not pay for this program, except for a $50 fee for the trips. Once the student is accepted for the program, he or she is in it all the way through high school and through the Bridge part of the program.
The Crowder Upward Bound program also has a Math Science section for students interested in getting a four-year degree in a math, science, or technology-related field.
The biggest problem with Upward Bound, according to U. S. Department of Education officials is that it actually appeals to students who want to make something of themselves. It doesn't reach that target area, the "at-risk" students, those in danger of dropping out.
"The efforts to serve students through Upward Bound are certainly earnest and in no way should be diminished, "Education Department spokesman C. Todd Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "But just because these programs are doing their work faithfully and with great passion doesn't mean they are best suited to meet the needs of the local communities in which they are working."
The program, which was created as a part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty is one of the longest-running federal education programs. It serves half a million high school students at 1,400 sites, according to the Times. In the year 2000, the Times article said, 92 percent of the Upward Bound students who graduated from high school enrolled in college.
Today's Neosho Daily News indicates that the Daily did not have a reporter available to cover the preliminary hearing of Edward Meerwald, 51, Noel, who allegedly was driving drunk when his car veered off Highway 86 and killed James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and Dodson's granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7, Joplin.
Though the Daily's John Ford's article is well-executed, this is one of those stories where, if it is at all possible, the newspaper should have had an in-person presence just to demonstrate the importance it attaches not only to the story, but to the issues involved.
When you are not there, you have to rely on information coming from only one source, in this case the prosecution. You cannot provide the reader with any information on the atmosphere in the courtroom or any telltale details that the reader might think is important, but which might not readily occur to the prosecuting attorney during an interview.
Of course, with a small staff some things are not going to be covered, but this is one of those events that was scheduled far enough in advance that it should have been possible to find someone to offer in-person coverage.
I am still bothered by a recent article written by the Daily's managing editor Buzz Ball, in which he extolls the virtues of a Roggen, Colo., hen-laying operation. The article begins, "Approximately 50 miles northeast of Denver, Colo., in the sleepy little town of Roggen, lies a hen-laying operation that has become the envy of and even the model for similar operations (including Neosho) throughout the nation."
It continues, "Nestled on the flat upper desert of Colorado, with the Rocky Mountains peaking on the western horizon, is the Boulder Valley Egg Co. A casual drive by this operation that has six hen-laying houses would not cause one to do a second glance. But then again, that driver doesn't know the real story of the Boulder Valley Egg Co., but more specifically about House No. 6."
I would be surprised if Neosho Daily News readers know the real story either. The description of the area is done rather well, but has Mr. Ball actually been there? Does this information come from personal observations, a handout by the Roggen Chamber of Commerce, a brochure from the Boulder Valley Egg Co.? The reader cannot tell, because that information is not provided.
This article was a sidebar to an article announcing Moark's intention to expand its operations in Neosho. Apparently, this was Moark's effort to assure Neosho residents that there would be no environmental problems from this expanded facility.
What makes House No. 6 important, Ball's article says, well, let's just use his words:
"Constructed less than a year ago, House No. 6 has already become the model for current remodeling operations in Neosho and for future operations throughout the Moark industry. House No. 6 is a state-of-the-art hen-laying facility that is quickly setting the standard for the industry.
Are these Buzz Ball's words, are they taken from a company brochure or were they spoon-fed by a Moark representative since apparently Moark owns House No. 6, even though that is never made clear in the Daily's article.
If House No. 6 is the envy of the industry why does a Google search for it only turn up one mention...that same Neosho Daily News article? Were any efforts made to check with officials in Colorado's equivalent of the Department of Natural Resources or with the EPA or with Roggen city officials to see if there have been any problems with Boulder Valley Egg Co?
If there have been, readers need to know about it. If there haven't been, that would probably go a long way toward easing Neosho residents' fears about this chicken operation expansion.
The controversy over former Webb City High School student Brad Mathewson's ill-fated lawsuit against the school and Principal Steven Gollhofer over not being allowed to wear a Gay Pride t-shirt, has completely subsided, but the issue that it brought up is one that is being fought in many settings all across the United States every day.
As anyone who reads The Turner Report knows, I was no fan of Mathewson or his lawsuit because it appeared to be designed mainly to draw attention, similar to Michael Newdow's continuing efforts to ban "one nation under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance.
An issue of the Chicago Sun-Times this week featured an article about a similar type of lawsuit that began in an Illinois elementary school and though it doesn't have a high-concept gay rights issue to propel it into the national limelight, it does paint a horrid picture of the lengths some officials will use to stifle free speech in the schools.
Eighth grade gifted students at Beaubein Elementary School (apparently, this elementary school is for grades K-8) were threatened with suspension and confined to their classrooms for wearing t-shirts with the word "Gifties" on them.
Though the 27 students are now in high school, the article said, they are continuing the court battle. Last week, U. S. District Judge Amy St. Eve allowed the case to be certified as a class action lawsuit.
The Sun-Times related how the lawsuit started. In 2003, a vote was held for a class shirt and apparently the "Gifties" idea won with that name on the front and a caricature of a boy walking a dog on the back. School administrators didn't like the winning concept, so they tossed out the results, never telling for sure which concept had won and refusing to answer any questions about it.
Students and parents challenged the election, but got nowhere, according to the Sun-Times article. The students decided to wear the shirts anyway, though they had been asked not to. The principal told them they would be suspended for five to seven days. That never took place, but the protesting students did find themselves being punished in other way for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.
"The students say (principal Chris) Kotis confined them to their classrooms and denied them access to different parts of the school. Administrators wouldn't allow them to use the bathroom unless they removed the shirts, according to the students. At one point, they were forced to write an essay describing whether they felt worthy or using the computer lab, the lawsuit says. Later, the school allegedly threatened disciplinary action against any student who signed a petition supporting the T-shirt."
The students are asking that their records be cleared of any disciplinary infractions and similar occurrences be prevented in the future.
"Freedom of expression is not just about fighting for big issues but defending small issues, too" 16-year-old Michael Brandt told the Sun-Times. "That's what we did."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Former Sarcoxie minister Donald Peckham has dropped his attempt to have his prison sentence on two sodomy counts dismissed.
Court records indicate that Peckham filed papers Feb. 18 asking that his appeal of his conviction be dismissed. Peckham was sentenced in September to seven years on a second degree sodomy count and 15 years on a first degree sodomy count in connection with sexual activity with underaged boys.
Peckham, 72, filed his appeal Dec. 22.
Peckham had a long history of allegations involving similar problems when he was the pastor at several Methodist churches in Kansas dating back three decades, according to an investigative report by The Joplin Globe.
Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson told The Globe last year that his office was investigating allegations that Dankelson had abused as many as 12 children.
A settlement in the lawsuit in the age discrimination lawsuit filed by former KODE weather reporter Marny Stanier Midkiff against the Weather Channel may come after discovery is completed, according to documents filed this week in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Ms. Midkiff, who went by her maiden name of Marny Stanier as an on-camera meteorologist (OCM)on the Weather Channel, claimed she was dismissed because of her age and sex. She had worked there since April 13, 1987.
In her petition, Ms. Stanier claimed that her boss, the Weather Channel's senior vice president of programming and production Terry Connelly "openly expressed animosity toward older female OCMs. He spoke freely of his goal to 'young up' The Weather Channel. At one point, Connelly announced, 'we're old and we can't be...our ratings are going down.' "
Connelly used terms such as "matronly" and "dowdy" to describe the older female OCMS, according to the petition. In June 2003, he hired an image consultant to "help the women look younger and sexier," the petition said.
In the fall of 2003, a "reorganization" of personnel took place. Both of the female OCMS in their 40s, Ms. Stanier and Terri Smith, were fired. Their supervisory duties were turned over to a man. "He turned over their on-camera work to the younger males and females he had been hiring and continued to hire during the 'reorganization," the petition said.
"He did not consider Ms. Stanier for any of the OCM openings, although she was dramatically more qualified than the younger individuals he hired." Ms. Stanier was 41 when she was fired.
Attorneys for Ms. Stanier indicate they will be looking into "age and sex-biased comments and actions by individuals participating in the decision" when they begin the discovery process.
They will also look for "treatment of similarly situated employees."
Her lawyers said they anticipate seeking a protective order so that the Weather Channel cannot disclose "confidential business and personnel records and information to persons other than the plaintiff, her trial counsel and professional assistants."
The filing included a list of 20 potential witnesses, including former Weather Channel CEO Bill Burke, Lee Davis, the consultant who put on the forums for OCMs, two other OCMs who were fired, and a number of people who allegedly witnessed discriminatory statements and actions. Other witnesses may be added after the discovery process, according to the filing.
Ms. Stanier is asking for back pay, benefits, reinstatement and/or front pay, lawyers' fees, other "appropriate damages."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Edward Meerwald was bound over for trial today after his preliminary hearing in Newton County Circuit Court on two charges of involuntary manslaughter and a charge of resisting arrest.
According to news reports, Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Curless testified that Meerwald said he had been drinking and appeared drunk shortly after the car he was driving ran off Highway 86 July 30 and struck James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and Dodson's granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7, of Joplin, killing them.
Curless and Assistant Newton County Coroner Lee Ireland were the only witnesses who were called.
The next step in the case is an arraignment in trial court at which time a trial date will be sent. The case was returned to Newton County after a series of delays in Jasper County Circuit Court, where it had been sent on a change of venue.
The Rubbermaid Three didn't even make it a year.
O'Sullivan Industries Executive Vice President-Operations Michael Orr announced his resignation effective March 4. Orr will be taking a position with "another company" according to information filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
Orr was one of two Newell Rubbermaid officials brought in by million-dollar CEO Bob Parker, himself a former Newell Rubbermaid official. The announcement of Orr's resignation was terse and was limited to one brief paragraph.
How this will affect the changes in management and direction that Parker has said have greatly improved the prospects of O'Sullivan was not mentioned in the CEO's proclamation from O'Sullivan's new corporate headquarters in an Atlanta, Ga., suburb.
During a January filing with the SEC, Parker said, "Organizational changes and a focused strategic plan are beginning to manifest themselves in the marketplace." Despite the manifestation, the company lost $12.1 million during the second quarter of the fiscal year.
A Jerico Springs man was indicted by a federal grand jury on weapons charges today.
Jeremy Bass, 34, was indicted by the panel as he awaits trial in Barton County on a drug charge.
The indictment says that on Nov. 11 in Barton County, Bass, who was convicted on drug possession charges Feb. 7, 2001, in Barton County Circuit Court, possessed "firearms and ammunition, to wit: a Browning .30-06 caliber semi-automatic rifle, a Browning, .338 caliber bolt action rifle, Model A-Bolt, 61 rounds of FC .30-06 SPRG ammunition, 20 rounds of Winchester 30-06 SPRG ammunition, and 53 rounds of W-W Super .338 Win Mag ammunition," all in violation of federal code.
Barton County court records indicate Bass has 9 a.m. April 12 hearing in Barton County Circuit Court on a drug possession charge. He also received a suspended sentence on another drug charge in 1998, according to court files.
A former McDonald County deputy and Seneca police officer will be given more time to file pretrial motions, according to an order filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Randy Hance is awaiting an April 25 trial on federal weapons charges and is being held without bond in the Greene County Jail. The order says he will have until March 21 to file motions.
As noted earlier in The Turner Report, Hance was ordered held without bond after U. S. attorneys presented letters purportedly written by him that indicated he might be intending to murder his ex-wife, then commit suicide.
After his company posted record fourth quarter and 2004 results, Saga Communications CEO Ed Christian told Radio and Television Business Report today that he was "sick of seeing articles bashing the broadcasting business as being in dire straits."
He noted that other broadcasters had also had record ratings. More information on Saga's fourth quarter report was featured in the Feb. 24 Turner Report.
Locally, Saga owns the KOAM and KFJX television stations.
Check out the new redesigned Missouri Southern State University website homepage. The homepage, which premiered Feb. 4 is designed to support more browsers, including Navigator, Firefox and Internet Explorer, according to an article in this week's Chart, the campus newspaper.
"It's redesigned with more homepage links," Rod Surber, public information director, told reporter Kathleen Cunningham. "Students and visitors have a visibility-incorporated page, text-only page, and non-flash page. The accessibility is improved and can accommodate major browsers."
I'm not sure what all that means, but the site looks sharp. Check it out at

Thursday, February 24, 2005

If former Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge gets his way, his hand-picked successor, Ken Copeland, may soon find himself on the wrong end of a federal lawsuit.
Doerge's lawyer, Doug Harpool of Springfield filed a motion in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri today to remove Doerge as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former prisoner Oscar Alvarez and have him replaced with Copeland.
Alvarez filed the lawsuit against Doerge and the Newton County Sheriff's Department, claiming that two former jailers allowed two inmates to get into Alvarez' cell and administer a beating to him.
In what is clearly one of those tricky legal maneuvers, Harpool said, "On or about Dec. 13, 2004, plaintiff Oscar Alvarez filed his complaint against defendants Ron Doerge Newton County Sheriff and the Newton County Sheriff's Department. On or about Jan. 1, 2005, Ken Copeland assumed the office of Newton County sheriff.
"Plaintiff has filed his complaint against the Newton County sheriff and the Newton County Sheriff's Department.
"Ron Doerge is no longer the sheriff of Newton County
"Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25, upon Ron Doerge's departure from the office of Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland, his successor, should be automatically substituted as a party.
"As a result, Ken Copeland in his official capacity as Newton County sheriff is now the real party in interest in this action.
"Wherefore, defendants Ron Doerge and the Newton County Sheriff's Department pray for an order substituting Ken Copeland as the named Newton County sheriff in the place of Ron Doerge and for such further relief as the court deems just."
There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Doerge suggested that Alvarez has no legal standing to file a lawsuit since other people now occupy the cell he was in when the incident allegedly occurred.
The judgment of the Southwest City Council has to be questioned with its decision to go into closed session to discuss whether it should bring charges against former City Clerk Dehonna Shields, who a recent state audit indicated stole more than $10,050 from the city.
Technically, the council probably was adhering to the Missouri Open Meetings Law, which permits closed meetings for litigation purposes, this is a different situation. This is not a matter of deciding on strategy for a lawsuit. This was simply a decision on whether to bring criminal charges against someone accused of stealing money from the taxpayers...and the taxpayers had a right to hear every argument for and against that decision.
What elected officials...and their attorneys...seem to forget is that the Sunshine Law does not mandate that meetings involving personnel, litigation, or real estate be held behind closed doors. It says they "may' be taken into the back room. Any elected body can opt to hold deliberations on these matters in public, but most city councils and boards of education use any available pretext to meet in secret.
It should be added that the litigation area is the only one the Southwest City Council could have used to legally close the meeting. The all-encompassing "personnel" does not play a role in this one. You can only a close meeting to hire, fire, discipline, or promote an employee. In this case, this person is no longer an employee...and apparently for good reason.
John Ford's article on the Southwest City meeting in today's Neosho Daily News gave the reader the feeling that he was actually there (at least at the open part of the session). The Daily needs to find a way to get Ford put on more major stories. He is an experienced professional on a mostly inexperienced staff. Having him back in action on a regular basis would not only improve the readability of the newspaper, but it would also provide the younger staff members with an example of how to effectively bring out the best in a story.
Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF and de facto owner of KODE in Joplin, just had its hand strengthened in its battle with Cox Communications in Abilene, Texas. Both the Abilene Reporter News and Multichannel News are reporting that for the first time, Echostar's Dish Network will be able to provide local stations, including Nexstar's KHRC, to the Abilene area.
The availability of the local stations on Dish Network in Joplin is one reason why Nexstar felt confident enough to take the step of pulling its programming from Cable One in Joplin.
Gayle Kiger, vice president and general manager for Nexstar in Abilene, told the Reporter News that Nexstar had negotiated a contract with Dish Network and that the company is paying Nexstar for transmitting its signal.
Cox's vice president for public affairs Morris Wilkes, said his company competes with satellite in nearly every market. "Once potential customers see the various hoops they have to jump through to get satellite, we hope that they see that cable is a good service and stay with us," he told the Reporter News.
One small hangup: "Anybody who wants local channels in the Abilene area is going to need a second dish," Dish Network spokesman Steve Caulk told the newspaper. Depending on which satellite plan the customer is using, he may have to pay extra.
The talk on Seneca Forums at is about the decision of High School Principal Ron Wallace to ban representations of the Confederate flag at the school. Apparently, most of the members of the school's state qualifying wrestling team created quite a stir at the state meet when they wore hats with Confederate flags on them.
A 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 16, hearing has been scheduled for Travis Wyrick, the Joplin teen who faces a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the January hit-and-run death of Joplin High School senior Jamison Alexander.
Net income for Saga Communications, owner of KOAM-TV, was down slightly in the final quarter of 2004, according to a press release issued by the company today.
Net income stood at 4.1 million, (20 cents per fully diluted share) compared to $4.5 million (21 cents per fully diluted share) in 2003.
The press release said net operating revenue increased 9.6 percent to approximately $36.1 million, while operating income increased 1.4 percent to approximately $8.7 million and station operating expense increased 9.6 percent to approximately $25 million.
News was good for the year ending Dec. 31, according to the news release. Net income increased 14.1 percent to approximately $15.8 million, compared to $13.9 million for 2003.
Saga owns five television stations, including KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin area, as well as 55 FM and 27 AM stations, three state radio networks, and two farm radio networks.
The second-best dividend growth record among Fortune 500 companies continued, according to a news release issued today by Carthage-based Leggett & Platt.
The company's dividends have increased annually for 34 straight years, the release said. "One share purchased in 1971 would today receive annual dividends of $32.40, or 90 times the original dividend. The company knows of only one other Fortune 500 company that has achieved as long a string of consecutive annual dividend increases at the growth rate Leggett has sustained."
Leggett & Platt's first quarter results are scheduled to be released after the market closes on April 21, according to the news release.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I made an error in the information on Roy Blunt and the Social Security meeting. It has been removed from the blog. I thank the first person who told me about the mistake and I am grateful that my command of the English language is such that I don't have to resort to the words used by the second.
The Carthage R-9 Board of Education voted Monday night to enter into a contract with Newton Learning to operate the district's summer school.
Add Carthage to the school districts that probqbly cannot understand the Diamond R-4 School District's quixotic lawsuit against Newton, the summer school arm of Edison Schools.
With the addition of Carthage, Newton Learning is now operating summer schools for Sarcoxie, McDonald County, and East Newton in this area and there may be others.
While I still have reservations about education-for-hire, I did see first hand during the summer of 2002 when Edison operated the Diamond summer school that Edison paid the teachers (at a far better rate than the school district) gave the school district a truckload of supplies, all of which it was allowed to keep, provided a curriculum that was in line with the Missouri MAP tests and also provided plenty of gifts for the students who attended the summer session.
And after all that has said, no one seems to deny that the summer school raked in about $200,000 in profits. Though R-4 Superintendent Mark Mayo initially said that Edison ended up costing Diamond money, a later quote from Board President Dr. Wayne Webb in the Joplin Globe indicated that was not the case and that Edison had, in fact, made money for Diamond. The local school district just disputed the amount and, as far as I can determine, has been the only school district to ever take this kind of dispute with Edison to court.
Mayo has said that other area school districts have had problems with Edison, but it appears that the school districts he has named, never used Edison for summer school, though they may have considered it.
The ability of cities' to hold down rates for the lowest tier of cable services may be coming to an end, the Fayetteville, Ark., city attorney told the city council Tuesday night.
Cox Communications has filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission saying there is no longer a need for cities to regulate the pricing because of increased competition for television services, including satellite dishes and offerings that will soon be provided by companies such as SBC, according to this morning's Northwest Arkansas Times.
The city attorney told the council there was no reason for the city to fight the petition since it had never been able to negotiate with Cox anyway. "The change would just take away something that has caused us grief," attorney Kit Williams said.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Less than a month after his arrest in an Internet sex sting, former O'Sullivan Industries official Gary Blankenship is back on the computer again.
Sources at O'Sullivan Industries indicate that Blankenship has e-mailed many of his former co-workers to tell them that he is innocent of the charges that have been filed against him and asking them not to believe what they have been reading about him in newspapers or seeing and hearing about him on television.
Apparently, Blankenship has been sending the e-mails from a relative's computer. His own company laptop was taken as evidence when he was arrested and reportedly contained disturbing images that contributed to his arrest on eight charges of possession of child pornography.
Despite Blankenship's immediate resignation from his position at O'Sullivan Industries, the Blankenship affair has been another black mark on a company reputation that had suffered locally during the past few months with the move of its corporate headquarters to Atlanta, Ga., and the removal or resignation of members of the O'Sullivan family, as well as many other top officials who had been with O'Sullivan for two or three decades.
Not all O'Sullivan officials were caught by surprise by the information of the secrets that were reportedly contained on Blankenship's company computer. After other employees had discovered that Blankenship apparently had been using the computer to download images that should not have been on there, the information was reportedly sent to higher-ups in the company, who took no action against Blankenship.
During a time when members of O'Sullivan Industries' founding family and other officials who helped make the company into a success were being shown the door, the new top officials, all transplants from Newell Rubbermaid, apparently decided that Blankenship was one person whom they wanted to keep on the O'Sullivan team.
Blankenship resigned late last month shortly after he was arrested in one of Diamond police officer Jim Murray's internet sex stings. Murray posed as a 13-year-old girl and set up a meeting with the 55-year-old Blankenship in Blankenship's home town of Neosho. Blankenship reportedly also used a webcam to allow the "teenage girl" to see him gratifying myself.
His preliminary hearing on the eight possession of child pornography charges as well as one count each of enticing a child and promoting obscene material to a minor, is scheduled for April 4 in Newton County Circuit Court.
Blankenship is free on $100,000 bond. He will be represented by prominent Springfield trial attorney Dee Wampler.
Broadcasting and Cable magazine reports that Cox Communications employees in Abilene and San Angelo, Texas, went just a little further than the Cable One employees in Joplin in handing out rabbit-ear antennas so their customers could continue to receive programming from a Nexstar station that was pulled off the cable company's lineup at the end of December.
"Employees were costumed in cute little bunny ears and t-shirts with the logo 'Got Ears?' One employee in each system donned a full bunny outfit to greet subscribers." Cox's Abilene franchise handed out 800 antennas, according to the article, while the San Angelo franchise distributed 2,800.
While Cox says it has lost 1,000 subscribers in those Texas communities since the end of December, the number in Joplin has reportedly been about 800 and it is not clear how many of those are due to the Nexstar situation and how many are simply normal churn.
Reportedly advertising for the Nexstar stations in the Missouri and Texas markets is down some, but not nearly as much as had been predicted by many observers.
The joint legislative committee trying to work out a solution to problems with Missouri's public education funding was scheduled to meet again tonight. The committee members included Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho.
Earlier this week in The Turner Report, I mentioned the Lamar Democrat's use of a Democratic Party press release in its Saturday edition that talked of Bubs Hohulin being illegally awarded the contract for the Lamar license office. I initially read the news release, which was never described as such on the Democrat's website, for which you can find a link elsewhere on this page. My copy of the actual newspaper arrived in the mailbox today and I was shocked to discover that this press release was bannered across the top of page one.
The public was probably aware that the information was a press release since it so obviously was written by someone with the Democratic party, but that information should have been provided by the Democrat editor.
It seems reminiscent of 1990 when Hohulin was first elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. At that time, the Democrat ran no articles about the young Iantha farmer who was trying to upset longtime Democratic incumbent Jerry Burch. After all, Burch was a state powerhouse who was rumored to be thinking of a run for lieutenant governor. The only articles in the Democrat that year up until the election were page-one stories about Burch. Only after Hohulin's grass roots campaign knocked off the heavily-favored Burch did the Democrat began running anything about Hohulin.
As with the 1990 coverage of the state representative campaign, Saturday's Democrat did not feature any press release from Hohulin or from any representative of Governor Matt Blunt or of the Missouri Republican Party.
Once again, the new media has come up with a scoop that has been picked up on by the traditional media. Today's Springfield News-Leader carried a story on Doug Wead, the former friend of President Bush who released a number of private conversations he taped with the president when Bush was governor of Texas. Wead spent many years in Springfield as an author, Amway distributor, and Assemblies of God minister. That was also featured on Missourinet today, but I read it over the weekend on former News-Leader reporter Ron Davis' blog, Chatter at
U-Haul of Phoenix, Ariz., reports that Fayetteville, Ark., is the number one top growth city in the United States with 10.3 percent more families moving to the city than leaving, according to today's Arkansas Business.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Cable One viewers in Joplin have been exposed to numerous stations in the spots formerly held by KODE and KSNF. Since Jan. 1, we have seen HBO Family, Fox Movie Channel, Boomerang, Discovery for Kids, Soapnet, the Golf Channel, and the Hallmark Channel, among others.
Cox Communications is also showcasing some of its upper-tier channels in Abilene, Texas, as Nexstar Broadcasting has pulled KRBC, the NBC affiliate, from Cox's lineup.
Temporary channels, according to an article in the Feb. 17 Abilene Reporter News are the Do It Yourself Network, National Geographic Channel, Gospel Music Channel and HBO Family.
Morris Wilkes, Cox vice president for public affairs, told the Reporter News that losing KRBC permanently would be a "grave disservice" and he hopes Cox and Nexstar can come to an agreement.
Perry Sook, Nexstar CEO, told the newspaper, "It could be a permanent situation from our perspective. We don't expect the cable companies to necessarily change their position, and we don't plan to change ours."
None of the Cox franchises in Missouri, including Lamar and Carthage, lost Nexstar stations KSNF and KODE, thanks to a last-minute maneuver in which the company transferred the stations from its Arkansas unit, which had a deadline of Feb. 1 to its Kansas unit, which has a contract that lasts until next year.
The Diamond R-4 School District's teachers rank somewhere in the middle of the new Spring River Valley Conference as far as pay is concerned, but the district ranks number one in another area.
The raise the Board of Education gave to Superintendent Mark Mayo at its most recent meeting made Mayo the highest paid superintendent in the conference, at least going by figures from last year. Not one superintendent in the Spring River Valley Conference schools is making as much this year as Mayo will make during the 2005-2006 school year and that total will increase to $72,100 for the 2006-2007 school year.
Of course, undeniably the R-4 Board of Education must have wanted to sew up Mayo before he jumped ship and took his talents to another school district. They were so afraid of losing him that they locked him up for two years after this one. Despite having a contract for next year, reports from sources in the East Newton R-6 School District indicate that Mayo submitted an application for that district's superintendent position when it was vacant. He was not called in for an interview, according to the same sources. It is not known whether he submitted an application for the Neosho R-5 superintendent position.
Now that the district has the highest paid superintendent in the conference and a finely-tuned high school barbecue team the sky is the limit.
A Bell County, Texas, grand jury issued three capital murder indictments last week against a 2004 East Newton High School graduate in connection with the November 2004 deaths of four people connected with a Killeen, Texas, strip club.
The Temple, Texas, Telegram reported that Timothy Doan Payne, 19, a soldier at Fort Hood, was indicted along with Richard Lee Tabler, 26, of Killeen. Tabler was identified in print reports as a disgruntled former employee of the Teazers nightclub and purportedly was involved in gang activity.
In a December interview with the Dallas Morning News, Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith described the deaths as coming as the result of a "sinister and gruesome plot" to kill Teazers employees who had wronged Tabler. The Morning News reported that Tabler had been fired from the nightclub for dealing drugs and fencing stolen property.
Those allegedly shot to death by Tabler while Payne videotaped the murders, according to printed reports were: Tiffany Dotson, 18, a blond dancer from California; Amber Benefield, also known as Zoe, 16, a runaway from Louisiana; Mohamed Amine Rahmouni, the bar manager and a native of Morocco; and Haitham Zayed, who was described by authorities as most likely being a bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Payne had been assigned to Fort Hood for less than a month, according to the Morning News. Both men allegedly confessed to their involvement in the murders, though Tabler later recanted in an interview with the Morning News. Sheriff Smith said Tabler told him he was angry at being banned from Teazers, so he lured the manager to a rural stretch of road outside Killeen on Nov. 26, allegedly to sell him stolen property. Rahmouni arrived with Zayed and reportedly Tabler shot them to death as Payne taped the action.
Two days later, the two men allegedly lured Miss Dotson and Miss Benefield to a deserted road with the promise of crack cocaine. When they arrived, Tabler reportedly shot them to death, with Payne once again operating the videocamera.
Club employees told the Morning News they had a hard time believing that the victims had anything to do with drugs or with stolen property.
Though nothing has been mentioned to link Payne with gang activity, there has been a serious problem over the past few years with Fort Hood soldiers becoming involved with local gangs, according to printed reports.
Payne and Tabler could receive the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted. Tabler is being held in lieu of $8 million bond, while a $4 million bond has been set for Payne.
O'Sullivan Industries will close its Australian operations by June 30, according to a filing last week with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. The reason given: "sales in the region were not sufficient to support the infrastructure required." Seventeen employees will lose their jobs, according to the filing.
The closing will cost O'Sullivan between $1.5 million and $2.2 million, the filing said. "Of this amount, between $400,000 and $700,000 will represent cash charges related to severance, termination of leases and other agreements, and costs to administer the winding down of these operations. Between $1.1 million and $1.5 million will be used as a reserve against our inventories in Australia."
The closure came after the quarterly report issued by O'Sullivan last week which showed that the company went further into the red in the second quarter, posting a net loss of $12.1 million.
I don't have all of the results but apparently KQYX 1450 news/talk broke into the top five in the most recent Arbitron ratings. The number one station as usual was KIX 102.5.
A special meeting of shareholders of Kmart Holding Corp and Sears, Roebuck and Co. will be held March 24 to vote on the proposed merger of the companies. The meeting, according to today's St. Louis Business Journal, will be held at Sears headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, Ill.
The danger of taking a press release and running it unchanged as news was demonstrated last week in The Lamar Democrat. The newspaper apparently took a Democratic Party news release about Governor Matt Blunt's awarding of a license fee office to former State Representative Bubs Hohulin and ran it verbatim. No mention was made of the source of the article.
It began, "The Missouri Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint on Wednesday against Governor Matt Blunt, Revenue Director Trish Vincent and Martin "Bubs" Hohulin, who was illegally awarded a no bid contract to operate the Lamar Revenue Fee Office. Blunt gave this political payoff to Hohulin, a former Republican state representative, even though he is a full-time state employee for a Republican Missouri State Senator Carl Vogel in Jefferson City receiving a salary in excess of $48,000 a year, plus benefits."
It would not have been much too trouble for The Democrat to have balanced this news release with one from the Republican side, or better yet, making a couple of phone calls or doing a little bit of research and presenting a more complete story to its readers.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A lawsuit filed by Missouri school districts seeking equity in the foundation formula could backfire.
An article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch indicates that many of the smaller school districts in the lawsuit could be putting themselves out of business if they succeed in reforming the formula, through which Missouri public schools are funded.
The article said 43 percent of Missouri's school districts have 500 students or less and many of those may be forced to shut down or consolidate.
That would not be good news, Tom Quinn with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, told the Post-Dispatch. "For many communities, that's all they've got. If they lose their schools, they lose their community and their sense of identity. That revolves around the school."
Missouri legislators working on fixing the formula have suggested rewarding districts that consolidate, according to the article. Illinois is already doing that.
If the schools that are suing the state prevail, Craig Wood, a professor of education finance at the University of Florida told the Post-Dispatch, "that will move the consolidation issue to the front burner."
Marty Strange, policy director for the Rural School and Community Trust, a nonprofit group agreed. "If rural people are going to file suit and seek relief in court, they better be prepared to win in the legislature, otherwise their reward will be the death penalty."
The threat of judicial intervention has forced the General Assembly to address the inequities of the Foundation Formula, but the Republican leadership in the Senate appear to resent that and want to make sure that it never happens again.
On Thursday, senate leaders, including Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, announced their support for a constitutional amendment that would keep the courts out of educational funding issues. Governor Matt Blunt also said he supported the proposal. He was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying, "I don't think courts have a right to impose a tax increase on the people of this state."
No one wants to see the courts do that, but the problem has not been caused by the courts but by legislators who will not do what it takes to reform a badly-flawed system.
Legislators representing wealthier school districts won't support any kind of reform that would reduce some of the funding those districts receive. Legislators representing smaller, poorer school districts, don't force those districts to examine ideas such as consolidation and shared services that would improve their situations.
When neither side budges, taxpayers end up footing the bill for dramatic increases in overall funding, which add to the money the poorer districts have, but continue to leave the entire formula lopsided. Some poorer (and poorly performing) school districts are spared the ax and continue to be non-performing drains on taxpayer money.
Nodler was joined by Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields in endorsing the proposal. Oddly enough, a 2004 report issued by a committee headed by Shields indicates that legislators hardly ever address problems with the education funding formula until a lawsuit or the threat of a lawsuit exists.
The AP article indicates the senators were careful to stress that the proposed constitutional amendment only seeks to prevent schools from suing the state, not individuals, but that is not the way the wording of the proposed amendment reads. It says, "The power to determine public school funding shall not fall within the province of the judiciary." No mention is made of an exception for individual lawsuits.
The proposed amendment is another in an increasing series of dangerous steps being taken by the Republican-led legislature. Many of their so-called reforms are designed to protect and enrich their friends in the business, medical, and insurance fields. This one is far more dangerous. It threatens to eliminate the constitutional check on their growing power. Having a judiciary that reviews the constitutionality of laws and offers recourse to Missourians who are not satisfied with legislative actions, is an important and necessary part of our system.
It is a shame that our elected officials have little so understanding of our political system and why it works.
A former Newton County Jail prisoner who is representing himself in a lawsuit against former Sheriff Ron Doerge appears to have run into some problems.
In a document filed Friday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Donald R. Allen says he cannot properly respond to the sheriff's motion for summary judgment "because his files is not up here."
In the summary judgment motion, Doerge's attorneys asked for Allen to pay for their costs and expenses. Allen says he can't do that because when he is out of prison "he is on disability Social Security benefits."
The case is scheduled to come to trial this summer. Allen says he did not receive proper medical care while he was in the Newton County Jail.
The U. S. Attorney's office on Friday entered more letters purportedly written by Randy Hance in order to keep him in jail without bond.
Hance, a former McDonald County deputy and Seneca police officer, is in jail without bond awaiting an April 25 trial on federal weapons charges.
The latest batch of letters, following letters that were filed with U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri earlier this week, were sent to Hance's former girlfriend, who lives in Kansas.
The letters are filled with hate and one obscenity after another, which will not be printed on this site. One of the milder comments used by Hance was "I hope death comes for you soon. All you do is breath (sic) good air and take up space. The only sex you can get comes in a box and says batteries not included."
The earlier batch of letters, written about earlier this week in The Turner Report, convinced authorities that Hance planned to murder his former wife, Connie Hance, then kill himself.
Jury selection began Friday for a billion dollar lawsuit brought by Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman against the Morgan Stanley investment banking firm.
Perelman claims Morgan Stanley knew that the Sunbeam company was in bad financial shape in 1998 when he sold Sunbeam his 82 percent stake in the Coleman company for $1.5 billion in Sunbeam stock.
A few months after the deal, according to the Wall Street Journal, Sunbeam disclosed that it had the serious financial problems that eventually led to its bankruptcy.
As the Journal puts it, "The lawsuit cuts to the heart of an issue on Wall Street. What is the responsibility of a stock underwriter or banker in terms of identifying problems at a company it counts as a client, and to whom is the underwriter responsible?"
Perelman is seeking $2.7 billion in damages.
The Sunbeam Company, now owned by Jarden Corporation, has a plant in Neosho.
Joplin television viewers are not as upset with Nexstar Broadcasting about the removal of KODE and KSNF from Cable One as viewers in other areas are about the removal of other Nexstar stations.
At least that's what Nexstar CEO Perry Sook and COO Duane Lammers told reporter John Boyd of the San Angelo, Texas, Standard Times.
Sook told Boyd that editorials in the San Angelo newspaper had made the feeling stronger against Nexstar in that market than in Joplin, Abilene, Texas, or Bossier City, La.
Lammers said it was hard to tell what public sentiment was. "No one's going to call us up and tell us, 'Gosh, we think you're right."
He failed to mention if anyone was calling him and saying, "Gosh, we think you're wrong."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Another television broadcasting company has announced its support for Nexstar's strong stance against cable companies Cox Communications and Cable One.
David Smith, CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting, told Multichannel News that his company is foursquare behind Nexstar. "They deserve a lot of credit and I hope they succeed," Smith told the magazine. "I think Perry (Nexstar CEO Perry Sook) is in a unique situation because he is using the opportunity that he has in small markets. In a three-station marketplace, it just seems to be that the consuming public's view of the world is going to be 'If I can't watch the basketball games on CBS or Desperate Housewives" on ABC or whatever' they are not going to be deprived of that opportunity, and they will go where they have to go to get it."
Though Smith did not tell Multichannel News where he got his figures, he said he had heard "staggering numbers" of cable viewers had switched to satellite dishes in the markets, including Joplin, where Nexstar has pulled its signals from the local cable franchises.
Smith indicated that letting the local stations such as KODE and KSNF leave will hurt the cable industry more than it will hurt Nexstar. He told Multichannel News, "Once they leave, there's no reason to come back."
It appears that Governor Matt Blunt's decision to award the Lamar license bureau contract to former State Representative Bubs Hohulin may just be the tip of the iceberg in what I hope no one calls Licensegate.
The Kansas City Star earlier today wrote about more of those to whom contracts were awarded, including Tracy Graves, wife of U. S. Attorney Todd Graves, and Mrs. Graves' brother, Todd Bartles.
Even though there is no doubt that these type of plum jobs were also awarded by recent Democratic governors Bob Holden and the late Mel Carnahan, what makes these appointments different, Missouri Democrats charge, is that Todd Graves' jurisdiction as a U. S. Attorney is western Missouri and Jefferson City, meaning that he would be responsible for any investigation into state government. Democratic Party spokesman Jack Cardetti told the Star, "The confidence of the people in the U. S. Attorney's investigations has now been severely harmed. This does not pass the smell test." Cardetti said the appointments showed a lack of judgment and integrity on Blunt's part, according to the Star article.
The decision to award Hohulin a fee office was criticized because he is already on the state payroll as an assistant to State Senator Carl Vogel, R-Jefferson City, earning more than $30,000 a year.
Hohulin told The Joplin Globe he does not intend to give up his job, and if he did to decide to accept the office, his wife, Marilyn, would be running it. A Turner Report reader notes that an ad was placed in this weeks XChanger 2, a free shopper serving the Barton County area, advertising for employees for the license bureau, indicating that the new management is taking over.
The ad reads, "Taking applications for Lamar License Bureau. Full or part time available, requires some Saturdays. Good personality and attention to detail a must. Apply at 1206 Cherry Street, Lamar, Mo."
Pittsburg State University's newspaper, The Collegio, reports in an article written by Joslyn Buck, that a fixture in area musical broadcasting has called it quits. The final original broadcast of "Swing Shift" a weekly jazz program,was held Friday, Feb. 4, on KRPS, the college's public radio station. The program's host, Dave Bevan, is retiring at age 89, after being host for the show for the past seven years. Repeats will fill the show's Friday night time slot until the end of the month.
Bevan told the Collegio, "I got to see some of the original big bands and I liked the music and I got to be pretty knowledgeable about it. I am glad to see young people interested in jazz today. It's a part of American history and not something that should just die out."
Ironically, at least as far as KRPS is concerned, that may be exactly what happens. KRPS' station manager told the Collegio he expects the station to go in a new direction with its replacement programming.
Two Jasper County Jail inmates allege the facility is a hotbed of racism.
In yet another prisoner lawsuit, this one filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, inmates Sean Harris and James Bailey are asking for half a million dollars in damages from Sheriff Archie Dunn "because the racial racism is known to the supervisors and correctional staff, also administration." As you may have guessed from the wording of that last sentence, the prisoners are representing themselves.
It's never quite clear which prisoner had done what to him. The complaint reads, "Feb. 12, 2005, I've been attacked by three racist white men, names unknown, knots on head, black eyes, cheek swollen, face bruised, body beat up. Every night I suffered racially motivated slurs, nigger, coon, darkie for example. Racism has not been forgotten and should be abolished."
Harris, who wrote the complaint for the two, then added, "I look forward to the federal courts to look into this facility because these Caucasian men are saying any nigger come in here they are going to try and kill. I'm not the first black men this has happened to. This violates my constitutional rights for equal protection of the law. The facility placed us, Mr. James Bailey, Jr. James Clark lives in dangerous conditions by placing them in a racist pod D, which is deliberate indifference and cruel and unusual punishment violating fifth and eighth amendments."
Harris said, "I want the court to grant me relief by declaring actual and punitive damages. Also, find this facility guilty for allowing the racism to go as far as it is going."
Harris indicated he wrote the complaint because Clark has a "reading and writing disability."
Jasper County court records indicate Harris is awaiting trial on third degree assault and forgery charges, while James awaits trial on a second degree arson charge.
Morale in the Jarden Corporation is high, CEO Martin Franklin said in a news release issued today. Jarden recently completed a buyout of American Household, the company which owns the former Sunbeam plant in Neosho.
"With the closing of the American Household transaction in January 2005," Franklin said, "we are excited by the tremendous opportunities the addition of such brands as Coleman, First Alert, Mr. Coffee, Oster and Sunbeam will bring to Jarden. Morale in the company is high as both management and employees recognize the cross-selling and cost saving opportunities that exist in our expanded group. We are focused on executing our strategic plan and are optimistic about our prospects for 2005 and beyond."
Jarden had record sales and operating earnings for the year, according to the news release, with net sales increasing 42.7 percent, to $838.6 million, compared with $587.7 million in 2003. During the fourth quarter, net sales increased 23.6 percent to $236.7 million, compared to $191.5 million for the same quarter last year.
Though there is little doubt the Missouri General Assembly also needs to be looking at the insurance industry as one of the causes of state problems and not just trial lawyers, some of the provisions in HB 392, which passed the House this week by a 106-52 margin, have some merit.
The bill prohibits shopping for counties or judges that might be favorable to lawsuits. Instead, the cases must be filed in the county where an injury allegedly occurred. This, Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Carl Junction, said in his newsletter this week, will "help curb the filing of unnecessary lawsuits. This change in law will cut down on lawsuits and help keep doctors in Missouri.
Another part of the bill eliminates joint and several liability, a process which allows lawyers to sue different people and if the one who has money is only one percent at fault that person can end up footing the whole bill if other defendants cannot pay. "Current law allows someone that was only one percent at fault in a $500,000 lawsuit to be forced to foot the entire bill, even if someone else that was 99 percent at fault is able to pay but isn't willing to do so," Hunter wrote. "HB 393 helps to stop this unfair practice by making people personally responsible for the consequences of their own actions, rather than the actions of someone else."
The joint and several liability was one reason behind the lawsuit filed by the Phipps family of Lamar several years back against drunk driver Neley Milner, who killed eight-year-old Julie Phipps and permanently damaged Jerry Phipps and his daughter Abby when he rammed his vehicle into the back of their car while driving at a speed of more than 100 miles an hour in 1995. The Phipps family sued Milner, who obviously was the person most responsible for the death and injuries and the Ford Motor Company for alleged faulty design of their car. A jury cleared the company of any wrongdoing, but the Phipps family had no hope of ever getting any money from Milner. It was a sad situation, but there was no reason why Ford should have been at risk of paying a multi-million dollar settlement in this case.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bubs Hohulin is no longer in the Missouri House of Representatives, but the Lamar Republican still finds himself the center of controversy.
Hohulin, who works as an assistant to State Senator Carl Vogel, R-Jefferson City, was recently awarded a driver's license office in Lamar by Governor Matt Blunt.
A story issued less than two hours ago by the Kansas City Star indicates that state Democrats have filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission about the appointment. According to the article, "Democrats said state law prohibits state employees from doing work for an agency for compensation beyond their regular salary without a competitive bid. Hohulin told The Star he has not decided if he will accept Blunt's offer, but if he does, he will continue to pull down his $30,000 salary as a senate assistant and allow his wife, Marilyn Hohulin, to run the revenue office.
A spokesman for the governor's office said the governor does not believe his appointment of Hohulin was illegal.
Cox Communications is following in Cable One's footsteps and is giving away antennas to its customers after being forced to remove Nexstar station KSLT, a CBS affiliate, from its system in San Angelo, Texas, according to John Boyd's article in today's San Angelo Standard-Times.
Cox was a little slower on the trigger than Cable One was when it began handing out the free antennas in Joplin even before it had to remove Nexstar stations KODE and KSNF from its system. The Standard-Times article indicated that many customers had already bought antennas.
As expected, Nexstar COO Duane Lammers had comments for the media. "I think this is basically over and I don't think we'll be back on cable," he told the Standard-Times. While the penny a day (30 cents a month per subscriber) price has been bandied about in the media, the Standard-Times article indicated what most observers had already anticipated. The article said, "Nexstar initially asked for a penny per day per Cox cable subscriber over the next year, with escalating rates for the next several years, before it would sign a new retransmission consent agreement allowing KLST to return to the Cox cable lineup." Nexstar later just asked Cox to "agree in principle to payment of some kind," according to the article.
U. S. District Court Judge Richard E. Dorr issued an order today, directing that convicted child molester Martin Eck be compelled to answer questions from lawyers representing Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn and the Jasper County Commission within 20 days or have his lawsuit against them dismissed.
Eck is suing the county officials for $10 million after he allegedly was unable to get dental care while he was being housed in the county jail.
The lawyers arrived at Eck's prison Jan. 28 and he refused to answer questions until he had a lawyer. He indicated his mother was trying to hire one for him.
The attorney for former McDonald County deputy and Seneca police officer Randy Hance is attempting to keep threatening letters purportedly written by Hance from being admitted into evidence. Hance is being held without bond awaiting trial on weapons charges.
Shawn Askinosie, the prominent Springfield attorney who is representing Hance, filed objections in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri to the government's plan to submit copies of threatening letters written by Hance to the Kansas victim. Government lawyers had asked that the judge examine the letters before making any decision on granting bond to Hance.
Askinosie said the evidence "was not presented at the detention hearing and thus is an attempt by the government to offer the district court new evidence" and the court should deny the government's request.
More information about other evidence in the Hance case can be found in the Feb. 14 Turner Report.
Another change of judge took place in the involuntary manslaughter case against Edward Meerwald, 50, Noel. Kevin Selby will preside over the preliminary hearing when it takes place 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, in Division 3, Newton County Circuit Court. Judge John LePage, the second judge to be assigned to the case after it was refiled in Newton County recently recused himself.
Meerwald was allegedly driving drunk when his car left Highway 86 and hit James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and Dodson's granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7, Joplin, when they were walking in Dodson's driveway. Meerwald is charged with two felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of resisting arrest.
The case had been moved to Jasper County on a change of venue, but Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson elected to drop charges there and refile charges in Newton County to try to get the case to trial faster.
A 9:30 a.m. April 4 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Gary Reed Blankenship, Neosho, who faces 10 charges after being arrested in connection with another of Diamond police officer Jim Murray's internet sex stings.
Blankenship, 55, who resigned as an official at O'Sullivan Industries in Lamar after his arrest, faces one count of enticing a child, one count of promoting obscene material to a minor, and eight counts of possession of child pornography.
Great story on KODE tonight about the newly-found freedom of Aurora resident Ted White, Jr., who served six years in prison, until he was granted a new trial and was found not guilty. But correct me if I am wrong, didn't KOAM do that same story last week?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Officials in Bossier City, La., are taking Cox Communications to court in an effort to get the local Nexstar station, KTAL-TV, an NBC affiliate, back on the system.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in Bossier Parish District Court, according to the Shreveport Times. City officials said Cox was violating its franchise agreements which require the cable operator to air the local broadcast stations. KTAL was removed from Cox on Feb. 2 after it refused to pay the 30 cents per customer per month Nexstar was asking for retransmission rights.
International Flavors and Fragrances, owners of the Jasper Popcorn plant, are requesting that seven more lawsuits filed against the company be moved from Jasper County Circuit Court to U. S. District Court.
In documents filed today, the company is asking to have cases filed by Jane Fast Adams, Carthage; David and Tracy Vance, Jasper; Justin and Stacy Bishop, Joplin; Reina Haywood, Lamar; Jennieve Bricker, Jasper; Crystal Elwood, Drexel; and John Winningham, Lockwood, moved out of Jasper County.
Petitions to move five other cases were filed last week, as mentioned in The Turner Report.
Twenty-eight lawsuits were filed against the company from people who claimed a butter flavoring used by company officials caused them to have severe respiratory problems.

Monday, February 14, 2005

"Sorry, brother, but I can't live this way any more. Too much pain, too much heartache. We have shared so many wonderful times together, it was a hell of a party."
With those words, Randy Hance said goodbye to his brother. He meticulously detailed what was to be done with his property and told his brother to beat up his ex-wife's boyfriend. "He is part, a big part of why this happened."
What Hance intended to do, federal officials say, is to murder his ex-wife, then kill himself.
In a series of letters, written to his brother, his aunt, his children, and his former girlfriend, Hance, a former McDonald County deputy and Seneca police officer, planned everything about his death, down to naming the people he wanted to serve as his pallbearers.
The letters were filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri as part of the U. S. government's efforts to keep Hance in jail without bond on weapons charges while he awaits his April 25 trial.
Hance was indicted Dec. 15 by a federal grand jury for possessing firearms and ammunition while under an order of protection. The indictment said that on Nov. 23 Hance was under a full order of protection for threatening and harassing his former wife Connie Hance. The order was issued after he had repeatedly threatened Ms. Hance, according to the indictment.
"The threats and harassment included defendant putting a gun to Ms. Hance's head, threatening telephone calls in which (he) threatened Ms. Hance's life and repeated visits by (him) to Ms. Hance's residence."
He was also under a second protection order at that time, court records indicate, after he "repeatedly threatened and harassed a former paramour in the state of Kansas."
Hance was arrested Nov. 23 after Ms. Hance saw him outside her home and called 911. "Prior to his arrest," the court documents said, "the defendant had told Ms. Hance that something bad was going to happen to her on that date."
When he was arrested, he was in possession of a shotgun, a .40 caliber pistol and a Ruger M77 rifle, along with more than 150 rounds of ammunition. Two of the weapons were loaded and ready to fire, according to the court documents.
After he was arrested, Hance consented to a search. Officers found a spiral notebook containing the messages to friends and family members. "These letters indicated that (Hance) intended to murder Ms. Hance and then kill himself."
After he was arrested, court records indicated, he was placed in the Greene County Jail in Springfield, "where he attempted to commit suicide."
The government won the first round Friday when Judge Richard Dorr ordered that Hance continue to be held without bond, but Hance's lawyer, Shawn Askinosie of Springfield, one of the top criminal defense attorneys in southwest Missouri, says that order should be rescinded since possession of a firearm while under an order of protection is not a violent offense.
Government lawyers filed Hance's unsent letters today in an effort to ensure that Hance stay behind bars. A letter to his aunt indicates that he planned to send her the title to his truck, with instructions to sell it to pay for his funeral. "If any is left, just give it to the kids equally,"
he wrote.
He asked to be buried on land that he owns, but instructed, "I do not want Connie by me for any reason" He said that "Connie's land and money should go to the children."
"I tried so hard to be a good police officer and those crooked scum at Mac County would not let an honest cop like David and I do an honest job. I haven't done everything right in my life, but when I put that badge on I did.
"It's all gone now, my family, the hunting days are over, and most of my energy to live is gone, also. I go to sleep hurting and wake up the same way.
"Please pray for my soul."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Five lawsuits against International Flavors and Fragrances have been moved from Jasper County Circuit Court into federal court.
The lawsuit filed by Lawanna Arthur was removed from the local court Thursday and lawsuits filed by Anna and Edward Rea, rural Greenfield; Oma Baker, Golden City; Ronald Bennett, Lamar; and Christy and Ronald Walker, Jasper; were removed Friday, according to federal court records.
Those suits were all brought by former employees of the Jasper Popcorn Company against the company that owns the Jasper plant. Each of the former employees is suffering from severe respiratory ailments that have been traced to materials used in the plant.
The lawsuits are among 28 filed against International Flavors and Fragrances.
One lawsuit, filed by Linda Redman, Joplin, was settled just before the jury returned a verdict on April 30, 2004. Another Jasper County jury ruled in favor of Eric and Cassandra Peeples, Carthage, and awarded them $20 million, $18 to Peoples and $2 million to his wife.
A third Jasper County jury ruled in favor of International Flavors and Fragrances in a suit brought by former workers Dustin Smith, 25, Alba; Evelyn Standhardt, 60, Carthage; Marge Unruh, 51, Jasper; and Velma Ingalls, 34, Iantha.
The lawsuits claim that the butter flavoring used at the Jasper plant contains the chemical diacetyl, which according to health experts caused the workers to contract bronchilotis obliterans, a rare lung disease that cuts off the airways and causes shortness of breath.
A bill to increase the penalty given to offenders such as the one who killed James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and his granddaughter Jessica Mann, 7, Joplin, has been re-introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Rep. Marilyn Ruestman in sponsoring the bill, formerly sponsored by Rep. Kevin Wilson. Wilson is listed as a co-sponsor.
HB 526, which received its first reading Wednesday, makes it a Class A felony to commit involuntary manslaughter if the driver accused:
-Has a blood alcohol level that is at least one and a half times the legal limit.
-If a fatality occurs as a result of that person leaving the highway.
Similar legislation is being sponsored in the State Senate by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin.
Mr. Dodson and Miss Mann died July 31 after they were hit by a car driven by Edward Meerwald, 51, Noel, who was allegedly drunk at the time. Meerwald's car left Highway 86 and struck the two as they were walking in Mr. Dodson's driveway.
Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson recently refiled charges against Meerwald, essentially starting the process all over again since it had become stalled with one delay after another in Jasper County Circuit Court, where it had been moved on a change of venue. Meerwald is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of resisting arrest.
The local legislators thought their bill to increase the penalties for this crime were necessary after discovering that Meerwald, if convicted, could be out of prison within a couple of years.
The Joint Committee on Education, which includes Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, will continue its work on redoing the Foundation Formula, through which public elementary and secondary schools are funded, when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, in Senate Committee Room 1.
Here is a bill that is going nowhere, but you have to give the lady credit for trying.
Senate Minority Floor Leader Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, has introduced a bill which would prohibit a parent, sibling or child of a statewide elected official from registering as a lobbyist. The bill is obviously targeted at Governor Matt Blunt, whose brother and stepmother are lobbyists and whose sister has indicated that she may do some lobbying.
The bill has some merit, but it is going nowhere in the Republican-led Senate.
Saga Communications, owner of KOAM-TV, will release its fourth quarter and full-year 2004 results at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, according to PR Newswire.
The fourth quarter and 2004 results for Jarden Corporation, owner of the Sunbeam plant in Neosho, will be released Thursday, Feb. 17.
More people have come to The Turner Report searching for Nexstar Broadcasting than any other subject during the past week. Approximately 70 percent of those who reached this blog by via a search engine (and who entered something other than Turner Report) were searching for Nexstar.
Other search engine terms included: Malorie Maddox, Cox Communications, John Boruk, Tracy Turner, Edward Meerwald and southwest Missouri meth.
Nexstar Broadcasting has vigorously defended its practice of establishing so-called duopolies, television markets in which it has more than one station. In the Joplin area, Nexstar owns KSNF and for all practical purposes, also owns KODE.
The company has claimed in its filings with the Federal Communications Commission that the practice has enhanced its ability to serve the public.
In comments filed Jan. 2, 2003, Nexstar argued for the relaxation of FCC rules regarding multiple ownership in a market. "Over the past several years, the number of radio and TV stations has increased; cable, DBS, DARS and Internet access have all expanded; and daily and weekly local newspapers remain readily available. Relaxation of the Local TV Multiple Ownership Rule will not impact this vast diversity of available media and likely will only increase it."
Nexstar claimed that in markets where it has arrangements with other stations it has "initiated new newscasts, expanded coverage with existing newscasts and made technical improvements to their newscasts by adding Doppler radar systems or satellite uplink trucks."
The company claimed the FCC could relax its rules and not decrease competition. "Viewers, programmers, and advertisers all have multiple media choices, not just broadcast television."
Relaxing the rules wouldn't stifle local programming, Nexstar claimed, it would increase it.
"Under Nexstar's agreements in Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, Joplin, Erie, and Peoria, Nexstar currently produces news for its own station and the Mission or Sinclair station in the market. Although the stations share some content, each station also includes news content which is unique to that station."
The filing pointed out that in Joplin and Wilkes Barre-Scranton, "although the Nexstar-owned and Mission-owned stations share a single news director, each station has its own management-level employee to ensure that a news broadcast over his/her respective station is focused on the needs of that station's viewers."
In one section of its filing, Nexstar claims that "ownership of more than one television station in a market produces substantial public interest benefits."
As an appendix to the filing, Nexstar attempted to show how its operation of two stations has benefited Joplin. "Nexstar and Mission Broadcasting, Inc., have a shared services agreement in place between Nexstar's station KSNF and Mission's station KODE-TV under which the parties have increased news coverage in the market, produced and aired the Missouri Southern University Football Coaches Show, which had not been broadcast for more than four years and resurrected "Our Kids," a locally-produced public service campaign promoting the general well-being of children in the Four-State area. In addition, KODE-TV introduced a "Toys for Kids" campaign.
Nexstar also promoted KSNF's civic involvement in a Dec. 28, 2004, filing with the FCC.
Under the title "KSNF Joplin-Pittsburg Localism Initiatives" the company listed the following:
Local News- The company listed its newscasts, said it devotes 15 percent of its daily programming to local news and added "We have an individual assigned to update our web site on a daily basis with current news. We also direct people to our web site for additional news and information."
Local Public Affairs- In this category, Nexstar trumpeted a 30-minute Saturday morning program, "It's All About Youth," and its morning show, "Hometown Today," which "highlights local public affairs and community issues on a daily basis. This is accomplished with in-studio interviews and live segments from special community events."
Programming- Nexstar noted that it pre-empted network programming to air a PSU Division II playoff game, it produces and airs the PSU coaches show Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m., it pre-empted network programming to air the second Missouri governor's debate and it broadcasts the Carthage Maple Leaf Parade every October. "This is a three and a half hour live broadcast of the state of Missouri's largest parade with 175 plus entries and 45,000 spectators."
Emergency Programming- "We have invested over $1 million in the latest Doppler radar equipment so that we can provide the public with early notice of severe weather. We have a comprehensive severe weather plan in place and go to great lengths to keep the public informed about severe weather." Nexstar also said it goes live "at any time of the day or night for on-the-scene coverage of any emergency situation," and it participates in AMBER and EAS alerts.
Station participation in community activities- In this area, Nexstar noted the Children's Miracle Network Telethon, being a Partner in Education with area schools and The Joplin Globe and broadcasting live "twelve times per year from local high schools allowing them to showcase their school."
The open letters to Cable One viewers have been removed from the home pages at the KSN and KODE websites. These had been listed on both under the "news" category, though they were clearly biased advertising copy for the stations.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

During the same time in which the company is trying to pay down more than half a billion dollars worth of debts, Nexstar Broadcasting paid Perry Sook one of the biggest bonuses given to any CEO in the country.
A Jan. 13 Associated Press article reported that Nexstar is making efforts to pay off $600 million worth of debt. During the past year, the man whose responsibility is to get that debt under control, Sook, was paid a bonus of $4,325,000, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents.
Nexstar is the owner of KSNF and de facto owner of KODE-TV in Joplin.
Earlier, I wrote that the Neosho Daily News had not written about the lawsuit filed by the relatives of James Dodson and Jessica Mann against Edward Meerwald, Noel, the man who allegedly was drunk when the car he was driving crashed into them and killed them last July.
The Daily has written about that. I apologize for the error and have removed that reference from the blog.
I just finished reading the Saturday Joplin Globe, which featured coverage of Thursday night's Diamond R-4 Board of Education meeting.
Superintendent Mark Mayo will be around for another two years, according to the article (they had to sew him up quickly since he is in such demand from other school districts). He will receive $70,000 for the 2005-2006 school year and $72,100 for the 2006-2007 school year.
The Globe reported that High School Principal Jim Cummins will receive $55,100, Middle School Administrative Assistant Danny DeWitt $41,080, and Elementary Principal Deanna Yokley $53, 200.
I won't get into a discussion on the relative merits of the administrators, but Mayo's own choice for principal, Cummins, will receive $1,900 more per year than elementary principal Yokley though she has been principal for seven or eight years and Cummins has only completed one year and did not have his administrative degree when he was hired last year.
This certainly opens the board to charges of favortism at the least and sex discrimination at the most.
State Representative Ed Emery, R-Lamar, joined the battle with Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, to see which one can kiss up to new Governor Matt Blunt the most.
In his column in the Wednesday Lamar Democrat, Emery referred to Blunt's State of the State message as "historic in its clarity and vision."
"What a breath of fresh air he provided to the conservative majority," Emery wrote.
While The Democrat offered page-one space Wednesday to the Dade County Commission budget, yet another meth lab story, and a story telling what township races will be on the April ballot, it has yet to print a story about the arrest of top O'Sullivan Industries official Gary Reed Blankenship on sex charges in Newton County. (Blankenship resigned from O'Sullivan shortly after his arrest.)
The newspaper still has not printed anything about O'Sullivan Chairman of the Board Daniel O'Sullivan resigning...and that was four months ago. Apparently the removal of the last vestiges of the O'Sullivan family from the business Tom O'Sullivan brought to the community 41 years ago is not big enough news to knock a meth lab off page one.
Wednesday's edition did include O'Sullivan Industries' press release on its second quarter results, but that information, though it affects Lamar's biggest employer, was buried on page 8 of the paper, along with a story on Dr. Kay's Magic Show coming to Lamar.
A convicted child molester who is suing Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn and the County Commission for $10 million because he did not receive adequate dental care while he was in the county jail refused to answer questions from the county's lawyers during a Jan. 28 deposition.
Martin Anthony Eck, 42, gave his name and age and that was about it. When asked if he had a lawyer to represent him, Eck said, "My mother is in the process of getting me one as we speak.
"I do not know at this time who it is. But she is getting me one."
After attorney Peter Lee said, "Before we begin this deposition, one of the--," Eck interrupted him saying, "I'm not gonna make any statements until I have a chance to talk to my lawyer," according to the deposition."
Under questioning by Lee, Eck said he had not been contacted by any lawyers and had not received any correspondence from lawyers.
County attorneys have asked the judge in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri to compel Eck to give a deposition within 30 days or to throw the case out of court.
The new media is beginning to play an important role in getting the news out. Neosho Forums' administrator broke another story Friday in the ongoing circus surrounding former Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge.
Jack Dickens, who goes by the name Admin on the website, broke the story that a federal Hatch Act complaint has been filed against Doerge with the Office of Special Counsel. Hatch Act violations take place when elected officials participate illegally in politics.
Using Doerge's recent admonition by the Missouri Ethics Commission as a springboard, the complaint claims he improperly influenced the election of current Sheriff Ken Copeland.
The documents, which are featured at claim that Doerge "directly or indirectly" coerced Sheriff's Department employees to endorse Copeland.
The complaint, which had the name of the complainant redacted, notes the July 28, 2004, political ad in the Neosho Daily News in which Doerge endorsed Copeland. "Ken Copeland won the primary election and afterwards he publicly announced that he would not have won if Sheriff Doerge had not endorsed him as a candidate," the complaint said.
That July 28 ad listed supporters of Copeland's election including: Doerge, Chris Jennings, chief deputy; Lt Bob Loudermilk, reserve deputy; Larry Kenn, detective; James Defrates, deputy; Rico Engberg, detective; William Pike, detective; Dwayne Allen, detective; Keith Mills, deputy; C. A. Davidson, deputy; Bill Hayes, deputy; Frank Harris, major; Richard Leavens, captain patrol commander; N. Trevor Williams, detective; R. Scott Whitman, detective; Donn Hall, deputy; Dan Cooper, deputy; Randy Scott, detective; Henry Stout, detective; Roger Koren, evidence officer; David Trimble, deputy; and Richard Geller, detective.
TV ads that aired on KSNF and KODE with Doerge endorsing Copeland were also cited, as was an endorsement by Major Frank Harris on Copeland's website.
"As a citizen and voter of Newton County," the complainant said, "this upsets me as the sheriff and some of his deputies endorsed a candidate which not only influenced the elections, but did so while having received federal funding in the past and possibly presently." The federal funding is what makes Doerge's actions a possible violation of the Hatch Act.
The Ethics Commission sent the letter of admonition to Doerge after determining that taxpayer funds were used to support a candidate.
The full complaint and comments on it can be found at Neosho Forums.
Another new media source that has played a key role in keeping a watchful eye on government is , which has thoroughly publicized the audits of the city of Nevada, the last of which was unveiled by the state auditor's office last week.
I am sure the Nevada Daily Mail covered the information in its print edition, but for some reason it has not shown up on the newspaper's website. Anyone wanting information about the audit has to go to either Nevada Revealed or to the state auditor's website.
The Diamond R-4 Board of Education may have as many as four new members after the April election, but those new board members will be stuck with Mark Mayo through at least June 30, 2007.
The R-4 Board, reportedly voted 7-0 to extend the superintendent's contract an additional year, even though he already has a contract that would take him through the next school year.
The board also voted unanimously to rehire High School Principal Jim Cummins and Middle School Principal Danny DeWitt and voted 5-2 with Janice Stirewalt and Steve Johnson casting the dissenting votes to rehire Elementary Principal Deanna Yokley.
As my former student Michelle Nickolaisen pointed out in her blog, school officials did not place the agenda for the board meeting on the district website until sometime during the day the meeting was held, Thursday, Feb. 10. Not posting an agenda more than 24 hours a day before a meeting would be a violation of the Missouri Sunshine Law, but as was noted in The Turner Report Feb. 10, Diamond school officials post their agenda on a window at the door at the high school, where students and school employees might see it, but no other district patrons.
The agenda placed on the website, the only vehicle through which it is available to the public, contained no mention that any of the hirings were to be voted on Thursday night.
While I'm mentioning the work being done by the new media, Michelle Nickolaisen and another former student of mine, Alicia Bradley, who is also a sophomore at Diamond High School, provide interesting and insightful commentary (as well as occasional nonsense, but hey, they are students) on their blogs. Alicia's can be found at . Both of them would be great writers for the high school newspaper or for the school website, but so far this year there has been no high school newspaper (at least not the last time I heard which was sometime last month) and after using the website for school news updates last year, that practice has been discontinued during the 2004-2005 school year.
Though journalism no longer seems to be a necessary item at the high school, all is not lost on the intellectual front. Thanks to the guidance of Superintendent Mayo and his new high school counselor, who also used to work for the Southwest R-5 School District, Diamond now has a barbecue team which will travel across the state looking for new frontiers to conquer.
That alone is certainly worth an extra year on the old contract.
Cox Communications, owners of cable franchises in Carthage and Lamar, were hit with some unfavorable publicity Friday when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil insider trading charges against Frank R. V. Loomans, the company's former manager of investor relations.
According to the Associated Press story, the SEC alleges Loomans made at least $285,505 illegally by using "sensitive information about Cox not available to the public to trade the stock options in a brokerage account in the name of his father, Luc F. Loomans, between July 2000 and July 2001."
He also is alleged to have illegally made money on Concurrent Computer Corp. stock.
The Neosho Daily News reported in its Friday edition that McDonald County Associate Circuit Court Judge John LePage will oversee the newly-refiled involuntary manslaughter case against Edward Meerwald, 51, Noel.
Meerwald allegedly was intoxicated when the car he was driving killed James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and Dodson's granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7, of Joplin.
The case was moved back to Newton County earlier this month after County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson tired of delays in Judge Joseph Schoeberl's court in Jasper County, where the case had been moved on a change of venue.
When the charges were refiled, Watson added a resisting arrest count.
KSNF's 10 p.m. coverage of the annual Lincoln Days gathering at the Ramada Inn in Joplin today featured an interesting note from weekend anchor Courtney Cullor.
"KSN's own Jim Jackson was emcee at Lincoln Days," Ms. Cullor said.
The Lincoln Days event is a partisan Republican get-together, which tonight featured Governor Matt Blunt, and U. S. Senator Kit Bond as speakers. The Nexstar station's willingness to have Jackson participate in the event and even publicize his participation is questionable. It certainly doesn't give area Democrats (the few that exist) any reason to be confident in KSN's coverage of their activities or of Republican activities.