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.

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