Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pre-trial conference for Simmons rescheduled

A March 8 pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Cory Simmons, the Joplin High School student charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Feb. 11 traffic accident in which JHS student-athlete Christina Freeman, a passenger in the car Simmons was driving, was killed. Joplin police say Simmons was driving while intoxicated.
The hearing was originally scheduled for today.

Republican race assured in Seventh District

The Seventh District will have a Republican primary race.
That was ensured today when two GOP candidates, neither named Roy Blunt, filed on the first day. Filing were Mitchell E. Potts, Springfield, and Clenden Kinder, Joplin. No Democrats filed, but Libertarian Kevin Craig, Powersite, guaranteed there will be a general election.
In the Fourth District, which includes Barton County, incumbent Ike Skelton, D-Lexington, filed, as did Republicans Lloyd Sanders Sr., Richland; Alan Conner, Long Lane; and Jeff Parnell, Rogersville.
No surprises emerged in local House and Senate races.
In the House, all area Republican incumbents filed for re-election with none garnering opposition on the first day. The earliest to file was 129th District Representative Ron Richard, who filed at 8:48:14 a.m., according to the Missouri Secretary of State's website, followed by;
-Kevin Wilson, Neosho, 130th District, 9:06 a.m.
-Ed Emery, Lamar, 126th District, 9:24 a.m.
-Bryan Stevenson, Webb City, 128th District, 9:59:05 a.m.
-Marilyn Ruestman, Joplin, 131st District, 9:59:46 a.m.
-Steve Hunter, Joplin, 127th District, 1:50:54 p.m.
Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, was the only candidate to file in the 32nd Senatorial District race, while his fellow incumbent, Delbert Scott, was the only candidate to file in the 28th District. Former children's show host "Aunt Norma" Champion, a Republican incumbent, was the only one to file in the 30th District.
The big guns did not file for U. S. Senate today. Neither incumbent Republican Jim Talent or Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill filed, but three candidates did enter their names: Bill Clinton Young, Kansas City, Democrat; Isaiah Hair Jr., St. Louis, Republican; and Frank Gilmour, Libertarian.
Four Republicans and one Democrat filed for state auditor. Republicans filing were Jack Jackson, Wildwood; Mark Wright, Springfield; Al Hanson, Concordia; and John London, Chesterfield. Susan Montee, St. Joseph, was the lone Democrat.

Interesting take on Monett rural firefighter incident

A letter in today's Springfield News-Leader offers a unique way of looking at the recent incident in which Monett rural firefighters stood by as a building belonging to Bivaldo Rueda burned to the ground.
Would the police department stand by and watch a crime being committed?

Local news programming worth watching

The four local television stations had plenty of news to work with Monday and their newscasts were eminently watchable.
KOAM blanketed the story on the reaction to the revelation of Monsignor Stephen Schneider's forced resignation from St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Joplin. Unfortunately, the story was this area's first exposure to the nationwide scandal of priests having sex with children. This is the kind of story that can easily become lurid and sensationalistic, and KOAM spending nearly the first five minutes of its 6 p.m. newscast on the subject teetered on the edge of overkill, but did not cross it.
Anne Bassett provided the main story in hard-hitting fashion, while Jennifer Denman offered a sidebar with a psychologist examining how parishioners can deal with this kind of traumatic announcement.
All three stations offered responsible coverage, noting quickly and prominently that the incident in question happened years ago and did not happen in Joplin.
KSN offered a telephone interview with Bishop John J Leibrecht, while KODE's Shannon Bruffett, as usual, offered concise, no-nonsense coverage of Monsignor Schneider's dismissal.
Only KOAM led with the parish story at 6, while the other local stations led with fires in Kansas. It is hard to fault any of the stations for their choices.
A third option, the death of Joplin native Dennis Weaver, was pushed back a story or two on KODE and KSNF, and was nearly at the conclusion of the newscast for KOAM. It could be argued that this was the top news story of the day for the area, given Weaver's prominence on television and in the movies, his work for the environment during his later years and the fact that he has maintained contact with his home area over the years.
KFJX also played the local stories prominently during its 9 p.m. newscast.
On the newspaper front, backers of the Joplin Globe and Joplin Daily had another opportunity to vent their spite at each other over the coverage of Mr. Weaver's death.
The Globe was the first local newspaper to break the story, picking up the story from national news, but it offered little of local perspective on its website. Hopefully, that will be addressed in today's print and web versions.
Daily Editor John Hacker, as usual, jumped all over the story, with a series of interviews with locals and former locals who knew Mr. Weaver. It was an impressive amount of work in just a few hours. Particularly impressive was his landing an interview with former Neosho resident Jacqueline Scott, an actress who graced television series through the 1960s and 1970s, standing out as Richard Kimble's sister in David Janssen's 1964-67 series, "The Fugitive," and in a number of guest-starring roles on Mr. Weaver's "Gunsmoke" series.
Joplin Globe reporter Andy Ostmeyer offered a professional, well-written story on Mr. Weaver's death, complete with local interviews, but Hacker's article offered a depth that was lacking in the Globe article.

Nexstar stock continues to drop

It wasn't that long ago that Nexstar Broadcasting stock sold for more than $10 a share.
Though the company, which owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield, saw its shares trading slightly higher in the aftermath of the announcement of a series of retransmission agreements, it is now dangerously close to falling below $4 per share.
At the close of trading Monday, Nexstar had fallen 11 cents to $4.02 per share.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Schieffer has restored respect to CBS News

It seems hard to believe that nearly one year has passed since veteran newsman Bob Schieffer took the reins at the CBS Evening News on an "interim" basis. I have nothing against former KOAM newsman Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News or Elizabeth Vargas at ABC, but Schieffer is the one whose program I am watching every chance I get.
Since Schieffer took over, you get the sense that this man puts the viewers first and has a great deal of respect for his correspondents. He has proven for years on "Face the Nation" that he is one of the best interviewers in business and his pointed questions to correspondents after their reports have brought out useful information on a daily basis.
From CBS' point of view, putting Schieffer in charge has been a win-win situation. Not only has he restored credibility to a program that was highly damaged by the last few months of Dan Rather's tenure, but he has helped the program (which is rated number one in this area, but third nationwide) to gain two ratings points at a time when the ratings of the other network newscasts are falling. (And from my point of view, having an anchorman who started out in newspapers is a plus, as well. Schieffer was a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)
I know CBS News has an apparent infatuation with Today Show host Katie Couric and she may well be the next anchor of the Evening News. Schieffer has indicated he does not want to have the position on a permanent basis. Too bad, but until he leaves, I'm sticking with the CBS Evening News.
As a last plug for Schieffer, if you get a chance buy his book "This Just In," about his journalism career. It is on sale for less than $10 at Books-A-Million in Joplin and is an enjoyable read.

Joplin's Dennis Weaver dies at 81

I didn't have much of an opportunity to see Joplin native Dennis Weaver in the role that made him famous, Deputy Chester Goode on the classic western series Gunsmoke.
I remember him more for "Gentle Ben," which I didn't like, and "McCloud," which I did. He was one of those actors who always made the job appear to be a lot easier than it is, since he comes off so natural. The Joplin Globe ran a bulletin a little while ago announcing Weaver's death at age 81. Mr. Weaver always maintained his Joplin connections, right down to wearing a Missouri Southern jacket on his series "Stone." "Stone" wasn't a hit, but Mr. Weaver always was in this area.
It seems the old rule of threes has played out once more since Mr. Weaver's death follows by only a couple of days the deaths of fellow TV legends Darren McGavin and Don Knotts.
Reading over the AP account reminded me that Mr. Weaver was far more of an accomplished actor than those who only saw him in his TV series would believe. He excelled in Steven Spielberg's debut movie, a horror movie made for television, but later released to theaters called "Duel."
I can also remember Mr. Weaver's chilling performance opposite Sally Struthers a few years back when he played a wife-abuser. He also made several movies, including notably Orson Welles' 1958 classic "Touch of Evil."
As I wrote over the weekend, it is sad when the faces and names of your youth begin to disappear, but fortunately the work of Mr. Weaver, as that of Mr. McGavin and Mr. Knotts, will continue to entertain future generations.

The dangers of term limits

An Associated Press news analysis today notes the problems new legislators have in dealing with the state's complex budget. There are no longer veteran lawmakers to deal with the budget since Missourians saw fit to vote in term limits.
I wrote several columns at the Lamar Democrat and the Carthage Press warning about the dangers of term limits. While I understand voters' feelings that some politicians get to Jefferson City and forget about the people back home, I still trust the people to make the decision on who they want to represent them.
By ensuring that the legislature is always in the hands of neophytes, we have increased the stranglehold lobbyists, bureaucrats, and special interests have on our state government.

Piano competition excellent topic for review

Empire District Electric Company CEO William Gipson praised the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition, organized every two years by Vivian Leon (pictured), in an opinion page column in the Sunday Joplin Globe.
While I don't have any disagreement with Gipson over the cultural value of the event, being a person who spends time dealing with government documents I immediately recalled the 2001 state audit in which the university's expenses for this activity were questioned.
Even though this is the third competition to be held since that audit was issued (and university officials vociferously protested the basic findings of the audit that the competition was a private event and not a promotion of the university), it would still be a worthwhile idea for our local media to examine what changes, if any, university officials have made to bring the event into compliance with state law. (Again, it should be noted university officials strongly disagreed with the audit's findings.)
This is the section of that audit which addressed the piano competition:

4. Missouri Southern International Piano Competition
The college serves as the headquarters for the Missouri Southern International Piano
Competition (MSIPC). The MSIPC is a nonprofit organization whose director is the wife
of the College President. Its main purpose is to bring the citizens of the area a world class cultural event (the piano competition) every two years, which will promote the appreciation of fine music and bring recognition to the college, the City of Joplin, the region, and the state. Our review of the relationship between the MSIPC and the college revealed the following:
1. The college provides office space, utilities, accounting services, public
information services, and the use of two college auditoriums and other rooms in the music building to the MSIPC. The costs associated with these services are not tracked or billed to the MSIPC by the college. In addition, the college also provided a secretary and a student worker to the MSIPC. The college paid $22,437 and $24,029 for these salaries during the years ending June 30, 1999 and 1998.
2. The college bills the MSIPC monthly for telephone, postage, and overtime
janitorial service costs not recovered from the MSIPC ticket sale revenues collected by the college. The balance due from the MSIPC at April 17, 2000, was $1,603. No payments had been made by the MSIPC since November 17, 1999.
3. The College’s contract with their food service vendor provides for a $5,000 biennial cash contribution to the MSIPC, and the college’s Institute of International Studies (IIS) provided a $2,500 cash contribution to the MSIPC in March 2000.
4. The President was reimbursed $572 by the college in January 1999 for meals provided to a group attending the International Piano CompetitionÂ’s New York City Carnegie Hall performance. It does not appear necessary or reasonable to use college funds to cover operating expenses of a private organization, nor to provide donations or require the college’s food service vendor to provide a contribution to this organization. Furthermore, using public funds to pay expenses of a nonprofit organization violates Article III, Section 39 (1) of the Missouri Constitution. Because of the relationship between the MSIPC and the College President, any further contracts with this organization should be approved by the Board of Regents. It should also be noted that the college provides office space to the Missouri Southern Foundation and the Missouri Southern Alumni Association, both of which are legally organized nonprofit organizations.
WE RECOMMEND the MSSC comply with Article III, Section 39 (1) of the Missouri Constitution and refrain from donating or lending public funds to private organizations. In addition, the College should review costs incurred that relate to the operation of the MSIPC, and request full reimbursement for any costs not covered by ticket sale revenues. Also, any further contracts with MSIPC should be approved by the Board of Regents.
The Missouri Southern International Piano Competition was organized originally by the Music Department at Missouri Southern. It was felt that it fit extremely well into our mission, both from an academic standpoint and as our obligation to serve as the cultural center of the area. With the addition of the international component to our mission, it is even more important than originally envisioned. After the Music Department ran the first two competitions, it was apparent that the event had outgrown the Department’s ability to continue to run it as a stand-alone College program. As a result, a non-profit organization was formed to provide personnel to direct the competition and to raise private funds to cover direct expenses. Based on similar agreements with our Foundation and the Spiva Art Center, the College entered into an agreement with the MSIPC.
1. The agreement provides that the College will provide facilities, secretarial help and some services in return for the non-profit organization continuing to promote the competition as a College event. The MSIPC reimburses the College for all out-of-pocket expenses other than the contracted services.
2. There was no intent to link ticket sales to the costs of the College. It was envisioned that the College would incur some costs that would be more than offset by the promotion of the competition as a Missouri Southern event and the benefits derived by our students and faculty who attend music performances and masters classes for free. Any balances are paid as the MSIPC brings in revenue on a biennial basis.
3. The College, as stated previously in Item 1, did not require the food service vendor to make a biennial contribution to the MSIPC. This was volunteered as part of an RFP response but was not part of the evaluation process when the vendor was selected. The Institute of International Studies did not make an actual cash contribution to the MSIPC. Although the receipt from the MSIPC was on a form which used the term “contribution,” in reality the monies were paid because the College shared the cost of a well-known international lecturer/performer to provide a free presentation to all Missouri Southern students and faculty as part of our lecture series.
4. The President was reimbursed for reasonable business and entertainment expenses directly benefiting the College by furnishing breakfast to a group of individuals who got up at 5:00 a.m. to help promote the College on the Today show.
The College respectfully disagrees that the agreement with the MSIPC violates Article III, Section 39(1) of the Missouri Constitution. That section talks about extending credit of the State to benefit other corporations. We do not extend credit to the MSIPC. We have an agreement which exchanges facilities and services for services rendered (promotion of the College, cultural and educational benefits to our students, and furtherance of its cultural and international mission).
The College will comply with Article III, Section 39(1) of the Missouri Constitution as interpreted by the College Attorney. Our College Attorney advises that Article III, Section 39(1) has been interpreted to permit leasing of stadium facilities because the primary purpose was to increase convention and sports activity just as the primary purpose here is to increase cultural and international knowledge and participation. Any further contracts with MSIPC will be approved by the Board of Regents.
The primary purpose of the College's financial support of the MSIPC is not for the promotion of MSSC. In fact, the only promotion of MSSC that we noted in the MSIPC literature was that the event would be held on the MSSC campus. The discussion in the court case referred to by the College's Attorney indicates that if the primary object of a public expenditure is not to subserve (or carry out) a public purpose, but to promote some private end (the MSIPC), the expense is illegal, even though it may incidentally serve some public purpose. Furthermore, we have noted numerous Attorney General Opinions that have addressed the issue of whether public entities can grant or give money to private entities. Specifically these opinions have said that a county is not authorized to grant money without restriction to a private entity, a county could not grant money to a not-for-profit corporation whose purpose was the promotion of the orderly growth and welfare of a city, and a city could not allow a private entity to use space rent free in a municipally owned building.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Shopping with Roy Blunt

The Washingtonian's Capital Comment column featured an item about Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt this week. In the section called "Spotted," this is what the columnist said had been spotted:

"The man who was almost House majority leader, Roy Blunt, shopping with his wife at the 'social' Safeway in Georgetown amid a phalanx of security officers. Our reporter observed, 'If he only wants a basket of groceries, wouldn't it make sense to send one agent in to get it rather than securing the whole store?' "

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Pre-trial conference set for Shields

A pre-trial hearing is set for Monday morning in McDonald County Circuit Court for former Southwest City City Clerk Dehonna Shields.
Ms. Shields, 27, is charged with three counts of forgery and two counts of theft for allegedly stealing city money. The missing money was uncovered during a state audit.

March 3 plea hearing for McLean

A plea hearing for Brandie McLean, 28, Joplin, whose son Braxton Wooden, was shot to death last year while staying with foster parents in Alba, will be held March 3 in Jasper County Circuit Court.
If for any reason a guilty plea is not entered, Ms. McLean's trial on two counts of forgery and one count of endangering the welfare of a child is scheduled to begin March 13.

Black's lawyer will attempt to impeach key witness

The defense in Gary Black's retrial for the Oct. 2, 1998, murder of Missouri Southern State College student Jason Johnson, will attempt to show that a key witness lied during the first trial.
Black was on death row before the Missouri Supreme Court tossed out his conviction and ordered a new trial. In documents filed Feb. 14 in Jasper County Circuit Court, Black's lawyer, Susan McCarthy Elliott, said she intended to impeach Tammy Lawson with prior incidents of false police reporting and also intends to bring the woman's mental health history and substance abuse into the trial. Briefs backing up her request were also filed at that time.
Judge Jon Dermott already rejected Ms. Elliott's request for access to Missouri Division of Social Services records concerning Ms. Lawson. Ms. Elliott has asked the judge to reconsider that decision.
It was Ms. Lawson who set in motion the chain of events that led to Mr. Johnson's death, according to testimony given at Black's first trial. She reported that Johnson, a black man, had made a perverted remark to her while they were standing in line at a convenience store. Authorities said Black then chased down Johnson and killed him, in what was described as a "racially-motivated" killing.
More information about the case can be found during an Aug. 18, 2004 Turner Report post, which was made when the Supreme Court was considering the Black appeal.
The Black retrial is scheduled to begin Monday, March 20.

Kolchak, Barney Fife portrayers depart

One of the old bad jokes I used to do was to make a remark about that television show from the 1970s that told journalism like it really was.
Someone would invariably say, "Lou Grant," and I would immediately respond, "No, 'Kolchak, the Night Stalker.'"
Only 20 episodes were made of that show, which ran during the 1974-75 season. It was a follow-up to highly successful TV-movies, "The Night Stalker" and "The Night Strangler." The movies and the series starred veteran actor Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, a newspaper reporter with a penchant for wearing a beat up hat, rumpled clothes, and ignoring his editor's assignments to chase down the latest vampire, werewolf or headless motorcycle rider that happened to be terrorizing the city.
The TV series was not too successful during its initial run, but has become a staple in reruns, running several times on the Sci-Fi Channel. The production values were nearly non-existent, and the scripts weren't much better sometimes, but McGavin's characterization of Carl Kolchak made them memorable. The show was the inspiration for the later science fiction series, "The X-Files," which had its best episodes when it forgot about conspiracy theories and simply had its FBI agents investigating the kind of horrors that made "Kolchak, the Night Stalker" such fun.
ABC made a horrific attempt to revive the series last fall, but the only things that were similar were the name of the series, its lead character, and the concept of a monster-of-the-week. What was missing was the humor, the heart and above all, the acting of Darren McGavin.
McGavin died today at age 83 after a long illness. His death won't receive as much attention as the death of Don Knotts, but both men created distinctive, memorable characters that will live long in viewers' memories.
As different generations grew to appreciate McGavin's characterization of Carl Kolchak, there probably is no television character as beloved as Knotts' bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show." Both viewers and critics loved Knotts in that role, for which he received five Emmy awards in five years.
Even my eighth grade students recognize the name Barney Fife, which has become synonymous for any less-than-capable small town police officer.
Knotts left the Griffith show after those five years for a movie career that some have described as a failure, but he made several movies that still appeal to those who loved his Fife characterization. I was never a big fan of most of his movies, but he made two that have stood the test of time. His "Shakiest Gun in the West," is one of the best comic westerns of all time, while his underrated 1972 movie, "How to Frame a Figg," is one of the best satires on small town corruption has ever been filmed.
Knotts is gone, but considering that America's love affair with "The Andy Griffith Show" has continued to grow over the past four decades, it's safe to say that he will continue to entertain for generations to come.

Wadsworth bond revoked

The appeals bond of convicted internet pervert Donal Wadsworth was revoked Feb. 17 by Newton County Circuit Court Judge Tim Perigo, one day after a Turner Report post noted that a request for the revocation had been denied.
Wadsworth, 46, Fayetteville, Ark., was free while appealing his conviction in a trial held in Jasper County Circuit Court on seven counts of enticement of a child. Wadsworth was caught during one of Diamond Police Officer Jim Murray's Internet sex stings. While on appeal, he was arrested during a sex sting set up by the Fayetteville Police Department.
Court records indicate bond for Wadsworth has been reset from $20,000 to $100,000, and it must be paid in cash.

Oregon paper writes about firefighter's arrest

The arrest of Seneca volunteer firefighter Randall Rogers after an article by Joplin Globe investigative reporter Max McCoy revealed him to be wanted on Oregon charges from 15 years ago is examined in an article in today's Eugene, Ore. Register-Guard.

Friday, February 24, 2006

News-Leader offers in-depth look at Monett incident

The actions of rural fire departments have come under closer scrutiny since Monett rural firefighters refused to help a Hispanic man save a garage building that was on fire last week, standing by in their units as he fought the blaze with just one bucket.
Today's Springfield News-Leader features an in-depth look at the incident.
The only thing lacking in the News-Leader story, through no fault of the newspaper, is an explanation from either the fire department or the ambulance workers about these accusations.
As they say in the vernacular, the fire department has "lawyered up."

Chrisman granted permission to issue subpoenas

Seven subpoena forms will be mailed to prisoner Jerry Don Chrisman to use in his lawsuit against McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Walter Geeding, thanks to a ruling made by U. S. District Court Judge Gary Fenner Thursday.
Chrisman,34, is scheduled to go to trial March 21 in McDonald County Circuit Court, on four counts of promoting a sexual performance by a child, two counts of child abuse, promoting prostitution, sexual exploitation of a minor child, and four counts of statutory rape, three of them, involving children younger than 14, according to court records. He claims Geeding denied him due process and is asking that actions be taken against the prosecutor.
The subpoena forms will be sent to media outlets KSNF, KOAM, KODE, the Neosho Daily News, McDonald County Press, and the Joplin Globe, according to court records.
The judge warned Chrisman he "must specify when he returns the subpoena forms exactly what documents he seeks from each party or non-party and that (he) must pay for any costs required to obtain discovery he seeks from non-parties."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Attorney general examining connection between Allied, Advantage

The Turner Report has learned state officials are examining the connection between Allied Waste, the company that owns the Southwest Regional Landfill in Jasper County, and Advantage Waste the company that wants to buy it and operate it.
State investigators have examined information printed last month in this blog, which indicates that Allied, if not violating the antitrust order issued by a federal court, could be violating the spirit of that order.
More information about the connections between Allied and Advantage can be found at:
Documents cloud Advantage Waste issue and
Timing of Jasper County landfill push is suspicious

Garner to represent Simmons

Joplin attorney Darryl Garner will represent Joplin High School student Cory Simmons when he goes before Newton County Circuit Court Judge Greg Stremel 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Feb 11 traffic accident in which JHS student-athlete Christina Freeman, a passenger in a car Simmons was driving was killed.
Joplin police say Simmons was driving while intoxicated.

Leggett & Platt declares dividend

A news release issued earlier today by Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt says the company declared a dividend of 16 cents per share today, a 6.7 percent increase over last year. It will be paid April 14 to shareholders of record on March 15.
Leggett & Platt has increased dividends annually for 35 years.
According to the news release, Leggett's first quarter results will be released after the market closes Thursday, April 20, with a conference call at 8 a.m. Friday, April 21.

Moark for sale

Land O'Lakes annual report, filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission leaves no doubt the agricultural conglomerate is seeking to shed its Moark layers division.
"It is critical that we bring very disciplined management to this business, as we respond to cyclical egg markets. We also will continue to explore options for strategically repositioning this non-core business, with a short-term focus on enabling the business to grow, while minimizing Land O’Lakes capital use and risk."
The "repositioning" is a euphemism for putting the division on the market.
"We remain intensely focused on eliminating the distraction of non-core, non-strategic and underperforming assets," the annual report said. "This, in turn, will enable us to better invest our time and resources in those core businesses where we can compete, win and deliver the highest levels of value to customers and member-owners.
Any doubt about the decision was removed in the business section of today's St. Paul Pioneer Press, which reported on Land O'Lakes annual meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
"Land O'Lakes will focus its future on four core areas — dairy foods, feed, seed and agronomy — and intends to exit areas where it does not hold a leading position, particularly its egg-laying venture MoArk, company officials said at Land O'Lakes' annual meeting Wednesday. 'I'm a believer in fewer but bigger things," said Land O'Lakes' new president and chief executive, Chris Policinski."
It remains to be seen if this will have any affect on the proposed expansion of Moark's Neosho facilities.

Kaiser promoted to sergeant

It doesn't seem like that long ago that Randee Kaiser was a college student writing sports for me at the Lamar Democrat. Since then, he worked with me again as sports editor at the Carthage Press and for the past decade or so, he has been an officer with the Carthage Police Department.
You can call him Sergeant Kaiser now, according to today's Carthage Press. Congratulations, Randee!

Moark sales bring down Land O'Lakes totals

Land O'Lakes' earnings were up in 2005, but sales were down, thanks to one company segment, Moark, laying an egg.
The final results were announced at the company's 85th annual meeting held Wednesday in the Minneapolis Convention Center. Land O'Lakes had 7.6 billion in net sales and $129 million in net earnings, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Net sales were down slightly "primarily due to a significant drop in average egg prices," the report said.
Moark, of course, is in the middle of an expansion plan at its Neosho plant.

Traffic arraignment set for state representative

The arraignment for State Representative Ed Emery, 55, R-Lamar, on a misdemeanor charge of failure to drive on the right half of the roadway is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 3, in Lawrence County Circuit Court in Mount Vernon.
Court records indicate the accident, in which Emery and a woman in the other car suffered minor injuries, occurred Feb. 3 and was investigated by the Missouri Highway Patrol.
According to the Feb. 7 Lamar Democrat, the accident took place on Highway 96, two miles south of Miller at 2:20 p.m. The Democrat quoted the Highway Patrol report as saying Emery was driving a 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue west on 96 when he crossed the center line and hit a 2003 Ford 250 driven by David Wiggins, 46, El Dorado, Kan, then hit a 1998 Oldsmobile Regency driven by Virgie Thomas, 76, Miller.
The Democrat article indicated Emery was treated for minor injuries at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, while a passenger in the Thomas vehicle, Goldie Neeley, 80, LaRussell, was taken to McCune-Brooks Hospital, Carthage.

Blunt promotes ethanol proposal

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt was in Joplin Wednesday promoting his proposal to require that fuel sold in the state contain 10 percent ethanol. As far as I know, this is a solid proposal that would benefit Missourians who raise corn, as well as companies in Missouri that are involved in producing ethanol.
However, I always look at the money and the governor's brother, lobbyist Andrew Blunt was quick to cash in, as I pointed out last week.
It was only a few days after the governor mentioned his plan during the State of the State message that the younger Blunt added AGP, an Omaha, Neb.-based firm, which will open a major ethanol production plant this fall, to his client list. AGP recently announced a major expansion at its soybean processing plant in St. Joseph.
As I noted in that post, AGP has been a major player in Missouri politics for quite some time, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Over the past four years the company's political action committee has contributed $12,000 to Senator Jim Talent, $6,000 to Senator Kit Bond, $10,000 to Congressman Sam Graves, and $10,500 to Rep. Kenny Hulshof.
Governor Blunt's campaign contribution disclosure forms do not include any donations from AG Processing, but he has received $2,200 over the past two election cycles from the Omaha offices of the national law firm Kutak Rock. According to Kutak Rock's website, the law firm serves as counsel "for the acquisition, construction and financing of ethanol plants."

News-Leader editorializes on proposed bill

A bill sponsored by Rep. Kenny Jones, R-California, which would close police investigation records, is the subject of today's Springfield News-Leader editorial, which quite correctly surmises that this bill flies in the face of everything our system of open government stands for.

'Small Town News' signing is tonight

A quick reminder:
A signing for my novel, "Small Town News," is scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. today at the Neosho/Newton County Library.
Since The Turner Report is getting approximately 100 readers a day more than it was at the time when I was running an update on the book nearly every day, let me give a quick recap of what it is about.
The novel was inspired by events that took place Oct. 31, 2001, in Diamond when the bank was robbed and the school superintendent, Dr. Greg Smith, disappeared on the same day. At first, media reports seemed to link the two events, though later it turned out there was no connection at all. Dr. Smith's body was found the following week, in his car at the bottom of a pond just outside the Diamond city limits. Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges eventually ruled that Dr. Smith committed suicide.
At the time, I was teaching current issues, a writing-intensive class, at Diamond Middle School. In one of my classes, we discussed the situation and I was surprised by the vehemence of the opinions students had about the behavior of the media during the whole situation. They were particularly disturbed by the way Dr. Smith's widow was treated and the scope of the questions with which she was bombarded. Almost 100 percent of the students thought the media should leave the woman alone.
The student comments got me thinking about writing the book, which is a fictionalized version of those events. The focus is on the media, as seen through the eyes of a student, a high school junior named Tiffany Everett who has a one-week internship with one of the three local television stations.
Within the 196 pages of the book, the way the media handles news in a small town is scrutinized though the actions of the high school junior, her teacher, the television reporter to whom she is assigned, and the editor of the town's newspaper.
Those who are familiar with The Turner Report will note the recurrence of some of the themes I have expressed in my criticism of local media.
I would love to see some of you tonight. Stop by, bring a copy of the book to be signed, buy one, or just drop in and talk about whatever is on your mind.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Another ordeal survived

In the grand scheme of things, renewing a driver's license is no big deal.
I have avoided writing anything more about this for the past few months because I knew my time was coming. When Missouri's new regulations concerning driver's licenses were first publicized several months back, I criticized them as foolish, and I will repeat that criticism.
The hoops state officials are requiring Missouri drivers to jump through to obtain or to renew their driver's licenses are not only unnecessary, but they do nothing to address the problems they were created to solve.
For those who are not familiar with the regulations, before they can renew their driver's licenses, Missourians have to provide their actual birth certificates, their Social Security cards, and some other form of identification that proves where they live.
For many people, especially those who do not have access to their birth records, this has posed a considerable hardship. To others, including me, it has been an irritant. I have been driving in the state of Missouri for more than three decades, I should not have to prove that I belong here. I have been in the state system for years. Making me prove who I am does nothing to make this state safer and it does nothing to prevent identity theft.
This is not just the complaint of an old grouch (those it is a complaint and I am an old grouch). Consider what I had to do to comply with the state regulations:
1. I filled out a form and mailed it in to the state with a check for $15 to get my birth certificate. So, yes I had that legal document, but how in the world does anyone know that I am the person who is listed on the certificate? No one at the Health Department asked me if I was William Randall Turner. No one is going to do a thorough background check to make sure that I am the person who is legally entitled to that document. This does not improve security and it definitely does not offer any shield against identity theft.
2. I lost my Social Security card 28 or 29 years ago. The people at the Social Security office in Joplin were friendly and helpful and my replacement card came today. They checked my driver's license to make sure I was legitimate and I answered some questions that probably anyone could have answered about my background in order to get my card. Again, they had no way of being sure I was William Randall Turner. This does not improve security and it definitely does not offer any shield against identity theft.
3. My third piece of identification was a Jasper County Voter Identification card. Now if Senator Delbert Scott gets his way, my next card will have to have a picture of the face that traumatizes 130 South Middle School eighth graders every day. Right now, the card only has my name, address, and the location of my polling place. This does not improve security and it definitely does not offer any shield against identity theft.
Suffice it to say, these regulations are a joke. If you need any further evidence, just take a look at the state website and see the bills that are being proposed which would exempt people from complying with them. If they are as important as our legislators said when they added these further inconveniences to our lives, then there should be no exceptions.
A wiser path, one I don't anticipate our leaders will take, would be to eliminate these requirements and go back to using common sense.
They tell me I will not have to mess with it any more, but who knows what they will come up with in six years. How long will it before we have to have our DNA tested to renew our driver's licenses?

Tagged by a fellow blogger

Without getting into a definition of memes, the idea that thoughts can spread like viruses throughout the world is apparently making headway through the blogosphere and it has reached The Turner Report, thanks to Ron Davis, my friend at Chatter.
This blog and three others have been "tagged" by Mr. Davis to participate in one of those surveys that we always are receiving through our e-mail.
So here are my responses. You can check out Ron's at Chatter, and I will be thinking about what fine blogger friends can be tagged to continue this thoroughly scientific undertaking:

1. Four Jobs I Have Had
-Public schoolteacher
-Newspaper editor/reporter
-Summer recreation director

2. Four movies I could watch over and over
-All the President's Men
-The Last Hurrah
-Teacher's Pet (the one with Clark Gable and Doris Day)
-Deadline USA

3. Four places I have lived

4. Four TV Shows I Love
-Law and Order
-Veronica Mars
-Boston Legal
-Fox News Watch

5. Four places I have vacationed
-Define vacation

6. Four of my favorite dishes

-Mom's chili
-Apple pie

7. Four sites I visit daily
-Victim of Reality
-Neosho Forums

8. Four places I would rather be right now
(I can't think of any, but give me a raincheck if we have an ice storm this weekend.)

9. Four books I love
-The Powers that Be- David Halberstam
-To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
-The Children- David Halberstam
-All The President's Men- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

10. Four video games I could play and play over
I don't play video games.

Another proposal designed to keep the public in the dark

One of the biggest problems facing the public's right to know is elected officials who believe that they, rather than the public, are better judges of what the public should know and when it should know it.
You need look no further than the controversy the city of Joplin ran into following the investigation into actions taken by two police officers detaining an 11-year-old boy at an elementary school. The repercussions of the city's refusal to say what punishment the two officers received still reverberates, though one of the officers was eventually fired.
Now Rep. Kenny Jones, R-California, has filed a bill in the House that would close many law enforcement investigation records to the public. An article on the bill is featured in today's Springfield News-Leader and Jones explains his reasoning for filing the legislation.
"I think you'll get a more thorough internal affairs investigation (under the legislation)," Jones said, "because the investigators would not be worried or concerned about their findings being made public."
That is exactly why records should remain open to the public. The worst decisions are made when the public is not taken into consideration. Politicians too often pay lip service to keeping records open to the public, then fall over themselves looking for exceptions to this policy. Hopefully, this bill will be stopped before it becomes a law.

Globe looking for dynamic newshounds

A reader was kind enough to e-mail me about the latest Joplin Globe advertisement with JournalismJobs.com
Apparently, solid, hard-hitting reporters is no longer enough. The headline on the ad indicates Globe editors are now seeking "dynamic newshounds."
The ad reads:
"The Joplin Globe, a highly decorated daily nestled in the gateway to the beautiful Ozarks, is looking for energetic reporters who know how to cover a beat and love the chase. This is a demanding but highly rewarding job for true journalists who see the mission and want to broaden their careers by working with a highly experienced team of reporters and editors. Please submit your resume and three best news clips to esimpson@joplinglobe.com, or The Joplin Globe, Attn: Editor Edgar Simpson, 117 E. Fourth St., Joplin, Mo., 64801."
There's your problem right there. If the Globe spent more time covering the news and less time decorating its paper, it probably would not have all of these competitors springing into existence.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

O'Sullivan bankruptcy documents closed to public

A U. S. Bankruptcy Court judge on Friday granted O'Sullivan Industries' officials request that a portion of their agreement with creditors be kept from the public because of its "extremely sensitive" nature.
In documents filed last week in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, company officials said, "The debtors (O'Sullivan Industries) believe good cause exists in this situation because the sealed documents concern a dispute and confidential settlement thereof, and it is in the best interest of their estates, their creditors, their employees, and other parties-in-interest to file the documents under seal because, if the information detailed in the sealed documents were to become public, it could cause serious harm to the debtors and their estates and could result in numerous frivolous claims being brought against the debtors."
The initial request for the sealing of the documents was filed as an "emergency ex parte motion." Apparently, the public is the major reason the request was made since the document notes, "Although they believe that the information contained in the sealed documents is extremely sensitive, the debtors will provide copies thereof to the court, representatives of the major constituencies in the case, and the office of the United States trustee."
Apparently, a great deal of time has been spent on this confidential settlement since court documents filed Friday have numerous portions that are blackened out.
As reported last week, O'Sullivan Industries has reached an agreement with its creditors which is designed to enable the company to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Even though the company no longer has its central headquarters in Lamar, having moved to Roswell, Ga., an Atlanta suburb, to accommodate the host of Newell Rubbermaid refugees it put in charge, it still is a major employer for the city of Lamar and the surrounding area with more than 900 workers.

Two more Moark contributions noted

During the past couple of days I have been outlining the money that Moark, its chief officers, and its fellow Land O'Lakes subsidiary NutraBlend have been pouring into the coffers of local Republican candidates and committees. The total was approximately $6,000 as of yesterday's post.
Add another $1,100 to that total. Missouri Ethics Commission records show that Moark official Jerry Wells contributed that much to the 129th Legislative District Republican Committee, according to the October 2005 disclosure form. Wells' name was listed among the names of numerous lobbyists and, of course, other special interest groups. NutraBlend donated $500 in October 2004.
The October 2005 listing included:
-Empire District Electric Company $300
-MBA Ozark Region PAC $300
-MBA State PAC $300
-Governmental Services Group, Inc. Jefferson City, a lobbying firm whose clients include the Missouri Hospital Association, $300
-Conservative Committee of Southwest Missouri, $300
-Elect Nodler Committee $300
-Lobbyist James Farrell, who represents numerous St. Louis interests, $150
-Missouri Southern State University lobbyist Kyna Iman $150
-Freeman Health CEO Gary Duncan and his wife, Suzanne, $300
-CFI $300
-Kansas City Chiefs $300
-The lobbying firm of Burch and Associates, which represents the Branson Area Chamber of Commerce, among other clients, $150
-Harrah's Entertainment $400
-Missouri Gaming Company $400
-Anheuser Busch $800
-David Humphrey, TAMKO, $600
-Leggett & Platt, $1,000
A fascinating report was filed 30 days after the November 2004, including the following contributors:
Leggett & Platt, $1,000; Ameristar Casinos $600; Missouri Republican Party $48,400; Gary and Ruby Rowe (St. John's) $200; Gary and Suzanne Duncan (Freeman) $500; Empire District Electric $1,000; David Humphrey (TAMKO) $1,000; and Rudy Farber, Neosho, $1,000.
The October 2004 report showed an additional $5,000 from Empire District Electric Company, and the aforementioned $500 from NutraBlend.
The most recent report filed by the committee last month shows a contribution of $12,187.25 from the late Larry Gene Taylor's campaign committee, $300 from Empire District Electric Company, and $5,450 from the Republican State Committee.
The committee contributed $3,000 to the 32nd Senatorial District Committee, $1,200 to the Matt Blunt re-election campaign, $1,512.50 to 129th District Representative Ron Richard's campaign; $5,450 to the re-election campaign of Senator Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon and smaller amounts to campaigns across the state, including $400 to the committee of Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City; and $320 to the committee of Ed Emery, R-Lamar.

'Small Town News' signing planned in Neosho

The next signing for my novel, "Small Town News," will be held 7 p.m. Thursday at the Neosho/Newton County Library. The signing follows ones held at Hastings in Joplin, the Mary K. Finley Library in Lamar, and an earlier one at the Neosho library.
I will be at the library at about 6:30 p.m. so feel free to drop by whether you are interested in buying a book or having one you have already purchased signed. I would love to talk to Turner Report readers about the novel, some of the issues addressed in it, or some of the areas covered by this blog.
The signing is scheduled to last until 8 p.m.

Missourians to vote on numerous measures

Signatures are being gathered around the state for measures that will be put on the November ballot, according to an article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Among those measures: A proposal that would permit taxpayer money to go to private schools in the form of vouchers, a measure that would permit all embryonic stem cell research, and a proposal that would restore the Medicaid coverage that was eliminated last year.
Signatures are also being collected for a proposal to increase the state's minimum wage.

Lockwood native receives promotion at Jeff City newspaper

Michelle (Dixon) Brooks, a 1992 Lockwood High School graduate, who received her start in newspapers writing LHS sports for The Carthage Press in the early 1990s, has been promoted to assistant assignment editor at the Jefferson City News-Tribune.
She played a key role in the newspaper's redesign, which was unveiled Monday. She has been the top feature writer for the newspaper for several years. Michelle is the daughter of Larry and Melinda Dixon, longtime Lockwood High School teachers.

Reporter shield law discussed in Senate

Under a bipartisan measure introduced in the Senate, Missouri would join 31 other states in providing a shield law for reporters. As an article in today's Springfield News-Leader points out, the law would not put reporters above the law, but would require that a necessity for the information be proven before reporters would be required to testify about information given to them by confidential sources. A similar measure has been proposed in the House.

Monday, February 20, 2006

More about Moark, committee shell games

In a post last night, I talked about the constant shuffling of campaign contributions between state and local party committees, as well as through candidates' coffers.
I reviewed some of the contributions made to the 32nd Senatorial District Republican Committee, including a $1,000 contribution made by N. B. Inc., better known as NutraBlend on Oct. 22, 2004.
The Senatorial District committee is not the only one to benefit from the Land O'Lakes subsidiary's largesse. (And do not forget, that another Land O'Lakes subsidiary is Moark.)
According to Missouri Ethics Commission documents, N. B. Inc., listed with Moark executive Jerry Wells' name, contributed $1,200 to the 127th District Legislative Committee. The donation is included in the October 2005 committee disclosure form. Combined with the other local contributions that have been chronicled in this blog, Moark and its sister companies and officials have contributed well over $5,000 to area Republican interests.
That figure may be considerably more. Under the listing of lobbyists on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, Kent Gaines is listed as a lobbyist for the Missouri Poultry Federation, though that organization is not listed among his clients on another area of the site.
Gaines' firm, Gaines Brown Consulting, contributed $1,400 to the 127th District Legislative Committee, according to the committee's most recent disclosure form.
Gaines has also been mentioned prominently on Ethics Commission lobbyist donation records for Sen. Gary Nodler. In 2005, more than 25 percent of the gifts received by Nodler from lobbyists were from Gaines. Commission documents show that Nodler received $80 in entertainment from Gaines on Dec. 24, and $100 in entertainment and $50 in meals, food and beverage from him on May 7. Disclosure forms filled out by Gaines do not indicate the gifts came from the Poultry Federation. His May gifts are credited to Gaines Brown Consulting, Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, and National Prearranged Services, Inc., though it is impossible to tell from the way the documents are filed which one is supposed to have provided the entertainment and meals to Nodler.
Not listed on Gaines' May form is another client, Premium Standard Farms. In December, all of Gaines' gifts were made for the Chiefs, according to Ethics Commission documents.
In addition to Gaines Brown Consulting, others donating to the 127th District Legislative Committee, according to January disclosure documents included:
-Republican State Committee $6,000
-Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce $500
-Associated Builders and Contractors $1,200
-Sitton Motor Lines, Joplin, $1,200
-William C. Harsch, Miami, Okla., $1,400
-Jim Russell, lobbyist for MFA and Missouri Ag Industries Council, $150
-MBA Capital Region PAC, $300
-American Insurance Association of Missouri PAC $100
-Rep. Shannon Cooper, Blairstown, $700
-Supporters of Health Research and Treatments, Jefferson City, $500
-Association of Insurance Agents, $400
-SSM Health Care, St. Louis, $300
-Casey's General Store, $300
-Morton Booth Company, Joplin, $700
-Dealers Interested in Government, Jefferson City, $1,200
-Empire District Electric Company, $1,000
-Leggett & Platt, $2,800
-Larry Snyder & Co., $1,400
-David and Debra Humphreys, TAMKO, $1,400
-Hunte Corporation, Goodman, $400
-Motor Carriers Public Affairs, $2,000
-Missouri Soft Drink Association PAC, $300
The committee contributed $6,000 to the re-election campaign of Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, $1,500 to the 128th District, $1,420 to the 129th District, $450 to the 126th District, and $1,500 to Shannon Cooper for State Representative, according to the Ethics Commission documents.

New blog comments on news, media

I have no idea who Mr. X is, but his "Joplin Mo and Beyond" blog makes for an interesting read. The blog delves into some of the same areas as The Turner Report, including commentary about local news and the local media. Check it out.

Christina Freeman's gifts save two lives

I wrote earlier about the death of Joplin High School student-athlete Christina Freeman and the effect her death had on those who knew her, both at the high school and at South where her siblings go to school.
Though it won't help those who are still dealing with her death, two area residents will live thanks to Christina Freeman's final gift. Miss Freeman was an organ donor and her heart will enable a 50-year-old woman to continue living, while her liver was transplanted into a 20-year-old man.

Not much being done in state legislature

The Associated Press offers a fascinating analysis of this year's state legislature, noting that only two bills have passed during the past few month, but that legislators have found the time each day to have a roll call vote to approve their expenses, to the tune of $292,000.
Remember, we are already paying the legislators $31,000 a year and the General Assembly is in session for five months from Monday night through Thursday. And this does not include meals bought for them by lobbyists, which this blog has noted from time to time.

Nodler launches attack on attorney general

In his latest column, Sen. Gary Nodler attacks Attorney General Jay Nixon for Nixon's Open Meetings lawsuit against MOHELA's Board of Directors.
For something that he describes as a "distraction," Nodler appears to be venting a considerable amount of anger. My favorite part of the senator's column comes when he writes, "The decision to sell MOHELA has been resoundingly supported by those who have stakes in the issue — among them the state’s leaders in higher education, MOHELA’s executive director and the director of the Department of Economic Development."
Apparently, the senator does not consider the students who stand to lose the most by this proposed sale to have any stake in the issue. Of course, anyone who opposes the sale can always send a letter to Nodler's Higher Education Committee.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

More Moark company money connected to Nodler

One way political parties get around campaign contribution limits for individual candidates is by funneling money through a number of district committees and political action committees.
In this area, each legislative district has its own Republican committee, as well as the 32nd Senatorial District and, of course, there is always Sen. Gary Nodler's Leadership PAC.
When the Mafia runs its operations this way, it's called money laundering. When it is done by local political committees, it's perfectly legal. Money goes from one committee to another so fast that if you blink you have probably missed tens of thousands of dollars changing hands.
In the most recent disclosure filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Jan. 14, the 32nd Senatorial District Committee, which has the same treasurer Tom Flanigan of Carthage, as Nodler's campaign committee, reported receiving $6,050 from the Republican State Committee, $3,000 from the 129th District Legislative Committee, $1,300 from Joplin CPA Nick Myers, who serves as treasurer for the Nodler Leadership PAC and whose wife serves as deputy treasurer for the Senatorial District Committee; and $250 from Newton County Circuit Court Judge Tim Perigo. The $6,050 from the state committee was apparently transferred on to Senator Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon's campaign committee, and another $1,600 was contributed to Governor Matt Blunt's re-election campaign.
Missouri Ethics Commission documents filed 30 days after the November 2004 election show a flurry of activity, including a $48,400 contribution from the Missouri Republican Party, $1,610 from Empire District Electric Company, $13,300 from the Nodler Leadership PAC, $1,000 from the Ron Richard Committee, $2,000 from Leggett & Platt, and $500 from the lobbying firm of Penman and Winton.
The money was quickly distributed to Republican senatorial campaigns across the state, with $1,000 to $1,500 going to each one. Lieutenant governor candidate Peter Kinder received $5,000 and gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt received $7,000.
Hidden in the midst of those late contributions to the senatorial district committee is $1,000 on Oct. 22, 2004, from a company listed as NB Inc., with a Neosho address. The company is better known as NutraBlend, a subsidiary of Land O'Lakes, which maintains its headquarters at the same Neosho location as another Land O'Lakes subsidiary, Moark.
During a July 20, 2005, meeting with opponents of Moark's Neosho expansion, a transcript shows Sen. Nodler saying, "Ethical rules of the state of Missouri prevent me from attempting to influence the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) on regulatory procedures. In fact, it would probably be a violation of federal integrity laws if I interfered with their regulatory process. I wouldn't do that and not only does the law say that, but it would be unethical for me to do that."
Apparently, there are no ethical problems with committees connected to Nodler accepting nearly $4,000 in the past few years from individuals or companies connected with Moark.
As The Turner Report noted last month, only six days before Nodler met with Moark opponents his campaign committee accepted the maximum $600 contribution from N.B. Inc., of Neosho. This was not the first contribution Nodler had received from N. B. Inc. Missouri Ethics Commission records show that on Sept. 10, 2001, N. B., contributed $550, the maximum at that time, to Nodler's 2002 senatorial campaign. During that same election cycle, he received a $500 contribution from the Poultry Federation of Missouri, and $200 from Moark official Hollis Osborne.
One of the early contributors to the Nodler Leadership PAC when it was formed in 2003 was Moark official Jerry Wells, who gave $1,000.

McCaskill to be in Joplin March 2

Area Democratic activists will see a candidate for major office come to Joplin on March 2.
Seth Jackson e-mails that State Auditor Claire McCaskill, who is running for the U. S. Senate post currently held by Jim Talent, will be at the large conference room at the Joplin Public Library 11:30 a.m. March 2.

Kreider accepted more than $8,000 from lobbyists during 2001-2002

If Democrats plan to attack Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt this year on his connections to lobbyists (including his wife, son and daughter), they had better be prepared for the same charges to be leveled at their knight in shining armor.
The Draft Kreider for Congress crew has been trying to get former House Speaker Jim Kreider, 50, D-Nixa, to challenge Blunt. And even though no one has ever accused Kreider of any ethical improprieties, he accepted more gifts from lobbyists in 2001, $5,327.36, than any Missouri representative accepted last year, topping the $3,529.62 total of Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton, by nearly $1,800.
Combining that with the $3,092.87 in gifts Kreider accepted during his final year, 2001, he received $8,420.23 during his final two-year term.
An examination of 2002 reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows he received:
-Twenty-two meals from William Gamble, whose client list includes Ameren, Ameristar Casinos, Missouri Railroad Association,and Missouri Pharmacy Association.
-$143.70 on Jan. 1 for entertainment by Terry Schlemeier, a lobbyist in Gamble's firm, representing the Four Seasons Resort.
-$205.88 for meals, food and beverage from Samuel Licklider, Missouri Association of Realtors, on May 6.
-$287.48 for meals, food and beverage on March 6 from J. Scott Marrs, Missouri Hospital Association.
-$407.91 for meals, food and beverage from Sam Barbee, Missouri Automobile Dealers Association on April 5.
During the 75 days the legislature was in session, Kreider had his meals paid for 60 times, according to Ethics Commission documents.
The standout day was Jan. 22, 2002, when four lobbyists, Gamble, Norbert Plassmeyer, Associated Industries of Missouri, David Winton, BJC Health Care Systems, St. Louis; and Steven Carroll, St. Louis schools, Home Builders Association of Missouri; paid for meals, food and beverage, according to the documents, with Gamble recording two separate meals. The total for that day was $179.12.
Ethics Commission documents for 2001 show Kreider opening the new year with a bang, celebrating New Year's at the Lodge, courtesy of Lodge of the Four Seasons lobbyist Ms. Schlemeier. The cost was $184.
He also received:
-A $97.73 flower arrangement from Bob Jackson, City Utilities of Springfield on Jan. 4.
-$123 for meals, food and beverage from Jorgen Schlemeier, another of William Gamble's partners. The cost was divided among Schelemeier's various clients.
-Forty-one meals from Gamble, including 11 on Jan. 31 (and no, I am sure Kreider did not eat all 11 meals). One of those meals, on April 5, cost $212.45.
-A $37.76 holiday gift box from Harry Gallagher
-$72.14 for travel and $43.95 for meals, food and beverage from Barbee on March 1.
-$146 for entertainment from Paul Kincaid, Southwest Missouri State University, on March 22
-A $107.99 meal from Licklider on April 25
-$99 for lodging from John Bryan, Poultry Federation, on July 5
-$252.68 in "other" from Jerry Burch, Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, on July 18
-$152 from John Bardgett Jr., Bardgett and Associates, on Aug. 15, followed by another $152 for the same purpose on the following day.
-$172.76 from Charles Bryan Cox, American Council of Life Insurers, for meals, food and beverage on Nov. 19.

Springfield editorial page editor says goodbye

In my last post, I mentioned the strong quality of columns written by Sarah Overstreet of the Springfield News-Leader. Ms. Overstreet is just one of a strong group of columnists at that newspaper. That group will be minus one after today.
News-Leader Editorial Page Editor Robert Leger is leaving the newspaper after a quarter of a century to take a position with the Arizona Republic in Phoenix. His final column is in today's newspaper.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Leger last year when he arranged for me to participate in a panel discussion on blogging at a Society of Professional Journalists conference. We exchanged some e-meals while preparing for the conference, then I talked with for a few moments that day. It is always nice to be able to place a face and a voice with columnists when you read their work.
Good luck to Mr. Leger at the Republic. Fortunately, in this internet age, if he continues to write a column for that newspaper, his southwest Missouri readers will be able to continue enjoying his work.

Springfield man paying child support for child who isn't even his

Sarah Overstreet is the type of columnist I wish we would have in our Joplin-area newspapers. Her columns tackle issues of local concern and she writes about local people who do not have the same last name she has.
The Springfield News-Leader columnist's latest is a gem about a man caught in a bureaucratic nightmare: He is being forced to pay child support, including the garnishing of his wages, for a child who isn't his. He has the DNA test to prove it. Government officials tell him they will do something about it if he fills out papers to terminate his legal parenthood and has them served on the mother...only he does not know where the mother lives and state officials refuse to tell him.
I would love to see a columnist in the Globe, the Daily, or the Neosho or Carthage papers that would shed light on these kinds of problems. I guarantee you there are many stories, both good and bad, waiting to be told in the Joplin area. Now all we need is someone to tell them.

No way to treat a human being

One of the most powerful segments in the 1990 HBO movie "Separate But Equal," about the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case that resulted in the desegregation of American schools was the scene in which angry whites set fire to the home of black preacher/school principal.
As he, his wife and children try to fight the fire with buckets of water, the all-white fire department pulls up and watches, refusing to do anything as the home burns to the ground. Supposedly, their coverage ended just across the street.
Something similar happened in Monett when this week when a Hispanic family lost a car and garage while the Monett Rural Fire Department stood by and did nothing, merely watching in case the fire reached the property of someone who had paid his dues.
The Hispanic family, new to the area, was unaware it had to pay dues for the fire protection. The leader of the family attempted to pay right then, but was rebuffed by the fire department.
Now, quite rightly, the actions not taken by the firefighters have come under intense public scrutiny. An editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader rips into these alleged public servants.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Too young to die

One of the most difficult stories for news outlets to handle is the death of a teenager.
That was the problem faced by local media this week after the death of Joplin High School student-athlete Christina Freeman in what authorities say is a drunk driving accident.
Though I haven't seen if there is anything in this morning's Globe, the coverage on KODE and KSNF last night was informative, but respectful. The media have to draw a fine line between the public's right to know and the desire of the family for privacy.
The death had a major impact on Joplin High School students, my former students have told me, and the effect was obvious on my students at South Middle School, as well. Many of them knew Christina and were having a hard time dealing with her death.
Christina's younger brother, Trevor, is in one of my communication arts classes. It is impossible to imagine what he is going through.
The funeral services were held yesterday. Christina was buried in the softball uniform that meant so much to her. The services, I am told, were a celebration of a life that ended much too soon.
I have read with disbelief postings on some of the area websites from people who accuse our legislators of cynical reasons for each effort they make to curtail the drunk driving problem in Missouri. When you have tragedies such as the death of Christina Freeman, the deaths of James Dodson of Neosho and his eight-year-old granddaughter Jessica Mann of Joplin, the death of Julie Phipps of Lamar and the decimation of that family due to a drunk driver with 22 prior convictions in 1995, there is simply no way we can stand by and allow these crimes to continue to occur.
That's why people should thank our local legislators for their efforts in this area. Despite the tragedies we hear about on a regular basis, drunk driving has been reduced, but it needs to be eliminated, and while that may not be possible, to allow it to continue without making the effort would be just as big a crime.
According to Newton County Circuit Court records, the first hearing for Joplin High School student Cory Simmons, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Christina Freeman's death is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Naval buddies reunite

The Pittsburg Morning Sun's Nikki Patrick has a wonderful feature on two Navy buddies who reunited after 60 years thanks to a television ad for Don Hicks Hearing Aid Service in Joplin.
One of those old buddies, Virgil Glenn, will be familiar to those of you who remember the old Melody Matinee show on KOAM. Virgil and Bill were a fixture on that program for years.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Convicted internet pervert still out on bond

You have to love our judicial system.
The Turner Report featured a post Sunday on the arrest of Donal Wadsworth, 46, Fayetteville, Ark., during an Internet sex sting set up by the Fayetteville Police Department.
The police collared Wadsworth after he arranged for a sexual encounter with an underaged girl. At the time, Wadsworth was arrested, he was free on a $5,000 appeal bond after a Jasper County jury found him guilty of the same crime. Wadsworth was arrested after another of Diamond Police officer Jim Murray's internet sex stings. The case was heard in Jasper County on a change of venue, with Judge Tim Perigo presiding
Naturally, the moment word reached Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson that Wadsworth was purportedly continuing to prowl the internet for 13-year-old girls, Watson petitioned the court to have Wadsworth's bond revoked.
Watson was turned down. The prosecutor was reportedly livid and wondering just what someone has to do have a convicted felon's bond revoked.
According to a report last week on KHOG, Fayetteville, Wadsworth was trolling the Internet even while he was being tried here on seven counts of enticement of a child.
"The investigation was primarily done online, and officials said that Wadsworth engaged the undercover officer in sexual conversations several times over the past two months," the KHOG report said.
The station quoted Fayetteville Police Sgt. Bill Phelan as saying, "He showed up at 12:30 a.m. to meet who he thought was a 13-year-old girl, and was taken into custody by an officer."
Wadsworth was nailed in Missouri on April 26, 2004, as another one of Diamond Police officer Jim Murray's Internet stings. Newton County prosecutors indicated Murray and Wadsworth had more than 50 Internet communications, according to print reports.
A Jasper County jury convicted Wadsworth after hearing evidence that he had spoken graphically about girls with whom he had sex and told Murray's teen alter ego "Cindy" what he would do to her if they ever met.
According to a Neosho Daily News account, Murray testified that the discussions continued even though Wadsworth knew "Cindy" was supposed to be 13 years old. The two arranged a meeting at the George Washington Carver National Monument. When he arrived, Wadsworth was arrested by the Diamond Police Department.
There was a time when I questioned the wisdom of these Internet sex stings. I was teaching at Diamond when one of these perverts was arrested just outside school property after arranging a liaison with Murray's 13-year-old alter ego. I wondered why we should invite these people into our area.
After having seen the continuing string of arrests, including some from this area (i. e. Gary Blankenship of Neosho) and watching the recent NBC Dateline investigation into older men who are using the Internet in an effort to have sex with teens, I have completely changed my mind.
The Dateline report showed that time after time, these twisted people continued to follow the same patterns even after they had already been arrested, and in some cases convicted on sex charges.
If the Fayetteville charge proves to be true, Donal Wadsworth should have his bond revoked immediately. In this case, since Wadsworth has already been convicted, the judge need not worry about the presumption of innocence, his obligation is to the safety of the people.

Pitch investigates political money laundering

Kansas City's independent weekly newspaper, The Pitch, published a revealing investigation into money laundering through county political committees. It's an eye-opening piece.

Democrat website: O'Sullivan officials will be spayed and neutered

I knew people were upset with O'Sullivan Industries officials, but I never dreamed things would go this far. Thanks to "Me Here" at Lamar Chat for pointing out this story on the Lamar Democrat's website:

Lockwood City Council learns animal clinic for neutering and spaying will be held again

ROSWELL, Ga. — O’Sullivan Industries Holdings, Inc. (Other OTC - Senior Preferred Stock - OSULP.PK) announced that it has reached agreement with its Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors and the controlling holders of its 10.63 percent Senior Secured Notes due 2008 - (“secured notes”) on a consensual Plan of Recognition (“plan”) and that both groups support confirmation of the plan."

It's one of those things that unfortunately happens to newspapers from time to time and often ends up on Jay Leno. On the other hand, I would not recommend that O'Sullivan officials set foot in Lockwood any time in the near future.

Cash bonuses given to Empire District officers

Bonuses for 2005 were distributed to Empire District Electric Company officers following a Feb. 1 meeting of the Board of Directors' Compensation Committee, according to documents filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The awards were presented after it was determined that goals had been reached. The awards were:
-$104,055 for William Gipson
-$26,521 for Bradley Beecher
-$25,530 for Ronald Gatz
-$23,760 for David Gibson
-$28,553 for Gregory Knapp
-$20,776 for Michael Palmer
The incentive bonuses were set at 35 percent of base salary for the CEO, and 15 percent of base salary for other executive officers.
At the Feb 1 meeting, the committee also approved "vesting amounts with respect to performance-based restricted stock awarded to our senior executives in 2003 and awarded new performance-based restricted stock to our senior executives and established the performance goals for the vesting of such new restricted stock."
These goals enable officers to receive shares of common stock if performance goals are met.

O'Sullivan reorganization plan released

For those wanting to take a closer look at the O'Sullivan Industries reorganization plan, here are some links:
Press release
Reorganization plan
Financial data
These items were posted today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Governor's brother cashes in on ethanol proposal

In his State of the State message, Governor Matt Blunt called it his "Energy and Green Power Initiative." In addition to the full funding of Missouri's bio-diesel and ethanol incentive funds, the governor said, "I ask that we give Missouri's heartland economy a major and lasting boost by requiring that motor fuel sold in Missouri for passenger cars and trucks contain 10 percent ethanol."
The governor continued, "This standard will spur even greater economic development in rural Missouri. For all of us, it will provide cleaner air, lower prices and greater independence from Middle East oil supplies. Please stand with me against special interests and for our farmers, consumers, the environment and new energy supplies made right here in Missouri."
This is not the first time Matt Blunt has expressed those sentiments, and it appears likely the Energy and Green Power Initiative will pass easily through the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Naturally, the governor's brother, lobbyist Andrew Blunt, is not going to let an opportunity like that pass by. Today, the younger Blunt brother added a new client to his lobbyist list. According to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Andrew Blunt now represents AGP, an Omaha, Neb., based firm...which in the fall of this year will open a new ethanol production plant. The company also recently announced a major expansion at its soybean processing plant in St. Joseph.
AGP has been a major player in Missouri politics for quite some time, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Over the past four years the company's political action committee has contributed $12,000 to Senator Jim Talent, $6,000 to Senator Kit Bond, $10,000 to Congressman Sam Graves, and $10,500 to Rep. Kenny Hulshof.
Governor Blunt's campaign contribution disclosure forms do not include any donations from AG Processing, but he has received $2,200 over the past two election cycles from the Omaha offices of the national law firm Kutak Rock. According to Kutak Rock's website, the law firm serves as counsel "for the acquisition, construction and financing of ethanol plants."

Joplin Globe apologists missing the point

It is always a lot of fun to rile the people at the Joplin Globe, but judging from some of the comments that have been left on this blog over the past 24 hours, I question the understanding a few of them have of journalism in general and blogs in particular.
At least two took potshots at a small item I posted late last night about Clarksdale, Tenn., mulling over a Global Entertainment proposal. This was one of four articles I either quoted or posted links to from other newspapers, something which is generally done by blogs. At least one of the cheap shot artists who commented said it was one of the rare occasions on which I gave credit to my source. It is even more rare that I do not give credit to my sources.
I am fully aware that the Globe has done extensive coverage of Global Entertainment and Clarksdale, Tenn. What in the world does that have to do with posting an item about a story that appears in a Tennessee newspaper about something that is of interest to Joplin readers?
Another person talks about how there is no original reporting in this blog. I will grant you that much of this blog is not original reporting. Some of it is commentary, some of it is items taken from other media (with attribution and more often that not, with links), some of it is musings about the state of journalism in this area.
But anyone who says there is no original reporting in this blog needs a few lessons on what original reporting is. I don't even have to go back into the archives to come up with a few examples, most of them based on my combing over public documents:
-The connections between Advantage Waste, CHP Environmental and Allied Waste and the lawsuit filed against Advantage Waste, the company that is wanting to operate the Southwest Regional Landfill in Jasper County.
-A whole string of stories over the past 18 months or so about the problems of O'Sullivan Industries in Lamar (and before anyone starts raking me over the coals about it, yes, both the Lamar Democrat and KODE beat me to the story about a bankruptcy court judge's decision in favor of O'Sullivan concerning the city of Lamar's request for help with the company's utility payments.)
-Thorough examinations of area and statewide legislators and the campaign finance money and lobbyists' gifts they have received. With the Jack Abramoff scandal and everything that is going on in Washington, I would have thought this story would have become a priority for our area newspapers, but except for a one-shot by the Globe last summer, it has been woefully neglected- and it is a very serious problem.
-And, of course, the article that set off this most recent baying of Joplin Globe wolves, the $12.5 million settlement reached with a New York widow over the death of her husband in a RegionsAir (formerly Corporate Airlines) crash.
There are dozens and dozens of further examples.
When the Joplin Globe people initially picked up on this blog months ago, reporters picked up a number of ideas from it and ran with them. John Hacker, who was with the Globe at that time, took the information and came up with more on his own, doing it the old-fashioned way, he got on the phone and made calls and he actually checked out the original source documents. I can recall a story or two that Andy Ostmeyer did on the O'Sullivan situation, in which he, too, checked the source documents, then came up with further information on his own. The television stations in the area, the Neosho Daily News, and The Carthage Press have done the same thing. I have no problems with any of these, nor should I. That is the way it should be done.
That was not the way it was done in the Globe story on the air crash settlement yesterday. I did not get the idea that the reporter examined the documents from the U. S. District Courts in Texas, New York, and Missouri that I did; I did not get the feeling that he had looked over the National Transportation Safety Board's report on the crash as I did. I had the feeling that all of his research came from two sources, the Associated Press and The Turner Report. Only one of those sources was credited, the Associated Press. The lead of the story was about the settlement. As of last night, I could still find only two media sources for the settlement story...The Turner Report and The Joplin Globe. The apologists immediately began screaming about how unfair I was being and how bigheaded I was being for having the audacity to accuse the Globe of stealing a story. I might not have even mentioned it, except a few weeks back, a Globe reporter wrote two stories, both of which ran in the same edition (it was a different reporter, by the way), that appeared to follow the same formula. The story first appeared in this blog, then appeared in the Globe with no further original reporting and no facts in it that were different from those I ran initially.
There is nothing illegal about what the Globe has done. It is not plagiarism. Facts cannot be copyrighted. It is a question of ethics. It appears to me that the Globe apologists are trying to avoid the central problem by dragging in extraneous issues.
The fact that I have an ego, which I will readily admit, has nothing to do whatsoever with the Globe's recent transgressions. Worry more about your reporting and less about mine and maybe the Globe can get back to the stature it once had in this area.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Investigation called for into pilot fatigue problem

On Jan. 26, the National Transportation Safety Board listed pilot fatigue as a likely contributor to a 2004 Corporate Airlines crash in Kirksville that killed 11 people. New York Representative Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence, is calling for a federal probe into pilot fatigue rules which allow pilots to fly as much as 16 hours per day, according to an article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
Corporate Airlines, now known as RegionsAir, is a possible replacement aviation service for Joplin.

O'Sullivan reaches agreement with unsecured creditors

O'Sullivan Industries issued a press release today, saying it had reached an agreement with the committee of unsecured creditors regarding the company's reorganization plan.

Tennessee town mulling Global proposal

Joplin is not the only town mulling over an arena and a minor league hockey franchise. Clarksville, Tenn., is also examining a Global Entertainment proposal and has also been examining the success of such a facility in Youngstown, Ohio, according to an article in the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle.

Nodler has better things to do

The proposed sale of some of MOHELA's loans was supposed to get a fair hearing today, but Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, cut it short before opponents had a chance to say anything. Nodler's handling of the session is included in Terry Ganey's article in today's Columbia Tribune.

Globe 'breaks' story on RegionsAir lawsuit

Today's Joplin Globe features an article on a $12.5 million settlement reached in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a New York doctor who was killed in a 2004 plane crash in Kirksville. The money was paid by Corporate Airlines (now RegionsAir) which owned the plane, and American Airlines, which set up the flight.
I would congratulate the Globe on its research concerning the company that might replace Trans State Airline in providing service to Joplin, but it appears that I was the one who provided the research, since the same story appeared three days ago in The Turner Report
If The Globe reporter had examined the actual court documents in the case (which I did), he might have discovered, for instance, that Dodi Meyer Miller, the widow, had initially asked for closer to $100 million.
It doesn't appear that the Globe reporter examined the official National Transportation Safety Board report on the accident, either.
And, coincidentally, the Globe story does not go into detail on any of the other lawsuits, which I did not do in my post either. I did, however, go through the court documents for each of those cases.
The only original reporting I can find in the Globe article is where it notes that the reporter tried to call someone with the airline and wasn't able to talk to anyone.
This is just the most recent of a series of stories in the Globe based on stories initially broken in The Turner Report that make no mention of their original source. Lately, at least three stories I have run that appear to have no information other than that which I posted on this blog. All, of course, have Globe reporters' bylines attached.
That wouldn't be quite as irritating except for the final sentence in today's Globe article: "The Associated Press contributed to this report."
Apparently, if someone is bigger than you, you give them credit. Otherwise, you just take what you want. If there had been any original reporting done on the story, that might have been different. As far as I can tell, it's a Turner Report story with a different byline.
One last note, as far as I have been able to determine, The Turner Report was the first media outlet to break the story on the $12.5 million settlement. I was not able to find any evidence of an AP story or any mention in the New York media of the settlement when I was doing the research over the weekend.
It is evident that the Globe's information came from one source.

Thumbs up to Roy Blunt?

The Carthage Press editorial writer Saturday offered praise or "thumbs up" to Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt "for remaining an important member of the House leadership as majority whip." No problems there, but it should have stopped there. The laurel continued, "and for the gracious manner with which he conceded the majority leadership mantle to a colleague."
While Blunt's demeanor with the man who defeated him, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, did, indeed, appear to be gracious, his immediate attack on the press for costing him the position was weak and ill-spirited.
If memory serves correctly, Blunt did not blame the press when it was taking the accusations he was making against Attorney General Bill Webster in the 1992 Republican gubernatorial primary and turning them into a loss in the general election and a prison sentence for Webster.
Though no one has accused Blunt of breaking laws thus far (just ethical lapses), the common denominator between the Webster accusations and this year's Blunt accusations is they both are steeped in truth and they both smack of the kind of double dealings that have made Americans uncomfortable with our political system.
Just like Webster in 1992, the accusations against Blunt have centered around working the system to make it pay off for himself and for his well-connected friends. While no one can expect the congressman to be happy with the press, he would have been wiser to have just kept his mouth shut.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Alleged pervert asks for permission to subpoena media outlets

In a handwritten letter filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri today, McDonald County inmate Jerry Don Chrisman is asking for subpoena forms for the following media outlets: KSNF, KOAM, KODE, the Neosho Daily News, McDonald County Press, and the Joplin Globe.
Chrisman wrote, "These subpoenas will allow me to provide proof of my claims," in his lawsuit against McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Walter Geeding. He does not specify what information he would subpoena, but in his lawsuit he claims Geeding has denied him due process and is asking that actions be taken against the prosecutor.
Chrisman, 34, is scheduled to go to trial Tuesday, Feb. 28, in McDonald County Circuit Court, on four counts of promoting a sexual performance by a child, two counts of child abuse, promoting prostitution, sexual exploitation of a minor child, and four counts of statutory rape, three of them, involving children younger than 14, according to court records. A pre-trail hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The lawsuit against Geeding is one of two federal suits filed by Chrisman. In the other lawsuit,filed earlier this month in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Chrisman claims he has been traumatized by McDonald County Sheriff Donald Schlessman and deputy Don Ruby, both of whom he accuses of keeping him in a cell with no lights, taking too long to mail his letters and sharing information from his correspondence with his lawyers with other inmates.
He is asking that Schlessman and Ruby both be fired and that each of them pay him $1 million.

What are they doing in the other schools?

I was fascinated by Managing Editor Buzz Ball's page-one article in the Sunday Neosho Daily News about Neosho High School counselors.
The lead reads: "Excellence in education has always been the primary objective of public education, especially in the Neosho R-5 School District."
Hmm. While I enjoyed reading about my former co-workers Rob Lundien and Anne Bryan, I am concerned that Buzz seems to think that the Neosho school district prizes excellence more than other school districts. I am sure that those in the East Newton, Seneca, and McDonald County school districts also prize excellence in education.
Speaking of Buzz Ball, he has written a considerable amount recently about his 50th birthday. I am approaching that same milestone later this month (actually 12 and a half, since I was born on Feb. 29). If I drone on as much about it as he has, please just put me out of my misery.
I have nothing against columnists writing about themselves, if they offer insight into some public issue or if they use it as a way to tell a story. Unfortunately, the vast majority of locally-written columns, including many that appear in the Daily, fall into that category. Opinion pages are meant to foster debate on local, regional, and national issues, and to shed light on persons and places in the news. A mixture of personal family stories and self-serving Jefferson City columns is not living up to that obligation.

Hearing set for Prater in manslaughter case

More charges have been filed against a Neosho man, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter following a Jan. 26 auto accident in which his father was killed and his son was injured.
According to Newton County Circuit Court records, Darren Prater, 33, who was already facing involuntary manslaughter and assault charges, has been charged with failing to secure a child with a safety belt, failing to wear a safety belt, displaying the plates of another person, and failure to register his car.
Prater was allegedly driving intoxicated when his northbound 1977 Lincoln ran off the road at Old Scenic Drive four miles north of Neosho. The car ran off the road and overturned. Sammy Prater, 55, was dead at the scene, according to Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges, and Hayden Prater, 10, was taken to Freeman West in Joplin for treatment of moderate injuries.
A 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, hearing has been scheduled.