Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ney PAC helped fuel last minute Blunt ad flurry in 2004

A maximum contribution from the political action committee of disgraced Ohio Congressman Robert Ney was among the out-of-state contributions that helped pay for a last minute ad flurry that helped Governor Matt Blunt eke out a narrow win over State Auditor Claire McCaskill in 2004.
Missouri Ethics Commission documents show the American Liberty PAC, created by Ney, who has agreed to plead guilty to bribery charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal donated $1,200 to Missourians for Matt Blunt on Oct. 1, 2004.

Scandal-ridden Congressmen received lavish funding from Blunt PAC

It's a tale of four Congressmen whose ethics have been called into question. One allegedly assaulted a woman, was sued by her, and eventually settled out of court.
Another sent suggestive e-mails to teenage boys who were working as House pages. A third is being pressured to resign after he admitted taking bribes, while the fourth has already resigned and has been indicted for money laundering.
The common denominator- All four have received hefty contributions from Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's Rely on Your Beliefs PAC.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) documents show the PAC contributed $10,000 this year alone to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, $5,000 on Feb. 15 and another $5,000 on March 29.
Florida Congressman Mark Foley, who resigned earlier this week, missed by only one dollar receiving $5,000 from the Blunt PAC this year, the FEC documents indicate. Foley received $3,958 on April 28 and another $1,041 on the same day. The PAC contributed $2,000 to Foley in 2003 and made in-kind contributions of airline travel for the Congressman on two occasions in 2000, adding up to $3,976.
Two embattled Ohio Republicans also benefited from the Blunt PAC's generosity. Robert Ney received $5,000 on March 29 and has picked up $14,000 since 1999, the FEC documents indicate, while Donald Sherwood has collected $10,000 from the PAC, including a $5,000 contribution as recently as Sept. 29, 2005.
To the names of those four Congressman, you can add a $5,000 contribution on Feb. 9, 2006, to the re-election campaign of Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, who is in a tight battle thanks to revelations of his connections with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Mark Foley
Mark Foley resigned from Congress earlier this week after ABC News confirmed he had written inappropriate e-mails to male Congressional pages. This passage was included in a Newsweek article posted less than a half hour ago:

Foley's sexual leanings were also well known, or at least suspected, by a particularly vulnerable group on Capitol Hill. Every year Congress hires about 100 pages, who can be seen in their distinctive blue uniforms scurrying through the halls, running errands for lawmakers. The pages have been embroiled in earlier sex scandals. In 1983, a pair of congressmen admitted to sexual relations with underage pages (one with a girl, one with a boy). After that, the pages were housed in a dormitory and fairly closely chaperoned. A former female page, who asked not to be identified to protect her privacy, told NEWSWEEK that she and other pages had regularly seen Foley stop and talk to pages on the House floor and in the cloakroom, lingering with them and asking them to describe their experiences in Congress. "We just gradually figured out he was flirting with the guys," said the page. "It made a lot of the guys uneasy. He was kind of creepy."

Donald Sherwood
Donald Sherwood's problems were outlined in a recent article in the New Republic:

In 1999, at a Young Republicans event, he met Cynthia Ore, a Peruvian-American grocery-store heiress and aspiring Hill intern in her early twenties. She was attracted to his salt-of-the-earth charm. "Guys in D.C. try to be so suave," she later recalled in a newspaper interview. "They drive Bentleys and Ferraris. Don has a truck."

But, by September 15, 2004, Sherwood's country charm had worn thin. That was the day Ore called the police from the bathroom of his apartment in Hill House, claiming he had tried to throttle her. When the police arrived, Sherwood protested that he'd merely been giving Ore a vigorous backrub. The police, for their part, determined that Ore did not seem to be "of sound mind." A year later, after their report was made public, Ore sued Sherwood for $5.5 million, but the matter was dispatched with a settlement.

Whether Sherwood was really choking or massaging may never be known. But the episode, while no Chappaquiddick, was pretty sordid for the Tenth. "Nobody has any morals anymore," one constituent lamented in the local paper. And yet, Sherwood vowed to run again.

Robert Ney
Bob Ney, under investigation over the past several months for his connection to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty Sept. 15 to conspiracy and lying to Congress. He admitted to providing services to lobbyists in exchange for gifts and money:

Indeed, Ney's downfall began in South Florida, where he had used his congressional influence to sway the sale of SunCruz Casinos to Abramoff and his New York partner Adam Kidan.

The SunCruz case against Abramoff and Kidan gave Justice Department officials the leverage to pressure the lobbyist to turn on other colleagues, congressional aides and politicians early this year.

The charges against Ney are based primarily on his behind-the-scenes work for Abramoff's Indian tribal clients and for a foreign businessman who gave him tens of thousands of dollars in casino chips and cash. But the charges also include the lawmaker's unusual tactics to help the lobbyist purchase the Dania Beach-based SunCruz gambling fleet.

Tom DeLay
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay resigned after being indicted for illegally using corporate funds in Texas political campaigns. DeLay was also connected with Jack Abramoff and one DeLay aide, Tony Rudy, has already pleaded guilty to conspiring to corrupt public officials.

(Photo: Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt and other House and Senate GOP leaders address the Foley problem during a news conference.)

Foley contributed to Blunt campaign

The Florida Congressman who resigned his seat after ABC News discovered he had sent suggestive e-mails to a teenage male page is one of many Congressmen whom Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt convinced to contribute to his son Matt's 2004 gubernatorial race.
A search of Missouri Ethics Commission documents show that former Congressman Mark Foley's campaign committee, Friends of Mark Foley, based in Lake Worth, Fla., contributed $1,000 to Matt Blunt's campaign on Aug. 26, 2004.

Blogger urges boycott of Springfield radio show's advertisers

The Thinking Things blogger is spearheading a boycott of advertisers whose spots appear on Vincent David Jericho's program on KSGF:

"The host, Vincent David Jericho is his radio moniker, is so full of hate it is scary. He seems to want to stir up hatred and violence in his listeners. I have heard him challenge listeners in ways that encourage them to use physical violence. Worst of all, he says that this brutality is what Jesus would want. Using religion to support hatred and violence is what we say we despise in terrorists, but here's this guy, using the same argument and claiming to be a re-born patriot.

"This man's behavior is appalling.

"The radio station that employs him should also be held responsible for his hateful rants. The best way to get this message across to the folks at KSGF and it's parent company including KTTS radio, is to contact their advertisers. The financial bottom line is what they're paying attention to, and that's the only place complaints can hurt them."

Chatter: Belote to take over as KSPR news director

Brad Belote, executive producer at KYTV is the new news director at KSPR in Springfield, according to a post on Ron Davis' Chatter. The job has been held by former KODE news director Erik Schrader.
That is just one of many changes expected in the wake of last week's announcement that Schurz, owner of KYTV had joined with Perkim Media, an outfit created to enable Schurz to work around FCC rules, to buy KSPR.
Springfield Business Journal reports that KSPR staffers were told Friday whether they would still have jobs.

New York Times article focuses on Talent-McCaskill race

The New York Times is the latest publication to cast an eye on the Missouri U. S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Jim Talent and Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill.
The Times article indicates the race boils down to whether Talent can cast himself as an independent-thinking Republican who is not tied to the White House or if Ms. McCaskill can tie Talent to the president.

State representative featured in American Profile

Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, is featured in the latest American Profile in a story on father-son lookalikes:

"Our son Sean has often been asked about his older brother.He doesn't have one. People are often mistaking his father for his brother, which makes Mom happy, as you can imagine."
—Submitted by Melody Wilson, for Kevin Wilson, 47, of Neosho, Mo., father of Sean Wilson, 23, of Joplin, Mo.

Area bloggers featured in new magazine

Area bloggers, including this one, are featured in an article in a new Springfield publication, Stim Magazine.
The article was written by renowned Springfield blogger Ron Davis of Chatter fame.

Charges amended against Grand Valley leaders

The McDonald County prosecuting attorney's office amended charges against Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church leaders Paul and Tom Epling Friday...and may end up having to drop them altogether, according to an article by Jeff Lehr in today's Joplin Globe:

Assistant Prosecutor Dan Bagley filed amended charges against Paul S. Epling, 53, and Tom Epling, 51, due to a statute of limitations that was in effect at the time of some of their alleged offenses with underage girls who belonged to the church near Powell in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Bagley said a Missouri Supreme Court decision, expected to be handed down sometime within the next two months in a separate criminal case, could sway whether the Eplings can be charged with any offense at all.

Former Newton County News publisher buys magazine

One of my early bosses in the newspaper business, former Newton County News editor and publisher Emery Styron has bought the River Hills Traveler, an Ozarks outdoors magazine, according to a message he posted on an East Newton alumni website. The text of that message is printed below:

Emery and Virginia Styron have purchased the River Hills Traveler, a publication covering outdoor activities in the Ozarks. The Traveler is a monthly journal about floating, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking and history in the scenic southeast Missouri river and lake region. Emery and Virginia are former Granby residents, where they operated the Newton County News from 1978 to 1990. Emery is a 1968 East Newton graduate. Virginia is a former Granby Elementary School teacher. They have lived in Mt. Pleasant, IA, since 1995, where Emery was publisher of the Mt. Pleasant News until purchasing Traveler in September of this year. Virginia is k-12 counselor for the WACO School District. They have two grown children, Amanda, who works for the Richard Florida Creativity Group in Washington, D.C., and Jackson, who works in the television and video production industry in St. Louis. Emery and Virginia are raising three grandchildren, Garrett, 16, Shael, 11, and Cameryn, 7, all children of their late daughter, Cynthia. The Styrons expect to maintain their residence in Mt. Pleasant for the immediate future, as the children are in school and Virginia is working. Emery spends a good deal of time in Missouri promoting the new venture. All friends, acquaintances and former schoolmates are invited to visit for a free look at the paper or just to e-mail and say hi.

Emery was kind enough to hire me for my second stint at the Newton County News while I was attending Missouri Southern in 1980. At first, I worked as a telephone solicitor selling subscriptions, then later I got back into the reporting area, covering community news and sports. I graduated from Southern the following year with a teaching degree, but when no teaching jobs were forthcoming, Emery arranged for me to take over as editor when he left the newspaper for another position.
Emery also offered a helping hand when I was fired at The Carthage Press in 1999, offering me a position at his newspaper in Mount Pleasant, but by this time I had already decided I was going to use my teaching degree.

Best of luck, Emery!

Federal judge: Ashcroft can be held responsible for illegal detention

A federal judge in Idaho ruled Wednesday that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held legally responsible in a lawsuit filed by a star college football player who claims he was was illegally held as a material witness in a terrorism investigation.

Attorneys for the plaintiff in the civil suit, Abdullah al-Kidd, said the decision raises the possibility that Ashcroft could be forced to testify or turn over records about the government's use of the material witness law, a cornerstone of its controversial legal strategy after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

This action continues at a time when there is a growing and long, overdue sentiment that we are cheapening our country when we decide that the very rights that make this country the greatest in the world do not have to be observed when it is more convenient to do otherwise.

Chart article leaves out student perspective

Student newspapers exist for two reasons: They serve as a training ground for young reporters, and they also provide news on subjects of importance to students.
That's why the article in the latest edition of Missouri Southern State University's newspaper, The Chart, on the proposed sale of MOHELA assets is so disappointing.
The article, for the most part, sloughs off legitimate concerns about the proposed sale while echoing the sentiments of college officials, Governor Matt Blunt, and Lt. Governor Peter Kinder that no reasonable person could possibly oppose the sale. Consider the following passage:

Attorney General Nixon has filed several lawsuits already and has threatened suits against individual board members, claiming the sale of MOHELA assets violates the charter of the organization. Others have claimed the initiative favors capital improvements over students, though the plan allocates $25 million in general revenue for scholarships. In addition to the capital improvements and scholarship money, the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative would provide construction jobs in the communities slated to receive buildings.

While the scholarships are definitely a plus in the deal, they have absolutely nothing to do with the affect this sale might have on students who have MOHELA loans. The most likely suitor for the MOHELA assets is Sallie Mae, a large contributor to Gov. Blunt's campaign. The problems this company has caused for student whose loans it holds, were chronicled recently on 60 Minutes.

Reporter Alexandra Nicolas provides a forum for Sen. Gary Nodler in the story, allowing him to criticize Attorney General Jay Nixon:

"He sees what a huge, huge success this could be for the governor that he's running against," Nodler said. "He's a party crasher, he doesn't have an invitation."

By making the whole story boil down to the impression that Attorney General Jay Nixon's opposition to the asset sale is based solely on his political rivalry with the governor, the Chart is skirting its obligation to examine an issue of great importance to its readership.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pitch continues to explore the ethanol story

Pitch Magazine of Kansas City concludes its two-part investigation of ethanol with a look at the money flowing into the coffers of Senators Jim Talent, Kit Bond, Sam Brownback, and others.

AP files latest on McDonald County cult cases

The defense request to dismiss charges against Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church members Paul and Tom Epling, and the change of judges in the case are among the items in Associated Press reporter Marcus Kabel's latest dispatch.
The Eplings, Rev. Raymond Lambert, and Lambert's wife Patricia Lambert, are charged with numerous felonies connected to ritual sex with children.

Trial date set for former Missouri State professor's wrongful dismissal lawsuit

The trial for former Missouri State University drama professor George Cron's wrongful dismissal lawsuit has been scheduled for Sept. 10, 2007, according to a scheduling order filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
The trial, which will be held in Springfield, became necessary after an Aug. 29 mediation session failed to bring an agreement between Cron and the defendants in his suit.
The mediation session was part of the court's Early Assessment Program, in which cases that appear to have the possibility of being settled can be mediated in hopes of unclogging the court docket. Cron is suing dance professor, Rhythm McCarthy, who was the head of the search committee that hired him, as well as Jay Raphael, department head; Bruno Schmidt, vice president of academic affairs; John Black, Missouri State's general counsel; and The MSU Board of Governors. In addition to wrongful dismissal, Cron says the defendants defamed him.
In his lawsuit, George Cron, who has acted in such films as "Flying Tiger" and "Larva," says his problems with Ms. McCarthy began even before he was hired at Missouri State in October 1998 when she was chairman of the Search Committee which hired Cron. "(She) began to aggressively pursue a personal relationship with Mr. Cron," the lawsuit said. Cron says Ms. McCarthy helped him with his application and supported his hiring, which took place in May 1999.
After he was hired, Cron told Ms. McCarthy "that he did not reciprocate her romantic feelings and did not intend to consummate an affair," according to the lawsuit.
After that, he claims, she began "a series of actions designed to undermine (him) and ruin his reputation within the Department of Theatre and Dance." These actions, the lawsuit claims, included a series of statements about Cron's teaching methods, his fitness to teach, and his being "sexist" and "bigoted." Still, Cron was rehired each year until he came up for tenure in 2004. The Tenure Committee voted 6-2 to offer him tenure, the lawsuit said, with Ms. McCarthy and Sara Brummell casting the dissenting votes.
The committee recommendation was forwarded to Raphael, who rejected it. Cron appealed to Schmidt, who denied the appeal. On April 12, 2004, Cron appealed those decisions to the Academic Personnel Review Commission, which in a split decision, said "Cron's complaint was not frivolous." His appeal was again rejected. The case eventually went to an arbitrator, who ruled in Cron's favor July 29, 2005. Nonetheless, the board voted Oct. 4, 2005, not to extend tenure. Cron is asking for reinstatement and damages.
In court documents filed in May, the university fought back, claiming Cron had fostered an atmosphere of sexual harassment in his classes, leading to his dismissal.
The documents included a long passage written by Jay Raphael, department head, one of the defendants in the lawsuit. After praising Cron early in his statement as a "team player" who had been responsible for many "quality productions," Raphael lowered the boom.
"However, I am deeply concerned about the number of young women who have seen me each semester on every academic level to complain about Mr. Cron's judgment, his approach to teaching acting, and his respect for them as individuals. Last spring, a young woman experienced what she considered to be sexual harassment and inappropriate physical behavior from a male student in an audition for Mr. Cron's show. She did not suggest that Mr. Cron required the approach but he neither seemed to be aware of it nor did he bring it under control.
"This past semester, an entry level student indicated that she felt intimidated by the classroom environment. She also believed that Mr. Cron's reference to a 'dumb blonde' while coaching her work was not to character but rather to her as an individual. Ultimately, she risked her grade rather than to return to the class on a regular basis."
Raphael wrote that he had received many positive comments about Cron, but all of them had come from men. He said he was troubled that the complaints he had received, all of which came from female students, were about them being "treated insensitively and they were frightened."

Blogger celebrates birthday

Though those of us who only have one birthday every four years are a bit envious of the ones who have one annually, I have no problem with noting that today is the 18th birthday of Victim of Reality blogger and Diamond High School senior Michelle Nickolaisen.
Michelle was one of the students whose comments during a class discussion when I was teaching at Diamond Middle School inspired Small Town News. She also served as the publicity director for the novel and hopefully, will be doing the same thing for number two when it is published in the near future.
I have no doubt we will hear many great things from her in the future. Happy Birthday, Michelle!

'Small Town News' featured in October issue of 417 Magazine

The October issue of 417 Magazine, which will be on the streets Friday, will feature a review of my novel, Small Town News, and an interview with me. Unfortunately for those with weaker constitutions, my understanding is it will also include a photo.
For those of you who have tired of the references to Small Town News on this blog, take heart. This should be one of the last activities involving this book, although a signing will be held sometime this fall at Always Buying Books in Joplin.
That is the good news. The bad news is that the publicity machine for my second novel will start cranking out releases soon.
417 Magazine is available at many area Wal-Mart Supercenters, and, of course, at numerous locations in Springfield.

AP examines state auditor race

The Missouri state auditor race between Democratic candidate Susan Montee and Republican candidate Sandra Thomas is examined today in an article by Associated Press reporter David Lieb.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

KODE: Charges may be dropped against Eplings

KODE reports that efforts are being made to have the charges against Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church officials Tom Epling and Paul Epling dropped. Their attorney, Robert Evenson, claims that the statute of limitations has run out for the charges of ritual sex with children that have been filed against the two.
KODE also reported that Newton County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Stremel will replace Judge John LePage, who recused himself from the case today at the request of McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Geeding.

LePage disqualified in McDonald County sex cases

McDonald County Circuit Court Judge John LePage has removed himself from handling the preliminary hearings for four Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church leaders charged with felony sex crimes with children,
LePage made his decision today following a motion by McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Geeding asking for a change of judge. These motions are routinely granted at this stage in the judicial process.
This will delay the preliminary hearings, which had been scheduled for Monday, Oct. 2.
The charges against Rev. Raymond Lambert, 51, his wife Patricia Lambert, 49, and her brothers Paul and Tom Epling are detailed in the Aug. 15 Turner Report.

(Photo: Raymond Lambert, left)

Blunt-Truman race highlighted in AP article

AP's Marcus Kabel has become the first reporter to take an in-depth look at the Seventh District Congressional race between incumbent Republican Roy Blunt, Democratic challenger Jack Truman of Lamar, and Libertarian Kevin Craig.
This is the first time that I can recall that any media outlet, other than The Turner Report, has actually looked into Truman's livelihood. It hasn't been done by the Springfield News-Leader and the Joplin Globe, the two major newspapers in the Seventh District:

Truman's main activity is producing independent films. His short film "Phone Sex Grandma" was described by the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where it ran in January, as "A 60-something Grandma working a phone sex line in a small Southern ghost town."

That grandmother is played by Truman's mother, Opal Dockery, who also is the author of a memoir called "Thoughts of a Stripper: A Mother's Story" about the life of a single mother raising children while working on the burlesque circuit in the 1970s.

Truman's MySpace entry says he is working on a full-length feature film version of "Phone Sex Grandma." He also is seeking producers for a script he wrote called "Son of A Stripper," he told The Associated Press.

The article also notes how little concern Blunt has about his challenger:

Blunt appears to be ignoring Truman and the Libertarian candidate, Kevin Craig, after taking the socially conservative district with 70 percent of the vote two years ago.

"A Democratic candidate who is not advertising, who's not fundraising, whose only claim to fame is his last name - this is not worth spending money on ads attacking your opponent," said Missouri State University political scientist George Connor.

"U.S. Rep. Blunt is going to win this race hands down, no question. This is the safest seat possible," Connor said.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

GateHouse moves closer to IPO

Editor and Publisher is reporting that GateHouse Media, owner of the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Joplin Daily, and Big Nickel, is moving closer toward its initial public offering.

LaBarge contract means more work for Joplin plant

In a news release issued today, LaBarge, Inc. announced that Raytheon Company awarded it $8 million in contracts to LaBarge Inc. said Tuesday that Raytheon Co.'s missile systems awarded it $8 million in contracts "to provide complex cable assemblies and an integrated firing unit assembly for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile."
Work on the contract will continue through October 2007 and will be done at the Joplin and Huntsville, Ark., plants, according to the release.

Pilot who crashed in Branson was scheduled to meet with former girlfriend

A Florida pilot whose plane crashed in Branson Friday came to this area to see an air show and an old girlfriend, according to an article in today's St. Petersburg Times.

Oct 2 payment review hearing set for convicted embezzler

A payment review hearing for former Barton County Memorial Hospital finance director Kim Schlup, who entered an Alford plea earlier this year to a charge of stealing more than $100,000 from the hospital, has been scheduled for Oct. 2 in Cedar County Circuit Court.
Ms. Schlup, 42, was sentenced to four years in prison, but was released after spending 120 days behind bars. She has to pay back $100,085. She stole the money between 1999 and 2003.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Blunt adds pharmaceutical company to lobbying clients

Lobbyist Andrew Blunt, brother of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, has a new client, according to a Missouri Ethics Commission document.
The younger Blunt brother added Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Chicago, to his list today. The company owns the Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica.Inc. plant in St. Joseph.

Blunt agrees to legislative approval of MOHELA deal

Associated Press reports Governor Matt Blunt has agreed to legislative approval of the proposed sale of MOHELA assets, the so-called Lewis and Clark Initiative.

News-Leader editorial: Blunt MOHELA plan example of hijacking government

In an editorial in today's edition, the Springfield News-Leader accuses Governor Matt Blunt of hijacking government with his plan to sell MOHELA assists, most likely to contributor Sallie Mae, without having the deal go through any sort of review panel or legislative scrutiny:

And, of course, as we've written over and over again in this space, we simply believe that good government demands that the governor get full legislative approval for such a plan. We want to see the MOHELA money spent on university projects, but only after legislative approval is given to changing the student loan provider's purpose and approving the spending of the money.

Blunt and Kinder and their allies see things differently. In fact, they're so intent on making this plan happen their way that they are making new appointments to the MOHELA board at breakneck speed. It boggles the mind that in the time since board members decided not to approve the plan on Sept. 8, three of them resigned, and in no time at all they were replaced, and if Blunt has his way, they'll vote Wednesday on a complicated plan that the new board members could not possibly have a full understanding of at this point.

Public schools to receive hazard warning radios

The Joplin R-8 School District, my employer, as well as 97,000 public school districts across the United States will receive hazard warning radios, thanks to a decision by the Department of Homeland Security. The announcement is expected to be made today:

Originally conceived as a means to deliver weather warnings, the system now covers all hazards — terrorism, abducted children and derailed trains carrying toxic materials.

Immigration meetings set for today in Neosho

State legislators Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, will have a town hall meeting 4 to 7 p.m. today at Crowder College in Neosho.
I will be interested in seeing the coverage of the event in Tuesday's Joplin Globe and Neosho Daily News. Hopefully, the newspapers will also monitor the performance of the three legislators on 1420 AM's McCormack Files this morning.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

San Francisco newspaper spotlights Talent-McCaskill race

Today's San Francisco Chroncicle offers a revealing examination of Missouri's U. S. Senate race between incumbent Jim Talent and State Auditor Claire McCaskill

Jailer, once a prisoner in Springfield, charged with murder

North Dakota authorities apparently were a little lax in their job, failing to do a simple background check on a man they hired as a jailer.
According to an Associated Press article, Moe Maurice Gibbs, 34, has spent considerable time in prison, including a stint in Springfield. Now Gibbs is charged with murdering a 22-year-old woman by slashing her throat.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Champion receives $435 meal from AARP

A hotly debated meal honoring Sen. Norma Champion added $435.66 to her lobbyist tab for 2006, according to a disclosure report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Ms. Champion, R-Springfield, received that much in "meals,food and beverage" on the final day of August from AARP lobbyist Amy Coffman, according to the document.
The reception held in Ms. Champion's honor was strongly opposed by Nelson Parnell, president of Senior Democrats of the Ozarks, who posted a letter on the Greene County Missouri Democrats' website, containing the follow sentiment:

"In the first place AARP should not be conducting such a blatantly partisan activity, especially in an election year. If some wished to do so, they could have simply sent her a thank you note. Secondly, Champion may have done some good things for Seniors, but she has also supported a measure which has done far more harm to seniors and other low-income people by supporting the Medicaid cuts in recent times."

Governmental affairs kick in for Scott

When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist?
The answer to that one is simple...when he or she contributes to Sen. Delbert Scott. The Lowry City Republican has received at least 21 contributions connected to lobbyists in the past year, but not once is the word lobbyist mentioned on any of the campaign disclosure statements filed by Scott with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Most of them are listed as "governmental affairs," a phrase that would seem reminiscent of the Clinton-Lewinsky era, while others are listed by the names of their lobbying firms, one is listed as an attorney, and another is listed as a secretary.
Those listed by the names of their lobbying firms included:
-Bardgett and Associates, headed by lobbyist John Bardgett, $650
-The Swain Group, headed by Scott Swain, $650
-Governmental Services Group- headed by Scott Marrs, with clients including the city of Springfield, Missouri Hospital Association, and the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, $130.
-Burch & Associates- headed by Jerry Burch, with clients including the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Missouri State University, $75
-Cozad Company, $650

Those listed as "governmental affairs" included:
-Thomas Irwin, St. Louis RCGA, $125
-Roy Cagle, Joplin, $250. Cagle represents Missouri Finance Institute, which lists its address as 1101 E. 20th, Joplin, which is also listed as the address for Cagle's lobbying firm, Cagle and Associates, and Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface's Shelter Insurance business.
-Larry Rohrbach, lobbyist for Flotron & McIntosh, whose client list includes Edison Schools and the Missouri Charter Public Schools Association, $179.
-Kathy Harness, who represents various health concerns and the Missouri Beer Wholesalers Association, $65
-Ward Cook, lobbyist for Cozad Company, which represents Missouri State University and Jackson County, $75
-Ann Michael, Missouri Association of Club Executives, $65
-Harvey Tettlebaum, Missouri Health Care Association, $250
-Fred Dreiling, Harrah's Entertainment, $20
-Thomas Holloway, Missouri State Medical Association, $100

Scott also accepted $1,450 from three firms which list their mailing addressed as P. O. Box 1865, Jefferson City...the same address as the lobbying firm of Gamble and Schlemeier...MORESPAC, the Missouri Physicians Assistant PAC and the Missouri Psychological Association.

An additional $1,250 came from two concerns with the address 101 E. High, Jefferson City, the same address as the powerful lobbying firm of Gallagher and Associates, with $650 coming from the Competitive Enterprise Growth PAC and $600 from Golden Rule Insurance. As has been noted previously in The Turner Report, Competitive Enterprise Growth PAC, administered by Gallagher's lobbying firm, has thus far been funded entirely by a contribution from Glazer's, a liquor, wine, and beer distributor based in Dallas, Texas.

Lobbyist Sherry Doctorian, listed as an attorney, which she is, as well as being a lobbyist for the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale, which represents St. Louis University, among many clients, contributed $200.

And last, but not least, Denita Hawley, listed as a secretary, gave the Scott campaign $150. Ms. Hawley is a lobbyist for Gamble and Schlemeier.


Columbia Democrat tops Hall of Shame

When Chuck Graham sets out to do something, he does it well.
Graham, the top-ranking Democrat in the Missouri Senate, not only has collected more gifts from lobbyists than any other Senator during the first eight months of 2006, but he leads the race by more than $900, according to disclosure reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
At the end of the 2006 legislative session, David Klindt, R-Bethany, headed the Turner Report Hall of Shame, but Graham surpassed him, collecting $1,681.80 worth of gifts since the Missouri General Assembly ended its 2006 session...and he has still four months to add to his total.
Graham tops the latest Hall of Shame rankings with $4,606.99 for 2006. Others making the top 10 are:
2. David Klindt, R-Bethany, $3,699.10
3. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, $1,948.87
4. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis, $1,692.34
5. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, $1,578.98
6. Victor Callahan, D-Independence, $1,544.35
7. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, $1,484.32
8. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, $1,389.14
9. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, $1,262.83
10. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, $1,246.26
Graham's $1,681.80 since the 2006 legislative session ended includes $547.88, from lobbyists with the powerhouse firm of Gamble & Schlemeier, with those gifts listed made on behalf of such clients as the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, Independent Colleges and Universities, Missouri Beverage Association, SMACNA, Mechanical Contractors Association, Fred Weber, Inc., and the MAPHCC.
Graham also picked up $273.77 from lobbyists Tina Shannon and Drue Duncan representing Ameren UE.
Graham's penchant for picking up gifts from lobbyists was noted in an article written by Jason Rosenbaum in the June 17 Columbia Daily Tribune, which featured the following passage:

Graham said his total was highest because he often meets with various people to discuss legislative races around the state. He said he doesn't vote based on gifts lobbyists give him. Voters elected him to choose sides on issues based on facts, he said, not a meal.

"I'm not going to lose re-election over a cheeseburger," Graham said.

That is probably true, but it is also true that our elected officials, like those they represent, should buy their own cheeseburgers.

Democratic candidate for Seventh District Congress continues to multi-task

Jack Truman, the Democratic candidate for the Seventh District Congressional seat currently held by Republican Roy Blunt, continues to be a master of multi-tasking.
This week, Truman launched a MySpace site for his short film Phone Sex Grandma:

Truman's MySpace blog indicates he is in post-production on a feature-length version of Phone Sex Grandma and has also shot a feature-length documentary which he says links obesity to religion:

"Obesity: The Acceptable Sin is a film about the direct connection between obesity and religion. Director Jack Truman returns to his small hometown in the Bible belt to try to find a direct link between religion and gluttony. And through personal interviews, opinions and footage, in a down-home local style, Truman tries to open the audience's eyes to this epidemic that is happening worldwide."

Thomas Jefferson post still bringing comments

,I have been amazed at the passion with which the commenters on the June 19 post "Changes on tap at Thomas Jefferson," have continued the argument in the three months plus since I first published the post. So far, more than 30 responses have been received and they keep trickling in every few days, so I thought I would add this link to the post, so those who want a little information about dysfunction at Thomas Jefferson can catch up on the comments.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Governors' study: Real ID law will cost states $11 billion

The Real ID act, the monstrosity that has caused many Missourians to have to kick in with fees to dig up their birth certificates and other documentation so they can renew their driver's licenses is a drain on state treasuries that will most likely be passed on to the public, according to a report issued by the National Governors Association:

"The days of going to the DMV and getting your license on the same day are probably over," said David Quam, director of federal relations for the National Governors Association. "You'll have to take all your documents as if you were applying for the first time. What this comes down to is that more people will be in DMV offices spending more time to get an ID."

What is truly irritating about this ill-conceived law is how unnecessary it is. Instead of forcing lifelong Americans to prove their identities, all that would be required to make this nation safer would be to have public officials use common sense. Unfortunately, that appears to be in short supply both among bureaucrats and elected officials.

Harpool receives NEA backing

The Springfield National Education Association has come out strongly in favor of the campaign of former Rep. Doug Harpool, D-Springfield, to unseat incumbent Norma Champion, R-Springfield.
The endorsement was trumpeted in a news release issued Thursday by the Harpool campaign. The news release criticized Ms. Champion for her stances in favor of providing tax credits to private schools:

Harpool says the ill-advised plan would siphon money from Springfield Public Schools.

KYTV to take over operation of KSPR news

KY3 will now have two network-affiliated platforms for its news coverage, according to an article in today's Springfield News-Leader. As noted Thursday in the Turner Report, Perkin Media, KY3's partner in the purchase, was formed specifically just a little over two months ago to "acquire media properties," according to articles of organization on file with the Missouri secretary of state's office:

"KY3 is not able to own another FCC license," said Perkin, so a partnership came in, in which Perkin Media will acquire KSPR's FCC license and intellectual property, while KY3 Inc. will be in charge of operations at KSPR, he said.

"Sales and news will be operated by KY3," he said.

KSPR will keep its own news staff, and the station can benefit from KYTV in terms of equipment, said Perkin.

How or if this will affect the job of former KODE news director and sports anchor Erik Schrader, who is serving as KSPR's news director, is not immediately known. The News Leader article indicated the new management will soon begin conducting interviews of KSPR employees.

Globe editorial criticizes Tupper, City Council

The refusal of the Joplin City Council to give Mayor Jon Tupper even a slap on the wrist for his lapse of ethics concerning Tupper's use of inside information to help a family member is criticized by the Joplin Globe on today's editorial page.
The editorial also noted Tupper's adamant refusal to apologize to anyone except his son for his actions:

"Perhaps adding fuel to whatever public fires of indignation the conflict of interest allegation may spark, is Tupper’s suggestion that he owes only one person an apology, his son, who apparently has been the target of verbal attacks. In truth, Tupper also owes an apology to the people of Joplin for what he has acknowledged was a mistake in not disclosing his son’s interest in the property."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Groundwork for KSPR purchase laid months ago

Documents filed with the Missouri secretary of state's office leave the impression that Perkin Media, the Springfield limited liability company that is partnering with KYTV to buy KSPR, was likely formed specifically to enable KY3 owner Schurz Communications, Inc. to get around FCC rules against owning two stations in the same market.
Businessman and longtime Springfield broadcaster Bill Perkin filed articles of organization for Perkin Media with the secretary of state's office on July 12. According to the document, the purpose of Perkin Media is to "own media properties."
Perkin, in addition to stints at KSPR and in Springfield radio during a 15-year broadcasting career, was the longtime owner of Perkin Marketing, described on internet sites as "a development company designed to help businesses and individuals achieve the results they want." Perkin formed the company in 1988.
Since he sold his share in Perkin Marketing, Perkin has served as CEO of Way2Bid, Inc., which helps government entities to reduce costs through internet bidding procedures.
The Springfield News-Leader account of the KSPR sale says:

Springfield-based Perkin Media will purchase KSPR’s FCC license and intellectual property, while KY3, Inc. — owned by Schurz Communications Inc. of South Bend, Ind. — will acquire the non-FCC assets of the station and partner with Perkin Media to operate KSPR.

The move will enable KYTV to compete on even footing with Nexstar Broadcasting, which owns KSFX, the Springfield Fox station, and operates the city's CBS affiliate, KOLR, which is technically owned by Mission Broadcasting to enable Nexstar to comply with FCC regulations, but which to all intents and purposes belongs to Nexstar, something which the company has virtually admitted in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

KYTV's account of the sale can be found at this link.

Turnpike killer gets second shot at parole

Paul Wessley Murray, serving a 10-year prison sentence for the Jan. 11, 1994, murder of Sheila Mayfield, Jasper, will have a second shot at parole in December, according to Oklahoma corrections records. The first parole application for Murray, who was finally sent to prison for the murder on Sept. 11, 2003, was denied in July 2005.
Murray, 28, went through an interview with the entire parole board during his first hearing, a typical procedure, Oklahoma prison authorities told me last year. In December, the parole board will do what is called a "jacket review," in which it will review Murray's file.

Sheila Mayfield, her sister, Shelly Wells, and her grandmother, Velta Ball, were returning from a Miami, Okla., hospital where Sheila and Shelly's mother, Peggy Gordon, was recovering from surgery. They were less than one mile from the Missouri state line when a rock was thrown from the overpass, crashing through the windshield and killing Sheila instantly.
Two teens were arrested for the murder. One, 15-year-old Benji Trammel, pleaded guilty, was sent to a juvenile correctional facility, was released when he turned 18, and the crime was removed from his record.
More than five years passed before Paul Murray finally pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree. He was initially charged with first degree murder after Oklahoma officers found a notebook in his school locker which depicted the same scenario which had claimed Sheila Mayfield's life. Later, the charge was downgraded to second degree murder, to get Murray to enter his plea and to finally bring the case to a close.
Murray entered an Alford plea, meaning he conceded there was enough evidence to convict him, but he was not saying he was actually guilty. As a part of the plea agreement, as The Carthage Press reported in John Hacker's story in the Feb. 2, 1999, edition, Murray's sentence was to be reviewed in 120 days and if he maintained good behavior during that time, his sentence would be reduced from 15 to only five years in prison. He was freed after that four-month period. No five-year sentence, just the four months. Murray was released after four months despite a pre-sentence investigation which said he remained a "danger and a threat to the community and himself."
As of mid-summer 1999, Paul Murray was a free man. His brushes with the law did not end. On March 12, 2002, he pleaded guilty to a public intoxication charge. Four months later, he was stopped and charged with not wearing a seat belt. On March 10, 2003, it was failure to pay child support.Finally, and no information is available from court records as to what ended up sending Murray to prison, it was determined that he had violated the terms of his parole and he was sent to the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite.

Federal grand jury indicts Oronogo woman

A federal grand jury in Springfield today indicted Carrie A. Shafer, 38, Oronogo, on 40 counts of tax fraud.
Ms. Shafer is charged with preparing fraudulent income tax returns for customers during 2003 and 2004.
The indictment comes 17 months after a federal judge ordered Ms. Shafer to stop preparing tax returns.
According to court documents filed in 2005, Ms. Shafer had been preparing tax returns full-time since 2002, with most of her customers living in Missouri, though she had some in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
"Since at least September 2003, Shafer has been preparing original and amended federal income tax returns for tax years 2000-2003 that claim fictitious or inflated itemized deductions for various expenses, including medical and dental expenses, charitable contributions, and unreimbursed employee business expenses."
With one customers, court documents said, "Shafer also claimed an inflated child-care expense credit based on child-care services that Shafer knew had never actually been provided to, or paid for by, the customer."
Because of these and other machinations, court documents indicate, Ms. Shafer's customers received tax refunds to which they were not entitled.
"In addition to preparing fraudulent tax returns, Shafer has encouraged at least one of her customers to provide false information to the IRS at an examination meeting," the court documents said.

Springfield TV shakeup: KYTV buys KSPR

Credit fellow blogger and longtime Springfield investigative reporter Ron Davis of Chatter with the scoop that KYTV, Springfield's NBC affiliate, has bought the city's ABC affiliate, KSPR.
Davis beat the Springfield News-Leader by at least an hour in getting the scoop to the public.
No word on how or if the sale will affect former KODE news director Erik Schrader, who serves in that position at KSPR. The station's news staff also included, at least the last time I checked, former KODE anchor Tracy Turner and Lockwood High School graduate Whitney Scott, who received national attention two years ago as a contestant on the ESPN program Dream Job.
This puts Springfield in a situation similar to Joplin. The city's FOX station KSFX and CBS affiliate KOLR are both under the control of Nexstar Broadcasting. In Joplin, of course, KODE and KSNF are both under Nexstar, while KOAM and KFJX are both Saga Communications stations.

KODE: Johnston may still be around children

Granby-area minister George Otis Johnston, facing 17 felony counts of statutory sodomy, may still be around children, according to an exclusive report scheduled for KODE's 10 p.m. newscast and promoed at 6 p.m.
Anchorwoman Tara Brown's latest scoop included an interview with another person who has had dealings with the Newton and McDonald County cult-like churches, which will likely be featured again during the 10 p.m. newscast.

Pitch turns investigative focus on ethanol

The Pitch, a Kansas City weekly, began an investigative series on ethanol today with a look at Garnett, Kan., a city that has gambled its future on the product...and may lose everything.
Next week's second part of the series will focus on politicians' connections to ethanol. I'm looking forward to reading that one.

KOM League reunion featured in Columbia Tribune article

The KOM League Reunion, held earlier this month in Carthage, is featured in an article by Bill Clark in Wednesday's Columbia Tribune.

Skelton denied voter ID card

At first, the arguments in favor of photo voter identification laws sound quite enticing, but the more I read and hear about the concept, the more I am inclined to agree that it is simply a bad idea, designed to foster less participation in elections, rather than making sure they are legitimate.
It appears that not only the poor and elderly will be disenfranchised. Before a Cole County Circuit Court judge struck down Missouri's law, Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton was denied a voter ID, according to testimony provided Wednesday in the U. S. House of Representatives. Skelton voted against a national photo voter ID bill, but ended up on the losing side of a 228-196 tally, which was mostly on party lines with Republicans overwhelmingly supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it:

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said he was initially denied a voter ID required under a Missouri state law because he doesn't have a driver's license and couldn't immediately produce a passport or birth certificate. His congressional ID card was not accepted.

KY3 coverage of Talent-McCaskill debate noted in Wall Street Journal

The world of television political coverage is changing, thanks to the Internet, and KY3 in Springfield is making good use of the new medium.
The Wall Street Journal is citing the station's upcoming Oct. 16 debate between U. S. Senate candidates Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill. (No link is provided to the article because the Journal requires readers to pay for access.) The small snippet of the article on the Web quotes KY3 executive producer Brad Belote as concerned that the debate won't draw a big crowd against a potential baseball playoff game, so the station will offer streaming coverage on the internet for those who are unable to watch it when it initially airs.

U. S. House passes photo voter ID bill

Missouri and Georgia courts have ruled the idea of requiring voters to provide photo identification illegal, but that has not stopped the U. S. of House Representatives, on a nearly party-line vote, from passing similar legislation.
It would appear the whole concept is eventually going to wind up in front of the U. S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Women's athletes' lawsuit against Missouri State University settled

A Title IX lawsuit brought by four Missouri State University tennis players after their sport was one of five dropped by the university has apparently been settled.
A motion to dismiss the case with prejudice was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri by lawyers for Paty Manzur, Maja Stanojevic, Eleonora Kuruc, and Monika Musilova.
No details of the settlement were provided.
The class action suit was filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the athletes. The case had been set to go to trial in February 2007.

Missouri State freshman among those starting hotline to deal with teen dating violence

Missouri State University student Jessica Lee, 19, a victim of dating violence, is helping others to avoid suffering that kind of fate.'
Miss Lee is helping start a nationwide hotline to combat teen dating violence:

Jessica Lee endured abuse from her high school boyfriend for two years, breaking up only after he burned her with cigarettes and slammed a beer bottle over her head. She has now joined an ambitious initiative to help teens in similar plights.

On Thursday, Lee and other former victims will be on hand in New York to help announce the creation of the first nationwide hot line specifically designed to combat the widespread problem of teen dating violence.

It will be run by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which mostly serves adults with its current operations. Calls to the new line will be answered by teens, plus other young adults, in the belief that young abuse victims would be more comfortable confiding in someone their own age.

"I wrestled over telling people what was happening to me because I was ashamed," said Lee, 19, who is now a freshman in Missouri State University's pre-nursing program in her hometown of Springfield, Mo.

Blunt adds two lobbying clients

Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicate Andrew Blunt, lobbyist brother of Governor Matt Blunt, has added two new clients:
-Clearpoint Financial Solutions, Richmond, Va., is a not-for-profit credit counseling firm, according to its website.
-Woodland Parts Supply, Bonne Terre, Mo., supplies parts for school buses.

Emery: Immigration committee report forthcoming

In a column released this week, Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, indicates his committee on Immigration Reform will submit its report to House Speaker Rod Jetton in the near future.
I will repeat my earlier contention that it was a sad commentary on our local print media that no coverage was provided of that committee's meeting at Missouri Southern State University.
Anyone looking for a hint of what the committee's report will include won't find much in Emery's column:

"One thing became eminently clear during the course of our committee's immigration forums across this great state: the issue of illegal immigration does not lend itself to compromise. In fact, compromise is nearly impossible because the two sides in this issue derive from two distinctly different worldviews."

What is most worrisome is that the head of what should have been a productive committee offers such a simplistic overview of what is an extremely complex issue. As any journalist can tell you, there are almost always more than two sides to an issue. Unfortunately, today's politicians have a tendency to provide a black-and-white view that totally overlooks any shades of gray.

FCC to investigate destroyed report

The Federal Communications Commission will investigate the destruction of one of its reports which indicated locally-owned television stations, have on average five and half more minutes of local news per half hour than stations owned by companies from outside the viewing area.
The reports were initially ordered by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell during the push to eliminate the rule barring ownership of multiple television stations in one market by one company. That report was never released after its findings did not show the results that had been anticipated.
A copy was leaked to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who has pushed for the investigation.

Jasper County landfill problems began with DNR's decision to ignore the law

Residents in the Purcell area of Jasper County cannot be blamed if they do not trust the word of anyone from the state government.
The proposed Southwest Regional Landfill appears almost certain to be opened sometime in the next several months and members of Citizens for Environmental Safety, who have opposed this project since it first was proposed nearly two decades ago, have been given short shrift by state agencies throughout that time.
If the Department of Natural Resources had followed state law, the initial approval for the landfill would never have been granted. In the early 1990s, the state agency chose to ignore a law that says convicted felons cannot operate a landfill in this state.
W. L. "Bud" Gehrs, who first proposed the landfill had what could charitably be called a checkered record as far as the environment was concerned, and he had been convicted of a felony.
U. S. District Court documents uncovered during my 1991 investigation of the landfill project allege that between June 23, 1980, and Dec. 8, 1983, Gehrs, at the time the owner and general manager of Springfield-based National Oil and Supply Co., told his employees to overstate the amount of petroleum products delivered to the company's customers.
National Oil then overbilled the customers, according to the court documents. The U. S. Attorney formally charged that Gehrs and his associates "knowingly and willfully devised a scheme to defraud and to obtain money from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City, Mo., Greene County, Mo., Christian County, Mo., Taney County, MO., Camden County, Mo., City of Clinton, MO., Billings Special Road District; Crawford County, Kan., and Baxter County, Ark., by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises."
Court documents indicate that Gehrs and the U. S. Government reached a plea bargain agreement which had the Joplin businessman pleading guilty to just one count of fraud. He could have been sentenced to five years in prison, according to the court documents, but he was placed on probation for three years. He agreed to make restitution in the amount of $34,346.92 and was fined $10,000. Gehrs was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service work with a non-profit organization over a two-year period. The probation was successfully completed on May 14, 1989, according to court documents.
Gehrs' felony conviction was cited by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in a comment letter mailed Sept. 30, 1991, concerning the proposed landfill.
Also cited were other times in which Gehrs and/or his associates with National Oil were charged with felonies. These included a conviction of Gehrs for failure to pay sales tax with intent to defraud and a conviction of one of his National Oil salesmen for bribing an Arkansas County judge and lying to a federal grand jury.
The sales tax violation was detailed in a tax information bulletin published by the Missouri Department of Revenue, Division of Tourism in July 1980.
"A special audit of National Oil Company, owned and operated by William L. Gehrs of Springfield, Mo., demonstrated that Mr. Gehrs had approximately $335,000 in sales tax," the publication said. "However, Mr. Gehrs had used an exemption number to run approximately $100,000 in building materials through the purchase vouchers of his oil company. These materials were used by Gehrs to build an apartment complex in Joplin, Mo. The taxes for these consumed materials were approximately $4,000 plus penalties, plus interest."
According to the article, the Special Audit Bureau of the Division of Taxation successfully prosecuted Gehrs on a felony charge of failure to pay Missouri sales tax with intent to defraud.
Though Gehrs was ordered to turn over all information about these convictions to the DNR 15 years ago and presumably did so, the agency apparently decided it could trust a businessman with a past record of convictions for fraud to take care of the environment in eastern Jasper County.
Now, though Gehrs is no longer associated with the project, Purcell-area residents are receiving the same kind of double dealing from our state government, from the people who are supposed to serve as the stewards of our environment, with the recent decision to approve a newly-formed company to take over the landfill when and if it apparent disregard of a federal court order. I will delve more into that in upcoming posts.

Joplin mayor owed apology to city residents

I am amazed sometimes by how elected officials can personalize the problems in which they find themselves.
After an investigation concluded Joplin Mayor Jon Tupper unintentionally violated the city's code of ethics in connection with his son's purchase of a prime piece of city property, Tupper made the statement, "I owe one person an apology, and that is my son."
The mayor could not be more wrong. He blew a golden opportunity to apologize to the people who were really harmed by his lack of discretion...the people of Joplin. After the meeting, the mayor refused to talk to the people who serve as the stand-ins for his constituents, the media, giving the impression that it was their fault they made such a big deal out of what he obviously considered to be nothing.
I doubt if the mayor sees anything wrong in what he did, something which he has in common with many elected officials. We do not elect officials to use insider knowledge for the benefit of themselves and their loved ones. As the article in the Tuesday Joplin Globe notes:

The motion to issue a reprimand to Tupper was made by Councilman Jim West after the issuance of a report from an investigator Howard Wright, a former attorney for the city of Springfield, into the mayor's action in connection with the purchase of a home by his son, Josh Tupper, at 310 S. Comingo Ave. in June 2006.

The property is near a home at 303 S. High Ave., which city officials voted to purchase for a Joe Becker Stadium project. The property on Comingo Avenue is also contained within one of five potential areas that the BLR Group, a consulting firm, suggested be acquired for a future renovation and expansion of the stadium. That information has been public since January.

The article goes on to say:

Wright's report states that Jon Tupper on June 4, 2006, met with his son and advised him to purchase the property at Comingo, citing its price and condition. Prior to that day, the Tuppers had also viewed the property, and Jon Tupper had discussed the possible purchase of property at 303 S. High Ave., according to Wright's report.

Joshua Tupper then made an offer on the Comingo Avenue house during business hours on June 5, 2006. The City Council voted that night to pursue the property at 303 S. High Ave. while meeting in closed session. The City Council, including Tupper, then formally voted to acquire the property at its July 3, 2006, meeting.

Joplin Daily's Michelle Pippin did an excellent job of pinning down council members for their confusing actions in regard to a possible censure of Tupper.

The mayor's comments that he would not give up his obligations as a parent to be an elected official were so far off the mark to be ludicrous. He can make his apologies to his son on his own time. When he is serving as mayor of Joplin and as an elected city council member, the people of this city are the ones he should have addressed. As with many politicians who are caught making mistakes, both intentionally and unintentionally, Tupper tried to make it appear as if he were the victim.
All Jon Tupper had to say was, "I made a mistake. I apologize to the people of Joplin. I will not do it again."
Unfortunately for him and for the city, he wasn't man enough to do that.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Newspaper: FBI triples political corruption agents

The latest string of Washington lobbying scandals has forced the FBI to triple its number of agents investigating political corruption, according to an article in today's New York Daily News.
Of course, that doesn't mean the situation is bad enough for either the House or the Senate to take it seriously.

More sordid details about Granby-area pastor emerge in Globe article

A few more of the seamy details revealed during Granby-area pastor George Otis Johnston's preliminary hearing Monday in Newton County Circuit Court on felony statutory sodomy charges are revealed in Jeff Lehr's article in today's Joplin Globe.

Former Lockwood resident earns honors for Jefferson City newspaper

The Jefferson City News-Tribune picked up two awards at the annual Missouri Press Foundation Better Newspaper Contest Awards Luncheon Saturday due in large part to the writing skills of Lockwood High School graduate Michelle (Dixon) Brooks.
Mrs. Brooks earned her first MPA honors with an honorable mention for an article in the best rural life/agriculture story, and her writing and editing was in large part responsible for the newspaper's capture of a third place award in the best family living coverage category.
Mrs. Brooks, a 1992 Lockwood High School graduate, received her start in journalism writing about Lockwood sports and school activities for The Carthage Press in the early 1990s.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Truman explains stance on issues

In a campaign news release issued today, Jack Truman, D-Lamar, the Democratic candidate for Seventh District Congress, laid out his positions on numerous campaign issues. The text of the release is printed below:

This weekend was something else to see in the news.

It was a banner weekend for Republicans in the media. Along with Bob
Ney's conviction, Colin Powell, John McCain, and 3 Republican
Senators distancing themselves from President Bush, it made for a
great weekend for Democrats.

And I believe the best is yet to come.

Election day will be here in a little over a month. And I hope
voters realize by that time they have an opportunity to put our
government back in the people's hands.

The top story in yesterday's Kansas City Star was about Republicans
having to re-adjust their strategy. Everything is going bad right
now for the Republican party. Everything. The only thing they have
to talk to voters, out of all of our issues, is the 'war on terror'.
And that is even something that is getting worse among Republicans.

Republicans are in a real struggle right now, between the president
and 2 of the most respected figures of their party, John McCain and
Colin Powell.

The Republican party's entire campaign is hinging on the war on
terror and homeland security. Let's take a look at that for a minute.

The whole Military tribunal issue has been a global embarrassment
for the Republican party. Thank goodness McCain, along with 2 other
Republican Senators, are standing in the way of Bush's tribunal
plan. It is nice to see that there are at least a few Republicans
out there that agree with the American majority, and the Supreme
Court, that this violates basic principles of American's fairness,
and endangers our troops.

Even our U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Bush's military tribunals are

Being an Army veteran, this government sickens me with the way they
are handling this.

And what about Bush's 'eavesdropping' program? His warrantless
surveillance program? Talk about violation of our rights...thank
goodness a federal judge ordered the NSA's warrantless surveillance
program illegal. His 'terrorist surveillance program' is being
rebelled against by civil liberty Republicans on the House. It's
nice to see that there is chaos in Washington among Republicans.

And what about my opponent, Roy Blunt? I would like to hear his
stand on this. For the record, my opponent Roy Blunt has a voting
record with President Bush, voting on Bush's side 95% of the time.
Ninety-five percent. That should say something right there.

The Republican party continues say that their party is best equipped
to keep Americans safe. They love the position we are at right now.
Fear and power. That represents the Republican party. Fear and
power. You don't see my opponent Roy Blunt, or other Republicans
talking about issues that are important, like national health care,
ending the fight on obesity, health and nutrition, social security,
education, protecting our environment from global warming, helping
the worker by raising the minimum wage, freedom of speech, and
helping the people. They don't want to talk about important issues
for the people. It's all about fear and power.

Let's talk for a minute about Homeland Security. Here are some facts:

*The 9/11 commission gave the Bush administration poor grades when
it came to security.
*A homeland security committee gave the administration its worst
grades in regards to protecting our borders, ports, airports, trains
and transit systems.
*Much of our country's hazardous materials rest in the hands of the
private sector, and are being unregulated.
*Katrina showed us how equipped our security structure is when
handed a natural disaster. We are supposed to secure our homeland.
Where was our government when our people needed them?

Bush and our Republican controlled government has focused too much
energy and resources on the war on Iraq, diverting focus on what is
necessary to protect Americans at home.

The war on terror? Homeland Security? These are supposed to be the
safest issues for the Republicans this election year. And it's being
shown and proven, most Americans disagree with our Republican
controlled government. Even the Republicans cannot agree. Some
party, isn't it? This is an example of what is making America a
global laughing stock. I hope the voters see these facts for
themselves. We have the power to work together to make change. Let's
do that.

I'm just an underdog, against a political powerhouse this fall. I
love being the underdog. It makes me not afraid to say what I think
about anything. Nothing at all. I'm just a poor American worker,
like most Americans. I have no insurance. Just like most Americans.
I am tired and sick of seeing the direction our country is taking.
Just like most Americans. I want to give you, the voters, a real
choice this fall.

Do not be afraid to vote for change. Change is good. And change will
make us a better America.

Talent, McCaskill filings won't be available on timely basis

Timely information on donations made to the U. S. Senate campaigns of incumbent Jim Talent and challenger Claire McCaskill will not be available on a timely basis since they do not have to file their disclosure documents electronically, according to Jeff Birnbaum's column in today's Washington Post:

In one of the most controversial quirks in election law, candidates for Senate are not required to file their campaign-finance reports electronically. That means voters can't effectively find out how much and from whom their would-be senators have collected money until long after the election -- too late for them to act.

Dayton narrows city manager list to four

While I took Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr at his word when he said he was not interested in the city manager position in Dayton, Ohio, after word was revealed locally in The Turner Report that he was one of 11 finalists, I still had to see it in black and white before I could totally put away the thought that Rohr wanted to return to Ohio.
When city officials released their list of four finalists today, Rohr's name was not on that list.

Witness: Johnston threatened to 'dig up dirt' on her and her family

Grandview Baptist Church North pastor George Otis Johnston threatened a young woman with repercussions if she filed a complaint against him for sexually abusing her, the girl said during a protection order hearing today in McDonald County Circuit Court. According to John Ford's article posted earlier today on the Neosho Daily News website:

In testimony presented this morning, the woman said while she was in Florida earlier this summer, Johnston spoke with her via cell-phone. The woman said she was threatened that if she filed charges against Johnston, he would “do all he could to dig up dirt” against her and members of her family.

AP offers coverage of Johnston preliminary hearing

Associated Press reporter Marcus Kabel's coverage of today's preliminary hearing for Grandview Baptist Church North pastor George Otis Johnston can be found at this link. The article includes this information:

The victim said her mother, stepfather, and four siblings joined Johnston's commune in 1997 when she was eight years old and the community was located in Newtonia in another part of Newton County.

She said the children, including others from two other families living with the church group, were told to call Johnston "grandpa" even though he was not related.

The children were repeatedly sent to Johnston's trailer for discipline and for discussions about church and family matters. Johnston had an office in the trailer and that was where he would touch the girl under her clothes while she sat on his lap, the victim said.

"His wife was in the kitchen," she told the court.

Graber does it again; Press ME captures two of three MPA photography awards

Serving as both general manager (essentially publisher) and managing editor of The Carthage Press would be more than most people can handle, but Ron Graber, a veteran of more than 14 years at The Press, remains the top newspaper photographer in the area and one of the best in the state (he also is an award-winning investigative reporter).
Graber captured two of the three top photograph awards for smaller daily newspapers in the annual Missouri Press Foundation Better Newspaper Contest.
Graber took first place for Best News Photo and Best Sports Photo. This is either the third or fourth time, if memory serves correctly, that Graber has won at least two of the three categories.
I was fortunate enough to work with Ron for nearly seven years, during which time his photos helped to dramatically increase the impact of my writing and that of other reporters on the Press staff.
The Press also took a third place award in the general excellence category in the medium sized newspaper category, finishing behind only the Columbia Missourian and the Branson Daily News.

Other area results compiled from the Better Newspaper Contest list posted on the Missouri Press Association website include:

General Excellence- Class 1- 1. Neosho Daily News, HM Nevada Daily Mail; Class 3- 3. Joplin Globe; Class 4- 3. Springfield News-Leader
Best Newspaper Design- Class 1- 2. Neosho; Class 2- 3. Springfield
Best Front Page- Class 1- 2. Neosho Daily News
Best News Story- CLass 1- 2. Neosho Daily News, Rick Rogers; Class 2- 2. Joplin Globe, Wally Kennedy; HM Joplin Globe, Jeff Lehr; Class 3- 1. Springfield News-Leader, Matt Wagner
Best Feature Story- Class 2. 1. Joplin Globe, Derek Spellman; HM Joplin Globe, Sadie Gurman
Best News or Feature Series- HM Nevada Daily Mail, Scott Moyers
Best Editorial- Class 1- 1. Neosho Daily News; 2. Neosho Daily News; 3. Neosho Daily News
Best Humorous Columnist- 3. Mike Pound, Joplin Globe
Best Feature Photo- Class 1- 3. Buzz Ball, Neosho Daily News; HM Buzz Ball, Neosho Daily News
Best Sports Photo- Class 2- HM T. Rob Brown, Joplin Globe
Best Photo Illustration- Class 2- 3. Dean Curtis, Springfield News-Leader; HM Dean Curtis, Springfield News-Leader
Best Photo Package- Class 1- 2. Rick Rogers, Neosho Daily News; Class 2- 3. Bob Linder, Springfield News-Leader; HM Roger Nomer, Joplin Globe
Best News Content- Class 1- 2. Neosho Daily News; Class 2- 3. Joplin Globe, HM Springfield News-Leader
Community Service- HM- Neosho Daily News
Best Editorial Page- Class 1- 1. Neosho Daily News, Class 2- 2. Springfield News-Leader, 3. Joplin Globe
Best Sports Page- Class 1- 3. Neosho Daily News; Class 2. 3. Springfield News-Leader
Best Sports News Story or Package- Class 1- 3. Cody Thorn, Neosho Daily News; Class 2- 2. Kyle Neddenriep, Springfield News-Leader
Best Sports Feature Story- Class 2- HM Karry Booher, Springfield News-Leader
Best Investigative Reporting- Class 1- 2. Neosho Daily News
Best Business Story- Class 2- 3. Springfield News-Leader
Best Coverage of Government- HM- Neosho Daily News
Best Story About Religion- 2. Linda Leicht, Springfield News-Leader
Best Story About Education- HM- Steve Koehler, Springfield News-Leader
Best Story About History- 2. Wally Kennedy, Joplin Globe
Best Online Newspaper- 2. Springfield News-Leader; HM Joplin Globe

Granby-area pastor bound over for trial

A 1:30 p.m. Sept. 28 arraignment will be held in Newton County Circuit Court for Granby-area pastor George Otis Johnston, on eight counts of felony statutory sodomy. Johnston was bound over for trial today after a preliminary hearing.
Johnston, 63, pastor of the Grandview Baptist Church North, allegedly had sex with an underage girl on numerous occasions .
In a hearing in McDonald County Circuit Court today, Judge John LePage granted a full protection order to Johnston's alleged victim, a 17-year-old who is currently living in Anderson.
Note: I just heard KODE's report indicating that conditions of Johnston's bond in both Newton and McDonald counties now prohibit his being near children.

Qualifications of teachers with lifetime certificates challenged

Officials in the Joplin R-8 School District, as well as those in districts across Missouri, are having to prove that teachers who have lifetime certificates are "highly qualified" under the "No Child Left Behind" law.
The refusal of the federal government to accept these people as highly qualified put Missouri at the bottom of the list for qualified teachers. Missouri stopped issuing lifetime certificates in 1988. (Note: I have a lifetime certificate to teach social studies in grades 7-12, which would not meet the NCLB requirements on its own, but I have tested for and received certification to teach communication arts to students in grades 5-9 in Missouri).
I find it amazing that the federal government is doing its best to push for lowering barriers to allow people with no training to step in front of a classroom, but wants people who have spent decades in the classroom to have to prove they belong.
What a wonderful boon No Child Left Behind has been to American education.

Kansas town widens scope of student drug testing

Regular readers know that I am adamantly opposed to drug testing of students, though I do not question the sincerity of those who favor them.
Too many times in this country we have seen elected officials forsake the very freedoms that make our country unique in order to solve the current social or political problem.
The movement toward student drug testing is one such instance. It started with testing students who participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports, band, and clubs. Since these activities were not rights guaranteed under a public education, but privileges, courts have ruled, the tests were permissible.
Now El Dorado, Kan. High School has gone a step further, according to Associated Press:

Random drug testing of student athletes has become as routine as study hall and lunch at many high schools across the country. But this factory town outside Wichita is taking testing to the extreme.
It is instituting random drug screening for all middle and high school students participating in _ or even just attending _ any extracurricular activity. That includes sports, clubs, field trips, driver's education, even school plays.
Those who don't sign consent forms cannot attend games, go to school dances, join a club or so much as park their car on school property.
Administrators insist the district does not have a drug problem, and say the new policy _ one of the toughest in the nation _ is aimed at keeping it that way.
Already signed up:

425 of 600 high schoolers
215 of 315 middle-schoolers

Perhaps the high percentage of those who so readily agree to having their rights violated indicates that our educational system is not doing a proper job of teaching students the importance of their freedoms.
Each time we sacrifice one freedom, it makes it that much easier to sacrifice the next.

New Missouri Bar Association head wants to improve youth knowledge of civics

Springfield attorney Ron Baird, the president of the Missouri Bar Association and a former Neosho resident, is seeking to improve young Missourians' knowledge of civics, according to an article in today's News-Leader.
I remember taking a citizenship class under Mr. Burney Johnston during my ninth grade year at East Newton High School. It was a year-long class and I still have the textbook, which was, and is, a great reference, though some of the items in it are now outdated.
With the push from our elected leaders to improve math and reading skills, civics education, the type of education which was the reason for the creation of American public schools, has been somewhat neglected.
The idea that young people are not interested in anything of substance in their education is ridiculous. It has been my experience that they are extremely interested, especially when they can be shown how it directly affects them.
Hopefully, the Missouri Bar's initiative will be one of many designed to foster young people's interest in the world around them.

Globe, Daily big winners in MPA Better Newspaper Contest

The Joplin Globe finally publicized the efforts of its reporters Sunday after the newspaper received 13 awards in the annual Better Newspaper Contest, sponsored by the Missouri Press Foundation. The winners were announced at a Missouri Press Association banquet Saturday.
The Neosho Daily News was also a big winner, and I am sure there were other winners from this area, but the results have not been posted on the MPA website and newspapers across the state naturally have touted their own achievements rather than running long lists of winners from newspapers outside of their reading areas.
I have often criticized the Globe for failing to recognize the solid work being done by its reporters, so I do appreciate the fact that they have at last done so. Of course, the Globe's top brass has left itself open to the charge of only printing these results when some of the wins can be directly credited to them.
Among the honors earned by the Globe were third place awards for local news content, best editorial page, and general excellence.
The only first place award went to Derek Spellman in the feature story category for his season-long coverage of the football team at my alma mater East Newton High School.
Wally Kennedy earned second place for Best History Story for a story about lynchings and another second place for Best Local News Story for an article on the Picher, Okla. buyout.
Mike Pound picked up a third place for humor columnist, while Jeff Lehr received an honorable mention for his account of confessions made by alleged serial killer Jeremy Jones.
The Neosho Daily News continued its revival in the Rick Rogers era by garnering 18 awards, including a first place award for general excellence.
And according to the article in the Sunday Daily:

Other first place awards went to best editorial and best editorial page. The Daily swept the awards for best editorial winning first, second and third.

Second place awards were for the following:

€ Best Editorial;

€ Best Front Page;

€ Best Investigative Reporting;

€ Best News Content;

€ Best Newspaper Design;

€ Best News Story - Rick Rogers;

€ Best Photo Package - Rick Rogers.

Third place awards were for the following:

€ Best Editorial;

€ Best Feature Photograph - Buzz Ball;

€ Best Sports News Story or Package - Cody Thorn;

€ Best Sports Page - Cody Thorn;

€ Best Special Section.

Honorable mention awards were for the following:

€ Best Feature Photograph - Buzz Ball;

€ Best Coverage of Government;

€ Community Service Award.

The Joplin Globe article indicated The Carthage Press received third place for general excellence. I will fill in with more information about other area newspapers when the results are posted.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ruestman bill not necessary

Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, pushed her bill to eliminate the prevailing wage law during a McDonald County Board of Education meeting last week. The wage law, which requires that construction workers on taxpayer-financed projects be paid the prevailing wage in their county, has for years been the whipping boy for runaway costs on these projects.
No doubt it is unfair for Joplin-area construction projects to pay workers the same rate they would receive if the projects were being done in the Kansas City or St. Louis areas, but the Ruestman law is not the way to handle the problem.
The reason there is not a lower rate in rural areas, as you might expect, is because the bureaucrats in charge of determining the wage have not done their job. I recall an interview I did in the late 1980s with the person in charge of determining the rates for this area. He said all companies were sent surveys asking them what the prevailing wage was for various jobs. No one from this area ever returned the surveys so the state set the wage based on information provided by unions in the larger cities.
"Why don't you just pick up the phone and call the companies and see what the prevailing wage is," I naively asked, believing that this little bit of extra work might actually provide a more realistic prevailing wage.
"That is not my job," he replied angrily. "I don't have the time to do that."
My guess is none of those who followed this man in that position have ever done it either.
That has allowed people with anti-union agendas to continue to push for revocation of this bill and allowed them to make the unions appear to be the enemies of public education.

Wilson: Most landfill opponents are not from Minden area

In an interview with the Pittsburg Morning Sun, Barton County Commissioner Dennis Wilson says the proposed Mindenmines area landfill, in which he is an investor, is mostly opposed by people from outside the immediate area, including interlopers from Joplin:

Wilson: "Not really, I guess, because we had all the stuff there to answer them. Those who were really hot weren't asking questions. They were just making remarks. Which is different. I tried to get them to look at the information. That was disheartening there in that a lot of them didn't wish to look at it. If they asked a question, we had an answer there. They didn't want an answer. Jim Coleman, one of the city councilmen is 70-years old and he was born and raised in Minden. And when it was over, he said, 'I do not know 80 percent of those people.'"

Flaherty: "Why do you think that was?"

Wilson: "Some of them, I understand were from Joplin (Mo.), but I don't know. I don't have any idea."

In another section of the interview, Wilson grows extremely irritated with the reporter:

Wilson: "Let's go into the interview. We're doing this over the phone, and you're coming at me with this. Now why would I want to go into this phase when I've got 12 years of answering questions, and five or six people got really hot, two of them really loud and would not look at the information of the studies? All they wanted to do was yell. Most of those guys have moved into the area the last four or five years or less. Now this has been going on for 12 years. I've met with the city periodically, it's been in the papers. I've got articles here that go back to, well, the big one was in 1996. Now you're bringing this up. I don't understand why. Are you trying to incite a riot? Am I going to go out there and find stuff destroyed on my paper? You're trying to bait a crowd is what it sounds like ... You're trying to bait a crowd. Don't bait me, I've got 12 years of study into this. This is not a fly-by-night deal. I'm not just making this up. This is an investment based on federal and state regulations. These state regulations are three or four times tighter than the state of Kansas. We're talking about Missouri. I could probably put a landfill in Kansas up in a matter of years. But I want to you realize that."