Saturday, March 31, 2007

Stark gets it right on coverage of Globe awards

The Joplin Globe received all three awards for spot news reporting during the presentation of the annual Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) awards and it is already on the Globe website.
It appears that the Carol Stark regime is willing to give credit to its reporters and not make them wait several days for a brief mention in the business section, or wait and not have the information run in the newspaper at all.

According to the Globe article, the newspaper took first place for its coverage of the Anderson Guest House fire, second for coverage of the Memorial Middle School shooting, and third for coverage of President Bush's Nov. 3 visit to Joplin.

The Anderson Guest House coverage garnered another award for the newspaper, as well, Reporters Derek Spellman and Melissa Dunson took second place in the community affairs/public service category for their investigation into Guest House owner Robert Dupont and Joplin River of Life Ministries.

KY3 wins four regional Murrow awards

KY3 in Springfield captured four Edward R. Murrow Regional Awards, announced earlier this week by the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation.
The awards are considered among the most prestigious that can be received by local television stations. KYTV competed in Region 5, which includes Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa.
The station won in the following categories:

-Overall Excellence
-Continuing Coverage: "No Escape"
-Investigative Reporting: "Critical Care Violations"
-Spot News Coverage: "2006 Tornado Outbreak."

Missouri State University's public radio station, KSMU received a Murrow Award in the Hard News Feature category for "Debating Sex Education."

Independents mobilize against Nodler bill

Independents are mobilizing against SB 409, Gary Nodler's attempt to punish independent candidates for inconveniencing him during the 2006 election, and its House counterpart HB 894:

In a news release issued today, independents, including Nodler's opponent, Kim Wright, Joplin, and Mike Holzknecht, who opposed Sen. Delbert Scott (who is co-sponsoring Nodler's bill and quickly shepherded it through his own committee) said:

Independents are speaking out against bills before the Missouri legislature designed to deter independent candidates from running for public office. HB894 and SB409 would move the deadline for independent candidates to file a declaration of candidacy up from June to March. The House bill goes one step further, requiring that independents also file their nominating petitions at the same time. The effect of the bill will be to stop independents from challenging major party candidates.

"As a former independent candidate, I have strong concerns about this legislation," said Kim Wright, who received 36.4 percent of the vote against Senator Gary Nodler the originator of the Senate bill. "It seems that it is being proposed in response to personal experience and not in response to voter concerns. This alone seems self serving rather than for the greater good."

Wright and group of independent activists are mobilizing a campaign to defeat the bill.

"The bill is being pushed under the guise of imposing the same deadline for independents, Democrats and Republicans," said Mike Holzknecht who ran against Delbert Scott—the chair of the Senate Elections Committee—and received 43 percent of the vote. "The deadline is already the same—15 weeks before their respective elections. Major party candidates who are running in early August primaries file in late March, and independent candidates who are running in the November election file in late July. A March deadline for independents will essentially guarantee no competition."

A bill introducing a similar deadline for independents was struck down in 1974 in McCarthy v Kirkpatrick (420F.SUPP.366) by the US District Court which invalidated Missouri's April 27th petition deadline for independent candidates as being too early.

The media needs to pay more attention to this bill. There is no crying need for it, and as the independents say, it is clearly being used as part of the personal agenda of Nodler and Scott, who had to spend a little money to hold on to their Senate seats and were clearly irritated at being inconvenienced.

Gonzales attempts to clarify his actions

Things are not getting any easier for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The more he attempts to clarify what he knew and when he knew it concerning the firing of eight U. S. attorneys, the more problems he causes for himself:

Gonzales, who has struggled for weeks to clarify his precise role in the process, repeated his contention that he was only minimally involved in the dismissals. But Gonzales also confirmed that his former top aide, D. Kyle Sampson, had given him periodic updates on the progress of the firings project, which began at the White House in early 2005 and culminated with the removal of a group of prosecutors last December.
"There obviously remains some confusion about my involvement," Gonzales told reporters in Boston

One of the prosecutors who was fired was Bud Cummins of Arkansas, who was in the middle of an investigation into the awarding of lucrative license fee offices by Governor Matt Blunt's administration when he was asked to resign.

Strip club killer's sister blames parents and teachers

I don't suppose this will come as any big surprise, but Richard Lee Tabler, who was convicted last week for murdering two people connected with a Killeen, Texas, strip club, had a bad childhood. And you can blame his parents and teachers for the deaths of the four people whom he brutally murdered in November 2004.
At least that is what his sister told the jury which holds the power of life and death over her brother:

"I'd say some of it's my parents for not being there to notice signs and get him help," Kristina Martinez said in court Thursday during the punishment phase of her brother’s trial. "I also feel the responsibility was his teachers. He's there most of the day and they didn't get him the help he needed. I definitely don’t think it's Richard’s fault he is the way he is."

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.
The other person charged in connection with the strip club murders, 2004 East Newton High School graduate Timothy Doan Payne, is scheduled to stand trial May 21. Authorities have indicated they will not seek the death penalty.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Defeated candidate sues top Republican consultant for libel

Jeff Roe, top political consultant and off-and-on assistant to Rep. Sam Graves, is the target of a lawsuit filed Thursday in St. Charles County Circuit Court by a political candidate who ran into Roe's particular brand of negative campaigning during the August 2006 Republican primary for the District 2 Missouri State Senate seat.
St. Charles County Commissioner Joe Brazil has filed a libel lawsuit against Roe, who used his blog, The Source, to launch two vicious attacks against Brazil in the week before the election.
In the March 17 edition of First Capitol News, a St. Charles County weekly, Brazil said, "He told lies, misrepresented facts and brought up an incident that happened when I was 18 years old and then lied about it," Brazil said.
Roe's first attack came in an Aug. 1 post when he wrote:

Then Senator Jon Dolan was phoned many times by Brazil’s constituents as they complained about a “drunk and rowdy crowd” at the New Melle Festival. Imagine the shock when Dolan came to find out that Brazil was the ringleader of the drunken ruffians. But Party Boy Brazil’s escapades don’t stop there. During one of his golf events, Brazil allowed women in attendance to discard their clothing and go topless.

Is this what Missouri needs in one of its Senators? The Source thinks not. Perhaps Joe Brazil should examine his own past before he attempts to disguise himself as a Republican. Brazil has no business even thinking about running a campaign against incumbent Scott Rupp. Rupp is what Missouri needs in the State Senate. He is a responsible, strong, family man who Brazil could learn a lot from.

The attack Brazil was referring to in the First Capitol News interview came in Roe's Aug. 4 post when he reached into Brazil's past for this disputed nugget, which ran under the headline "More Skeletons in the Closet:"

According to, in 1982, Brazil was attempting to pull off a senior class prank at McCluer North High School in Florissant, Missouri. Brazil plan was to deposit thousands of pounds of sand into the school’s faculty parking lot. Brazil even owned a dump truck that could be used to aid in the prank.

After quite a few beers, Brazil and his buddies loaded up the dump truck with sand and drove to the school. One of Brazil’s friends, Norval Pierce sat on top of the bed of the truck while Brazil dumped the sand. Brazil drove slowly while dumping attempting to adequately spread the sand in the parking lot. As Brazil was driving the truck jumped forward, throwing Pierce through the frame of the truck. Not realizing what had happened, Brazil continued to drive while drunk and dumping sand. Brazil proceeded to crush Pierce under the truck.

So now we have another instance of Brazil’s irresponsibility and not owning up to his mistakes. What else do we need to know Joe?

Brazil lost the election to incumbent Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville.

Roe's critically-timed post was noted by the Kansas City Star in an article that ran in its Feb. 6 edition:

Last year, Roe trained the focus of his daily political blog, The Source, on a state Senate race in east Missouri. Roe talked about the death of a best friend of Joe Brazil, a candidate in the race whom Roe opposed.
Brazil and his friends were dumping sand in their high school parking lot for an unauthorized "beach party" during their senior year. Brazil was driving a dump truck and accidentally ran over his friend while backing up.
Roe wrote that alcohol was involved. Brazil denied it; authorities had filed no charges.
Still, the story zipped through cyberland, and Brazil lost.
Asked about the Brazil race, Roe said, "If they don’t like it, then they don’t like the truth."

The O'Fallon Watchdog blog says the Florissant police support Brazil's version of events:

Mr. Brazil has vehemently denied the allegation that he was drunk or that he had any alcoholic beverages the night of the accident. Mr. Brazil's denial is supported by the Florissant police officer who was called to the scene and indicated in his report that Mr. Brazil was not drinking. No charges were ever filed. In addition, classmates of Mr. Brazil who were with him the day of the accident have also indicated Mr. Brazil was not drinking. A story discussing Mr. Roe’s August 4, 2006 web posting appeared in the St. Charles Suburban Journals which quoted Mr. Pierce's mother as saying she never blamed Mr. Brazil for the accident and that to her knowledge alcohol was not involved. Mrs. Pierce went on to state
"believe me if it had not been an accident I would have prosecuted...but he (Joe Brazil) was as tore up as I was."

Brazil provided this quote concerning his reasons for filing the lawsuit:

I cannot put into words my contempt for anyone who would even bring up this event to pursue a political agenda much less lie about it. We have asked Mr. Roe to remove the posting and he has refused. At this point we felt we had no alternative but to file this lawsuit. We hope that by doing this we can remove the posting and send a message to Mr. Roe that politics does not give him the license to lie and distort the truth. At some point someone has to tell Mr. Roe that his influential friends and money do not exempt him from following the law and we look forward to allowing a jury to make this decision based on the truth."

Times editorial: Administration has been dishonest

In an editorial today, the New York Times says it is becoming more apparent that the Bush Administration has been dishonest in its spin concerning the firing of eight U. S. attorneys:

The senators questioning Mr. Sampson pointed to a troubling pattern: many of the fired prosecutors were investigating high-ranking Republicans. He was asked if he was aware that the fired United States attorney in Nevada was investigating a Republican governor, that the fired prosecutor in Arkansas was investigating the Republican governor of Missouri, or that the prosecutor in Arizona was investigating two Republican members of Congress.

Mr. Sampson’s claim that he had only casual knowledge of these highly sensitive investigations was implausible, unless we are to believe that Mr. Gonzales runs a department in which the chief of staff is merely a political hack who has no hand in its substantive work. He added to the suspicions that partisan politics were involved when he made the alarming admission that in the middle of the Scooter Libby investigation, he suggested firing Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago who was the special prosecutor in the case.

The editorial concludes:

It is no wonder that the White House is trying to stop Congress from questioning Mr. Rove, Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and other top officials in public, under oath and with a transcript. The more the administration tries to spin the prosecutor purge, the worse it looks.

Letter to editor provides mixed messages

Former Joplin R-8 Board of Education members Loyd Combs' guest column in today's Joplin Globe supports the $57 million bond issue to build two new middle schools, but it does so in such a way to make it appear that teachers and administrators have been using our older facilities as an excuse for not providing a quality education:

Could it be possible that new facilities would produce a new attitude among both parents and faculty? I think it is possible and well worth the effort.

A lot has been written and said about what a new school building will do for the community, and it is probably true, but the value of the building must come from the classrooms where young minds respond to good teaching year after year. Just think of all the good things that can be put into the void left by not having the excuse "this old building won’t let me."

Yes, let’s build the buildings, and in doing so, we’ll increase the responsibility of the entire R-8 staff to deliver a solid educational foundation for each one of our children. My guess is they will welcome our challenge, because the building is part of their tools.

While I do not believe Combs actually meant to criticize R-8 teachers, his words can certainly be taken that way. I have never heard a faculty member use any excuse about not being able to do an adequate job because we have older facilities. In fact, the record proves that's not the case. The R-8 School District has been accredited with distinction for three consecutive years, and the middle schools have contributed to that with solid MAP test scores.

Will the district be able to offer better, safer facilities, and remove many of the problems caused by the aging buildings if this bond issue passes? Absolutely. But at the same time administrators and teachers have not spent the last few years waiting for R-8 voters to approve a building plan. The day-to-day job of providing a quality education continues and will continue, hopefully with new help the children, not to provide incentive for the faculty.

Testimony increases problems for Gonzales

Testimony before a Senate Committee by his former chief of staff Thursday proved damaging to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Judging from what was said by Kyle Sampson, it appears Gonzales has been playing fast and loose with the truth and while the choice of U. S. attorneys belongs to the executive branch, the firings of eight federal prosecutors had much more to do with ongoing investigations of GOP corruption than was initially indicated:

Sampson's testimony also shows that, along with Rove, other senior White House aides were more closely involved in the dismissals than has previously been disclosed. It adds to evidence that some of the firings were influenced by GOP political concerns and that the selection process was not based on hard data.

Sampson said he even suggested firing U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald of Chicago while Fitzgerald was prosecuting Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff for perjury. Sampson said he immediately dropped the idea, which he raised at a White House meeting last year, when he received negative reactions from then-White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers and her deputy, William Kelley.

Among those fired was Bud Cummins of Arkansas, who was asked to resign while he was in the middle of an investigation into how Missouri Governor Matt Blunt was awarding lucrative license fee offices.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Convicted strip club killer threatened to kill jailer's family

More revealtions about convicted killer Richard Lee Tabler's sordid record emerged during the penalty phase of his trial this week in Bell County Texas District Court. Jurors will decide whether Tabler will receive the death penalty.
Tabler, 27, was convicted last week of capital murder in connection with two of the four people he was charged with killing in November 2004. All four were connected to Teazers, a Killeen, Texas, strip club.
The other man charged with the murders, 2004 East Newton High School graduate Timothy Doan Payne, is scheduled to stand trial May 21. Payne will not face the death penalty.
During the first portion of the trial, Bell County prosecutors were limited to the details surrounding the murders. In the penalty phase, they provided witnesses who related his past indiscretions:

Three Bell County Jail employees testified as to the most recent incidents credited to Tabler, the first of whom was Officer James Herry, who has served as a jailer for the past three years.

Herry said that at just after 3 a.m. on May 11, 2005, while making his standard patrol rounds, he heard Tabler talking to another inmate through the cells and threaten shift supervisor Cpl. Judy Clark.

"He said he knew her (Clark) and her family, and if he ever escaped, he said he would definitely hurt her and kill her," Herry said. "If he were ever let out, I would fear for my life, and I would fear for the life of Judy Clark."

Clark, who still deals with Tabler during her shifts at the jail to this day, recounted several incidents with Tabler, but one still resonates.

Clark said that Tabler had been telling other inmates that he would kill her family. She said Tabler told her that he would kill her children, then force her to watch as he tortured her husband, because "I would be next." When he made this threat, she said he described her house and referred to her husband and children by name.

"For the month of September, I kept my children away from my home," Clark said. "I had them stay at neighbor's or friend's houses."

Even more chilling were Tabler's own words as he recounted in a written statement read to the court how he killed two of the victims, young women:

I heard that Zoey (Amanda Benefield) was running her mouth off ... and I talked the girls into following me," the statement read. "I took Zoey's phone so she couldn't call anyone. I chambered my gun and tucked it in my waist. Then I told Tiffany (Dotson) I shot Amine."

He continued, saying that Dotson then threatened to go to the police. He then described how he took them out to Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir and stopped the car on the dark, vacant road. He said Tim Payne, also charged in the slayings, sat in the car watching while he carried out the final act.

"I asked her (Dotson) if she was scared, and she said no," the statement read. "Tiffany was talking ... and I shot her in the face. Then I turned and shot Zoey in the head five or six times."

Kim Geray, who testified last week about the content of a video showing Tabler killing Zayed and Rahmouni, said she returned to her house that night to find Tabler, who took her into the bathroom.

"He told me he killed Zoey and Tiffany," she said. "I asked him why and he said they were going around telling people that he had killed the other two and they were going to tell, so he had to take care of them ... I didn't know what to say."

Bell County investigator Tim Steglich was present during Tabler's confession. He said that Tabler admitted to having a list of about 10 other people who he planned on killing in the coming days, people who had wronged him.

The defense was scheduled to begin presenting its case today.

Court okays unlimited contributions, rejects elimination of fund raising during legislative session

A Cole County Circuit Court judge's ruling was a mixed bag for those who opposed the so-called reforms of campaign contributions laws in Missouri.
The court okayed unlimited campaign contributions, but said a provision of the new law that makes fund raising during the legislative session illegal was unconstitutional:

Trout (Unsuccessful candidate James Trout who brought the suit) and other legislators - such as former state Sen. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis - were concerned that incumbent legislators who worked around the Capitol would have more access to fundraising opportunities, putting challengers back home at a huge money disadvantage.

They also argued that the ban would give challengers a very limited amount of time to raise money for a primary - especially in legislative districts where winning the primary is tantamount to election.

Leggett CEO earns $4.2 million in 2006

Counting salary and perks, David Haffner, the CEO of Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt received more than $4.2 million in 2006, according to a proxy statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

An Associated Press article notes:

Haffner, 54, received a salary of $753,041, non-equity incentive plan compensation of $499,100 and "other compensation" totaling $172,224, according to the company's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The other compensation included matching contributions to an executive stock program, insurance and retirement plan benefits, fees for service as a director and tax gross-ups.

Haffner's compensation also included stock options and awards valued at about $2.8 million on the day they were granted.

Leggett officials oppose sexual discrimination proposal

Shareholders of Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt will once again vote on a proposal to ban discrimination due to sexual orientation.
The vote is scheduled to take place during the annual shareholders meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Wright Conference Center, No. 1 Leggett Road, Carthage.
In a proxy statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Leggett's board of directors left no doubt about its disdain for the proposal.
As it was last year, the proposal is being submitted by Walden Management, a minority shareholder.

The Proposal

Leggett & Platt does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in its written employment policy;

According to a September 2002 survey by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs, 41% of gay and lesbian workers in the United States reported an experience with some form of job discrimination related to sexual orientation; almost one out of every 10 gay or lesbian adults stated that they had been fired or dismissed unfairly from a previous job, or pressured to quit a job because of their sexual orientation;

National public opinion polls consistently find more than three-quarters of the American people support equal rights in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals; for example, in a Gallup poll conducted in June 2001, 85% of respondents favored equal opportunity in employment for gays and lesbians.

San Francisco, Minneapolis, Seattle and Los Angeles currently have in effect legislation restricting business with companies which do not guarantee equal treatment for lesbian and gay employees; and such legislation will come into effect in the state of California in 2007;

Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and more than 140 cities, including St. Louis, have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation; Our company has operations in, and makes sales to, institutions in states and cities that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation;

Leggett & Platt is increasingly alone in its position, as 98% of Fortune 100® companies, and more than 85% of the Fortune 500® companies, have adopted written nondiscrimination policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF);

Other manufacturing companies, such as Baldor Electric, Deere, Donaldson, General Electric, General Motors, Herman Miller, HON Industries, Illinois Tool Works, Teleflex and United Technologies do explicitly prohibit this form of discrimination in their written policies;

Other major corporate employers based in Missouri including Anheuser-Busch, Emerson Electric, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hallmark Cards, Monsanto, and Sigma-Aldrich also explicitly prohibit this form of discrimination in their written policies;

We believe that the hundreds of corporations with nondiscrimination policies that reference sexual orientation have a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employees from the widest talent pool;

Our company has an interest in preventing discrimination and resolving complaints internally to avoid costly litigation or damage to our reputation as an equal opportunity employer;

RESOLVED: The Shareholders request that Leggett & Platt amend its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and to substantially implement that policy.

STATEMENT: Employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation diminishes employee morale and productivity. Because state and local laws differ with respect to employment discrimination, our company would benefit from a consistent, corporate-wide policy to enhance efforts to prevent discrimination, resolve complaints internally, and ensure a respectful and supportive atmosphere for all employees. Leggett & Platt will enhance its competitive edge by joining the growing ranks of companies guaranteeing equal opportunity for all employees.

Leggett's Response

We believe the proposed resolution is unnecessary because Leggett is already an equal opportunity employer with a firm and long-standing commitment to preventing discrimination in the workplace. Leggett’s existing anti-discrimination policy states, "We are committed to equal opportunity in all aspects of employment, including hiring, promotion, training, compensation, termination and disciplinary action."

-We are committed to the highest ethical standards, which include assuring equal employment and promotional opportunities free of discrimination on any basis other than merit and performance-related qualifications. Our policies reflect our high standards, and we implement these policies in our business operations through ongoing training.
-We believe our employment record supports our commitment to nondiscrimination. In a company with 33,000 employees, we are not aware of a single charge of discrimination based on sexual orientation filed with any city, state or federal agency, nor has the Company received notice from any customer or supplier that its employment policies or practices jeopardize its relationship with them. In addition, for the last twenty years Leggett has provided employees with access to a national hotline for anonymous reporting of discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
-We believe our written policies should specifically list only those types of discrimination prohibited by federal law. This approach furthers the Company's legal compliance efforts by highlighting categories of illegal discrimination and, thus, helps to reduce our compliance costs. We also believe the addition of sexual orientation to the list would result in increased costs by encouraging frivolous lawsuits.
-We believe singling out employees by sexual orientation (or any other classification not mandated by federal law) would dilute our policy of prohibiting discrimination in any form and would divert attention from our primary goal of a completely non-discriminatory workplace.
-We believe that adding sexual orientation to the list of prohibited forms of discrimination may be a first step in a more expansive agenda, including the addition of domestic partner benefits at a significant cost to the Company.
-We believe that, contrary to comments in the proponents’ proposal, Leggett suffers no competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining employees. In contrast, we believe our comprehensive nondiscrimination policy and reputation for protecting equal opportunity in all aspects of employment benefits the Company, its shareholders and employees.
-Leggett's shareholders defeated, by a 3-to-1 margin, a similar proposal made by Walden Asset Management at the Company’s 2006 annual meeting. We believe last year's overwhelming rejection by shareholders sent a clear message to our Board that Leggett should oppose this unnecessary and costly addition to our nondiscrimination policy.

The Board of Directors unanimously recommends a vote AGAINST this shareholder proposal.

GateHouse silent on demise of Joplin Daily

It's amazing that so often the same media outlets that cry out in indignation when someone refuses to answer questions employ the same tactics themselves when their publications are in the news.
The latest instance of this involves the shutdown of Joplin Daily.
The company did not have the decency to explain its actions on the Daily website before the publication was eliminated, and GateHouse Media officials refused to offer any useful comments to Joplin Tri-State Business reporter Ann Leach.
These were the comments given to Ms. Leach in an article in the March 26 edition:

GateHouse Regional Manager Chip Watson- "I don't think that's something we want to comment on," Watson said without explaining when he became more than one person.

Big Nickel Publisher Chuck Elliott- "I have no comment."

No top GateHouse official would go on the record to explain why the newspaper was shut down. With the company's leadership providing that kind of integrity and respect for the public's right to know, no wonder it only thrives in areas where there is little or no competition.

A little perspective needed in Jasper coverage

I am always amused by the Joplin Globe coverage whenever another political feud erupts in the city of Jasper.
Each time the coverage makes it appear that nothing like this has ever happened in Jasper before. Having covered the Jasper City Council off and on for 17 years, I remember flareups of this sort happening every few years.
The events need to be covered, but a little perspective would be nice.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

AP runs article on independent election bill

Associated Press has posted an article about a bill designed to make things more difficult for independent candidates.
The bill, however, is not the spite bill sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and co-sponsored by Rep. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, but the House version offered by Ted Hoskins, R-Berkeley.
I can't recall any mention so far about the original legislation, from the Senate, sponsored by two senators who faced opposition from independent candidates last year and didn't like it one bit.

Salva arraignment postponed

The arraignment for Rep. Ray Salva, D-Independence, who is charged with driving while intoxicated has been postponed until 9 a.m. April 24, according to Cole County Circuit Court records. The arraignment has originally been scheduled for Tuesday.
Salva, 59, was arrested Feb. 21 by the Cole County Sheriff's Department. News accounts indicate he was returning from an event at the capitol when he was stopped.
Though Salva's license was taken from him after his arrest, as was noted in the March 3 Turner Report, it did not take long for him to be legally on the street again.
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lloyd Sodergren stayed the action to revoke Salva's license, pending the results of a 1:30 p.m. April 6 hearing.
Salva authored a bill in 2005 which would have weakened the state's point system and prevent licenses from being revoked for those convicted of offenses that did not occur while driving motor vehicles.
Under Salva's bill, a person driving a watercraft or a tractor while intoxicated could have killed someone, but it would not have affected their ability to have a Missouri driver's license.
More information on that bill was featured in the March 4 Turner Report.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Natural Disaster returning to action soon

For those who have asked (and since tonight's postings seem to be more personal and less about the usual politics and courts material), Natural Disaster, our 50s/60s rock-country band is still active, though we have just ended a long break that coincided with the hip replacement surgery of our drummer John Scott.
We have been practicing again the past couple of weeks in preparation for our usual spring performances. We will again be performing at our friend Paul Richardson's Sane Mule Motorcycle Shop east of Neosho next month, as well as at the Relays for Life for the American Cancer Society in Webb City and Carthage that we have done the past few years. A couple of other performances are also pending. I will provide you with specific dates in a future post.

On a more personal note

With school-related activities taking up a little more of the evening time these past several days, my posts have been reduced somewhat.
One of those activities was the concluding competition in the annual Academic Challenge. The final meet, focusing on general trivia, was held earlier tonight at College Heights Christian School. Earlier competitions in science, communication arts, mathematics and history were held at Carl Junction, Lamar, Diamond, and Neosho. This is only the second year we have been involved and we usually finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the competitions.
Tonight was a breakthrough night for the South students, who have worked hard all year. Our two teams played nine matches each in the round-robin competition, with the top team winning six, defeating two teams from Carl Junction, and one apiece from Diamond, Lamar, Monett, and our own number two team. We lost to College Heights, and the number one teams from Lamar, coached by Susan Ray, and Diamond, coached by my forming teaching colleague Nancy Berry.

We missed by one game of joining the playoff between the top two teams, Carl Junction One and Lamar One. Carl Junction One, which we defeated earlier, won the championship, and was also the winner for the entire year.

Our number two team compiled a 3-6 record, beating the number two teams from Carl Junction, Diamond, and Monett.

South's teams consisted of Savanah Sweeton, Lainie Nicolas, Kylie Hurrell, Kane McCaslin, Dylan Prauser, Alex Kangethe, Mollie Sanders, Ken Zhang, and two who were unable to be there tonight, Sarah Kessler (who was representing South at the Regional Science Fair at Missouri Southern State University) and Marina Dudley.

While I realize this is not the usual fare for The Turner Report, these kids have worked hard throughout the year and deserve a little publicity. While I covered a lot of sports during my days at The Carthage Press and the Lamar Democrat, one thing I always made sure of is that we also devoted considerable space to academic endeavors, including the most comprehensive coverage of these scholastic competitions that had ever been offered up to that time and since. With the removal of the Joplin Daily from the local scene, it could be a long while before academic endeavors ever again receive anywhere near the emphasis sports receive on the local scene.

About the Joplin R-8 bond issue

I have had a few less posts the last couple of evenings because of school-related activities so I will share a couple of thoughts about those:

On Monday night, I was at South Middle School, where I teach eighth grade communication arts, serving as one of the tour guides for those who came to the open house on our campus. The tours were designed to make the public aware of the conditions at our school, and at North and Memorial middle schools. The basics have already been fairly well publicized:

-At South, we have a computer lab in what was once a boys' bathroom. The lab has enough room for 25 computers and we have classes with up to 30-32 students which sometimes have to use it. When you add the extra chairs for those who are having to share computers, the space to move around is nearly non-existent.

-Classrooms are also small. We showed classrooms that hold 30 students that have little or no room in which to move around.

-Neither South nor North has an actual gymnasium. The stage is used for physical education classes at both facilities, usually with both boys and girls classes going on at the same time. All basketball and volleyball games for South and North are played at Memorial.

-With all of the Joplin middle schools more than seven decades old, none are adequately equipped for the handicapped. The chair lift at South often takes more than the four-minute passing time to go between floors.

-State education guidelines advise that library/media centers are supposed to have enough room to comfortably have two classes in them at the same time. Our librarian at South has done a remarkable job with the converted classrooms that make up our media center, but it is a hardship to place two classes in there. During the third quarter, when my class did its annual research project on the Civil Rights movement, we spent two days in the library. When reading classes had their regular appointments to use the library on those days, they were restricted to one side of the room, had no access to the non-fiction section, and had no seating.

-Since South is 80 years old and has a flat roof, it has had serious leakage problems.

-Most of the lockers in the building are decades old. When they wear down, there are no replacement parts available because the companies that made them no longer exist.

-Parking facilities are inadequate. In the daytime, with the area in the back of the school used for physical education classes when weather permits and as a playground before school, the only lot holds about 20 cars. When parents come to daytime activities at the school, they often have to park a block or two away.

-The school has no adequate place for parents to drop off and pick up children. Our staff works hard to make sure people are on duty each morning before school, then again after school to avoid any accidents, but the danger is always there.

During my 30 years of being at schools as either a teacher or a reporter, I have seen many schools that were newer that were not as well maintained as South. Our administrators and janitorial staff have worked miracles with what they have been provided. If they have to keep on doing that after next week, they will do so and do so without complaining. Hopefully, for the sake of the children in the Joplin R-8 School District, their days of miracle-working are coming to an end and they can look forward to working in brand new buildings in a couple of years.

(Photo: Debbie Moore, the in-school suspension teacher at South Middle School, provides information to a few of those attending a tour Monday night sponsored by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Moore's basement room handles students from South and from North Middle School, which does not have room to house an in-school suspension class.)

Changes made in Turner Report links

Four links have been eliminated from the links section on the right-hand side of this page and three new ones have been added.

Gone from the list are the now-defunct Joplin Daily, Branson Blue Hair, and Springfield sites, as well as Springfield Citizen-Press, which I hope will be restored at a later date if and when the site becomes more active.

In their place, in an effort to provide more news and commentary about Missouri to readers, I have added Missouri Pulse, Republican strategist John Hancock's new blog which will supposedly offer more investigative reporting and information to counter that provided by Fired Up Missouri on the Democratic side.

Also new to the page is Blue Girl, Red State, which offers a viewpoint much further from the left, and Show-Me Daily, which provided analysis courtesy of the Show-Me Institute.

Gonzales aide refuses to testify

I have read with amusement the comments people have made about how the current investigation into the firing of eight U. S. attorneys is much ado about nothing. No crime was committed, the critics are sayings.
I have contended that the investigation is necessary if these firing were made to slow or stop investigations into wrongdoing by officeholders, and a large number of those who were fired were connected with that kind of information.
In nearly every instance, prosecutors were improperly called by elected officials trying to determine the outcome of investigations. And though former U. S. Attorney Bud Cummins has waffled somewhat in his comments on whether his firing was connected to an investigation of the awarding of lucrative license fee offices by Missouri Governor Matt Blunt's administration, there is absolutely no doubt Cummins was improperly contacted by a lawyer representing the governor's interests.
Now those who say there is nothing criminal about what has taken place have received another blow to their stance: a top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took the Fifth Amendment Monday rather than testify before a Senate committee:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's senior counselor yesterday refused to testify in the Senate about her involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Monica M. Goodling, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence, said in a sworn affidavit to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she will "decline to answer any and all questions" about the firings because she faces "a perilous environment in which to testify."

Forget the "perilous environment" nonsense. When you invoke the Fifth Amendment, you are exercising a constitutional right, but if you are being paid by the American taxpayers and you are unwilling to tell the truth, it certainly indicates you have something to hide.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Epling bound over after preliminary hearing in cult sex case

Paul Epling, 54. Washburn, was bound over to stand trial for rape following a preliminary hearing today in McDonald County Circuit Court.
Epling is a deacon in the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, one of four facing charges in connection with alleged cult sex with children. Epling is charged with raping an underaged girl in 1978.
Other church members charged are Rev. Raymond Lambert, Lambert's wife (and Epling's sister) Patty Lambert and Epling and Mrs. Lambert's sister-in-law Laura Epling. Charges against Laura Epling's husband Tom were dismissed.
Paul Epling will be arraigned April 3, according to court records.

GateHouse CEO: Black tried to bilk CNHI out of $9 million plus

During the trial of former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black today in federal court in Chicago, GateHouse Media CEO Michael Reed testified that Black tried to get more than $9 million in extra payments from him during a deal he made to buy Hollinger papers when Reed was still with Community Newspaper Holdings:

Michael Reed, ex-CEO of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., told jurors today at Black's Chicago fraud trial the request was part of his company's $92 million acquisition in 2000. Mark Kipnis, then Hollinger's general counsel, asked that $9.5 million be wired to the executives as the deal closed, said Reed.

``It just didn't seem like the right thing to do,'' Reed said, explaining his refusal. He is now CEO of the Fairport, New York-based community publisher Gatehouse Media Inc.

The testimony was part of the government's effort to show that Black, 62, and other defendants used unnecessary noncompete agreements to siphon $60 million from the company as it sold almost $3 billion in assets from 1998 to 2001.

Emery law makes it harder to bring discrimination actions

One of the weakest laws in the state of Missouri is its Sunshine Law. While the law is purported to be strong on governmental bodies that wrongfully discuss public information in closed meetings, the law actually has no teeth.
If a school board, for instance, discusses something behind closed doors which should be discussed in open session, nothing can be done unless it is found that the board willfully broke the law, an almost impossible task.
Usually, when the law is broken, nothing happens to the lawbreaker.
If Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, has his way, the same thing will now happen to businessmen who are charged with any kind of discrimination. According to HB 1144, sponsored by Emery and co-sponsored by four other legislators, including Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, it no longer will be enough to show discrimination has taken place, now it will have to shown that the businesses' discrimination was motivated by "race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age as it relates to employment, disability, or familial status as it relates to housing."

Now all business owners will have to do to get by with discriminatory activities is to say, "Well, we discriminated, but we certainly did not do it because of race (or sex, or age, or whatever reason may be the issue.) As the Sunshine Law has proven, it is almost impossible to prove intent.

Emery's bill changes every instance in the current law that says "any unfair treatment based on" to "which is motivated by." The difference is a big one; it allows any business owner that wants to discriminate for any reason to be able to do without fear of punishment.

I expect Emery and other bill proponents will say this is necessary to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits. That is the reason that has been given to support many a law designed to promote businesses at the expense of those who have been harmed by those businesses.

This law opens the door to all kinds of racism, age discrimination, and sexual discrimination by Missouri employers...but at least businesses will profit and that appears to be the primary goal of some of our state legislators.

GateHouse CEO to testify in Conrad Black trial

GateHouse Media CEO Michael Reed is expected to testify in the fraud trial of former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black. Black is accused of stealing millions of dollars from Hollinger and putting it into his own accounts.

The prosecution's witnesses so far have been called to show that Black and his partners sold Hollinger properties and required buyers to make so-called "non-compete" payments, which went directly to Black. Reed will testify about his dealings with Black during the time when Reed was working for Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., owners of the Joplin Globe.

GateHouse Media owns more than 400 publications nationwide, including The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and the Big Nickel in this area.

Columnist: Changes need to be made in No Child Left Behind

Columnist Diane Ravitch, in her latest offering on the Huffington Post, outlines what needs to be done to improve the federal No Child Left Behind law.
While she sees the need for national standards and annual testing, she favors allowing the states to devise their own remedies:

First, the federal government should establish national standards in basic academic subjects (reading, mathematics, science, and history). Second, it should annually administer national examinations in those subjects. Third, it should make the results available to states and school districts.

It should be left to the states to decide which actions to take in response to this information. The states, working with the school districts, should decide which combination of rewards and sanctions will improve student achievement.

We should, in this instance, use the states as laboratories of democracy. Since we do not know which rewards and sanctions will have the most salutary effects, we need to let the states work with educators to try different approaches. When there is a clear pattern, other states and districts will learn from the experiences of others who are successful as well as those that are not.

One of the benefits of this approach is that the states will be relieved of the cost and burden of testing, as the whole cost and burden will shift to the federal government. Another benefit will be that all of the red tape and mandates associated with NCLB will disappear overnight.

News-Leader editorial supports Blunt stand on No Child Left Behind

In an editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader, the newspaper says it approves of Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's stance on the No Child Left Behind program:

For Blunt and others like him, it's an about-face. Early on a champion of No Child Left Behind, Blunt has indicated on more than one occasion that it's a vote he now regrets.


The bill's goal of more accountability was and is a good concept, but it did so by forcing too much federal control on local schools.

"What I was looking for was something that creates maximum flexibility for the states," Blunt says. "I've become convinced that the flexibility is not in the law."

That was fairly obvious early on, and teachers, principals and superintendents have been screaming for several years now that the federal restrictions have actually reduced creativity at the local level and forced a one-size-fits-all approach.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tabler convicted in strip club murders; Granby man next to stand trial

A Bell County, Texas, jury found Richard Lee Tabler, 27, Killeen, (pictured) guilty Wednesday of the 2004 murders of two men and two women connected to a Killeen strip club.
The jury will determine next week whether Tabler will be sentenced to death:

Tabler and 1st Cavalry Division Pvt. Timothy D. Payne were charged in connection with the November 2004 shooting deaths of Teazers Gentlemen’s Club owner Mohamed-Amine Rahmouni, 25, and his friend Haitham Zayed, 28, whose bodies were found outside of Killeen and of Teazer’s dancer Tiffany Dotson, 18, and Amber Benefield, 16, whose bodies were found just south of Highway 190.

Payne and Tabler used a video camera to record tape of Tabler shooting Rahmouni and Zayed, witnesses said, but the tape was later destroyed.

The shootings were part of what Bell County authorities described as a bizarre plot

The list of intended victims included eight or nine more people, Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith said after the two were arrested.

Detailed testimony from the trial was provided in the March 21 Killeen Daily Herald:

Kim Gary, formerly Kim Marmie, gave a harrowing account of the morning after the murders. She testified that Tabler and former Fort Hood soldier Tim Payne had returned to her home early that morning with Tabler boasting as he walked through the door.

"He walked in and said he had just killed two guys," Gary said.

She described how the two had video-taped the event, then pulled out the tape and had her watch it.

"I saw the back of a white (Mitsubishi) Eclipse, and I saw Blue (Tabler) grab the passenger and pulled him out," she said. She described a man, whom she admitted she didn't know, waving his arms around slowly as he lay on his back on the ground as Tabler stood over him, holding a gun. She said she watched as Tabler leaned down, pointed his gun, then shot the man in the back of the head at the base of his skull near the neck.

"Then he said, Who's got the power now, Amine?" Gary said.

She said that although it was dark, she could clearly identify Tabler since the camera was equipped with a light. She also said it was clear that Payne was taping the whole thing.

Payne's trial is scheduled for May 21. Payne is a 2004 graduate of East Newton High School.

Papers posted on name change of Nodler Leadership PAC

An amended statement of committee organization was posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website today indicating the name change of the Nodler Leadership PAC to the Southwest Missouri Leadership PAC. The name change was noted in a post on the March 22 Turner Report.
In a letter to the Ethics Commission, PAC treasurer Nick Myers, a Joplin CPA writes, "Enclosed is an amendment to the Statement of Committee Organization changing the name of the continuing committee from the Nodler Leadership PAC to Southwest Missouri Leadership PAC."

Motions hearing reset for Memorial Middle School shooter

A motions hearing for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, originally scheduled for today, has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. April 20, according to Jasper County Circuit Court records.
White, 14, formerly a seventh grader at Memorial, is charged with two counts of assault, and one count each of armed criminal action, attempted escape, and unlawful use of a weapon, in connection with an October incident in which he brought a gun onto the school campus.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Editor & Publisher: GateHouse CEO making waves

In this area, GateHouse Media has been best known recently for its decision to shut down its fledgling Joplin Daily newspaper/website, but in the business world, the company and its CEO Michael Reed (who at one time was CEO for Joplin Globe owner Community Newspapers Holding, Inc.), have been rapidly establishing themselves as a forces to be reckoned with in the newspaper world.
The company's success ie explored in an article posted this week on the Editor & Publisher website:

GateHouse had a simple message during its "road shows" leading to the public offering: Community papers don't face the secular pressures pounding at metro newspapers; revenues will grow with aggressive acquisitions and by pumping up its previously modest Web operations -- and huge proportions of that free cash flow will be returned to stockholders in dividends with yields that are triple the average for publicly held newspaper companies.

"Investors were supportive of the business model, and what we see for the future -- and, of course, the dividend play," Reed says.

As it turned out, investors who were first skeptical, even bewildered, by the GateHouse IPO proposal came to embrace it. On its first day of trading, shares opened on the top of its forecast $16 to $18 per-share range, and jumped 17.5% to $21.16. (By early January, the share price had settled into an $18- to-$19 range.)

In this area, of course, GateHouse owns The Carthage Press, The Neosho Daily News, the Neosho Post, and the Big Nickel.

Nodler Leadership PAC ceases to exist

Whatever the reason may be, the Nodler Leadership PAC, which has provided funding for GOP candidates since its formation in October 2003, no longer least under that name.
Though I was unable to find any documents on the Missouri Ethics Commission website explaining the change, what was the Nodler Leadership PAC is now the Southwest Missouri Leadership PAC.
The PAC, which has Joplin CPA Nick Myers as its treasurer, apparently distributes funding based on the decisions of three men, according to a report by former Joplin Globe investigative reporter Max McCoy- Bill Gipson, Empire Electric, Gary Duncan, CEO of Freeman Health, and Rudy Farber, chairman of the board of Community Bank and Trust. Farber was appointed to the State Highway Commission earlier this week by Governor Matt Blunt.

Hunter files conflict-of-interest legislation

On the face of it, Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, would seem to be the last person you would expect to file a bill making it illegal for members of the General Assembly to work for lobbying organizations..but that is exactly what HB 1149, which had its first reading March 15 in the Missouri House of Representatives, purports to do.
The bill description reads: "This bill prohibits members of the General Assembly from being employed by or under contract to any organization engaged in

As I have pointed out numerous times on this blog, including in the July 15, 2005, edition, Hunter serves as a membership recruiter for Associated Industries of Missouri, an organization which exists for the sole purpose of lobbying on behalf of Missouri businesses. Why would Hunter file a bill that would put him out of a job (with AIM) or put him in defiance of the law?

The answer, simply, is he wouldn't and despite the misleading bill summary, it would have absolutely no effect on Hunter's side job. The key is about halfway through the bill, which says, "No member of the general assembly or the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer or state auditor shall:" and then says this on the fourth item down:

(4) Be under contract to or be an employee of a firm or labor organization whose employment includes influencing the decisions of the general assembly, any state agency, or any political subdivision.

Hunter will argue, as he has before, that he is a membership recruiter and has nothing to do with lobbying anyone...even though his job is to find more clients for whom his employers can lobby. My guess would be this bill is more designed to put a crimp on union representatives in the legislature rather than those working for traditional lobbyists.

Hunter went to work for AIM shortly after the 2003 legislative session. Through 2003, he had filed no pro-business legislation. Since that time, he has annually offered bills designed to promote AIM's cause and weaken AIM's rivals...the same labor unions that appear to be the true target of HB 1149.

If this bill were designed to remove legislators from holding positions such as the one that Hunter holds with AIM, it might be worth supporting. Neither lobbyists nor representatives of labor unions should have seats in the General Assembly.

The bill also offers the following provision, which in view of some of the bills that are offered each year, is long overdue:

No member of the general assembly shall vote on any bill that is related to the member's profession or that would result in any monetary or personal gain for the member or would result in any member gaining an advantage in the workplace or market over a similarly employed person.

DeLoach leaves Springfield News-Leader

Melissa DeLoach, who shined during her time at the Joplin Globe, is joining the list of those leaving the Springfield News-Leader.
News-Leader sources have told The Turner Report that Miss DeLoach, who has continued with her strong work during her time at the News-Leader, will leave the paper April 20. She will attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville full time working at her master's degree as part of the Higher Education Leadership Program. She has earned an assistantship in which she will work with student and young alumni programs.

Times: Document gap evident in material turned over by Bush administration

While it would be a stretch to say the current investigation into the firing of eight U. S. attorneys has any similarity to Watergate, today's New York Times story revealing a large time gap in e-mails and documents turned over by the Bush Administration indicates some kind of coverup appears to be happening.
According to the Times article, while legislators were overloaded with documents from the time period following the Dec. 7 announcement of the firings, there are almost no documents from between Nov. 16 and Dec. 7, when all the action presumably was happening:

From Nov. 16 to Dec. 7, there are only a handful of e-mail messages, a fact that Talking Points Memo, a Web site that has been following the furor with microscopic attention, pointed out Wednesday morning.

"Shades of Rose Mary Woods? An 18-day gap?" said a posting by the blog’s owner, Joshua Micah Marshall, referring to President Richard M. Nixon’s secretary, who found herself on the spot after the discovery that 18 1/2 minutes of crucial White House tapes had been erased.

Asked Wednesday about the apparent gap in the documents, Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, referred the question to the Justice Department.

Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said, "The department has provided or made available to Congress all the documents responsive to Congress’s requests over the time period in question." He added, "To the extent there was a lull in communications concerning the U.S. attorney issues, it reflects the fact that we have found no responsive documents from that time period, which included the Thanksgiving holiday."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tabler tried to convince police that Granby man pulled trigger in strip club murders

The Temple Telegram reports the courtroom was silent as a prosecutor read the chilling confession made by Richard Tabler, who is being tried for the 2004 murders of two men and two women connected to a Killeen strip club. At first, testimony revealed, Tabler tried to convince police the murders had been committed by his partner, Timothy Doan Payne, a 2004 graduate of East Newton High School. Payne allegedly videotaped the murders.

Bell County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Tim Steglich testified to obtaining different confessions from Tabler during a questioning process that began late on Nov. 28, 2004, and continued through early morning hours of Nov. 29, 2004. In the first, Tabler said, he knew a man who committed the murders - a soldier named Tim. Timothy Doan Payne also has been indicted in the deaths of the two men and is awaiting trial in the Bell County Jail.

Tabler said he had been working for Rahmouni, who managed TeaZers, a Killeen strip club. He told investigators he did under-the-table work for Rahmouni of setting up illegal drug deals or moving stolen equipment, until the club’s head of security told him to leave the club.

Shortly after, Tabler told investigators Payne confessed he had killed Rahmouni and another man, and that he had a list of people who he said had messed him over on a drug deal. Payne planned to work through a list of dancers, bouncers and others associated with the club killing each one execution-style, Tabler told Steglich

Testimony indicated that Tabler later changed his tune and admitted to committing the murders.

Hacker begins work at Carthage Press

I haven't seen the byline yet, but I have been told former Joplin Daily Editor John Hacker has started working at The Carthage Press.
The Press was able to absorb Hacker's salary without releasing any full-time staff members, but reportedly the newspaper had to cut its stringers.

Bush needs to read more history

After reading of President Bush's plan, which is being denounced by Democratic congressional leaders to allow Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and other aides to be interviewed by Congress, not under oath and not during public sessions, and with no transcripts released about the ongoing controversy over the firing of eight prosecutors. I am reminded of all the machinations President Nixon went through in 1973 and 1974 to keep information from the courts and Congress.

Instead of releasing tapes, Nixon offered to allow Sen. John Stennis to listen to them. He tried to release information in dribbles and drabbles instead of turning over everything at once.
To Bush's credit, the administration released the e-mails that have proved to be so damning in this case, but otherwise, it appears the president wants to follow the same course as his Republican predecessor, who also tried, unsuccessfully, to keep top aides from testifying.

Globe editorial: Sprinkler systems needed

Today's Joplin Globe features an editorial favoring bills proposed by Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, and Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles to require that sprinkler systems be installed at group homes.
Such a system could have saved some or all of the 11 lives lost during the Nov. 27 fire at the Anderson Guest House:

The tragedy of the Anderson blaze is that if Anderson firefighters had been alerted even a few minutes earlier, lives might have been saved. For that to have happened, though, the fire detection system would have had to have been connected directly to the Fire Department.

Instead, according to Anderson Mayor Bob Corcoran, the alarm was sounded “by a 12-year-old girl who was standing across the street.” She heard people screaming and told her mother, who then called the fire department.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blunt Highway Commission appointment is top political contributor

You can't blame the area media for emphasizing the positive when it comes to Governor Matt Blunt's latest appointment to the Missouri State Highway and Transportation Commission.
Yes, the appointment of Rudy Farber, chairman of the board at Community Bank and Trust, marks the first time someone from Newton County has held a position on the board, which determines how highway funds are spent throughout the state.
A Blunt news release also notes this is the first time any of the counties in this far southwestern corner of the state has had representation on this board, which obviously makes decisions that are vital to this area.
However, as is usually the case when Matt Blunt makes a major appointment, it doesn't come down to your typical red Republican or blue Democrat considerations, the color in question is green... and Rudy Farber and his family have supplied Matt Blunt, his father Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, and state Republicans with plenty of it.
A cursive glance at Federal Elections Commission and Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicates Farber has contributed well in excess of $150,000 to the Blunts and other GOP interests this decade and is one of a three-man board that controls where the money raised by the Nodler Leadership Fund goes. A partial list of Farber contributions includes the following:

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show Farber donated $1,200 to Matt Blunt on Dec. 2, 2005, $1,200 on Aug. 26, 2004, and $1,175 on March 14, 2003. All of those are the maximum amounts allowable at the time. Dorothy Farber contributed the same amount in 2003 and 2004, the documents show.
Farber also contributed $2,550 to Sandra Thomas' unsuccessful state auditor campaign last year, and he and Mrs. Farber each contributed maximum $600 donations to Nodler in 2005.
Maximum donations were also made to Republican candidates Catherine Hanaway, Chris Byrd, Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Lt. Governor Peter Kinder.
Farber pumped in $7,000 to the 32nd Senatorial District Republican Fund on Oct. 20, 2006, and made two separate $10,000 contributions, the first in 2003, and then again in 2006, to the Nodler Leadership Fund, as well as contributing $20,000 to the Missouri Republican Party in 2006.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) documents show that in the past three years, Farber and his wife have contributed:
-$26,700 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee
-$12,000 to the Seventh District Congressional Republican Committee.
-$10,450 to Jim Talent
-$14,000 to Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt
-$7,000 to Senator Kit Bond
-$14,100 to the Missouri Republican State Committee
-$3,000 to the Republican National Committee
-$5,000 to the Seventh District Committee

When you add the money Farber and the Nodler Leadership Board controls, you are well past a quarter of a million dollars he has put into Republican coffers since the turn of the century.

Rudy Farber may turn out to be the best Highway Commissioner this state has ever had, but when you consider the track record of Blunt appointments, there seems little doubt that his pathway to power was paved with greenbacks.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Drunk driver's attorney withdraws

The drunk driver who ended the lives of a Neosho man and his eight-year-old granddaughter no longer has a lawyer.
According to McDonald County Circuit Court files, on Feb. 21 Judge John LePage approved Neosho attorney Anne Wells' motion to withdraw as Edward Meerwald's attorney.
Meerwald is another one of those who pleaded guilty, agreed to a sentence, then found out he did not care for the prison accommodations and sued for his freedom.
Meerwald, 52, Noel, pleaded guilty March 8, 2005,to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Jim Dodson, 68, and Jessica Mann, 8, but filed a motion to have his seven-year prison sentence set aside.
Meerwald was drunk on July 30, 2004, when his car left Highway 86 and hit Mr. Dodson and Miss Mann as they were standing in Dodson's driveway.
The deaths led to a successful effort by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, to pass a bill increasing sentences for drunk drivers convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Fred Ferrell: Just a good old boy?

Many of the residents of former Missouri Agriculture Director Fred Ferrell's hometown don't see him as being guilty of sexual harassment, according to an article by Virginia Young in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

At Ferrell's farm office, his longtime secretary, Pam Whittington, said her boss used to call her a "show dog."

"That's just a term for, 'You look good today,'" Whittington said.
At the farm loan cooperative where Ferrell was board chairman, Della Hubbard said Ferrell sometimes hugged her and kissed her on the cheek "in front of the whole board."

"He was congratulating me," she said.

Ferrell, of course, was fired by the governor (nine months after he should have been) for sexual harassment, for making remarks about wanting to see workers in a wet t-shirt contest, for making remarks that women should not be in charge of men...all of which were thoroughly documented in a Missouri Highway Patrol report. Also, those who supported Ferrell in the report appeared to have had some coaching in their remarks since nearly all of them described him in the exact same words.

Not all of the people in Ferrell's hometown see him as some representative of long-ago southern gentility, however:

Julia Warren is at least one woman in Charleston who believes Ferrell has only one person to blame: himself. Warren, 81, built a motel in town and ran it for 20 years. She was furious to hear about the "show dog" term. "The women here run the town," she said. "They're top dog."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Opening testimony set for Monday in strip club murder trial

Opening testimony in the capital murder trial of Richard Tabler, 27, Killeen, Texas, is scheduled for Monday in Bell County, Texas, District Court.
Tabler is one of two men charged with committing the November 2004 murders of two men and two women connected with Teazers, a Killeen strip club.
The other man charged in the trial, Timothy Doan Payne, a soldier at Fort Hood at the time, and a 2004 graduate of East Newton High School, will face trial when Tabler's trial is completed. The death penalty is not on the table for Payne.

Cummins: Blunt lawyer interfered with license fee office investigation

It took a while for the painfully obvious to finally be brought up in a mainstream media outlet, but Thursday's Los Angeles Times features an interview with fired U. S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Arkansas in which he questions whether his investigation into Matt Blunt's administration led to his removal. In the interview, Cummins also acknowledged that he had been improperly contacted by a lawyer acting on behalf of Matt Blunt. For the first time, he also revealed that he was never able to complete the investigation.
Most of the speculation has concerned efforts by Karl Rove to get one of his buddies into Cummins' position, but Cummins wonders if something else was at play:

In January 2006, he had begun looking into allegations that Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt had rewarded GOP supporters with lucrative contracts to run the state's driver's license offices. Cummins handled the case because U.S. attorneys in Missouri had recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest.

But in June, Cummins said, he was told by the Justice Department that he would be fired at year's end to make room for Timothy Griffin — an operative tied to White House political guru Karl Rove.

In an interview Thursday, Cummins expressed disgust that the Bush administration may have fired him and the others for political reasons. "You have to firewall politics out of the Department of Justice. Because once it gets in, people question every decision you make. Now I keep asking myself: 'What about the Blunt deal?' "

Later in the article, Cummins talks about how the license fee office investigation was conducted and the improper interference by the Blunt attorney:

The Missouri corruption allegations centered on a change in the law that allowed for privatization of the state's license fee agencies. In 2005, Missouri newspapers began reporting that some of the contracts went to Blunt's supporters, including the wife of the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Todd Graves.

When Cummins started investigating, he said, he followed Justice Department protocol by refusing to acknowledge whether his office had opened a probe. Policy also stipulates that when an investigation ends with no charges, it should never be publicly acknowledged.

As the months wore on, Cummins said, he "had no communication with anybody in any senior level" at the Justice Department in Washington.

But, he said, the governor had hired a private attorney who called and inquired about the status of the investigation. "The attorney said it was creating a lot of media in Missouri about political pressure and other allegations that the governor was under investigation," Cummins said.

He said the attorney wanted assurances that the governor was not the target "because we'd like to be able to say that."

Cummins said he did not comment to the attorney because the investigation was confidential. He declined to identify the governor's lawyer.

Cummins said the investigation was never truly completed because FBI agents were too busy to conduct the interviews before Cummins left office.

In October, Cummins announced that the investigation was over. He broke with precedent, he said, because of all the media reports in Missouri.

"The matter has been closed with no indictments sought or returned," he said on Oct. 4. He added that "at no time was Gov. Blunt a target, subject or witness in the investigation, nor was he implicated in any allegations being investigated. Any allegations to the contrary are uninformed and erroneous."

In the Thursday interview, Cummins denied that he took that extra step as a favor to Blunt. "I didn't know what the politics were up there in Missouri," he said. "I couldn't pick Matt Blunt out in a lineup."

Cummins later told AP the Blunt investigation was not a factor in his firing and that he never said he wondered if the Blunt situation had anything to do with it, but he acknowledged he had been contacted by a private attorney representing the governor.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Joplin Daily content removed from website

Though I was sorry to see The Lamar Press go out of business in July 1997, one thing I always appreciated was that our publisher Jim Farley allowed us to put out a final edition.
We had a chance to show our readers in Lamar how much we appreciated their support during the 49 weeks the newspaper was in business. (The business end of the newspaper never amounted to much, but anyone who read it can tell you we put a lot of effort into it.)

Among other things, the final issue of The Lamar Press included:

-A comprehensive investigation by Kansas State University student and Lamar native Cait Purinton into wrongdoing by the owners of the Lamar Guest House. If the state had followed up on the information Cait uncovered, perhaps 11 people would not have lost their lives in the Anderson Guest House fire last November.

-Cait also had stories on the Lamar R-1 School District receiving an A* grant, new performances planned by the Lamar Community Theatre at the Thiebaud Auditorium, and attendance rates remaining high at the Aquatic Park.

-Farewell columns from Cait, who wrote about her first car, Nancy Hughes, who wrote shared humorous memories from writing the column, Marvin VanGilder who addressed Lamar's Civil War history, and cooking column by Susan Davis-Mabe.

-I had stories on the release of the Lamar Fair schedule, the five-year anniversary of Lamar's first grand jury in 68 years, a meth arrest following a probation hearing in Barton County, an account taken from court records of the life of an undercover cop, and of course, the account of the closing of the newspaper.

In addition, as usual, we had a complete records page with dissolutions, civil cases, marriage licenses, and criminal and traffic cases.

We made a conscious decision not to treat the end of The Lamar Press with sadness.
Our lead headline read: "Last Deadline Met: Lamar Press goes the way of the Edsel."
In the place where we normally had "Barton County's Newest Newspaper," we substituted "Barton County's Newest Dead Newspaper." On the jump from the page one story, the headline read: "Lamar Press: Stick a fork in it."

In that article, I wrote:

"This is the last issue of The Lamar Press.
American Publishing Company, the company which owns The Press, officially pulled the plug on the newspaper earlier this month. Initially, we were told that the issue which came out July 3 and was dated July 4 would be the final issue. It was decided that would not be fair to the people who have worked so hard to make this newspaper an artistic, if not financial success.
That having been decided, there was one more decisino left to be made. Do we go out with a whimper and a bunch of tearful columns and make the last paper a scrapbook full of photos from the 48 weeks the Lamar Press existed?
No way.
We're in Lamar, so we're going to continue (pardon the expression) givin' 'em hell or as another famous saying goes "We just print the truth and they think it's hell."

I also credited the two people who did more than anyone else to make the newspaper so popular with the readers- Ron Graber (now Carthage Press general manager and editor) who did all of the layout and design, as well as take photos, and Cait Purinton.

I ended the article by writing, "One of the biggest compliments paid to The Lamar Press came from something someone at the Mary K. Finley Library had to write across the top of page one each week- 'Please do not remove this paper.' Ours was the only newspaper that had this request written on it.
"Good enough to steal. It was a compliment when hundreds of our newspapers were stolen during the first few weeks of its existence. It has been a compliment to the very end.
I always appreciated Jim Farley for allowing us to put out a strong final issue. But while The Lamar Press was allowed to go out with a bang, the Joplin Daily went out with a whimper.

The Daily's content was removed from the website today and replaced with the following statement:

Joplin Daily thanks you for your reader support over the last 15 months. We regret to report that we have closed the operation of this publication but would certainly welcome you to visit our publications in the area.

Links were provided to The Carthage Press, the Neosho Daily News and the Big Nickel. John Hacker deserved did the readers who supported the Joplin Daily during its 14-month tenure.

Nixon fundraiser had refused breathalyzer test before

In an earlier post today on The Turner Report, it was noted that the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals had ordered Taney County Circuit Court Judge Tony Williams to revoke the driver's license of former state representative, Clinton campaign coordinator, and long time Democratic Party power broker Kathleen Steele-Danner.

The court decision came on Tuesday, just three days after Mrs. Steele-Danner and her husband, former State Senator Steve Danner, threw a $50 a plate fundraiser at their Branson home for Attorney General Jay Nixon's gubernatorial campaign.

The court opinion indicated Judge Williams had tossed out a DWI charge against Mrs. Steele-Danner in 2005 and restored her driving privileges, which had been automatically revoked when she refused to take a breathalyzer test. The decision was made despite the fact that an officer testified that Mrs. Steele-Danner had failed several field sobriety tests.

Tuesday's decision came not long after the 10-year anniversary of the conclusion of the first court case in which Mrs. Steele-Danner filed suit against the Missouri Director of Revenue after having her license taken away after she refused to take a breathalyzer test. documents indicate Mrs. Steele-Danner, still known as Kathleen Steele and serving as regional director at the Kansas City office of the Department of Health and Human Services at the time, had her driving privileges restored by Clay County Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rex Gabbert on Jan. 15, 1997.

After a hearing in which she was represented by Independence attorney Bob Knapp, Judge Gabbert issued the following ruling, according to, "All issues not found in the affirmative. Petition is sustained."

Long time followers of Missouri politics may recall the incident in which Speaker of the House Bob Griffin was arrested for driving while intoxicated. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on the incident, which ran in its March 13, 1993 edition, began like this:

A mixed drink was hanging in a cup holder on the driver's side window of House Speaker Bob F. Griffin's car when police arrested him for driving while intoxicated early Thursday morning.

According to the article Griffin:

-Appeared so inebriated that the arresting officer, who was administering a sobriety test to Griffin, stopped it "for his safety."

-Told police he had been at committee meetings before his arrest shortly after 3 a.m. The police department checked with Capitol police and learned "there are no representatives in late session."

The day after his arrest, according to the Post-Dispatch account, Griffin said he, other legislators and lobbyists had attended a breakfast, after the bar they had been at the apartment of Rep. Kathleen Steele, D-Kirksville:

Steele, in a telephone interview, said she had been at Bones (the bar where Griffin had been earlier) and had invited several lawmakers and lobbyists to an apartment she shares with Rep. May Schieve, D-Affton. She said they woke up Scheeve and fixed scrambled eggs and that she did not see Griffin drink anything.

Alleged owner of KODE, KOLR files annual report

Mission Broadcasting, the purported owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield (both of which, to all intents and purposes are owned by Nexstar Broadcasting), filed its annual report today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The report includes such fascinating tidbits as this one:

The arrangements under the SSAs and JSAs have had the effect of Nexstar receiving substantially all of the available cash, after debt service costs, generated by the stations listed above. The arrangements under the TBAs have also had the effect of Nexstar receiving substantially all of the available cash generated by the TBA stations listed above. Mission anticipates that, through these local service agreements, Nexstar will continue to receive substantially all of Mission’s available cash, after payments for debt service costs, generated by the stations listed above.

It is obvious that Mission's only mission is to allow Nexstar to operate two stations in each of its markets. It remains to be seen what, if anything, the Federal Communications Commission will do about these arrangements.

East Newton grad charged with murder, may be featured in New York Times article

This is not exactly the kind of fame one hopes for, but I have received word that the nation's leading newspaper, The New York Times, is considering coverage of the upcoming trial of a Killeen, Texas, man charged with the 2004 murders of four people connected with a Killeen strip club.
Jury selection has already begun in the trial of Richard Tabler, 27, who could receive the death penalty if he is convicted. Also charged in the crime is Fort Hood soldier Timothy Doan Payne, a 2004 graduate of East Newton High School. His trial is scheduled to begin when the Tabler case is completed.
More information about the case can be found in the Feb. 21, 2005, Turner Report.

Court orders judge to revoke driver's license of top Missouri Democrat

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals has ordered a Taney County Circuit Court judge to revoke the driver's license of one of the most powerful women in Missouri Democratic politics.
In a decision issued Tuesday, the court said Judge Tony Williams was wrong when he restored Kathleen Steele-Danner's driving privileges after she refused to take a breathalyzer test following a traffic stop. Judging by information from the opinion, it is obvious Judge Williams tossed out a DWI charge against Ms. Danner-Steele.
Ms. Danner-Steele, under her maiden name of Kathleen Steele, was a state representative from Kirksville, the state director of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and later was appointed by President Clinton as regional director for the Kansas City office of the Department of Health and Human Services. She is married to former State Senator Steve Danner.

According to the decision, "Kathleen Steele-Danner was stopped by Officer Shawn Teitsort for speeding. The officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol on her breath. When asked how much she had to drink, she stated she had one glass of wine. (She) was asked to perform field sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated.
"After arriving at the Branson Police Department and reading Missouri's Implied Consent law to (Ms. Steele-Danner) Officer Teitsort requested that the respondent submit to a breath test. She refused and her license was revoked."

The decision came down to whether Teitsort had reason to believe she was driving drunk:

Respondent had to steady herself using the car door when exiting her vehicle. He observed her swaying as she walked. Her eyes appeared bloodshot and "staring." She continued to sway during the horizontal gaze nystagmus test ("HGN") and the officer noted a lack of "smooth pursuit" in both eyes and a distinct nystagmus at maximum deviation, with an onset prior to forty-five degrees, indicating intoxication.
When Respondent performed the walk-and-turn test, she did not take the correct number of steps, used her arms for balance and did not make a proper turn. Because she stepped off of the line three times, the officer deemed her unable to complete the test. Likewise, she put her foot down three or more times on the one-leg stand test and was unable to complete the test. Based upon his training, experience, and observations, Officer Teitsort testified that he formed the opinion that Respondent was intoxicated and placed her under arrest for driving while intoxicated. On the issue of the officer's credibility, as the Director points out, the trial court put its stamp of approval on Officer Teitsort by indicating, "I believe [Officer Teitsort] administered the tests properly. In fact, that officer is one of the finest."

Judge Williams based his decision on Teitsort's comments during cross examination that he thought Ms. Steele-Danner was "borderline" and might not fail the breathalyzer test:

[Defense Counsel]: Okay. And you were surprised she didn't take the test?
[Officer]: Yes, sir.
[Defense counsel]: Because you thought she might not have been above a .08?
[Officer]: I believed she was borderline. That's correct.
[Defense Counsel]: Okay. You thought she might not have been above .08?
[Officer]: That's correct.

The appellate court gave the following summary of the case:

Respondent was stopped at 1:38 a.m. for speeding fourteen miles per hour over the speed limit. She had a strong odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes, had trouble with balance and walking, and was uncertain in her turning. Respondent was unable to follow directions for the walk-and-turn test and admitted to drinking alcohol earlier during the evening. The trial court misapplied the law when it found Officer Teitsort's testimony that he was surprised when Respondent refused to take the test because the officer thought Respondent was borderline -- that there was a possibility she would pass the test -- negated the probable cause determination that she was driving her vehicle while in an intoxicated condition. In so doing, the trial court disregarded Officer Teitsort's objective and credible observation of Respondent's unusual and illegal motor vehicle operation and indicia of intoxication from field sobriety tests, which objectively constitute probable cause.

The decision was 2-1, with the dissenting judge agreeing that the case should be returned to Judge Williams, but only to determine if the officer had properly administered the field tests to give him probable cause.

Blunt leading fight against No Child Left Behind

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt is leading the battle against renewal of No Child Left Behind, according to an article in today's Washington Post:

Burson Snyder, a spokesman for Blunt, said that after several meetings with school administrators and teachers in southwest Missouri, the House Republican leader turned against the measure he helped pass. Blunt was convinced that the burdens and red tape of the No Child Left Behind Act are unacceptably onerous, Snyder said.

The arguments against this onerous bill are too many to mention, but this paragraph in the article sums up some of them:

Once-innovative public schools have increasingly become captive to federal testing mandates, jettisoning education programs not covered by those tests, siphoning funds from programs for the talented and gifted, and discouraging creativity, critics say.