Friday, August 31, 2007

IUniverse sets up webpage for Turner Report book

As the publication date for my third book and first non-fiction effort, The Turner Report, approaches, my publishing company, IUniverse, set up its bookstore page for the site earlier today.
The site features a link at the bottom, which has a link at the bottom of the page that will take readers to a sneak preview of the book, including the foreword, first chapter, and a portion of the second chapter. The first chapter covers my 1990-1992 investigation into the Webb City Police Department, while the second is about the Nancy Cruzan right-to-die case.
I will have more information on the book off and on over the next few days.

(Note: The book is now available through

Nodler as college president rumors rock Missouri Southern

Word has spread across the Missouri Southern State University campus that the leading candidate for the vacant college president job is Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, former chairman of the Senate Education Committee and current Appropriations Committee chairman.
Nodler, of course, was the driving force behind the bill which resulted in MSSU receiving university status.
He also was the man who put Neosho attorney Dwight Douglas, the current president of the MSSU Board of Governors, on the board in 2003. Douglas is heading the search committee which will choose the successor to longtime President Julio Leon, who was forced to resign earlier this month.
Campus sources indicate that some quality candidates do not plan to submit their names because the word has spread that the fix is in. Of course, the same kind of stories circulated earlier this year about Kit Bond and Kenny Hulshof and the University of Missouri position and did not pan out.
Nodler received a bachelor of arts degree from Missouri Southern and was named the university's outstanding alumnus in 2003. During his tenure on the Senate Education Committee, he has been instrumental in landing a considerable amount of money for university projects.
While no one denies Nodler has delivered the goods for his alma mater, the concern is his lack of an academic background. Longtime Southwest Missouri political observers will also remember that Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt made a short pit stop as president at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar prior to being elected to the House, a position Blunt first won by defeating Nodler in the GOP primary.

(Photos from Missouri Senate and Missouri Southern State University websites- Nodler and Dwight Douglas, as Nodler nominates Douglas for the MSSU Board of Governors; Nodler, Dwight Douglas, and Julio Leon)

BCMH embezzler's hearing delayed for 13th time

Convicted Barton County Memorial Hospital embezzler Kim Schlup has received a 13th continuance for a payment review hearing concerning the $100,085 she stole from the hospital during her tenure as its finance director.
Court records do not indicate she has paid a cent since her sentencing on March 27, 2006.
The hearing has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 5 in Cedar County Circuit Court. Her case was heard in Cedar County on a change of venue from Barton County.

Kansas City Star backs down: Prime Buzz is free

I just received an e-mail from the Kansas City Star announcing that its pay-for-view blog Prime Buzz will be free come next Tuesday.
Though you would expect one of Missouri's leading newspapers to be forthright and honest with its readers, not one mention is made in the e-mail about the real reason the change is being made: Nobody was buying the premium service.
As I wrote earlier, I was a bit disturbed about the fact that the Star was taking work done in The Turner Report and other blogs, which we provide free of charge and charging its readers to see it.
Of course, the blogs were not the only content of Prime Buzz, but often the other content included much material from Associated Press and newspapers that was being provided elsewhere at no charge.
While I understand the Star's motivation for the move, it was ill-conceived. Free access to information has become, rightly or wrongly, one of the reasons why the internet is so appealing to so many of us. Internet newspaper sites are beginning to make money, and eventually will, but it is going to have to be advertising based. The Star's effort and the New York Times' failed attempt to charge premium prices for the offerings of its top columnists show that readers simply have too much available to them. Specialized content can still be sold, but let's face it, the Kansas City Star's political content, while often quite good, is not worth paying a premium price for.
The Star's e-mail reads as follows:

What’s that buzzing?

You asked for it; we listened. Starting Tuesday afternoon, Prime Buzz is free!

When we say free, we mean all of Prime Buzz, The Kansas City Star's political blog that formerly was subscription-only. Access to local and regional political coverage, FREE. Political commentary and municipal agenda previews, FREE. And we’re continuing to offer, FREE, the weekday e-mailed Prime Buzz summary — one of many enhancements over The Star’s former free political blog, the KC Buzz Blog.

"We built the best political Web site in the Midwest, and we appreciate those who recognized the value of Prime Buzz by subscribing to it, signing up for a free trial or otherwise figuring out a way to access it," said Mark Zieman, The Star’s editor.

"But covering our democratic process is at the core of what we do. Coming into an election year, we decided to trade the extra subscription revenue for a chance to bring that important content to a much greater audience."

To join the conversation, go to starting Tuesday afternoon and click Prime Buzz. You won't need a username to read content. But if you want to comment and receive the Prime Buzz summary, you’ll need to register and supply a valid e-mail address. That’s also necessary for former Prime Buzz users.

Those who purchased a Prime Buzz subscription will be able to receive a partial refund, prorated to reflect the unused portion of the subscription. An e-mail to each subscriber supplied details.

Because some site changes are needed, Prime Buzz will be shut down Monday, Sept. 3, and Tuesday morning, Sept. 4.

Grab a front-row seat in an election cycle that’s already running hot. Find it fast, get it first — Prime Buzz.

Though I was told Turner Report items were picked up once or twice a week on Prime Buzz, I never saw more than one or two readers who actually used the link to come to this site. I would guess the same is true for every other blog that was mentioned on the site. When The Turner Report was mentioned on the earlier Kansas City Star political blog, it always received dozens of hits. The change is overdue and thanks to Star editors for realizing it- however, it would have been better if the Star had not tried to make it sound as if the premium product was a gigantic success- it never was.

Hometown Today pep rallies are torture

The tradition started when Tiffany Alaniz and Gary Bandy were hosts of KSN's morning program and should have ended there, but I am assuming there is money to be made with these weekly pep rallies that Hometown Today holds at various area high schools.
This year's grueling (especially to viewers) pep rallies began at Seneca High School. The situation forces co-hosts Toni Valliere and Jeremiah Cook to shout everything they say for 90 minutes, and it is almost impossible to conduct a coherent interview under these conditions.
Thankfully, KSN no longer has its anchors attempt to do the news from the pep rally site. Instead, reporter Jennifer Adkins reads the news from the studio.
I suppose it's with us forever, but I will likely spend my Fridays with KODE or KOAM for the next couple of months.

Stateline: Blunt faces tough road to re-election

Matt Blunt's road to re-election in 2008 is going to be a difficult one, according to an article in, which assesses Blunt's race with Attorney General Jay Nixon:

In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) is trying to recover from bad press for deep Medicaid cuts. Looking even younger than his 36 years, Blunt faces a tough, experienced candidate in state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D), who has won statewide office four times and has been gearing up for well over a year.

Blunt’s prospects had improved somewhat in recent months, and bolstered by his position as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Blunt outpaced Nixon in fund raising. However, a pending case before the Missouri Ethics Commission on campaign finance caps could force candidates to refund big donations, and Blunt stands to lose far more than Nixon. Moreover, Blunt won office in a year when the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), pulled his resources out of the state early. In 2008, Democrats are poised to contest the Show Me State more aggressively.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

PubDef: Blunt withdraws State Board of Education appointment

PubDef reports today that Governor Matt Blunt has withdrawn his nomination of voucher supporter and former Rep. Derio Gambaro, D-St. Louis, to the State Board of Education.
This move continues the shell game the governor is playing with Missouri education. Gambaro has been serving on the board for the last few months after he was a recess appointment.
The governor withdrew his name due to the highly likely possibility that Sen. Jeff Smith, who has already vetoed one pro-voucher candidate, Donayle Whitmore-Smith, would also veto Gambaro, whom he defeated in 2006 to win his Senate seat.
Blunt is expected to reappoint Gambaro once the current special session is over, allowing him to serve at least until next January when the General Assembly is back in session:

Governor Matt Blunt’s office officially withdrew his nomination of Rick Sullivan as CEO of St. Louis Public Schools yesterday after Sullivan’s State Senator, Joan Bray, refused to sponsor his appointment.

Blunt also withdrew the name of his latest appointment to the Missouri Board of Education, former State Representative Derio Gambaro, after State Senator Jeff Smith also refused to support his appointment at this time.

Talent received $15,000 from senator caught in hooker scandal

In the Aug. 28 Turner Report, I noted that former Sen. Jim Talent received $10,000 from the Alliance for the West Leadership PAC of beleaguered Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Craig, of course, is the senator who pleaded guilty after being caught in a men's room sting in Colorado.
Talent, who is being touted as a potential replacement for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, apparently had no problem with receiving money from senators who strayed sexually on both sides of the aisle, so to speak.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show Talent received $15,000 in 2006 from the Louisiana Reform PAC, the leadership committee of Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
Vitter, as you may recall, is the senator who admitted to being a client of the notorious D. C. Madam, and has also been linked to a New Orleans brothel.

Cooper gets in last minute traveling before prison

Thanks to a reader for pointing out Arch City Chronicle's story on another junket taken by former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau. In an item posted Wednesday, the blog notes:

Although he is no longer a state representative, that didn't stop Nathan Cooper from attending the Council of State Government's "Healthy States Forum for State Legislators" in New Orleans last weekend. Cooper was spotted going to sessions and otherwise enjoying himself at the LA-Hilton Riverside Hotel from August 23-25.

As I noted last night in The Turner Report, Cooper has petitioned the court to return his passport so he can take a trip to the Philippines. The U. S. attorney's office opposes the motion.

New court date inconvenient for MSU dance instructor, former department head

Apparently, the new date for the trial of former Missouri State University theater instructor George Cron's wrongful dismissal lawsuit is inconvenient for two of the defendants.
The Oct. 15 date, which was set Wednesday does not fit in with the schedules of MSU dance instructor Rhythm McCarthy and former Department of Theater and Dance Chairman Jay Raphael.
According to a document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Raphael "is in a theatrical production that runs through October 14, 2007, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Additionally, he is moving on October 18, 2007; and Rhythm McCarthy is teaching as a guest instructor at Illinois State University the week of October 15, 2007.

The motion for a continuance also says:

Defendant Raphael is available for trial any time after October 20, 2007.
Defendant McCarthy is available for trial (other than the week of October 15 for the reasons discussed above) at any time with the exception of the week of December 3, 2007. Counsel for Defendants is available for trial the weeks of October 29, December 17, 2007, and January 14, 2008. The undersigned counsel has spoken with counsel for Defendant The Board of Governors of Missouri State University. Co-defendant’s counsel is not available for trial the week of November 26, 2007, due to a trial scheduled that week before Judge Fenner.

The Board of Governors also filed a motion for a continuance.

Assistant U. S. Attorney: Cooper trip will not happen

Rudi Keller of the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian has more information on the story first reported Wednesday night on The Turner Report concerning former Rep. Nathan Cooper's request to have his passport returned so he can make a two-week business junket to the Philippines.
Assistant U. S. Attorney James Crowe says the trip is not going to take place and Cooper's lawyer agrees with that assessment:

Crowe said Schwartz had mistaken his stance following a discussion of numerous issues related to the case. Crowe said he wasn't sure about the nature of the trip. "My sense is he was going to do some immigration business."

Keller also came up with this gem- Cooper's business partner was not even aware of the trip:

In the motion filed with the court, Cooper described his proposed voyage as a business trip on behalf of Business Improvement Solutions LLC, a company he created in April. Cooper's connection with the company was not mentioned in the court filing. Cooper's partner in the company said he wasn't aware Cooper was planning the trip.

"He organized the company for us a few months ago," said Ronald Randen of Gideon, Mo. "It never really got started. It was just in a dormant mode."

Any trip would have been at Cooper's expense, Randen said. "There is no money in the company till."

Despite the lack of funds, the company, which on its Web site lists its address as 1917 William St. -- the same address as Cooper's law firm -- Business Improvement Solutions made a $420 contribution to Cooper's re-election campaign July 16. The address listed for the contribution was Randen's home.

"That money we just put in" to make the donation, Randen said.

Randen said he's known Cooper for about six years. In 2006, Randen's wife, Donna Randen, contributed $650 to Cooper's re-election.

Cooper apparently is traveling while awaiting his Oct. 19 sentencing. The Arch City Chronicle Web site reported Wednesday that Cooper was in New Orleans over the weekend attending a Council of State Governments forum.

Springfield teachers complain when News-Leader lists salaries on-line

I noted with interest a column posted today by Brian Lewis of the Springfield News-Leader.
The newspaper apparently created a searchable database including the salaries of teachers in the Springfield school district. Naturally, the teachers complained that their privacy had been invaded:

"I don't understand the motivation except that they just can so that they did," said Ray Smith, president of Springfield National Education Association, a group representing Springfield teachers. "I've lived here my whole life and I've never seen anything like it."

And perhaps that is the problem. While I have nothing but respect for Smith and others who work with students on an everyday basis, in this instance he is dead wrong.

The taxpayers have every right to know what each school employee is paid. We should never forget they are the bosses. They are the ones who are footing the bill and they have every right to know how their money is being spent right down to the penny:

News-Leader Data Editor Matt Wynn said he envisions many stories coming in the future as we get more databases and are able to do comparisons.

In an e-mail responding to one teacher who complained, Wynn wrote, in part: "I think posting the school district data has done more than a thousand 'teachers don't get paid enough' editorials. Even when doing some cursory in-house analysis, it was easy to see that the median and average school salaries pale in comparison to many of the other public agencies we have posted. I have to assume that readers, going through the same process I did, are getting the same feeling and drawing their own conclusions about what that means."

Wynn continued: "One of our primary functions at the News-Leader is to shine the light, to provide readers with information they can use to make up their own minds. We live in a society that strives to keep government open — and we at the News-Leader, and specifically on the Data Desk, seek to facilitate that openness at all times."

Teachers, like most other people who work for the government, aren't in it for the money. Because tax money pays their salary, government workers are often unfairly targeted as being paid more than their worth.

They deserve more thanks and less grief. I hope Wynn is right that people will see the great monetary value we get in Springfield with our school district.

I, too, have mixed emotions about thrusting the salaries of school teachers online as we have, but if it gains them any more respect, than perhaps it's worth it.

I hate reading that Lewis has "mixed emotions" about making the salaries available. He shouldn't.

I would like to see it done with every school district and every governmental body in this state.

And for the record, I will be paid $37,400 during the 2007-2008 school year. My base pay is $34,400, while I receive $3,000 in Career Ladder money for work that includes sponsoring the South Middle School Quiz Bowl team, sponsoring the Journalism Club, serving as chairman of the school's Writing Improvement Committee, and serving on the SMS Discipline Committee, as well as attending various after-hours school meetings.

It is likely I will also be paid a little bit more for attending workshops next summer so that I will be able to bring more back into the classroom for my students in the fall of 2008.

In an open society, the public has the right to know what its servants are making and how its money is being spent.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cooper asks permission for two-week junket to Philippines, including stays at ritzy hotels

Former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, who surrendered his passport as one of the conditions for being released on $10,000 bond, wants it back for a two-week business junket to the Philippines.
In documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Cooper, who is scheduled to be sentenced 9 a.m. Oct. 19 after pleading guilty to immigration fraud, says the trip has been planned since March through Business Improvement Solutions. LLC. According to documents on file with the Missouri Secretary of State's office, Business Improvement Solutions, LLC, was organized by April 27 by Cooper, who also serves as its registered agent.

Cooper's attorneys from the firm of Rosenblum, Schwartz, Rogers & Glass PC listed several reasons why the passport should be returned to their client, including:

-"Defendant has been obeying the conditions of his release pending sentencing."
-Cooper is "prepared to surrender his person and his passport to Pre-Trial Services upon his return to the United States."
-The motion was discussed with the pre-trial officer who "does not have an opinion as to whether or not this motion shall be granted."
-The motion was discussed with Assistant U. S. Attorney James E. Crowe Jr. who "also has no opinion as to whether or not this motion should be granted."

That last point drew a quick response from Crowe, who charitably referred to it as "an apparent miscommunication between counsel," in a motion of opposition, also filed today.

Crowe's motion says, "The United States opposes the pending motion of the defendant, Nathan Cooper, to allow his travel out of the country. Due to an apparent miscommunication between counsel, it was represented in the defendant's motion that the undersigned counsel had no opinion as to the motion. This is incorrect. The United States opposes the granting of the motion."

According to the trip itinerary, which was filed with the motion, if the court approves the motion, Cooper would leave from St. Louis 10:15 a.m. Sept. 13, taking Flight 1448/153 (American Airlines) and then Flight 74 (Japan Airlines) to Manila, where he would spend two days.
The schedule then finds Cooper taking a flight to Davao City, Philippines, where he would stay for a week at the ritzy Casa Leticia Hotel (pictured), which offers the following description in its advertising:

Casa Leticia has 41 exquisitely designed guestrooms including seven suites for the business person on the go. Located in downtown Davao City just 15 to 20 minutes from the NCCC Exhibition Centre, the hotel has wireless Internet access and DSL connection at its business centre. Rooms have IDD phone lines. Casa Leticia introduces guests to Ilonggo cuisine at its Sagay restaurant and houses Toto’s Bar and Fun Dining on its sixth floor. Nearby food and beverage options include the local favorites, Tsuru Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, and Hanoi that specialises in authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

After that, he would return to Manila and spend three days at the Oxford Suites hotel before returning to St. Louis Sept. 27. The following description of Oxford Suites is given in the hotel's advertising:

The rooms of Oxford Suites Hotel in Manila are spacious and elegantly furnished. Guests have a choice of 232 beautifully decorated and spacious rooms. Every one of them has exquisite interior designs and is graced with attractive décor. Large and beautiful bathrooms are there in each of the rooms. The bathrooms feature several upscale amenities.

The Oxford Suites Hotel in Manila offers television, telephone, mini bar and many others in the rooms. The rooms don bright shades of wall paints. Room facilities at Oxford Suites Hotel in Manila feature a wide range of essential amenities that would make your living experience a delight.

The hotel spells delight for the business guests. The conference room is big and spacious and can accommodate meetings and conferences of considerable size. The hotel houses a great restaurant and a café inside its premises. Several mouth watering cuisines feature on the menu list. Other Hotel Amenities and Services at Oxford Suites Hotel in Manila include impressive room service, banquet facilities and photo copying facilities.

So, come to Oxford Suites Hotel in Manila and you would be treated to a fine time indeed. This is worthy of being one of the top hotels in Philippines.

High-powered law firm comes to aid of Cooper's alleged immigration fraud partner

Omega Penalosa Paulite, the alleged co-conspirator with former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, in an immigration fraud scheme, has new attorneys.
Ms. Paulite, whom the court approved for federal public defender services, suddenly has two lawyers from one of the most powerful law firms in the nation representing her.
Documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri indicate Gabriel E. Gore and James R. Wyrsch of St. Louis-based Bryan Cave, have signed on as her attorneys.
Someone certainly appears to be looking out after Ms. Paulite.
An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 20.
Cooper, pleaded guilty earlier this month and will be sentenced in October. He resigned his position in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Missouri State wrongful dismissal trial delayed until October

The wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by former Missouri State University theater instructor George Cron, originally scheduled for September, has been rescheduled to 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 15, in Springfield.
Cron is suing the university's Board of Governors, dance instructor Rhythm McCarthy, and former Department of Theater and Dance Chairman Jay Raphael. Judge John Maughmer rejected a motion to sever the defendants' cases.
More information on the case can be found in the Aug. 22 Turner Report.

Pre-trial conference set for accused church shooter on sex charges

A 9 a.m. Sept. 4 pre-trial conference has been scheduled for the sex charges against accused church shooter Eiken Elam Saimon.
Saimon, 52, pleaded not guilty today in Newton County Circuit Court to charges of statutory rape and statutory sodomy in connection with an Aug. 10 incident involving a 14-year-old relative.
A Sept. 18 preliminary hearing is scheduled for Saimon on three counts of murder, four counts of assault and single counts of armed criminal action and felonious restraint, charges which were filed in connection with the Aug. 12 shootings at the First Congregational Church of Neosho.

Broncos place Smith on physically unable to perform list

The Denver Broncos have placed wide receiver Rod Smith on the physically unable to perform list meaning he will miss at least the first five weeks of the season.
Broncos coaches are not giving up on a return by Smith, 37, who spent his college years at Missouri Southern in Joplin "mostly because he has earned the benefit of the doubt through past production, but also because No. 3 receiver Brandon Stokley is dealing with his own health issues and Nos. 4 and 5 receivers Brian Clark and Domenik Hixon have yet to make their first NFL catch."

Former Hollinger CEO asks for new trial

Former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black, convicted in July of federal fraud and obstruction of justice charges, is asking for a new trial:

In motions filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, attorneys for Black argue it would be a "miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand."

Judge Amy St. Eve should consider the credibility of the witnesses against Black, the attorneys argue -- especially the testimony of his longtime business partner turned star witness for the prosecution, former Chicago Sun-Times Publisher F. David Radler.

Black is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 30.
At one time, Hollinger owned The Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily News.

Blunt: Poor Gonzales was victim of big, bad Democrats

From all indications, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was incompetent, clueless, and more interested in pursuing political ends than justice. That being said, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt does not place the blame for Gonzales' resignation on Gonzales. According to the Kingsport Tennessee Times News, Blunt gave this assessment before a fundraising dinner for Rep. David Davis:

"I think like a lot of the folks that came to Washington with (President Bush) from Texas, he was surprised to find out how tough a town Washington can be," Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said before the fund-raiser concerning Gonzales, who resigned amid a Senate probe over fired U.S. attorneys. "I think he particularly was disadvantaged by this emphasis in the new Congress on wanting to constantly interrogate everybody about everything, and I think that distracted from his ability to get the job done. My belief is he's relieved to be going on to other things."

I would guess a lot of Republicans and Democrats are also relieved Gonzales is going on to other things.

Documents: Neosho church shooter raped girl because she took his car

Associated Press has filed a story on the sex charges filed Tuesday against alleged Neosho church shooter Eiken Elam Saimon. Saimon is charged with three counts of murder, four counts of assault, and single charges of armed criminal action and felonious restraint in connection with the Aug. 14 attack at the First Congregational Church of Neosho:

In court papers, a Sheriff's Department investigator said the teenage girl alleged that Saimon was mad at her for stealing his car and wrecking it. The girl said Saimon attacked her as punishment. Advertisement

The alleged assault happened at Saimon's home two days before the church shooting.

Prosecutors have declined to discuss Saimon's motive in the shooting, but relatives of the victims have said Saimon was jealous of their standing in the community and feared he might be outcast after the teen made the rape allegation.

Former Wal-Mart executive to be resentenced

Anyone using a stolen Sam's Club gift card in Joplin had better watch his step.
Former Wal-Mart executive Thomas Coughlin, who had that crime on the list he pleaded guilty to in federal court in 2006, is not going to get the soft prison sentence he had expected.
On Tuesday, an appellate court ruled that his sentence, which included house arrest, but no jail time, was too lenient:

The district court clearly erred in finding Coughlin suffers an extraordinary physical impairment and abused its discretion," the panel said in a 2 to 1 ruling. The case was returned to the trial court for resentencing.

Defense lawyers claimed that Coughlin's heart condition, diabetes, obesity and sleep apnea made him too fragile to survive prison. Prosecutors argued in an appeal that thousands of inmates get adequate care for similar conditions. Both sides can present new evidence before Coughlin is sentenced again, the panel said yesterday.

The Joplin connection was explored in the Washington Post article:

In his 2006 guilty plea, Coughlin admitted using a stolen Sam's Club gift card in Joplin, Mo., to buy a cooler, two cases of beer, two cases of vodka, two containers of whiskey, a carton of tequila and a patio torch. He admitted falsifying expense reports to get reimbursement for care for his dogs and to upgrade his truck.

Coughlin at one time was the second highest paid executive at Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Attorneys for MSU, Raphael, McCarthy ask for continuance

In documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, attorneys for Missouri State University, dance instructor Rhythm McCarthy, and former head of the Department of Theatre and Dance Jay Raphael asked the judge to push back the Sept. 10 date for the trial of the wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by former theater instructor George Cron.
Reasons given for the delay request include "several motions pending including three for summary judgment," and to "allow the court to rule on pending motions" and on new issues which have arisen.
The documents say that Cron and his attorneys did not object to the continuance.
More information about the lawsuit can be found in the Aug. 22 Turner Report.

Sex charges filed against Neosho church shooter

The Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's office filed statutory rape and sodomy charges against Eiken Elam Saimon, the man charged with murdering three Micronesian church leaders during an afternoon service at the First Congregational Church of Neosho.
The crimes, which involved a 14-year-old girl, allegedly took place two days before the shooting, according to Newton County Circuit Court records.
A bond hearing for Saimon, originally scheduled for today, was not held. Judge Greg Stremel upheld the prosecuting attorney's motion to continue holding Saimon without bond until a hearing can be conducted.
Saimon's preliminary hearing on three counts of murder, four counts of assault, and one count each of armed criminal action and felonious restraint, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 18.

Castle Doctrine law goes into effect

For those who celebrate such things, Missouri's unnecessary Castle Doctrine law goes into effect today.

Bond comment shows problem with Bush White House

If anything accurately describes the problem with the Bush White House it is the quote Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. gave to Columbia Daily Tribune political reporter Jason Rosenbaum concerning the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

"I look forward to working with the new attorney general," Bond said. He added that he had no idea who Bush would name to be the top U.S. law enforcement officer.

Asked if he had given any advice to the Bush administration prior to Gonzales's departure, Bond said, "They don't ask for it."

That has been a failing of the Bush Administration from the first. Instead of asking for advice from seasoned veterans of their own party (as well as Democrats), they have remained huddled up in the White House with an us against them philosophy that has proven disastrous.

Senator arrested in Minneapolis men's restroom sting was big contributor to Missouri GOP senators

Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicate Alliance for the West, the leadership committee of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, donated nearly $25,000 to former U. S. Senators Jim Talent and John Ashcroft, including $10,000 to Talent during the 2006 election cycle.
Alliance for the West also contributed $6,485 to Talent in 2002 and $8,500 to John Ashcroft in 2000.
Craig, of course, pleaded guilty in June to a charge related to a police sting involving sex in men's restrooms at the Minneapolis airport. Craig now says he did not do anything wrong and should not have pleaded guilty. He has resigned his position as a Senate coordinator for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's presidential campaign:

"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions," he said. "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."

Craig, 62, is married and in his third term in the Senate. He is up for re-election next year. He was a member of the House for 10 years before winning election to the Senate in 1990.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cooper's alleged partner in crime enters not guilty plea

Omega Paulite, the woman who allegedly was involved in an immigration fraud scheme with former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, entered a not guilty plea today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Ms. Paulite remains free on bond. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 20. Ms. Paulite is being represented by a federal public defender.
Cooper, pleaded guilty earlier this month and will be sentenced in October. He resigned his position in the Missouri House of Representatives.

This link will take you to an affidavit describing Ms. Paulite's role in the fraud scheme.

Skelton to receive Patriot Award

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton, D-Lexington, has been named a recipient of the American Patriot Award, presented by the National Defense University Foundation Inc. according to a news release issued today. The other recipient is Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia:

"We are very pleased that the 2007 American Patriot Award will be presented to two of the nation's finest patriots," Charles Link, president and CEO of the National Defense University Foundation and retired major general of the U.S. Air Force, said in a statement.

Skelton was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, the first of 16 terms. He is currently the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, of which he has been a member for the past 25 years.

Previous recipients of the American Patriot Award include Gen. Colin Powell, former President George H.W. Bush, and former U.S. Sen. and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

Blunt appreciates Gonzales' "hard work"

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt carefully avoided any mention of Alberto Gonzales' skill as attorney general during the statement he issued following the announcement of Gonzales' resignation today:

"The life of Alberto Gonzales has been defined by his devotion to family and deep commitment to public service. I appreciate his hard work in defense of our country and look forward to his future contributions."

Wilson: Illegal aliens, not immigration should be the issue

In his latest column, Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, says his constituents are tired of nothing being done about the problem of illegal aliens. That being said, he wanted to make clear that his stance was only against immigration of the illegal variety:

Now on to the Immigration Committee hearing. When I testified I told the committee that I was testifying as a private citizen who had almost 20 years of Human Resource experience but I also wanted to testify as to what my constituents had been telling me with regards to their thoughts on immigration. I let them know that folks in Southwest Missouri were tired of inaction on this issue and that since special interests in Washington were holding up action then the state needed to do whatever it could to address illegal aliens in Missouri.

The hearing lasted over 3 hours and I felt that the committee very much wants to be proactive on this issue. Much of the discussion centered around sanctions against employers who knowingly employ illegals and what actions the state could take to prevent this. I must emphasize that the purpose of the hearing was not to formulate a plan but to gather information for possible legislative action next session. We talked quite a bit about what other states are doing and I know the committee will be looking at legislation passed by other states.

One point that I made very clear to the committee was that we have to frame our discussions of reform around the issue of illegal aliens and not immigration. Legal immigration has been and will continue to be the backbone of our nation. We are known as the melting pot of the world but where the problem arises is when people enter this country illegally – regardless of which border they cross or where they come from. All the committee members present agreed with this concept so I think we are all on the same page to begin a meaningful discussion of options.

Two years after his death, Walton continues to fund pro-voucher group

Rex Sinquefield will not be the only billionaire funding pro-voucher efforts in Missouri during the 2008 legislature and elections.
Though he has been dead for two years, John Walton, the son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, continues to fund All Children Matter from beyond the grave. Apparently, Mr. Walton made sure that his estate would continue to fund his favorite causes, including the nation's top voucher proponent, All Children Matter.
Documents from the Virginia State Board of Elections indicate All Children Matter's Virginia PAC, which provided the $200,000 to fund the negative campaign advertising in the waning days of the 2004 election that propelled Matt Blunt into the governor's mansion, has received $4.1 million from Mr. Walton during the past year. Mr. Walton has been the PAC's biggest contributor since the beginning of 2006.
It is almost a guarantee that some of Mr. Walton's money will make its way into Missouri in 2008.

Media memories fading: Why not look at Drummond's past?

Missouri media have a tendency to treat every story as if it is something totally new with no connection to any past stories.
No story provides more solid evidence of that than the recent decision by Department of Health director Jane Drummond's decision to hire an outside attorney to handle a lawsuit filed against the state by Planned Parenthood.

Ms. Drummond is suggesting that Attorney General Jay Nixon would have a conflict of interests and would not perform his duties. For someone with a history like Ms. Drummond's to criticize another official for not doing his duty is laughable.

You may recall, it was Ms. Drummond, in her capacity at that time as legal counsel for Health and Social Services, who gave one pass after another to Joplin River of Life Ministries and its owner Robert Dupont, allowing him to keep substandard group homes operating. One of those group homes, the Anderson Guest House, burned to the ground in November, taking 11 lives. She ignored the recommendations made by the professionals on the department's staff.

The first recommendation came 10 months before the Anderson fire. Instead of revoking the license, Ms. Drummond approved a series of temporary stays. To give her credit, she did finally revoke the Anderson Guest House's license. Of course, it took 11 deaths for her to do it.

For this woman, to claim someone else would not do his duty is a joke.

Cook officially named Hometown Today co-host

I thought it happened quite a while back, but Jeremiah Cook, who has been filling in alongside Toni Valliere as co-host of Hometown Today, KSNF's morning show, has been officially designated co-host.
The announcement was made a few moments ago on the program.
Based on the discussion Cook and Ms. Valliere had, Cook is giving up his other KSN jobs as southeast Kansas reporter.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Globe right on MSSU open meetings violation

The Joplin Globe Editorial Board is right on the money when it says the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors needs to go back to the drawing board and legally choose the search committee for a replacement for Julio Leon as university president.
Unfortunately for Globe editors, even when they are right, they have such a superior, holier than thou attitude about it, that people want to disagree just to irritate them.

I would prefer to see that very few things be done in closed session because most of the time it is the secrecy rather than the actions that come from the session that causes the problems.

Sunshine Law violations come from either arrogance or ignorance. Many elected or appointed officials get the idea that they have superior knowledge of a situation and that the public would not understand the truth. Others are genuinely of the belief that they can put anything that involves people in a blanket "personnel" category and put everything behind closed doors.

The way to solve the problem is for the legislature to do something that it will most likely never do- make it a crime to violate the open meetings law. Do not give officials a pass because "they did not know" the meeting was illegal, which is what we do. Under present law, you have to be able to read a person's mind in order for a person to be found guilty of a Sunshine Law violation. We don't do that for any other violation on the books.

If a violation is a violation, perhaps our elected and appointed officials will only put behind closed doors what can rightfully be put behind closed doors, instead of hiding anything that might be controversial or embarrassing.

Our elected officials seem to forget that the Sunshine Law does not even require that meetings be closed to discuss hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of personnel. It says they "may" be closed.

Where the Globe and other media outlets have failed is in explaining to readers the importance of open meetings to them. In the case of the search committee, we know who was chosen, but how they were chosen is just as important. If the board does it in the open and had a reasonable discussion over various possibilities for the committee, it adds to the confidence in the committee. Odds are, that was exactly the kind of discussion that was held, but there will always be doubt. Were there political reasons behind some of the appointments? Why were other reasonable candidates overlooked or omitted from the list?

So, the Globe was right, but it is understandable that its voice of God-type editorial might turn off some of its readership.

One of the comments suggests that Editor Carol Stark might open editorial board meetings to the public. That is a capital idea and has been done successfully at other newspapers across the country. If the Globe editorials could say, "We do it, and it doesn't hurt us, why don't you?" they would have much more of an impact.

Voucher group pours hundreds of thousands into Ohio elections

It is almost certain that pro-voucher group All Children Matter is responsible for Matt Blunt being governor of Missouri.
The organization's Virginia PAC poured approximately $200,000 into attack ads against Blunt's opponent, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, during the last two weeks of the election and Blunt won by a razor-thin margin.

It should come as no surprise that All Children Matter is using the same tactics in other states. A column by Dennis Willard in today's Akron Beacon-Journal, notes that All Children Matter spent $870,000 in laundered money in Ohio in 2006:

Last week, lawyers for Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and a pro-charter school PAC named All Children Matter Ohio squared off before the Ohio Elections Commission.

Brunner alleges the Ohio PAC exceeded contribution limits and illegally received $870,000 from a sister PAC based in Virginia that never registered in Ohio.

The true source of the money was hidden because the Virginia PAC dumped the dollars into Ohio through five and six-figure checks.

The Ohio PAC spent the money on 29 Republican candidates for statewide office, the General Assembly and the State Board of Education.

Missouri can expect another attack on public education during the 2008 legislative session. For more information, check the July 18 Turner Report.

Public defender appointed for former Rep. Cooper's alleged accomplice

A public defender will represent Omega Penalosa Paulite, who allegedly was an accomplice of former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R. Cape-Girardeau, in an immigration fraud scheme.
Judge Frederick Buckles, in a decision issued Friday in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, ordered the public defender, saying Ms. Paulite had "established the inability to retain private counsel."
Cooper pleaded guilty, will be sentenced in October, and resigned his seat in the Missouri House.

Rumors: former Joplin police chief in danger of losing Fort Smith position

Former Joplin Police Chief Kevin Lindsey faces the biggest problem he has had since taking over as chief in Fort Smith, Ark.
Rumors are circulating throughout Fort Smith that Lindsey is already on his last legs at his new position, according to a report on the KHBS website. Apparently, Lindsey has had problems with two veteran officers, both of whom are under investigation, with one being demoted:

"Dozens of police officers held an emergency meeting on Friday to show support for Lindsey. Members of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Fort Smith Municipal Police Association took a vote and decided unanimously to show unconditional support for Lindsey.

"There is no word whether the decision to investigate Barrows and Howard had anything to do with the outpouring of support, but sources close to the department said many officers are under the impression that Lindsey could soon be terminated.

"Lindsey would not comment on that issue either but said he appreciates all the support he is getting."

Packer coaches rave about Barbre's blocking skills

Word continues to be positive about East Newton High School's first ever athlete to make it to the National Football League.
The Green Bay Press Gazette reports that Barbre, also a Missouri Southern State University graduate, has dominated one-on-one blocking drills at the Green Bay training camp:

By unofficial count, the Green Bay Packers' fourth-round draft pick has lined up 22 times in the one-on-one pass blocking/pass rushing drill. He has won 18 of them, including a clean sweep of three reps during Tuesday's practice.

"Sometimes, he puts on a show down there," Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "He has everything you're looking for in a pass protector. There's really nothing he's lacking."

Barbre has rare athleticism for a guy who is 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds. In college, he was a gunner on the punt return team. At the NFL scouting combine, he ran a 4.84 40-yard dash.

"He's got good bend for a big guy," Philbin said. "He's got a good base, and he can punch you."

All of those qualities come in handy when trying to protect the quarterback.

(Photo by Green Bay Press-Gazette)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Update on Turner Report book

The final checks have been made on The Turner Report book, it is in the production phase now and will probably be available for purchase in about three weeks.

The Turner Report is my first non-fiction book, following Small Town News and Devil's Messenger.

The book is a combination of the types of stories and investigative pieces I have done through the years, from my days at the Lamar Democrat and The Carthage Press through the first four years of this blog.

The breakdown of the book is as follows:

-In the first chapter, "Terror on the Midnight Shift," I detail my early 1990s investigation into a rogue element on the Webb City Police Department that terrorized minorities and the teen element, and that went unchecked until a beating in the Webb City Jail changed everything.

-The next chapter, "The Death of Nancy Cruzan" relates my youthful memories of Nancy Cruzan from when I met her while I was playing baseball at Carterville through the right-to-die case her family waged all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court and back to Carthage.

-I devote eight chapters to the 1992 gubernatorial election with glimpses of Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, former Attorney General Bill Webster, and the late Mel Carnahan among others.

-In two chapters over the Anderson Guest House fire of 2006, I relate how the deaths of 11 people could have been prevented if reasonable action had been taken much earlier by the state and the media, and I look at the efforts made by an area legislator to cripple efforts to improve safety for group home residents, with new information that has never been published anywhere.

-In six chapters, I examine the impact of lobbyists on Missouri legislation, with a special look at the crown prince of gift recipients, Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin.

-In two chapters, I look at the role special interests are playing in the political careers of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and his father, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, again featuring information that is being revealed for the first time.

-In one chapter, I examine how people with limited financial resources have been hurt by the pull the banking industry has on Missouri and national legislators.

-Four chapters feature the saga of con-artist Pat Graham of Lamar, who victimized more than 100 investors, including singer Pat Boone and members of the Branson elite, in a company that was allegedly working on an AIDS remission formula.

-I also look at one of the most difficult stories I had to cover, when a friend was murdered by two teenagers who threw a rock through the windshield of her car, killing her instantly.

-In a lighter vein, the story of one-time presidential candidate James R. Montgomery, his return from the dead, and his political comeback, receives two chapters.

-In the chapter "Two Drunks in a Motel Room," I recall how The Carthage Press dealt with the arrest of two "material witnesses" in the Oklahoma City Bombing case in 1995.

-"Death of an Angel" relives the brutal murder of eight-year-old Douglas Ryan Ringler in 1993, the first major story covered in The Press after I became managing editor.

-The final chapter, "Public Education Under Fire" is an examination of the efforts being made by voucher proponents to destroy public education, again with some new information included that has not been published anywhere.

According to the people at the publishing company, IUniverse, a webpage for my book should be set up within the next few days. I will let you know when that happens.

Where is the Springfield media on Cron lawsuit story?

It's seamy, it's sordid, it's everything media critics say dominates the print and electronic media.
So where has the media been in on the ongoing story of former Missouri State University drama instructor George Cron's wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the university?

The trial is scheduled to begin in less than two weeks in federal court in Springfield, yet as far as I can tell, it has not been mentioned by any of the traditional media outlets in Springfield. My view of tabloid-type stories has always been, if it's Paris Hilton in California, it's tabloid trash, if it happens in your backyard, it's news.

But this particular lawsuit is about more than just titillation. It has a number of legitimate news pegs:

-It involves issues of sexual harassment and romance in the workplace, both of which have long been considered newsworthy topics.

-The lawsuit was filed against a taxpayer-funded institution and involves the way in which a particular part of that institution (the Department of Theatre and Dance) is being operated.

-Two of the principals in the case have made names for themselves in the arts. Cron, in addition to staging a number of successful theatrical productions during his time at MSU, has also played minor roles in movies, while defendant Rhythm McCarthy, is an accomplished professional dancer.

-It is one of a number of lawsuits that have been filed in connection with various departments at Missouri State, and the others have received extensive media coverage.

If anyone out there can tell me why this story has been totally ignored, I would appreciate it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Final decree issued in O'Sullivan Industries bankruptcy

U. S. Bankruptcy Judge C. Ray Mullins closed the doors permanently on the O'Sullivan Industries bankruptcy case Aug. 14, agreeing to a settlement with one creditor, denying another one and issuing a final decree in the case, which was initially filed in October 2005 and eventually led to the closing of Lamar and Barton County's biggest employer.
According to documents filed in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, O'Sullivan officials reached an agreement to settle its differences with Wells Fargo for $20,000, "in full satisfaction of Wells Fargo's administrative and post-confirmation claims."
The judge denied another creditor who failed to show for the hearing.

Defendants in Missouri State wrongful dismissal suit ask to have cases severed

With just a little over two weeks left before the trial of the wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by former Missouri State University drama instructor is scheduled to start, the court was deluged today with a series of defense motion.
The trial in the lawsuit, filed by George Cron against the MSU Board of Governors, dance instructor Rhythm McCarthy and former Department of Theatre and Dance Chairman Jay Raphael, is scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 10, in U. S. District Court in Springfield.
Attorneys for the defendants filed a motion asking that the defendants' cases be tried separately.
A series of suggested jury instructions and questions to ask during voir dire (jury selection) were filed, including the traditional queries about whether they know the plaintiff or the defendants, whether they have ever worked at Missouri State University or been related to anyone who does, have they ever been fired from a job, or ever appeared in a theatrical production.
Those motions will likely be decided at the same time as one filed earlier this week which would prevent Cron's attorneys from presenting any evidence concerning a romantic relationship between Cron and Ms. McCarthy or between Raphael and Ms. McCarthy.
More information about the case can be found in the Aug. 22 Turner Report.

Moark subsidiary sued following salmonella outbreak

Norco Ranch, a California subsidiary of Moark Egg Products, is being sued by an Illinois company that claims it was sold contaminated eggs for its egg salad product which led to an outbreak of salmonella:

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Illinois by Chef Solutions Inc. It stems from a 2003 salmonella outbreak in Oregon, which it claims was caused by ready-to-mix egg-salad kits sold by Chef Solutions. The cooked eggs used in the kits were supplied by the Norco company.

The article in the Riverside Press-Enterprise continues:

The plaintiff says it was first notified September 2003 by the Oregon Department of Health of suspected salmonella in egg salad sold by Safeway stores in the Portland area. The bacteria sickened at least 17 people that year, according to the suit.

Chef Solutions immediately quarantined all egg-salad kits nationwide and pulled remaining kits from sales, the suit states. It also worked with Safeway in a recall of the egg-salad kits and destroyed hundreds of cases of the kits, according to the suit.

Prior to the outbreak, Norco Ranch supplied sealed pouches containing cooked egg yolks and whites to Chef Solutions.

According to the lawsuit, analysis from both a government and private laboratory concluded the cooked eggs were contaminated with salmonella.

Moark, which is owned by Land O'Lakes, has facilities in Neosho.

Former KSPR reporter named hottest bachelorette in St. Louis

Forbes Magazine has named Jasmine Huda top bachelorette for St. Louis. Ms. Huda has been a reporter at KSDK in St. Louis since January. The top bachelor was St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger.
Ms. Huda was at the Springfield station from 2004 to January 2007, covering City Hall. Prior to that, she spent three years for National Public Radio and Fox News Channel in Washington, D. C. She is a St. Louis native.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Con-Way completes acquisition of CFI

In a news release filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Con-Way, Inc., announced it has completed its acquisition of Contract Freighters, Inc. (CFI) of Joplin. The release read:

SAN MATEO, Calif., and JOPLIN, Mo. - Aug. 23, 2007 - Con-way Inc. (NYSE:CNW)today announced that it has completed its $750 million acquisition of Contract Freighters, Inc. (CFI), a privately held North American truckload carrier based in Joplin, Mo. The acquisition adds to Con-way's portfolio a respected, well-managed company with significant market share and a substantial presence in the truckload market with its 3,000 employees and a fleet of more than 2,600 tractors and 7,000 trailers.

The acquisition positions Con-way as a unique enterprise in the freight transportation industry, offering market-leading less-than-truckload (LTL),truckload (TL) and supply chain management services with a diverse suite of high-value solutions for shippers in North America as well as globally, noted Douglas W. Stotlar, president and CEO, Con-way Inc.

"CFI is a highly strategic acquisition that immediately establishes us as a major player in the truckload market and strengthens our capabilities as a premier provider of freight transportation and supply chain solutions," Stotlar said. "We are positioning this company for growth on a global scale - one with differentiated yet complementary service offerings, and an excellent foundation for increasing shareholder value. I'm very pleased to officially welcome CFI's 3,000 employees to the Con-way organization."

CFI joins the existing Con-way Truckload to form a business unit expected to generate some $500 million in annual revenues. The division, combined with Con-way's LTL carrier Con-way Freight and global supply chain services provider Menlo Worldwide, offers customers a suite of transportation and logistics services that can cover "first-mile" sourcing in Asia or Europe to "last-mile" delivery in North America.

"As part of the Con-way enterprise, we're presented with exciting opportunities to accelerate our growth, penetrate new markets and provide a wider array of services to our customers," said Herb Schmidt, CFI's president. "We can now enjoy the benefits of Con-way's strong brand, extensive infrastructure and broad service offering. We're proud to join an organization with values and service philosophies similar to those that have served us well for many years, and which we will continue to embrace."

On July 16, Con-way announced its intent to acquire CFI's parent holding company, Transportation Resources, Inc., CFI and all other subsidiaries of the parent holding company. The company expects to provide financial statements for CFI and pro-forma consolidated financials including CFI before the end of the third quarter. The company's consolidated financial statements presented with Con-way's third quarter earnings report will include CFI's results from the date of closing.

The acquisition was funded with existing cash resources together with proceeds from debt financing.

Michigan court dismisses suit against Wal-Mart

A federal court in Michigan dismissed a former Wal-Mart executive's breach of contract lawsuit against the company, saying it should have been filed in Arkansas instead of Michigan.
In her lawsuit, which was filed May 25, Ms. Roehm fired off a laundry list of allegations against company CEO Lee Scott.

H. Lee Scott, the current President and Chief Executive Officer of Wal-Mart, initiated (at a time when Mr.Scott was the Vice-President of Merchandising) an association with entrepreneur Irwin Jacobs, allowing Mr. Jacobs' business, Jacobs Trading Company (JTC), the exclusive right to purchase unsold Wal-Mart merchandise. Jacobs Trading Company is one of several privately-held companies owned by Mr. Jacobs. Upon information and belief, Mr. Jacobs also owns or owned interests in approximately 12 boat manufacturing companies, and as part and parcel of Mr. Scott's relationship with him, over the span of several years, Mr. Scott has purchased from Mr. Jacobs' companies a number of yachts at preferential prices. Upon information and belief, Mr. Scott also was also able to purchase, through his relationship with Mr. Jacobs, a large pink diamond for his wife at a preferential price.

In the filing, Ms. Roehm claims Scott's relationship with Jacobs also extends to Jacobs' employment of Scott's son:

Mr. Scott’s son, Eric S. Scott, who initially was employed by Wal-Mart as a buyer, ultimately left Wal-Mart for employment with Jacobs Trading Company. Wal-Mart has chosen to ignore the fact that Mr. Scott's circumstances create "[t]he appearance of conflict [which] may be just as damaging to Wal-Mart’s reputation as an actual conflict."

Ms. Roehm, who was fired following allegations that she accepted gifts from an advertising agency that deals with Wal-Mart. She was in charge of marketing and communications. Company officials also claimed Ms. Roehm had an affair with someone who worked for her.

In the court document, Ms. Roehm noted that a former official who had a well-known affair with a subordinate was never penalized for it:

Robert Rhoads was variously a Vice President and Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary for Wal-Mart from 1988 through 2002. Mr. Rhoads had an affair with Lauren Beamon, a subordinate employee in the Wal-Mart legal department. Mr. Rhodes paid for her apartment and college tuition, divorced his wife, and subsequently married Ms. Beamon. Mr. Rhoads was not subject to "immediate termination," even though it was known that he and Ms. Beamon had married and that he had been her supervisor at Wal-Mart.

Ms. Roehm was fired on Dec. 4, 2006.

LaBarge profits up

LaBarge, Inc., which has a plant in Joplin, saw a profit increase of seven percent and a revenue increase of 18 percent during the fourth quarter, according to a company news release:

For the year, the firm's profit grew 16.5 percent as sales shot up nearly 24 percent. LaBarge's profit hit $11.3 million on sales of $235.2 million, compared with profit of $9.7 million on sales of $190 million in 2006.

The largest contribution to bookings of new business during fiscal 2007 came from the defense, commercial aerospace and natural resources market sectors. Company officials said that the strong bookings replenished backlog to a new year-end high of $206.21 million as of July 1, up 12 percent from $183.9 million at the end of fiscal 2006.

KOAM dominates July ratings

KOAM News reached more viewers than the news programs of KODE and KSNF combined during the July Nielsen rating period.
KOAM had 10,000 viewers for its morning show, compared to 3,000 each for KSNF and KODE.
Only two stations, KOAM and KSNF have noon newscasts. KOAM had 19,000 viewers to 4,000 for KSNF.
KOAM dominated the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts, with the surprising news being that KODE had a solid second place advantage over KSNF in the 5 and 6 p.m. slots, but fell to third at 10 a.m.
At 5 p.m., KOAM had 21,000 to 11,000 for KODE and 7,000 for KSNF.
Viewership was up to 28,000 for KOAM at 6 p.m., with KODE staying at 11,000 and KSNF improving to 9,000.
KFJX's 9 p.m. news, garnered 11,000 viewers.
At 10 p.m., KOAM pulled in 27,000 viewers to 11,000 for KODE and 13,000 for KSNF.

Cooper's alleged accomplice free on bond, surrenders passport

Omega Paulite, the woman who allegedly was a partner with former Rep. Nathan Cooper in an immigration fraud scheme, is free on bond.
According to documents filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Ms. Paulite was freed Aug. 16, and surrendered her passport the following day.

Among the conditions of her release:

-She is restricted to using one credit card and one bank account.
-Her travel is restricted to the Western District of Washington and the Eastern District of Missouri as she awaits trial.
-She must not harass, threaten, intimidate, or tamper with any prospective witnesses.

Cooper, a Cape Girardeau Republican, pleaded guilty in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, resigned his seat, and lost his law license.

Put some teeth in the Sunshine Law

It will probably never happen because we have many elected officials who give lip service to openness in government, but really don't want to see it, but it is time to toughen Missouri's Sunshine Law.
A prime example of this can be found in Joe Hadsall's article in this morning's Joplin Globe, which indicates the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors met in closed session to choose the members of the search committee which will look for a replacement for former University President Julio Leon.
The Board is headed by a lawyer Dwight Douglas, who apparently can't understand plain English. We always hear about boards and councils going into closed session to discuss "personnel," but there is no blanket exception for personnel. It is strictly limited to hiring, firing, promoting, or disciplining.
None of those exceptions apply in the case of choosing an unpaid search committee. The members of the committee are not paid personnel, they are advisors, therefore, they do not fall under any exception. Considering the culture of secrecy that has developed at my alma mater, I would have thought Douglas and his fellow board members would have wanted everything out in the open to help ensure public trust. Douglas sees it differently, according to the Globe article:

“We needed to have a frank discussion about the composition of the committee, and we did not want to discuss names of prominent people who we had not had the opportunity to visit with,” said Douglas, a Neosho lawyer. “We feel like it was a correct use of the Sunshine Law.”

Apparently, frank discussions are something that should not be held when the public can listen in, according to Douglas' philosophy. Unfortunately, as the public has discovered time after time over the years, he is one of many in government who feel the public does not need to know the public's business.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Convicted felon says News-Leader libeled him

An Ozark man convicted by a federal jury on three felony cocaine dealing charges, filed a libel suit against the Springfield News-Leader today, indicating the newspaper had maligned his sterling character.
Judging by the content of Joseph L. Rainey's petition, filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the News-Leader was out to get him. "The Springfield News-Leader used its resources and public influence for the purpose of the defamatory libel and slander the same being published concerning plaintiff."

You might be able to tell that Rainey is representing himself in the action, using the same lawyer who helped him land convictions earlier this year on counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine, and intent to distribute cocaine.

Rainey claims the News-Leader article caused "unjustifiable prejudice, damages to his reputation amongst his family, friends and loved ones and most importantly damaging his relationship with and influence over his children."

Rainey says the News-Leader account features him committing crimes other than the ones for which he was convicted. The case had nothing to do with the large amounts of cocaine the News-Leader says he trafficked, Rainey pointed out. "In fact, the entire case consisted of 123 grams of cocaine base most of which was arbitrary and had no connection to the investigation itself."

Judging from the content of Rainey's petition, it would appear News-Leader reporter Thomas Bookstaver was using information from the public record in writing his article, which was published in June. Rainey is asking for "damages, fees, and costs."

Rainey, the same man whose reputation was allegedly besmirched in the News-Leader article, also pleaded guilty to five drug felonies in 2001 in Jackson County, according to court records, and was placed on probation.

Blunt issues statement on president's VFW speech

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt issued the following statement today following President Bush's speech at the VFW Convention:

"The president this morning rightly identified our current campaign in Iraq as part of a generational struggle between two very different views of the world: one that believes in the promotion of democracy and the dignity of the human spirit, and another whose sole source of legitimacy derives from its ability to destroy human life and disseminate a message of hate, fear and intolerance.

"This is a struggle, as the president suggested, that will not be won with a single battle. But while the fight continues at home and overseas, the undeniable progress being made by our troops on the ground has created a new landscape in Iraq, and confronted in a serious way the agents of terror who have staked their campaign on a precipitous withdrawal of American support forces from the region.

"Now, as Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker prepare to issue a report on the current status in Iraq, even some Democrats who support surrender and withdrawal have started to acknowledge the successes we have seen across the region. It's now time for the Democratic leadership to decide whether it wants our mission to succeed in Iraq, and come back in September willing to work with us to ensure the safety, security and ultimate success of our troops in the field."

Filings: Court asked to block mention of MSU officials' alleged romantic affairs in wrongful dismissal case

Apparently, a federal lawsuit filed by a fired Missouri State University professor is threatening to turn the Springfield campus into the Peyton Place of the midwest.
In motions filed Tuesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Jay Raphael, former head of the university's Department of Theatre and Dance, and Rhythm McCarthy, (pictured) a professional dancer and a teacher in the department, are asking the court not to allow fired theater instructor George Cron (pictured) to introduce any evidence that Raphael and Ms. McCarthy had a romantic relationship or that Ms. McCarthy had a romantic relationship with Cron.
Cron's lawsuit claims he lost his job after he rejected Ms. McCarthy's sexual advances.
Cron, who also 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 (then Southwest Missouri State University) in October 1998 when she was chairman of the Search Committee which hired Cron. Ms. McCarthy, in addition to her duties at Missouri State, is a professional dancer who has appeared with the California Ballet Company and the North Carolina Dance Theatre.
"(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 documents filed with the court, Raphael said Cron had been accused of fostering an attitude of sexual harassment toward female students:

"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."

Woman who posed as man to lure Joplin teen into sex is given probation

An Arkansas woman who posed as a man in an effort to lure a Joplin girl into sexual activity pleaded guilty to a second degree sexual assault charge Tuesday in Fourth Circuit Court.

From the Northwest Arkansas Times article:

Alesha Mariah Carr entered the plea in Fourth Circuit Judge William Storey’s courtroom.

Carr, 20, was represented by Springdale lawyer Joel Huggins.

Washington County Deputy Prosecutor David Harris explained to Storey what Carr did on Oct. 5. The girl she had the sexual contact with was from Joplin, Mo.

Carr posed online as a male to seduce the girl.

She used instant messages in October to convince the girl to leave Joplin and travel to Fayetteville for sexual activity. Once she convinced the girl to make the trip, Carr drove to Joplin, picked her up and brought her to Fayetteville, where the two had consensual sexual contact, Harris said.

“With some reluctance, I’ll accept your plea, ” Judge Storey told Carr. “I told your attorney this morning that I thought you ought to go to prison. He told me to give you another chance. ”

Storey sentenced Carr to seven years probation and ordered her to pay $ 1,000 in county restitution. She is to register as a sex offender and pay the associated $250 fee. She also is to undergo sexual offender treatment and is to have no contact with the victim.

“Ms. Carr, I really thought you ought to go to prison today,” Storey told her. “Your lawyer talked me out of it. You need to understand that if something like this happens in the future, that’s where you’ll be.”

News-Leader: Special session is "handout bonanza"

An editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader describes the current special legislative session as a 'handout bonanza" for special interests, a description that is right on the money:

We call it a sham. We commended Blunt for taking a conservative stand against the undisciplined attempt by lawmakers to give handouts to every special interest that came calling in the failed House Bill 327, the so-called Quality Jobs bill. But it seems Blunt's primary concern wasn't in the handouts, but merely in the amount of dollars associated with them. The new Quality Jobs bill costs much less than the previous version, but it contains many of the same, unnecessary handouts to specific industries. How disappointing.

I eagerly anticipate the metropolitan newspapers' certainly forthcoming articles about how much this "emergency" session cost Missouri taxpayers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Former KSNF sports anchor lands top job at ESPNU

Former KSNF sportscaster Lowell Galindo was announced today as the primary anchor for ESPNU, sports cable network ESPN's college spinoff channel.
Prior to joining ESPNU, Galindo had been the anchor at WTTG in Washington. At one time, he worked at WWSB in Sarasota, Fla.
According to ESPNU's news release, Galindo will "host studio shows including SportsCenterU, ESPNU Inside the Polls, ESPNU Coaches Spotlight and ESPNU Recruiting Insider, as well as pregame, halftime, postgame and specials."
Galindo was an intern at ESPN in 2002.

Supreme Court will not hear Sierra Club appeal in Springfield case

The Missouri Supreme Court will not hear the Sierra Club's appeal of a 2006 Greene County Circuit Court decision paving the way for construction of a pulverized coal-fired boiler by Springfield City Utilities.
The Greene County Court was the Sierra Club's second effort to stop construction after failing with the Missouri Air Conservation Commission. After the circuit court decision went against the organization, it appealed to the Southern District Court of Appeals, where it was again rejected. The background of the case can be found at that link.

Audit uncovers DESE's lack of initiative

About 10 years ago, shortly after a law was passed in the state of Missouri requiring criminal background checks for all those who hold teaching certificates in the state of Missouri, I called the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to do what I thought would be the story of a former teacher whose license was pulled after he was convicted of armed robbery.

DESE had issued a press release bragging about completing its work on checking out the review of all of those who were on the certificated teachers' list. My call was transferred to a woman in the division that was handling the checks, but not to the person who was in charge. I asked about this former teacher, who had been in the Lamar R-1 School District, and explained about his armed robbery conviction.

"Could you repeat the name?" she asked, and I did. After a long pause, she said, "I'm going to have to call you back."
The phone rang about 10 minutes later, and it was not the same woman, but her boss, and he began grilling me about the former teacher. I provided him with the information, then I asked, "Didn't you say you had checked all of the teachers in the system?"
He hemmed and hawed around for a few minutes, and never fully answered the question. The former teacher's license was revoked, but I immediately lost faith in DESE's effort to make sure that Missouri's children were not being exposed to people who had committed various crimes, in some instances even crimes against children.

Apparently, things have grown worse in the past 10 years, according to an audit released Monday by State Auditor Susan Montee. The following information was on the "yellow sheet," the cover sheet that summarizes the audit:

Inadequate State Laws for Background Checks and Inadequate Certification Database Controls Leave Public School Students at Risk

State law for educator background checks is not sufficient to ensure the safety of the state's public school students. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is responsible for ensuring background checks are conducted on applicants for educator certificates and for reviewing background check results. However, imprecise language in state law and the omission of other critical laws and policies have allowed some educator certificates to be issued to individuals who have a criminal background or have a history of committing other offenses. DESE and Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) management also need to take the necessary measures to develop documentation, implement controls and edits, and enhance the functionality of the teacher and substitute certification databases to fully ensure the integrity and reliability of educator certification data. We focused audit efforts on determining whether (1) educator background checks required by law are sufficient to identify individuals who have a criminal history or have other issues involving moral turpitude, (2) DESE officials have complied with applicable background check laws, and (3) DESE and ITSD officials have established adequate controls to ensure the integrity and reliability of educator certification data and information.

Background checks for educators are inadequate

State laws regarding background checks for Missouri's educators are not adequate to ensure students are in a safe environment. State law requires applicants for most school district positions to have both a criminal history background check and a Family Care Safety Registry (FCSR) background check performed prior to having contact with a student. However, due to the imprecise language in the law, DESE officials have not been requiring and school districts may not be performing FCSR background checks prior to employing educators and other school district personnel who have contact with students. (See page 11)

Educator backgrounds may place students at risk

State law does not require FCSR background checks for educators before they can obtain a certificate to teach. In addition, while state law intended the Child Abuse/Neglect Central Registry to be checked as part of the FCSR background checks, state law does not specifically require Central Registry background checks for educators. During our review, we found instances of certified educators who had a criminal background and/or a history of committing other offenses, such as child abuse or neglect. We found records in the FCSR and Central Registry for certified educators who had been actively teaching in the 2006-2007 school year as well as records for certified educators who had not been actively teaching. DESE officials had been aware of some of these cases, determined the educator was not a risk to students and cleared the background. However, DESE officials had not been aware of all of the cases we found because FCSR checks and periodic background checks have not been required. (See page 12)

Periodic background checks are not required

State law does not require any periodic reviews of educator backgrounds to determine whether new crimes or other offenses have been committed. Periodic background checks help to ensure an individual who previously had a cleared background has not committed some type of offense since the initial review. (See page 15)

Social security numbers are not validated

The teacher and substitute certification databases contain records having invalid social security numbers (SSN). As part of the educator certification process, DESE requests each applicant's SSN. However, SSNs are not validated against an appropriate form of identification nor are there any policies or procedures requiring validation. The Missouri Adaptive Enterprise Architecture states the SSN is a critical component in many state agency applications and is used in facilitating the transfer of information and matching data between different sources. Invalid SSNs compromise data integrity and do not allow DESE officials to ensure the integrity of background checks requiring SSN as the identifying key. (See page 17)

Clearance list needs to be documented

The State Board of Education allows DESE officials to clear certain types of adverse backgrounds without obtaining approval from the board. However, the State Board of Education has not adopted a policy to delegate the clearing of adverse backgrounds and a comprehensive list identifying the offenses DESE officials can clear has not been documented. Documenting the specific offenses that can be cleared provides assurance to the department and the public that cases are handled consistently and individuals with adverse backgrounds, including felonies or crimes involving moral turpitude, have not been certified. (See page 18)

Inappropriate substitute certificates have been issued

The substitute certification database processed and automatically issued certain certificates to applicants prior to the required clearance of criminal background checks during the 2006-2007 school year. A DESE official believed this issue could have been the result of a programming change made during the school year that was subsequently fixed within a short period of time. (See page 22)

A documented data dictionary is needed

A data dictionary has not been developed or documented for the teacher or substitute certification database applications. A data dictionary should enable the sharing of data elements among applications, promote a common understanding of data among users, and prevent incompatible data elements from being created. (See page 22)

Certification databases require improvement

DESE uses several databases and web applications to process and maintain criminal background check results, applications for educator certificates, certification history and applicant professional requirements; and to provide information to school districts on the status of applicant certificates. Many of these educator certification databases and applications are older systems, lacking in necessary controls such as audit trails, key edit checks, and functionality generally available with new technology. As a result, improvements are needed to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of educator certification data. (See page 23)

A link the complete audit can be found here.

With this audit, we have now seen three different state departments or agencies that have claimed they did not have the money or the time to do proper background checks. I have already written about the failures of the Department of Revenue and the Department of Social Services. These are feeble excuses for not doing a job that the taxpayers expect and deserve from those whom they are paying to protect them.