Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sinquefield lobbyist wines and dines Nodler, Richard, wives, GOP leaders

Travis Brown, lobbyist for billionaire Rex Sinquefield, spent more than $1,700 wining and dining Joplin's top legislators, Sen. Gary Nodler and Rep. Ron Richard and their wives, during a two-day period in November, according to documents posted today on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.

Nodler, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and his wife Joncee, received $1,135.98 in meals and lodging from Sinquefield's lobbyist Nov. 7 and Nov. 8, according to the documents. On Nov. 7, each of the Nodlers received $162.13 for meals, with the total increasing to $286.21 apiece for meals the following day.

Nodler received lodging totaling $239.30 on Nov. 7.

Richard, who will become Speaker of the House next week, also received the $239.30 for lodging on the 7th, with he and his wife each receiving meals worth $162.13 on the 7th and $25.13 on the 8th.

The total for the two legislators was $1748.80, according to the Ethics Commission documents.

Others who were dining on the Sinquefield tab included outgoing Speaker Rod Jetton and his wife Cassie, Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, and his wife Nancy, Rep. Allen Icet, R_Wildwood, Budget Committee chairman; Rep. Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton; Rep. Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, Majority Floor Leader; and Rep. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa. Only Wasson, who received $25.63 in meals, received less than $100 from Brown, according to the Ethics Commission documents.

During the two days, Brown spent $4,807.11, with all but $238 of that total, a $150 gift for Jetton from the Brown Lobbying Firm and $88 for travel for Tilley from Pelopidas, footed by Sinquefield.

Governor's employees can't accept lobbyists gifts, but governor can

It has only been a few months since Gov. Matt Blunt's public relations machine bragged about how Blunt was the first governor in Missouri history to ban gifts from lobbyists for any employee of the governor's office.

Apparently, the governor has no problems with accepting the same sort of gifts he has banned for his employees.

Documents posted moments ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website show the governor accepted an $82 meal from Missouri Chamber of Commerce president and registered lobbyist Daniel Mehan Nov. 20 when Mehan paid Blunt's way to the annual Chamber of Commerce meeting.

This is not the first time this year the governor has accepted gifts from lobbyists.

On Aug. 6, Jeffrey T. Sweet, lobbyist for Boeing, presented the governor with a $295 model of a Boeing C-17 aircraft, according to a disclosure report posted on the Ethics Commission website.

Commission records show lobbyist Mark J. Rhoads, representing the voice of the payday loan industry, Community Financial Services Association of America, bought a $22 lunch for Matt Blunt Jan. 10.

Though Blunt's ethic reforms started in 2006, according to a news release earlier this year, the governor still accepted gifts from lobbyists on six occasions the following year, including a $120 meal from Mel Nicholson, representing SSM Health Care on Aug 21, 2007, and two meals from Mehan on Feb. 15 and Feb. 21, 2007.

New Hanrahan blog added to Turner Report links

Missouri Southern State University publications manager T. R. Hanrahan has a new blogging effort, Newsroom on My Back.

A link has been added on the right hand side of this page.

Nixon reports two oversized contributions

Governor-elect Jay Nixon closed out 2008 on a strong fundraising note, adding $20,000 in oversized compensations for his 2012 reelection campaign.

According to a 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Nixon received $10,000 apiece from the Missouri Hospital Association, Jefferson City; and J. E. Dunn Construction Company, Kansas City.

GateHouse shuts down Kansas City, Kansas newspaper

GateHouse Media is closing the Kansas City Kansan, ending its 87-year run:

GateHouse intends to keep the newspaper's website running, according to the article.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

GateHouse Media stock up 50 percent

Don't get too excited over that headline. Fifty percent is not much when your stock price has dropped to the level where GateHouse Media has been.

The company's stock price improved 1 1/2 cents to 4.5 cents per share today, trading on the Pink Sheets.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications across the U. S.

Changes made in links section

I have just completed some tinkering with the links section on the right hand side of this page.

Three sites have been removed, one repaired, and two added.

Gone are Jason Rosenbaum's Political Notes from the Columbia Tribune, since Rosenbaum is no longer with the Tribune, and is no longer writing the blog. Also, I have removed Missouri Pulse, which has not updated since Sept. 9, and News Talk 1450.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Political Fix link has been repaired, and I have added two blogs, Janese Heavin's Capital Notes from the Columbia Tribune, which replaced Rosenbaum's blog, and Desdinova- Super Villain of the Ozarks.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cox lawsuit dismissed following settlement

Details were not given in court records, but the wrongful firing lawsuit filed by Roger Cochran and Dennis Morris against CoxHealth was dismissed today by Federal Judge Gary A. Fenner.

The dismissal came a few days after both sides filed a request to have the case dismissed with prejudice, indicating a settlement had been reached.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2005, was the first indication that Cox was under investigation by a federal grand jury, which was looking into Medicare and Medicaid fraud. That investigation ended earlier this year with Cox settling with the government for $60 million.

The grand jury investigation, along with details of the lawsuit, were first provided in the June 8, 2005 Turner Report.

Secretary of state dissolves Joplin River of Life

Joplin River of Life, the corporation that owned a number of Guest House facilities in southwest Missouri, has been dissolved by the Missouri secretary of state's office, according to a notice issued Dec. 17.

The corporation failed to file its annual report, according to the notice, which was sent by Executive Deputy Secretary of State Rich Lamb.

Among the facilities owned by Joplin River of Life was the Anderson Guest House, which was destroyed by fire in November 2006, killing 11.

Guest House owners Robert and Laverne Dupont, their daughter Kelley Wheeler, and Joplin River of Life were indicted by a federal grand jury in April for health care fraud and money laundering.

Myers takes over as treasurer of 32nd Senatorial District Committee

Joplin CPA Nick Myers is the new treasurer of the 32nd Senatorial District Committee according to documents filed earlier this month with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Myers replaces Tom Flanigan, who was elected 127th District state representative.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock closes at 60 cents

Nexstar Broadcasting stock, on the rise only a few weeks ago, remained mired below one dollar today, falling four cents to 60 cents per share.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns or operates KSNF and KODE in the Joplin market and KOLR and KSFX in the Springfield market.

GateHouse Media stock falls one cent

Normally, it is not a big deal when a company's stock falls one cent, but things change when the stock price is only four cents at the start of the day.

GateHouse Media stock closed a three cents per share today on the Pink Sheets, its home since it expulsion from the New York Stock Exchange.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications across the U. S.

Blunt: Long live the Tour of Missouri

In one of his last columns before he leaves the governor's mansion, Matt Blunt extolls the virtues of Missouri tourism, taking time to tell readers how great the Tour of Missouri bike race is:

For centuries, Americans and people from around the world have been visiting Missouri for its history, beauty and many attractions. They come to experience the urban excitement in St. Louis and Kansas City, our rustic beauty in the Ozarks, our natural wonders in state and national parks, our vibrant lakes, and our Missouri hospitality everywhere.

And they are still coming today. Today’s visitors come to experience nature in our vast untouched spaces; to hunt, fish, to relax at one of our many rivers, lakes and parks; to be entertained; and to shop, dine, explore, and participate in cultural events in our urban centers.

In 2007 my administration announced another exciting destination for tourists. An historic partnership between my office, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Conservation resulted in the creation of a new state park in Missouri. The Current River State Park reflects the significant natural resources in the area and a well known waterway that Missourians and visitors alike enjoy and love. The partnership also returns a state park to the Current River for the first time since 1968. This site has significant natural and historical resources together with many recreational opportunities for all to enjoy.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and I have also brought a professional cycling race to our state known worldwide as the Tour of Missouri. The tour has provided an incomparable opportunity to showcase Missouri’s natural beauty and warm hospitality to a world audience. The third annual Tour of Missouri is set for September 7-13, 2009. I encourage Missouri families to continue to support this great sporting event and to enjoy the many benefits of this premier cycling event right in our own backyards.

Not surprisingly, tourism is a booming industry in our state. More than 293,000 Missourians are employed in tourism-related jobs; and in 2007, Missouri hosted 39.2 million visitors from within the United States. Direct expenditures by travelers in Missouri are estimated to have been $8.2 billion during Fiscal Year 2007.

I understand how important tourism is to our state’s economy and as a driver for job creation. In my four years as governor, funding to promote Missouri as a great destination for tourists has increased by 32.8 percent, a $5.8 million increase.

As we travel the state, Melanie and I continue to be impressed with the countless wonders right in our own backyards. Missouri’s natural beauty and hospitality, and our many opportunities for fun and recreation, make the Show-Me State one of America’s premier destinations for family travel.

News-Leader article examines Emery's legislative priorities

The legislative priorities of Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, for the 2009 session are examined in a Chad Livengood article posted on the Springfield News-Leader website.

The list includes changing Missouri's taxation system to the Fair Tax, and strictly regulating strip clubs.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

O'Sullivan Industries files $1.5 million lawsuit against OfficeMax

O'Sullivan Industries, once the largest employer in Lamar, shut down its facilities months ago, but the company continues to be active in court.

The company filed a $1.5 million lawsuit in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois earlier this month, claiming that Officemax-North America failed to pay for items it bought from O'Sullivan over a four-year period.

GateHouse Media stock selling for four cents per share

Though its stock is no longer traded on the New York Stock Exchange, GateHouse Media is still active on Pink Sheets trading, but not doing any better.

The last transaction, dated Friday, shows the stock selling for four cents per share.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications across the United States.

Lawsuit charging MSSU president Speck with racial discrimination advances to federal appellate court

A lawsuit filed by three African American women alleging Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck racially discriminated against them during his time at Austin Peay State University, has advanced to the Sixth District Court of Appeals.

Only the college remains as a defendant in the action. Speck and other co-defendants were dismissed as defendants earlier. The appeal was filed after a federal judge dismissed the suit Jan. 16.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, a former Austin Peay employee claimed Speck made "covert racial" remarks directed at her.
The lawsuit said that Speck, who served as vice president of academic affairs at the university, insulted two of the plaintiffs, Jacqueline Wade, director of the university's African American Cultural Center (AACC) and Nancy Dawson by saying
"he 'was tired of your arm-twisting and resistance to my decisions.'
He also made clear that he would not tolerate Dr. Wade’s and Dr. Dawson’s 'pushiness' and 'uppityness.' Dr. Wade was offended by the latter comment as 'covert racial denigration.' "

At the time, Dr. Wade was fighting the administration over cuts to her staff's budget. The lawsuit says, "Dr. Wade 'limped along' without adequate staff and funds. She felt that none of the co-curricular programs directed by Caucasian directors suffered the same budget and staff cuts."

In the lawsuit, Dr. Wade says she was racially harassed by Dr. Speck on another occasion as she battled for her job, harassment which led her to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In 2003, Dr. Hoppe (university president Sherry Hoppe) proposed a reorganization plan for APSU. The AACC and the AASP (African American Studies Program) were assigned to the Department of History and Philosophy. Dr. Wade and Dr. Dawson objected, and ultimately Dr. Speck placed the AACC as a direct report to the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. Dr. Wade states she was not given an opportunity to upgrade her administrative rank under this new reporting line and the AACC did not receive any funding support from the College of Arts and Letters. Dr. Wade received a memorandum from Dr. Speck which she considered to be very antagonistic, amounting to racial harassment. She responded the same day and from then on felt she was treated in a hostile manner by Drs. Hoppe, Speck, and Filippo. Dr. Wade attests that various studies and investigations showed the existence of racism on the APSU campus.

The lawsuit was dismissed Jan. 16, with the judge noting that even if the allegation that Dr. Speck made the "uppityness" comment was true, it was not enough to show that Austin Peay had a hostile work environment.
The judge also claimed the women had failed to prove they were discriminated against by the university or were wrongfully fired.

No hearing date has been scheduled for the appeal.

Ringler murder was 15 years ago today

It was a little over 15 years ago that I was promoted from general assignment reporter to managing editor of The Carthage Press. Despite having more than 16 years in the newspaper business at that time, none of my experiences prepared me for the challenge that awaited on Dec. 28, 1993.

The brutal murder of eight-year-old Douglas Ryan RIngler, a second grader at Hawthorne Elementary School, provided the first test of the Carthage Press' new managing editor, as well as a staff that had been cut from a high of eight only a few months before to only five (which I am sure seems a wealth of reporters to today's Press).

This is what I wrote about the death of Doug Ringler in my book, The Turner Report:

It was standing room only at the BYKOTA Church for an early-afternoon service that two weeks earlier no one could have ever foreseen.
I was one of those standing, leaning against a wall in the back of the church, making an estimate of the number of those who were continuing to squeeze their way into the facility, which would be replaced within a year by a larger building.
More than 500 were standing or sitting shoulder to shoulder as the time for the service approached. In the front left corner, a cluster of multi-colored balloons and groupings of flowers surrounded an 11 x 17 photo of a smiling, eight-year-old boy.
Carthage was paying its final respects to Douglas Ryan Ringer, a second grader at Hawthorne Elementary School…and a victim in the brutal murder that robbed the city of its innocence.
I had only been managing editor of The Carthage Press for about three weeks when Randee Kaiser returned from the police beat on a late December morning with the word that police were searching for a missing eight-year-old boy. We ran the school photo of Doug Ringler, his blond hair combed to the right and a smile on his face. It was the first of many times we ran that photo, the same photo that was placed in the front of the BYKOTA church for his funeral service.
Police knew from the beginning they were probably never going to see the boy alive, but posters were distributed all over Carthage. There were not many areas where the people didn’t know Doug Ringler. If they didn’t know the name, they knew the face the minute they saw the posters. They had seen Doug riding his bicycle all over town, his short legs pumping the bicycle hard because he always had more friends he wanted to see. He made a lot of friends during the few years he had.
Friends and family stayed with Norma Ringler, Doug’s mother, as she awaited word. On December 28, 1993, the same day Doug was reported missing, authorities discovered the body of a young boy, burned beyond recognition in a field in Fort Scott, Kan. They had no doubt, even before forensic evidence confirmed it, that they had found Doug Ringler. “There hadn’t been any reports of any other missing children at that time,” Carthage Police Chief Ed Ellefsen said. “We knew it had to be him.” Dental records confirmed it.
Norma Ringler was surrounded by friends when she was told by Carthage police that her little boy was never coming home. She released a statement to the media the following day. “My family and I are deeply sorrowed at the loss of my son, Doug. We will greatly miss his smile, excitement for life, good nature and outgoing personality. As a born-again Christian, I am relying upon the peace and comfort that only God can bring and am confident that Doug is with the Lord in Heaven where there is no pain or suffering. I am comforted by the fact that I will see Doug again. We want to thank the Carthage Police Department, BYKOTA Church, Leggett & Platt, friends and co-workers and the entire community of Carthage for their support, kindness, and generosity.”
On the same day that Mrs. Ringler was told of her son’s death, Terence W. Cupp, 31, Carthage, one of those who had helped distribute the flyers with Doug’s photo, was arrested and charged with first degree murder. On Dec. 31, the police, who had suspected Cupp, a family friend, from the outset, obtained a search warrant for his car, taking evidence to the Missouri Southern State College Crime Lab.
Doug Ringler and his older brother Chris Gentry spent the night with Cupp. The boys slept in Cupp’s living room. Gentry told the police Cupp had said the boys could sleep with him if they got cold. When Gentry woke up, shortly past eight o’clock the next morning, he asked, “Where’s Doug?”
“He just left,” Cupp said.
Cupp took Gentry to the nearby Pancake Hut for breakfast then dropped him by his house. When Chris Gentry entered, Doug was nowhere in sight. A couple of minutes before noon, Norma Ringler called the Carthage Police Department and reported her son missing.
When police questioned Terry Cupp, they quickly noticed his nervousness. At first, Cupp indicated Doug was probably just running around, the way he always did. “Norma lets him walk all over town all the time.”
As the questioning continued, Cupp offered another thought. “I think he may have run away from home,” but he offered no reason for the boy to have run away.
The autopsy showed the extent of Terry Cupp’s brutality. Doug Ringler had been sexually assaulted, his throat had been cut, and he had been strangled. Search warrants uncovered a map in Cupp’s trashcan which showed the route he took to the place where he took Doug’s body. Hair samples matching Doug’s were found in Cupp’s car. A gas station attendant remembered a man fitting Cupp’s description putting a small amount of gasoline in a red, plastic container, the same gasoline that was used to start the fire that burned the boy’s body.
A search warrant later uncovered that container in a vacant house next to property owned by Cupp’s mother, Sharon Hendricks, in Hallowell, Kan.
A gas log book was found in the glove compartment of Cupp’s car. Cupp voluntarily took a lie detector test, and the results of that test, though inadmissible in court, indicated Cupp was lying. Blood and semen samples had also been recovered that tied Cupp to the murder.
Because Doug Ringler’s body had been discovered in Kansas, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) was called to assist with the investigation. The KBI agent on call when the assignment came through was Bill Halvorsen…a Carthage Senior High School graduate.
As Cupp continued to proclaim his innocence, the police called in Cupp’s mother, Sharon Hendricks. “I didn’t do this,” he told his mother, but later in a discussion with his mother, his minister, and Joplin lawyer Terence Prigmore, Cupp started crying.
“I’ve done something really bad,” he said in a halting voice, and he acknowledged he had sex with the eight-year-old, though he continued to insist he had not killed Doug. Cupp did everything he could to keep from making eye contact with his mother, eventually burying his face in his hands.
“Mom, I’m sorry.”
Finally, with his mother and minister in the room, Terry Cupp told the police what he had done. He described, in chilling detail, how he molested the boy, murdered him and disposed of the body. Every few moments, he stopped to say something to his mother or his minister. At another point, he asked to be allowed to smoke a cigarette. Wanting to do nothing to stop the story, the police agreed to the break.
After the cigarette, he told about driving to a remote area where a cattle pen was located.
“I didn’t stop,” he said, “there was a farmer out there working, I had to drive on by.” He drove around for a while, then circled back to the property. “I took Doug out of the car and I put him on the ground,” Cupp said, “then I poured the gasoline over him,” he paused, then added, “and I set him on fire.”
Once the statement was finished, Terry Cupp, the man who single mother Norma Ringler thought would be a good father figure for her sons, was arrested for murder.
Cupp never said why he killed Doug Ringler, but Cupp’s mother had a theory that she shared with KBI investigator Bill Halvorsen. “I think Terry had so much heartache because of his sexual desire for Doug that he might have thought killing him would get rid of the heartache.”
I looked at the two banners surrounding Doug Ringler’s photo. Both signified that he was a “Hawthorne Hero,” the highest honor a student at his elementary school could receive.
“We thank you for the eight years we had with Douglas and the impact that he had on our lives,” Mike Morgan, an elder at BYKOTA Church, said. He said that no obituary could capture the qualities that endeared Doug to his friends, neighbors and second grade classmates at Hawthorne Elementary.
“His sandy, blond hair, blue eyes…and that wonderful smile. He loved being with people. He loved his school, he loved his classmates, and he loved his church. And he was loved by all who knew him.”
People on all sides of me were reacting in the same manner. Nearly everyone had tears streaming down their faces. Mine would come later when I began writing the story.
BYKOTA Church minister Michael Banes, said, “All of us have been deeply violated by this terrible tragedy. We need to choose to release Doug into the hands of the Lord and trust him to that place where there is no more suffering and no more tears. It is my hope that as a family, church and community we will remember Doug as an outgoing, friendly, energetic child that loved to be involved in all that was going on around him. Though his years were short, we all know that Doug enjoyed life to the fullest. We will miss Doug very much. We will miss his smile and the bubbly joy that his presence brought, but our hope rests in the assurance that we will see Doug again.”
When the service ended, I followed the family and church members to Park Cemetery. The balloons that had surrounded his picture in the church were placed above his casket, and after a few words were spoken at his graveside, the balloons were released into the air and buffeted about by the gusting winds.
Prosecutors filed documents in Jasper County Circuit Court indicating they would seek the death penalty for Terry Cupp, whose trial date was set for October 1995. Though he had had brutally murdered an eight-year-old who had never done any harm to anyone, Terry Cupp was not prepared to pay the ultimate price for his crime.
On May 16, 1995, John Bailey, the public defender for capitol crimes, who had been placed in charge of Cupp’s defense, stopped by Norma Ringler’s home.
“How would you feel about a plea bargain?” Bailey asked. The terms of the agreement would have Cupp receiving a life sentence without possibility of parole.
She told Bailey she would not oppose the plea bargain arrangement. “This is the best thing, not just for my family, but for the entire community,” she told me shortly after she talked to the lawyer.
“Having to go through the trial would have been torture enough, but it wouldn’t have ended there. If Terry had received the death penalty, we would have to go through years and years of appeals. That would have been real hard.
“And I was also worried about the trial,” Mrs. Ringler said. “I didn’t want to see the evidence, the pictures of my Doug. I heard they were very gruesome. That’s not the picture I want to have of Doug. I want to remember Doug the way he was the last time I saw him. He was a happy, little boy, so happy, and so excited about life.”
Though a year and half had passed since the murder, it was obvious that Norma Ringler had not come to grips with what had happened and she probably never would. “I just don’t see how someone could have done that to Doug,” she said, and though she was trying hard to fight back the tears, it was a losing battle. “I figure Terry doesn’t even know why it happened. How can there be any explanation for it? I sometimes think that this has been a ploy of the devil to cause problems in this area where people have such strong faith in God.
“I just hope somehow that we can put this behind us. Vengeance won’t do anyone any good. Maybe with this (the plea bargain), we can finally put Doug to rest.”
Terry Cupp, the slight, bespectacled killer who robbed Carthage of its Midwestern comfort and its sense of innocence, officially entered his guilty plea May 17, 1995, in Jasper County Circuit Court. Before the plea was accepted, Judge David Darnold asked Cupp 119 questions, the same battery of questions that anyone entering a guilty plea in his court had to answer. These included questions on whether his plea was voluntary, whether he was happy with the job his lawyers had done for him, and if he understood that his plea meant he could not come back later and ask for a trial.
“With this plea, you are giving up your right to have a trial. Do you understand that?” Judge Darnold asked.
“Yes,” Cupp said, answering that question as he had all of the others before it, in a thin, reedy voice that barely registered.
After Judge Darnold accepted the plea, Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney David Dally (now a circuit court judge), made a statement to the media. Asked if it bothered him that someone who had committed a crime as heinous as Cupp’s was being allowed to live, Dally said, “Life in prison is not going to be a picnic for Mister Cupp. If there is one thing they do not like in prison, it is someone who hurts a child.”
When a person enters a guilty plea of his own volition, that should be the end of the case, but that was not the case for Terry Cupp. A few months after he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Cupp filed a motion in Jasper County Circuit Court, asking that his sentence be tossed out and that he be allowed to go to trial.
Though disgusted by the prospect of a reopening of Cupp’s case, Carthage Police Chief Ed Ellefsen was not surprised by the motion. “They get up there and find out life isn’t easy and they’re going to be up there a long time, so what have they got to lose?”
Judge Darnold dismissed the motion, which was then taken to the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals, where it was rejected on Nov. 6, 1996.
Cupp tried again on Jan. 12, 1998. In documents filed in Jasper County Circuit Court, he claimed “material evidence” had been suppressed that had an effect on his plea and deprived him of due process. He never said what the evidence was.
Cupp also charged “outrageous misconduct” by the Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the police had kept him from receiving due process. Cupp, who served as his own lawyer in filing the petition, said he would supply more information after the court appointed a lawyer for him.
His petition indicated he had witnesses who would testify about his mental condition, information he claimed was kept from him and could have invalidated the statements he made to the police when he admitted to killing Doug Ringler.
Darnold turned down Cupp once more, noting that Cupp had already filed an appeal and that court rules only allow him for file once for post-conviction relief. Once again, the killer took his case to the Southern District Court of Appeals, helped by a public defender, paid for by the taxpayers, including Norma Ringler, whose son he had brutally murdered. The court upheld Judge Darnold’s ruling on Jan. 26, 1999, and Cupp remains behind bars.
On May 20, 1994, Hawthorne Elementary School paid tribute to Doug Ringler with a ceremony dedicating a bench inscribed with Doug’s name. The bench was placed under a tree, where it was surrounded by rose bushes and chrysanthemums. The bench and its surroundings were christened Doug’s Place. “He loved nature,” Hawthorne Principal Charles Paden said. A cadet teacher told Norma Ringler, “I never got to know Doug very well, but he was always bouncing around. He made school a lot less dreary.
“He was an angel.”
Teacher Julie Collier’s second grade class…Doug’s class…made a collage of drawings for Mrs. Ringler of the good times they remembered having with Doug. All of them referred to Doug in the present tense.
“We don’t talk about it much any more,” Mrs. Collier said, but obviously it was still fresh in their thoughts. “They see students move in and out of here a lot and it’s almost like he’s moved away. They know they won’t see him again, but they still remember him like he was. I don’t know if any of them have ever experienced anything like this before, but I know I haven’t. And you know if it’s hard on the adults, then it’s really hard on the kids.”
After the ceremony, Mrs. Collier gave Norma Ringler a photo of Doug taken just before Christmas break, just a few days before his death. Mrs. Ringler had never seen the photo before. She looked at the photo, then she placed it next to her heart. It was the last picture that was ever taken of her son.
A few years later, when Hawthorne Elementary School closed its doors for the final time and was put on the auction block (and later torn down) Carthage R-9 school officials made sure extra care was taken with Doug’s memorial bench.
At first, Kenneth Bowman, who was R-9 superintendent at the time, told me school officials considered moving the bench to Columbian Elementary, the school Doug would have attended had he lived.
Then at the request of Norma Ringler and with the cooperation of the Carthage Public Library Board, the memorial was moved to the E. L. Dale Memorial Library Gardens, where it sits a few feet away from Carthage artist Bill Snow’s Alice in Wonderland statue, in an area designed for children.
School officials, library officials and Mrs. Ringler agreed that it would be the perfect place to put the bench, to make sure that Douglas Ryan Ringler, forever eight years old, will never be forgotten.

The Turner Report book can be ordered through

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"News to Go" gone; Joplin Globe editor outlines changes

Longtime readers of The Turner Report know that from time to time I criticize the waste of space the Joplin Globe calls "News to Go."

For some inexplicable reason, for the last several years the Globe has dedicated its back page to telling readers what it is in the rest of the paper, including page one.

As far as I can tell, my first criticism of this so-called innovation was in a July 13, 2005 post:

Hopefully, they can get someone to talk the powers-that-be at The Globe about getting rid of that news to go on the back page. What kind of idiot turns to the back of section A to find out what is on page one?

It appears "News to Go" is on its way out. In her column for the Sunday Globe, Editor Carol Stark details ways in which the Globe will change in 2009:

Beginning Jan. 1, our paper readers can return to a time some five or six years ago, when once they finished reading a Page 1 story, they could quickly flip to the back page and read the jump. Over the past two years, that’s been a complaint I’ve heard repeatedly. Couple those complaints with the fact that the cost of newsprint is rising by the month, and it seems clear that we can use our back-page space better and make reading the Globe easier.

Mrs. Stark also announced a new configuration of bloggers for the newspaper's website. Joe Hadsall's columns on money in politics apparently will be relegated to the internet, and blogs are also planned for Mrs. Stark, Scott Meeker, Wally Kennedy, and just what we needed, a Dave Woods blog on Branson. That would be a welcome addition if the newspaper was the Branson Globe or even if Branson were in its coverage area, but apparently there are advertisers in Branson who might fork over a few dollars if the Globe offers some coverage.

I will be watching these new developments with interest.

Emery exploring run for state senate seat

It appears Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, who will begin his final two-year term in the House next month, hopes to continue in the General Assembly.

Documents filed Dec. 15 with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicates Emery will seek the 28th District Senate seat currently held by Delbert Scott. Term limits prevent Scott from seeking another term.

Former Neosho woman's book set for April publication

It is still more than four months before Pam Cope's book, Jantsen's Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace, will be published, but the book is already climbing the charts, thanks to advance orders.

The book details how Mrs. Cope started a shelter for homeless children in Saigon, following the unexpected death of her son, Jantsen, in 1999. Since that time, she and her husband, former Neosho Daily News Publisher Randy Cope, have continued to add to "Touch a Life."

The following description of the book is provided on

Nine years ago, Pam Cope owned a cozy hair salon in the tiny town of Neosho, Missouri, and her life revolved around her son's baseball games, her daughter's dance lessons, and family trips to places like Disney World. She had never been out of the country, nor had she any desire to travel far from home.

Then, on June 16th, 1999, her life changed forever with the death of her 15-year-old son from an undiagnosed heart ailment.

Needing to get as far away as possible from everything that reminded her of her loss, she accepted a friend's invitation to travel to Vietnam, and, from the moment she stepped off the plane, everything she had been feeling since her son's death began to shift. By the time she returned home, she had a new mission: to use her pain to change the world, one small step at a time, one child at a time. Today, she is the mother of two children adopted from Vietnam. More than that, she and her husband have created a foundation called "Touch A Life," dedicated to helping desperate children in countries as far-flung as Vietnam, Cambodia and Ghana.

Pam Cope's story is on one level a moving, personal account of loss and recovery, but on a deeper level, it offers inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered great personal tragedy or those of us who dream about making a difference in the world.

The book is co-authored by Aimee Molloy, who has also written a book with Senator John Kerry and Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

The book may be pre-ordered by clicking on the link in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More thoughts about Rue Porter

(My column for this week's Newton County News features memories of the late Rue Porter.)

I am sure some of those who have played or coached at the new Granby baseball/softball complex on the east side of town will draw some of their fondest memories from that facility.

But for those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the memories stem from the downtown field, the one located smack dab in a residential section. It was at that field, that I played for the Tigers in Little League, played in Pony League and Colt League, and then for 14 years played men’s baseball with the Aroma Express.

During those years, I also coached Little League, Pony League baseball, and high school girls fast pitch softball, as well as umpiring hundreds of games at the old ballpark.

Through the early years I spent at the Granby ballpark, the one constant was the lanky gentleman from across the street, who managed the summer program, ran the concession stands, and who umpired home plate for a large percentage of the games for all age groups.

My first memory of Rue Porter dates back to one of the most embarrassing things that happened to me while playing Little League. When the opposing team was lighting up all of our pitchers like Christmas trees (my only seasonal reference in this column), the Tigers’ coach, Brad Letts, decided to allow me to make my pitching debut.

As I took my warmups, my confidence grew. My fastball was coming right over the middle at about knee level on most of the opposing batters. Unfortunately, everything changed once I was facing an actual batter. My first pitch sailed far over the batter, the catcher, in fact, over everything, somehow finding a hole at the very top of the screen and bouncing across the street.

I heard the derisive laughter, not only from the opposition and those in the crowd, but some from my own teammates. I only heard two words from home plate umpire Rue Porter, sounded in his carefully modulated tone: “Ball One.”

As I walked five batters and hit three during my two-inning stint, Rue never grew exasperated, never changed his tone of voice, he just did his job and I found that oddly comforting.

Over the years, Rue Porter had a soft spot in his heart for this hot-tempered player and coach from Newtonia. Never once did he toss me from a game, though I certainly gave him reason from time to time. On the contrary, Rue actually gave me my first opportunities to umpire games, first assigning me as a base umpire, and later letting me work behind the plate, something I ended up doing for 18 years and a few Oldtimers games during Old Mining Town Days. Thanks to Rue, I had a steady source of income during the summers for many years, as I ended up working games at both Granby and Stella.

All of those memories returned when I read that Rue Porter died Saturday at age 77. Though his life was marked by many accomplishments, both at work and during his 14-year stint on the East Newton R-6 Board of Education, the memories I have of Rue all come from those days at the downtown ballpark.

For those of us who had the good fortune to play or coach there during those long-gone days, the name Rue Porter will always bring back fond memories.

GateHouse Media sues New York Times

GateHouse Media filed a lawsuit against the New York Times Monday in U. S. District Court in Boston, claiming copyright infringement.

According to Associated Press, GateHouse officials claim the Times' subsidiary, the Boston Globe, is lifting GateHouse material for its "Wicked Local" website.

Joplin one of five top sites for distribution, warehousing

Expansion Solutions named Joplin one of the top five most desirable locations for warehousing and distribution businesses.

Other cities recognized were Memphis, Tenn., Grand Island, Neb., High Point, N. C., and Vero Beach, Fla.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trial setting for Muschany delayed

The hearing to set a trial date for former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, who is charged with felony deviate sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, was postponed for a third time today. The hearing has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 26, in Cole County Circuit Court.

Muschany's hearing was originally scheduled for Nov. 24, and before that was set for Oct. 27. We will have to see if anything gets done in January.

Republicans criticize Nixon e-mail plans

The Missouri Republican Party just issued a news release criticizing Governor-elect Jay Nixon's statement that he does not plan to use the e-mail system put into place by Matt Blunt:

After spending nearly a million dollars of Missouri taxpayer money on a bogus investigation, Nixon explains that he is not using the OA system to permanently save e-mails because allowing each employee to decide whether an e-mail should be saved as a public record “… made more sense…”

“As a Missouri taxpayer, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Oren Shur’s comments are breathtaking in their brazenness and arrogance,” said Tina Hervey, communications director Missouri Republican Party. “When politicians like Jay Nixon, exploit the power of elected office for personal or political gain, they demonstrate a disregard for standards of integrity and ethical conduct. From broken political promises to empty political rhetoric, Missourians have been betrayed; Nixon orchestrated a political witch-hunt, wasted taxpayer dollars, all in an attempt to secure higher office.”

“It is clear by his actions; Governor-elect Nixon has no intention of upholding his pledge of expanded transparency. The Missouri Republican Party hopes that the media will hold Nixon’s feet to the fire with the same due diligence they did the Blunt administration,” said Hervey.

In the first place, while Scott Eckersley is not exactly a poster child for public servants, the investigation into the use of e-mail by Gov. Blunt and his aides has most assuredly not been "bogus." Much taxpayer money has been spent by Gov. Blunt to prevent embarrassing e-mails from seeing the light of day. Just like with the license fee office scandal, the governor is trying to rewrite history by making it seem that he is the one who has brought reform to the office.

And maybe he deciding not to run for a second term.

Blunt team attempting to reshape history

Just as we are seeing on the national level with President Bush, Gov. Matt Blunt and those who surround him are attempting to rewrite history as their days in control approach the end.

One example has been their response to Governor-elect Jay Nixon's announcement that he will open license fee offices to competitive bidding right from the beginning of his term. Immediately after Nixon outlined his plan, Gov. Blunt issued a news release noting that he had already put up offices for competitive bids.

In today's Springfield News-Leader, the governor's chief of staff Trish Vincent responds to the News-Leader's praise of Nixon's plan:

In an act of cheap partisanship, the newspaper attempted to tie the governor's office to a discredited conspiracy theory about an "FBI probe." This is beyond ridiculous. Governor Blunt was never the subject of an investigation and no charges were ever filed against anybody, anywhere. If the News-Leader is truly interested in FBI probes they ought to Google "Spitzer" and "Blagojevich."

The editorial also fails to give Gov. Blunt the appropriate credit for being the first governor to open contract offices to a competitive bidding process. Even the liberal Kansas City Star gave him credit in an Oct. 2, 2008, editorial stating: "In a positive change, Blunt has begun bidding out contracts for fee offices as they become available."

The competitive Contract Office Bid process was initiated by Gov. Blunt in December 2006 and has led to 12 contracts awarded or pending through the open bid process, helping to improve customer service and cut costs. Competitive awards have been announced or are pending in: West County, Harrisonville, Potosi, Richmond, Memphis, Steelville, Vandalia, Savannah, Elsberry, Branson, Mountain Grove and New London.

It is going to be a relief not to have to put up with any more of the never ending self-serving news releases that have been issued by Gov. Blunt and his aides. Ms. Vincent can whine all she wants to do about "discredited conspiracy theories," and brag about the the governor's decision, made late in his term, to open bidding for license fee offices, but she can't change the sordid way the governor began his term.

Under Blunt's stewardship, the awarding of license fee office contracts, which has always been used as a method of rewarding friends and contributors, became something much more; it was a concerted effort to rake in hundreds of thousands for people close to the governor who set up corporations to operate the offices for those who were chosen to receive the contracts.

In a May 13, 2007, post, I outlined the depth of the fee office scandal (and yes, you can definitely have a scandal even if, as Blunt and his supporters claim, everything was done legally. Legal does not always translate to ethical.) If anything indicates there were serious problems with the license fee offices, it was the governor's decision to publicly back Sandra Thomas for state auditor despite the presence of three elected GOP officials in the primary. Of course, the state auditor would be the one who would be examining the books for the license fee offices. This is what I wrote:

As questions begin to emerge about the extent the fee office investigation played in the firing of U. S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Arkansas (and perhaps Todd Graves of Missouri), little attention has been paid to the attempts made by Governor Matt Blunt and Congressman Graves to end examination of the fee office contracts in this state.

Despite the candidacies of such GOP stalwarts as Sen. John Loudon, Rep. Jack Jackson, and Rep. Mark Wright, Blunt and Graves threw their support and considerable money to little-known Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas.

The treasurer of Mrs. Thomas' campaign was CPA Nick Myers...who also happened to be the license fee contract agent for Joplin. The campaign was placed in the hands of Sam Graves' former chief of staff (and political attack dog) Jeff Roe and his firm Axiom Strategies.

As The Turner Report first revealed in a July 29, 2006, post, Axiom Strategies was set up by Lathrop & Gage attorney Jamison Shipman, who also set up the management companies to operate license fee offices for the contract agents.

In the last month of the primary campaign, Mrs. Thomas' contributors included Todd Graves $1,000, the 32nd Senatorial District Committee (whose deputy treasurer Victoria Myers is Nick Myers' daughter) $10,000, lobbyist and first brother Andrew Blunt $500, Election Day Enterprises (run by former State Rep. Jewell Patek, who also set up management companies for license fee offices) $1,275 and the biggest $12,750 from the Sixth District Congressional Committee, which is controlled by Sam Graves.

The connections between Mrs. Thomas and the fee office scandal grew as the campaign continued. In the Oct. 16, 2006, Turner Report, I noted:

Three maximum $1,275 contributions to Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas' campaign for state auditor came from contract agents running state license fee offices, according to her October quarterly report, filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Ms. Thomas received the maximum amount from David Jerome, Neosho, Matt Gerstler, St. Joseph, and the Nodler Leadership PAC, which is operated by its treasurer, Joplin CPA Nick Myers, who runs the Joplin contract office. The Nodler Leadership PAC reported contributing $1,275 to her primary campaign two weeks after the primary ended and an additional $1,275 the following month. (It should be noted that Myers, along with Blunt Highway Commission appointee Rudy Farber and Empire District Electic's William Gipson, controls the Nodler Leadership Fund, which is now called the Southwest Missouri Leadership Fund.)
Myers, of course, also serves as Ms. Thomas' campaign treasurer, and has already contributed $1,275 personally, and $1,275 from his CPA business.
The revenue fee office agents' contributions are not the only conflict of interest evident on Ms. Thomas' disclosure form. She also received a $500 contribution from Gene McNary, St. Louis, who was recently appointed by Governor Matt Blunt to head the Missouri Gaming Commission, which is a state agency which must be audited.

Having shepherded Mrs. Thomas successfully through the primaries, all Blunt and Graves had left was to defeat Democratic nominee Susan Montee in the general election and no expense was spared in that effort.

The Turner Report continued to expose the money trail to Blunt, Graves, and the license fee contract agents during an Oct. 30 post:

On Oct. 25, Ms. Thomas received a maximum contribution, $1,275, from Election Day Enterprises, the political consulting firm run by lobbyist and former state representative Jewell Patek. Print reports have indicated Patek was smack in the middle of the license fee office scandal that led to a federal investigation earlier this year. The lobbyist was pushing Highridge Services, a management firm, to operate the lucrative fee offices.

I also noted:

Blunt himself contributed $500 on Oct. 20, one week to the day after three of Blunt's clients contributed to Ms. Thomas' campaign. AT&T Missouri Employee PAC donated $1,200, Burlington Northern Railway $500, and Missouri Hospital Association PAC $500. It was noted on the final page of the report that Burlington Northern Railway often does business with the Missouri Department of Transportation, another department that Ms. Thomas will be required to audit if she is elected.

The largest contribution to Ms. Thomas' campaign is the most disturbing one. She received $10,000 Oct. 25 from the 32nd Senatorial District Committee out of Carthage...a committee which 10 days earlier had only $867.46 in its bank account, according to the October quarterly report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Unfortunately, the 32nd District Committee, whose deputy treasurer is Victoria Myers, daughter of Ms. Thomas' campaign treasurer Nick Myers, will not have to file its next report until more than two months after the election is over, so there is no way of knowing just where this money originated.

The Turner Report noted more of those large contribution mysteries in a Nov. 6 post:

As I have noted before, it is almost impossible to tell who is really funding Sandra Thomas' campaign. The 12th Senatorial District Committee, which contributed $12,250 today, only had $950 in its account one week ago, and it likely will not have to file any documents indicating where its financial windfall came until 30 days after the election.
The treasurer for the 34th Senatorial District Committee is Matt Gerstner, who operates the lucrative St. Joseph fee office, which would presumably be under Ms. Thomas' jurisdiction if she were elected. As revealed earlier in The Turner Report, Gerstler has already personally contributed to Ms. Thomas' campaign.
The laundry operation extends to the $12,750 contribution from the 35th Republican Legislative District Committee. That committee was down to its last $50 one week ago, but received a massive infusion of $31,900 Nov. 1 and 2 from the Sixth Congressional District Committee. The Sixth Congressional District, of course, is home for Congressman Sam Graves, who has been pushing Ms. Thomas, and whose former chief of staff, Jeff Roe, runs Axiom Strategies, the consulting firm which has managed the Platte County auditor's campaign.
The 17th Republican Senatorial District Committee had absolutely no money in its accounts on Sept. 30, the last time it filed papers with the Ethics Commission, but by November it had enough to fund a maximum $12,750 contribution to Ms. Thomas.
It appears the Sixth District Congressional Committee was also at least partially responsible for the maximum $12,750 contribution given by the 30th District Republican Committee. On Nov. 1, the Congressional Committee kicked in to the 30th District Committee to the tune of $25,500, while an additional $3,250 was contributed to the committee by James Thomas, 5920 NW 96th Terrace, Kansas City, the same James Thomas who has been married to Sandra Thomas for 20 years.
The 32nd Legislative District Republican Committee had only $136.30 at the time of its last filing, Oct. 30, with the Ethics Commission, but came up with $12,750 for Ms. Thomas in the meantime. The deputy treasurer for that committee is James C. Thomas, listing the same home address as candidate Sandra Thomas.
For someone who lists not being a politician as being her chief virtue, Ms. Thomas has certainly shown a knack for playing politics.

The source of the contributions to Mrs. Thomas' campaign becomes crystal clear with the most recent campaign disclosure documents. The committees which did not have any money, but miraculously came up with enough to make sizable contributions to her campaign, received massive infusions of cash from Sam Graves' Sixth District Congressional Committee. The late contributions enabled Mrs Thomas to pour almost $200,000 into her campaign during the last few days.

The attempt to buy the election fell by the wayside when Mrs. Montee won with nearly 53 percent of the vote.

One last note: At the beginning of Blunt's term, he made a big deal about those who received license fee offices having to submit detailed plans. To this day, none of these "plans" have ever been released, as far as I can recall. Of course, most of those who were asked to submit these "plans" were people who had donated considerable amounts to Blunt. Perhaps the governor's biggest misstep is that, at the end of his term, just like at at the beginning, he doesn't think the people are smart enough to recognize a con job when they see one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Remembering Rue Porter

Rue Porter, who spent more than a decade on the East Newton R-6 Board of Education, died Saturday at age 77.

I knew Rue more from his days as the head of the Granby Summer Recreation program. He was behind home plate in many of the games I played from Little League through playing for 13 and 14-year-old and 15 and 16-year-old baseball teams. Though I gave him ample reason over the years, he never kicked me out of a game (others did from time to time).

He also was kind enough to get me started in umpiring as I worked some games on the bases for him, then later started working behind home plate, something I did for more than a decade.

Though those things happened more than three decades ago, they remain fresh in my memory. Rue Porter brought joy to a lot of people over the years through his management of the summer program. I was lucky enough to be among that number.

Nodler outlines expectations for 2009 to News-Leader

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, outlined his expectations for the 2009 legislative session to Springfield News-Leader reporter Chad Livengood in an article posted today on the newspaper's website:

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Nodler holds one of the most powerful tools in the Missouri General Assembly -- the budget pen.

The only thing that's different from 2003, Nodler said, is "I now have the burden of the chairmanship."

Incoming Gov.-elect Jay Nixon faces a projected $342 midyear budget shortfall to shore up before the fiscal year ends June 30. And it's possible there could be a deficit in the neighborhood of $900 million in 2010, according to the Missouri Budget Project, a state fiscal policy think tank in St. Louis.

"I think the budget will keep me occupied for most of the year," Nodler said.

LIvengood: Chiefs contribute $10,000+ to top officials

The Kansas City Chiefs, who have been woefully inadequate on the field, have fared better in the political arena.

Springfield News-Leader political reporter Chad LIvengood notes that the Chiefs, who recently received a $25 million taxpayer subsidy, contributed big sums to three top state officials, Governor-Elect Jay Nixon, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Text posted on Flanigan bill to curb RES environmental violations

The text of HB 127, designed to put some teeth into laws that have enabled RES to skate past regulations and continue to cause serious odor problems in Carthage, has been posted on the Missouri House of Representatives website.

The bill, the first from newly-elected Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, includes the following changes to current state law:

4. Any recycling company that converts animal parts into petroleum that the commission or the director determines to be in persistent violation of the provisions of this section or any odor rule promulgated by the department shall forfeit any permits issued by the department under this chapter or chapter 644, RSMo, until such time that the recycling company that converts animal parts into petroleum successfully obtains a new permit. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "persistent violation" shall mean any recycling company that converts animal parts into petroleum that has been found by the commission or the director to have violated the provisions of this section at least six times during any twelve-month period or at least twelve times during any thirty-six-month period.

5. During any thirty-six-month period, any recycling company that converts animal parts into petroleum that the commission or director has found to have violated the provisions of this section on more than one occasion shall be subject to a penalty of not less than ten thousand dollars and not more than thirty thousand dollars for each violation per day for each day, or part thereof, the violation continues to occur, or both, as the court may deem proper.

Hulshof committee now designed for debt service

Unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor Kenny Hulshof filed papers with the Missouri Ethics Commission Dec. 5 officially changing his campaign committee to debt service.

According to his 30 days after report, filed Dec. 5 with the Ethics Commission, Hulshof's campaign owes $82,556.02.

Large contributions continue to come for Nixon

Jay Nixon has not yet taken the oath of office as Missouri governor, but he is already receiving oversized contributions for his 2012 re-election campaign.

Forty-eight hour reports filed Thursday and Friday with the Missouri Ethics Commission show Nixon received $10,000 contributions from Peabody Investments Corporation, St. Louis; and World Wide Technology, St. Louis.

Jan. 19 creditors' meeting set in McDonald County prosecutor's bankruptcy

A creditors' meeting has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 19 in the Chapter 13 bankruptcy of McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Janice Durbin.
According to court records, the meeting will be held in the conference room at the Jasper County Annex, 105 N. Lincoln Street, Carthage.

Ms. Durbin filed for bankruptcy Dec. 2, as noted in a post that day on The Turner Report.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nexstar Broadcasting stock up, Saga down

Nexstar Broadcasting's stock price dropped 11 cents Thursday to 55 cents per share, while Saga Communications, which had been dropping big amounts for the past several days, rebounded, climbing 27 cents to $1.37 per share.

Nexstar Broadcasting operates KODE and KSNF in the Joplin market and KOLR and KSFX in Springfield, while Saga owns KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin market.

O'Fallon Republican offers her own auto bailout plan

Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, has her own auto bailout plan for the 2009 Missouri House session.

In her latest Capital Report, Mrs. Davis outlined her plan, which would eliminate sales tax on the purchase of automobiles:

It seems strange to me that the government takes a lot of taxes from all of us, and then gives some of our money back to certain businesses in the form of a loan so that they can continue down their tenuous paths. If Washington wants to help anybody, they would give us tax breaks, not loans. Real tax relief is far better than a loan. You may remember that the last time Congress discussed a bailout, members urged each other to call it a “rescue.” People trying to rescue others don’t set them up with loans that will add to already hefty financial burdens.

My “auto bailout plan” starts by getting rid of the personal property tax in the state. Many states do not charge this personal property tax, and it is time for it to go away in Missouri. If the auto manufacturers did not have to pay millions of dollars in taxes every year for the equipment they need to make cars, it would be a far greater relief than a bailout loan of the same amount.

The second benefit from doing away with personal property taxes is that it would provide an incentive to consumers for buying new cars. A lot of people will not purchase a new car because they hate the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for it again and again each and every year they own it. We all can understand sales tax, which is a one-time event, but to have to pay taxes annually on the same item retards the sales of newer cars. Imagine how much it would help the auto industry if people felt like buying new cars again.

Best of all, we can deal with these issues on the state level, apart from whatever is happening in Washington D.C. This proposal is important enough to me that I am starting an effort to get this measure on the ballot. If I can get some agreement between the House and the Senate, we can put this on a statewide ballot for the voter’s consideration.

With the correct economic principles, we can take care of our own people better, more efficiently and in a manner that allows them to preserve some of their dignity.

Crowell bill targets taxpayer handouts to pro sports teams

SB 113, prefiled by Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, takes aim at the kind of charity that the Missouri Development Finance Board recently gave to the Kansas City Chiefs. The following news release was issued Thursday:

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, today called for fundamental reform of the Missouri Development Finance Board (MDFB). The MDFB recently approved $25 million in tax credits for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“In this tight economy, there are families throughout Missouri who are struggling to pay the bills and are worried about their jobs,” said Sen. Crowell. “We are facing a $342 million shortfall in 2009 and a large shortfall in 2010. It is not the time to be spending limited taxpayer dollars on a professional sports team.”
While some of the funding will go towards improvements at Arrowhead Stadium, a portion of the money will be used to build a new Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph. According to Jason Noble of the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs will “chip in $10 million toward a new $13.45 million indoor training facility at Missouri Western State University,” which will be used by the Chiefs only three weeks a year and will require either private funds of $3.45 million or an additional state appropriation in that amount to make up the funding gap.
Sen. Crowell recently prefiled Senate Bill 113 that would repeal the provision that currently allows the MDFB to approve large tax credit awards. The bill limits the board to the standard $10 million dollar annual cap on issuance of development fund contribution tax credits. Currently, the board has the ability to exceed the annual spending cap with the agreement of the commissioner of Administration, the director of the Department of Economic Development and the director of the Department of Revenue. Sen. Crowell seeks to eliminate this provision and replace it with legislative approval.
“We are the ones that must pass a balanced budget and thus should be the ones approving these projects,” said Sen. Crowell. “At this point it is my hope that the Commissioner of Administration, the Department of Economic Development, and the Department of Revenue do not allow the MDFB to again exceed its cap of $10 million and deny these tax credits. Twenty-five million dollars spent on the Chiefs today is $25 million we must cut from Medicaid, education, or autism funding tomorrow. The process which allows an expenditure of this type to occur without legislative approval and review is wrong and must be reformed.”
“Missouri is one of the 10 best economically situated states in the nation right now thanks to careful and responsible spending,” said Sen. Crowell. “This pattern of fiscal responsibility will not continue if we continue to allow boards to spend like there is no tomorrow.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Richard: Jobs will be priority

In a telephone interview with Joplin Globe reporter Joe Hadsall, incoming Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said jobs will be the top priority during the 2009 legislative session.

The article indicates that at this point, Richard and Governor-elect Jay Nixon are "on the same page."

Dorman makes KODE debut

KODE anchor Brian Dorman made his debut on the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts Wednesday. I did not see any reason to be alarmed. He appeared to fit in well with co-anchor Lauren Hieger, and I did not hear any mispronunciations of local names and places, both of which are problems that new anchors to the area have had in the past.

Saga Communications stock drops 60 cents

Saga Communications stock dipped dangerously near the $1 a share mark Wednesday, falling 60 cents to $1.10.

Saga owns KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin/Pittsburg market.

Nexstar Broadcasting, which operates KODE and KSNF, fell two cents to 66 cents per share.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don't expect Koster to serve as watchdog where payday loans are concerned

The payday industry appears to have its hooks into attorney general-elect Chris Koster.

In the Nov. 3 Turner Report, I noted that payday loan interests funneled at least $6,500 into Koster's campaign during the last few days before the election, by contributing it to the Economic Growth Councill, which, in turn, placed it in Koster's account:

The council's Ethics Commission filing shows it received $5,000 from Check into Cash, Cleveland, Tenn. and $1,500 from Axcess Financial, Albuquerque, N. M.

The Economic Growth Council has been a useful tool for Koster throughout the primary and general election campaigns. In the Aug. 2 Turner Report I noted that the Council was used to begin the laundering process for $10,000 from Vacation Services of America, a company that the man Koster wants to succeed, Jay Nixon, accused of bilking customers just four years ago:

But that $6,500 was just a drop in the bucket. The man who contributed more money than anyone else into Koster's campaign, billionaire Rex Sinquefield, has made it clear he does not want any regulation of the payday loan industry. When Sinquefield was shutting down the 100 political action committees he formed to circumvent Missouri's previous campaign contribution limits, he contributed $46,550 to Koster on Nov. 25, which was noted in the Nov. 29 Turner Report.

Governor-elect Jay Nixon has promised payday loan reform. It looks like the attorney general from his own party may stand in his way.

Flanigan's first bill attacks RES odor problem

Newly-elected 127th District State Representative Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, pre-filed his first bill today, and it is one that should please his constituents.

The full text of HB 127 has not been posted on the internet yet, but the bill's description leaves no doubt about its target:

Modifies penalties for multiple violations of air or water pollution laws by recycling companies that convert animal parts into petroleum

I have a feeling when we see the full text, Flanigan is not going to be suggesting any leniency for Renewable Environmental Services. The city of Carthage has been beset with foul odors ever since the company began converting animal plants into petroleum.

Defendants in McDonald County sheriff's race lawsuit served

Defendants in a lawsuit filed by unsuccessful McDonald County sheriff candidate Jeff Sutherland and his wife, Tammy, were served today, according to documents filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The lawsuit, which was filed against members of the McDonald County 911 Board and its lawyer, Robert W. Evenson, father of the eventual winner in the race, Robert M. Evenson, is detailed in the Dec. 9 Turner Report.

Gannett, Nexstar stocks up, Saga down

Gannett, which has ruffled feathers with some of its cuts across the country while it is still making sizable profits, saw its stock rise 61 cents per share Tuesday to $7.88. That, of course, is a far cry from the company's glory days, but it appears nothing makes stockholders feel better than sacrificing some employees. Gannett owns the Springfield News-Leader.

Meanwhile, Nexstar Broadcasting, which has fallen to 60 cents per share, bounced back mildly to 68 cents. Nexstar operates KODE and KSNF in the Joplin market and KOLR and KSFX in the Springfield market.

Saga Communications, owner of KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin market, went in the opposite direction, dropping 20 cents to $1.70 per share.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dorman to debut tonight

In a post yesterday, I mistakenly said KODE's new anchor, Brian Dorman, was scheduled to debut Monday. In fact, he will anchor the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts today.

(UpdateL Dorman will anchor the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts Wednesday.)

KOAM dominates November sweeps, KODE in basement

November sweeps ratings are out and the result is the same one to which this area has grown accustomed- KOAM's newscasts led across the board, usually doubling or nearly doubling the ratings of competitors KODE and KSNF combined.

The major change this time was the slippage of KODE's Nielsen ratings. KSNF beat its Nexstar sister station in every time period in which the two competed, including KSN's 5 p.m. newscast, which has been mired in third place for some time.

The ratings for viewers 18 and over were as followe:

5:30 to 7 a.m.- KOAM 9,996 households; KSNF 4,749, KODE 4,616
Noon- KOAM 12,178, KSNF 5,148
5 p.m.- KOAM 35,275; KSNF 7,862; KODE 6,712
6 p.m.- KOAM 34,563; KSNF 14,900; KODE 11,963
9 p.m. KFJX 11,210
10 p.m. KOAM 26,808; KSNF 14,949; KODE 12,447

News-Leader reporter gives credit to Fired Up

Even though Associated Press did not give credit to the Fired Up Missouri blog for landing the scoop on the release of former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, from federal prison, Springfield News-Leader political reporter gave the blog credit in a post on his Inside Missouri Politics blog.

After running the AP story, Livengood credited Fired Up and even mentioned that John Combest and I picked up on the story. That probably was not necessary, but it was much appreciated.

AP and numerous newspapers have failed to acknowledge the contributions of bloggers to their own stories for quite some time, though it is something that has long been noticed by those who read both the traditional media articles and those posted by bloggers.

That is why reporters like Livengood, who lands plenty of scoops on his own, deserves a great deal of credit for showing the same basic courtesy that many of his peers do not.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Natural Disaster video posted

Not that there has been a clamor for these, but I have posted a new video of Natural Disaster performing the Neil Diamond song, "Kentucky Woman," during the Nov. 15 benefit music show at South Middle School:

A bit behind, but AP confirms Cooper is out of prison

Associated Press confirmed today that former Rep. Nathan Cooper is staying at a halfway house in St. Louis after serving a portion of his sentence for immigration fraud.

That news was printed earlier on the Fired Up Missouri blog, which, of course, is mentioned nowhere in the AP story, since AP has been notorious about following up on stories first broken in the blogosphere, then not giving any credit to the original source.

Hamman says goodbye to KODE audience

The Brian Hamman era as KODE anchor ended after three and a half years Friday night.

During the final moments of the 10 p.m. newscast, Hamman told the audience that he had learned about "life, family, and what is really important" during his time in the four states.

Hamman and his wife plan to return to their native Florida, where Hamman says he will not be working in television. "My wife and I decided it's time to put our family ahead of our career."

Hamman said he is "leaving here a much better news anchor and a much better person," because of the people he has met in the Joplin area.

"It was a great experience."

His replacement, Brian Dorman, formerly of Topeka, takes over tonight.

Judge rules lawsuit against Missouri Department of Revenue can continue

A federal court judge has ruled a suit alleging the Missouri Department of Revenue illegally gave personal driver's license information to third parties for commercial purposes can go to trial.

Judge Nannette Laughrey denied a motion by defendants to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Emily Roberts, Jefferson City; and Sarah Smith, El Dorado Springs, against the Missouri Department of Revenue, the Source for Public Data and Shadowsoft. The case is set to go to trial in October 2009.

At issue is whether the Department of Revenue's decision to sell drivers' personal information to these companies violates the Drivers' Privacy Protection Act.

In her opinion, Judge Laughrey wrote, "Congress could have included an additional exception in section 2721 (b) to allow business entities to obtain highly restried personal information for the purpose of reselling or redirecting it to others with permissible use. It did not do so."

The class action lawsuit, filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, was filed on behalf of Ms. Roberts, Ms. Smith, and others whose privacy may have been violated. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are The Source for Public Data LP, doing business as, Dallas, Texas;, Dallas, Texas; Omar Davis, director, Missouri Department of Revenue; and "Does 1 through 10. The "Does" are described in the petition as employees of the Department of Revenue who went along with these alleged actions.

The lawsuit says Public Data and Shadowsoft bought the personal information from the DOR and sold it over the internet:

Prior to February 20, 2008, co-defendant Shadowsoft acquired a large database of
information from Mo. DOR on the pretense that the information would be used only for the legitimate business purpose of verifying the accuracy of information of individuals doing business with Shadowsoft.

The information database acquired by Shadowsoft from Mo. DOR contained “highly restricted personal information”, including social security numbers, belonging to hundreds of thousands of licensed drivers in the State of Missouri.

Upon information and belief, co-defendant Shadowsoft transferred the database
in totum to co-defendant PublicData.

PublicData then made the highly restricted personal information belonging to those individuals, unlawfully acquired from Mo. DOR, available for search and sale on its website, In many instances, the information acquired by
Shadowsoft from Mo. DOR and subsequently sold by PublicData on, included social security numbers.

According to the petition, the action is being filed on behalf of all Missourians whose driver's license information was sold to the companies, and asks the judge to certify the lawsuit as a class action.

The plaintiffs are asking for damages, costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nathan Cooper freed from prison

After serving less than one year of his 15-month sentence, former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, has been freed from prison, according to a post on the Fired Up Missouri blog.

Cooper pleaded guilty to immigration fraud charges.

Follow this link to previous Turner Report posts about Cooper.

Dorman added to Four States Home Page

New KODE anchor Brian Dorman, who begins his duties Monday, is already featured on Four States Home Page, the website for KODE and KSNF:

I have a philosophy that you cannot be an effective news anchor or reporter if you are not connected to the community you are serving. Please feel free to contact me with story ideas that are important to you and the community that you live in! I take great pride in reading and responding to every question, concern and story idea from viewers, for you are the reason we are here, let us work for you!

Memo to News-Leader: Your readers are intelligent

Upcoming changes in the Springfield News-Leader are explained in a column by Executive Editor Don Wyatt in today's newspaper, and that is a good thing.

However, while it is always worthwhile to speak frankly with readers about changes that are going to affect them, it is not a good thing to speak down to them. And that is exactly what the News-Leader does: While explaining the reason for eliminating sections of the newspaper, this unfortunate passage is included:

You may be surprised to learn that as a business, the News-Leader's two largest expenses are newsprint and employees.

I find it doubtful that the News-Leader's readers were surprised by this information. Employees are always at the top of the ladder as far as expenses are concerned and reasonably intelligent readers know that it takes a lot of newsprint to put out a newspaper.

Later in the column, it is mentioned that out of the personnel cuts that were recently made, only one writing position was eliminated. Nowhere is it mentioned that the position belonged to 22-year veteran Sarah Overstreet, whose backlog of columns is still being shamelessly promoted on the News-Leader website as this is written.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blog: Jasper County Sheriff's Department needs to let the sun shine in

Sunshine Law expert Jean Maneke's blog, Sunshine in Missouri, appears to be addressing last week's situation in which Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn rebuffed Joplin Globe efforts to track down the truth behind a death in the county jail:

Last week, a newspaper editor called to discuss a situation in their community where an inmate had committed suicide. The local sheriff apparently decided it just wasn't that big a deal (a sad commentary on life and the value some folks place on it) and chose not to make the information available to the community. It took some digging by the local paper to access to records from that incident.

And then, the paper was told that the coroner's report on the death was a closed record. That pronouncement raises some interesting legal questions. Several years ago, the Western District Court of Appeals, in a decision that troubles me greatly, decided that coroner's reports were "investigative reports" under the Sunshine Law, and therefore were preliminary closed records within the terms of that word in the law.

Of course, the law is clear that while investigative reports are preliminarily closed records, they do become open records upon the occurring of certain events, including the decision by law enforcement to not pursue the investigation any longer because it is closed.

It was pretty clear, in this situation, that law enforcement had decided no other person was involved and therefore the agency would not pursue the investigation any further. When that happens, then it is clear the record of this coroner would become open to the public and it shouldn't have been withheld from the reporter's request.

While Ms. Maneke is a lawyer who represents Missouri Press Association members in cases involving the Sunshine Law, it is important to remember that the Sunshine Law was not put on the books just for the media. It is there for all of us and any time our elected officials are trying to hide things from us, it is all of us who pay, not just the reporters who are not able to land their stories.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sinquefield committees totally shut down; $44,000 direct expenditure made for Hubbard

The last of the 100 shell committees created by billionaire Rex Sinquefield in 2007 to circumvent Missouri campaign contribution limits have been shut down, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents. The need for such committees disappeared when the legislature scrapped contribution limits in 2008.

Records indicate the last few committees were closed Nov 30. Ninety-three of the 100 had been closed earlier in the month, with most of the money funnelled to one of the committees, Public Charter Schools for Missouri East.

That committee's termination report indicates it made a $44,000 direct expenditure on behalf of the Hubbard for Senate campaign on Nov. 4. Rodney Hubbard, a St. Louis Democrat who is in his final year in the House of Representatives, was defeated in the August Democratic primary for Senate. Ethics Commission documents only indicate the August 2008 candidacy.

Nexstar Broadcasting expects $20 million in retransmission fees in 2009

Nexstar Broadcasting, which led the fight to have cable companies pay retransmission fees for local stations' content, expects to receive $20 million in fees during 2009, according to an article in Broadcasting & Cable:

Nexstar President/CEO Perry Sook said the broadcaster stands to bag $20-$21 million in retransmission consent revenue this year, a gain from the $17.2 million it made last year.

With some 80% of its retrans “contract dollars” due to expire before the end of 2009, Sook—speaking at the UBS Global Media Conference in New York Tuesday--said Nexstar will see greater retrans gains in the near future.

“That will grow at a substantial double digit rate in the new few years,” said Sook, who added that retrans and emedia revenue will represent some 35% of the company’s EBIDTA in two years.

Nexstar Broadcasting operates KODE and KSNF in Joplin and KOLR and KSFX in Springfield.

Gannett: More job cuts coming

More jot cuts are coming for the Springfield News-Leader and other Gannett newspapers, according to published reports:

Commenting on job cuts, Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore said the company expects its newspaper headcount to be down “by the low teens” in 2009, with job cuts in the “mid single digits” at USA Today and layoffs at its broadcast division in the “mid to high single digits.”

Those figures refer to percentages, meaning divisional job cuts will range from 5 percent to as much as 15 percent from 2008 levels.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Roe drops countersuit against Brazil, St. Charles publications

Political operative and blogger Jeff Roe has dropped his countersuit against St. Charles County Commissioner Joe Brazil and his third party suit against First Capital Publications and Photography and First Capital News, according to documents filed Dec. 4 in St. Charles County Circuit Court.

The entry indicates the countersuit and third party actions were dismissed without prejudice, meaning Roe could refile them.

Roe, the former chief of staff to Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves and architect of numerous GOP campaigns, including the unsuccessful gubernatorial run of State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, took the actions just a few weeks after lawyers for Brazil deposed him.

Brazil filed the initial libel suit against Roe in March 2007, as detailed in the March 30, 2007 Turner Report>. Brazil took the action after Roe attacked him in two posts on "The Source" blog just before the August 2006 State Senate primary, which was won by Brazil's opponent, Scott Rupp.

The first attack, printed Aug. 1, 2006, accused Brazil of being drunk and partying loudly. On Aug. 4, Roe printed the post Brazil found the most egregious, which Roe removed from his blog months after the lawsuit was filed:

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?

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?

Roe's version of the story was disputed, not only by Brazil, but by others, including the Florissant police officer who made the stop and said no alcohol was involved, that it was just an accident, according to the O'Fallon Watchdog website.

All Turner Report posts on the lawsuit, including links to other sources can be found at this link.

Neosho football coach interviews for Arkansas post

Less than a month after guiding Neosho to the sectional round of the Class 4A football playoffs, first year coach Shawn Flannigan is a candidate for the vacant head coaching position at Conway, Ark.

Flannigan was one of seven candidates interviewed last week, according to an article in the Log Cabin Democrat.

More candidates are being interviewed this week.

Hamman's last night set for Friday

Brian Hamman, 5, 6 and 10 p.m. anchor for KODE for the past three years, will sign off for good Friday night.

Hamman made the brief announcement with no fanfare moments ago at the conclusion of the 6 p.m. newscast.

Joining Lauren Hieger behind the anchor desk next Monday will be Brian Dorman, who is coming to KODE from Topeka, Kan., where he worked as weekend anchor at WIBW.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock down 22 cents

Nexstar Broadcasting stock took another hit Tuesday, falling 22 cents to 68 cents per share.

Nexstar Braodcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Failed McDonald County sheriff's candidate, wife sue 911 board, sheriff-elect's father

The McDonald County Sheriff's race concluded Nov. 3 with the election of Democrat Robert M. Evenson, but it appears Evenson's opponent in the August primary is battling on.

Jeff Sutherland and his wife, Tammy, filed a lawsuit today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri charging the County's 911 Board, and its attorney...Evenson's father, Robert W. Evenson of violation of their "right to equal protection," "Invasion of privacy,' and of violating Missouri state law in connection with the release of a July 13, 2007, 911 tape of a call made by Mrs. Sutherland to media outlets and to Neosho Forums, where it was posted on Aug. 3. At the same time, an advertisement was published in the Big Nickel, indicating the call concerned an earlier incident in which the ad referred to Sutherland as being intoxicated and firing his weapon. Other allegations were also made in the ad against both Sutherland and Republican sheriff's candidate Gregg Sweeten.

Listed as defendants in the lawsuit, in addition to Evenson, are the County 911 Board, LIsa McCool, its executive director; and Brian Massa, an employee.

The suit alleges the release of the tape and an examination of Tammy Sutherland's driving records by Massa were a conspiracy to violate the couple's rights. The Sutherlands are asking for damages, attorneys' fees, and costs.

Massa was charged Oct. 22 in McDonald County Circuit Court with misuse of official information by a public servant. Massa pleaded not guilty Dec. 2. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 2.

Fallen Neosho soldier among those who could be honored

Master Sgt. Thomss Crowell of Neosho who died Nov. 2, 2007, as a result of a roadside bomb in Iraq, is among the fallen Missouri soldiers who could be honored if legislation sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is passed. (I have not seen anything that would indicate the Crowells are related.)

The following news release on SB 100 was released by Sen. Crowell's office:

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, recently filed Senate Bill 110—legislation inspired by community leaders looking for a way to honor local fallen heroes who have been killed in action in Afghanistan or Iraq. The bill would establish the “Heroes Way Interstate Designation Program,” which would allow interstate interchanges in Missouri to be named for service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

“The men and women who serve in the military are true heroes, and communities throughout Missouri feel the blow when one of their own gives the ultimate sacrifice,” said Sen. Crowell. “Heroes Way provides a way to memorialize these heroic soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who do not return home to their family and friends.”

Sen. Crowell worked with the Missouri Department of Transportation to draft the bill after being contacted by Ross Gartman, a mortgage loan officer in Cape Girardeau and former member of the Missouri National Guard, regarding a way to honor his friend Bradley J. Skelton. Staff Sgt. Skelton of Gordonville was killed by an explosion in Baghdad on Feb. 6, 2008. Sen. Crowell then worked with family members of all Southeast Missouri fallen soldiers to finalize the legislation. In addition to Staff Sergeant Bradley J. Skelton, the soldiers from Southeast Missouri who lost their lives in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are:

Staff Sergeant Charles R. Sanders, Jr. of Charleston: April 6, 2005

Sergeant Robert G. Davis of Jackson: August 18, 2005

Specialist Blake W. Hall of East Prairie: August 21, 2005

Corporal Jeremy R. Shank of Jackson: September 6, 2006

Sergeant Adam J. Kohlhaas of Perryville: April 21, 2008

The Heroes Way Interstate Interchange Designation Program allows relatives to submit their loved one’s name to the Missouri Department of Transportation for recognition. In order to be eligible for recognition, an individual must have been killed in action during active military duty in Afghanistan or Iraq on or after September 11, 2001, and must have sponsorship from at least one member of the General Assembly. Once an application is approved, two signs would be erected in the North/South or East/West directions at the interstate interchange of the fallen soldier’s hometown exit.

“We owe so much to the men and women who chose to leave their homes to serve our country,” said Sen. Crowell. “This is one way of making sure the memory of those who have given their lives for our freedoms are honored and remembered.”

Sen. Crowell’s legislation was pre-filed on December 4th. March 1st is the final day for Senators to introduce legislation for the 2009 legislative session. The First Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly begins on January 7th and ends on May 15th.