Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bond endorses Hulshof

As widely expected, Sen. Kit Bond endorsed Rep. Kenny Hulshof for governor today at the Missouri Republican State Convention:

In this era of change, we need a governor with no ax to grind but instead a governor with a fresh, aboveboard, inclusive, and hopeful perspective,” Bond said. “We need a governor who cares deeply about issues but does not believe the pursuit of an agenda should come at the expense of integrity.”

“Today I am endorsing my good friend and Congressman Kenny Hulshof for governor,” Bond said.

What's new? Blunt rips Nixon at state GOP convention

Matt Blunt's not running for governor this year, but that has not stopped him from continuously criticizing the man who would have been his opponent had he stayed in the race. The attacks on Attorney General Jay Nixon continued today at the state GOP convention in Branson:

Blunt said Nixon would return Missouri to policies that give welfare to illegal aliens, increase taxes to create more welfare programs and “go back to the old” Medicaid system of not making people be accountable for their own health.

“That’s what Jay Nixon says he wants to go back to,” said Blunt, who dropped out of the race against Nixon in January.

Blunt also called on Nixon to join an effort by 10 attorney generals who urged the California Supreme Court on Friday to delay finalizing its ruling to legalize same-sex

Joplin officer passed over for Wisconsin post

Onalaska, Wisconsin city officials selected a New York officer to head their police department after interviewing four finalists for the position, including Jeffrey Trotnic, a veteran Joplin Police officer, who is currently serving as interim police chief in Duenweg.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Judge approves settlement in civil rights suit against Attorney General

The civil rights lawsuit against Attorney General Jay Nixon's office has come to a conclusion with Judge William A. Knox approving a settlement which will pay $26,000 to Marla Grothoff. The order, which was issued Tuesday, was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
More information about the settlement, which was first revealed in the May 27 Turner Report, can be found at this link.

Asia'h Epperson to perform at Boomtown Days

Jasper County music lovers have quite a weekend in store for them next week.
Joplin's Asia'h Epperson, who made quite an impression during her time on American Idol, will perform Saturday, June 7, at Landreth Park as part of the annual Boomtown Days celebration.

And that performance will come on the heels of the return of our group, Natural Disaster, which will perform next Friday at Central Park in Carthage, as part of the American Cancer Society Relay of Life. I will have more information about both performances over the next few days.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Joplin police lieutenant finalist for Wisconsin post

Lt. Jeffrey Trotnic of the Joplin Police Department is one of four finalists for the Onalaska, Wisc. Police Chief position and will interview Thursday, according to an article in the LaCrosse Tribune:

The finalists include two men from Wisconsin and one each from Missouri and New York, said commission chairwoman Mary Anderson.
They are: Prairie du Chien (Wis.) police Chief Michael King; Wayne Stolpa, a lieutenant with the town of Madison (Wis.) Police Department; Jeffrey Trotnic, a lieutenant with the Joplin, (Mo.), Police Department; and Dennis Weiner, chief of the Centre Island (N.Y.) Police Department.

Although commission members weren’t involved in the initial interviews, Anderson said she is pleased with the finalists, who were recommended as “high-quality people” by a professional panel.

“I think we should be able to make a good choice from this list,” Anderson said.

Services scheduled for Newton County News co-owner

Services for Newton County News co-owner Jay Bowman, who was killed in a car-motorcycle accident Saturday morning, have been scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at Memorial Park Cemetery, south of Neosho.
The family is inviting friends to celebrate Mr. Bowman's life from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in Neosho.
Obituary information can be found here.

Steelman, Hulshof to debate July 23 on KY3

Gubernatorial candidates Kenny Hulshof and Sarah Steelman will debate on KY3 July 23:

The previously announced debate between Republican gubernatorial candidates Kenny Hulshof and Sarah Steelman in Springfield will be July 23. KY3 will host the debate, which is co-sponsored by KSMU radio and the Springfield News-Leader.

Hulshof's campaign says he also has agreed to a debate on July 15 in Columbia. Steelman's campaign says she is still considering that debate.

(KY3 photo)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

$26,000 settlement reached in civil rights lawsuit against attorney general

A woman who claims she was not hired by Attorney General Jay Nixon's office because she is a quadriplegic will receive $26,000,d April 17, according to a settlement agreement filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The payments will be made to Marla Grothoff over a 52-month period, according to the settlement, which does not go into effect until it is approved by the court. Neither side will be allowed to declare itself the winner in the case, and Ms. Grothoff is barred from ever claiming that she was an assistant attorney general or that she even worked for the attorney general, according to the agreement.

The settlement is also worded to note that even though the money is being paid, the attorney general's office is not conceding that any harm was done to Ms. Grothoff. "Neither the fact of this settlement and release agreement, nor any actions taken by the parties hereto or any of them, either previous to or in connection with this agreement or the mediation which led to it, shall be deemed or construed to be an admission of the truth or falsity of any matter pertaining to any claim or defense alleged in the pleadings filed on behalf of the parties in the lawsuit, or an acknowledgment by any of the parties hereto of any liability to the other parties or to any person for any other claim, demand, or action, and all liability is expressly denied by each of the parties."

Ms. Grothoff served as an attorney for the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Division of Social Services from 1988 to 2003. When the decision was made to transfer the legal work for that division to the attorney general's office, most of the lawyers were transferred to the attorney general's office, according to Ms. Grothoff's petition, which was originally filed in Boone County Circuit Court, but not Ms. Grothoff.

In her lawsuit, Ms. Grothoff claimed she was discriminated against because she is a quadriplegic with limited use of her hands.

The agreement also contains more background information on the case, stipulated by both sides. When the state legislature transferred some of the Department of Social Services' duties to the attorney general's office in 2003, it ended the jobs of 16 DSS lawyers, including Ms. Grothoff. She was handling only seven of the 1,893 cases that were transferred to the attorney general's office. It was also acknowledged by both parties that Ms. Grothoff had received a negative review by her DSS supervisor and that out of the 16 attorneys whose jobs were eliminated, DSS supervisors recommended 12 for employment with the attorney general's office. No job was ever offered to Ms. Grothoff or the other three, according to the settlement.

It was also stipulated that others for whom Ms. Grothoff worked during her tenure with DSS had been "very complimentary" of her work.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Man who conned Rod Smith, other NFL players, commits suicide

A man who convinced Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith (formerly of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin) and other Broncos to invest in a fraudulent hedge fund scheme committed suicide Saturday night:

Kirk Wright, 37, founder of an illegitimate hedge fund who was convicted Wednesday by a federal jury of bilking $150 million from thousands of clients, hung himself Saturday in the Union City, Ga., jail where he was awaiting sentencing of up to 710 years in prison.

Wright started a hedge fund in 1998 called International Management Associates, enlisting Steve Atwater, a former Broncos safety, to help recruit clients. Atwater invested $2.8 million of his own money, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, into the fund, and additionally raised more than $15 million by signing up several NFL friends including Terrell Davis, the Broncos' star running back who retired after the 2001 season, and Smith, the franchise's all-time leading receiver who earlier this year was placed on the reserve/retired list.

Wright was showing documents that falsely stated a 27 percent annual return through 2005 according to a SEC complaint when in fact he was spending clients' money on jewelry, real estate and luxury vehicles.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Turner books available at lower prices

It had to happen.
Prices for my two novels, Small Town News and Devil's Messenger, and last fall's non-fiction book, The Turner Report, have been reduced at many outlets, as you can see from this page on

Devil's Messenger is listed as low as $8.75 (it was originally $13.95, while Small Town News, which has a list price of $14.95, is selling for as low as $9.50.

The Turner Report, which had the highest initial cover price at $16.95, is now selling for as little as $10.85.

Locally, The Turner Report and Devil's Messenger are available at Hastings in Joplin, while all three titles are available at Books n Java in Neosho, Pat's Books in Carthage, and Always Buying Books and Changing Hands Book Shop in Joplin.

A little information lacking in News-Leader article

This morning, Springfield News-Leader readers learned that former Collins Mayor Allen Kauffman, already facing sex charges in Newton County, had been arrested once again:

Allen Kauffman, 63, is facing a new charge of sexual misconduct involving a child less than 14 years old, electronic court records show.

Earlier this year, Kauffman was charged with three felony counts of enticement of a child less than 15 years old, the court records indicate.

The News-Leader missed the where part of the equation for both counties in which Kauffman was arrested. There is no mention of either Newton County or Cole County in the story. There is no mention of the fact that Kauffman resigned his office due to the Newton County allegations, and no mention that he was initially caught in an internet sex sting set up by the Diamond Police Department, something that should be in the News-Leader's files or which would easily have turned up on a Google search.

Previous stories have also noted that Kauffman is a minister, a fact that was also left out of today's News-Leader article. The newspaper might also have considered the newsworthiness of Kauffman's representation by Dee Wampler, who is probably southwest Missouri's most prominent criminal attorney.

Someone was asleep at the switch. Hopefully, the News-Leader will update this story and provide a service to its readers.

While this is by no means a complete account of the Allen Kauffman story, readers can find more information than the News-Leader provided in this post from the May 22 Turner Report.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Simpson receives $7,000 plus in severance pay

Former Joplin Globe Editor Edgar Simpson resigned his $110,000 a year position as chief of staff to Ohio's attorney general under pressure earlier this month. That did not keep him from raking in a few more bucks from Ohio taxpayers.
According to an article in today's Warren Tribune Chronicle, another newspaper that formerly had Simpson as its editor, Simpson received $7,625 in severance pay, and has another check coming for vacation, sick leave, and personal leave.

Newton County News co-owner killed in accident

Jay Bowman, 45, Neosho, co-owner of the Newton County News, was killed in an accident Saturday morning in Oklahoma.
The following account of the accident was posted on the Pittsburg Morning Sun website:

The accident occurred one mile east and 3/4 miles north of Grove, Okla.
According to a report by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, a 1996 Ford van driven by Consuela Bunch, 30, Neosho, Mo., was backing out of a private driveway on the westbound side of State Highway 10 as Bowman, driving a 2004 Suzuki motorcycle, was southbound on the highway.
The van backed into the path of the Suzuki, causing the bike to lay over, sliding 48 feet, then hitting the bike and continuing on 15 feet.
Bowman was transported by Grove EMS to the Grove Airport helicopter pad, where he died from head, trunk, arm and leg injuries sustained in the collision. He had been wearing a helmet.
Neither the driver of the van nor her passenger, Theo Morrison, Neosho, were injured.

New Missouri law targets sex offenders' Halloween activities

One of the laws passed on the final day by the Missouri legislature will severely restrict what registered sex offenders can do on Halloween.

The final version of SB 714, sponsored by Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, calls for the following:

1. Any person required to register as a sexual offender under sections 589.400 to 589.425 shall be required on October thirty-first of each year to:
(1) Avoid all Halloween-related contact with children;
(2) Remain inside his or her residence between the hours of 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. unless required to be elsewhere for just cause, including but not limited to, employment or medical emergencies;
(3) Post a sign at his or her residence stating, "No candy or treats at this residence"; and
(4) Leave all outside residential lighting off during the evening hours after 5 p.m.

The bill primarily deals with such items as the sex offender registration list and sexual crimes against children on the internet. The Halloween portion of the bill came from an amendment offered by Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville.

June 27 trial set for Bonne Terre Democrat in hit-and-run case

A June 27 trial date has been set for Rep. Bradley Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, who faces a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
Robinson, 44, did not appear at an arraignment Friday in St. Francois Circuit Court, but entered the not guilty plea by letter, according to court files.
Robinson allegedly was driving his pickup on Jan. 1 when he struck a man, severely injuring him. Surveillance video purportedly shows Robinson and his wife changing places to make it appear that Robinson's wife Tara was driving, and then leaving the scene. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, five passengers in the pickup have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against the Robinsons.

Court records indicate Tara Robinson's preliminary hearing, also scheduled for Friday, was postponed at her request, and will be held July 18. She is charged with a misdemeanor, making a false declaration.
Robinson is not seeking re-election.

President declares Newton, Jasper counties a disaster area

The Neosho Daily News just posted that President Bush has declared Newton, Jasper, and Barry counties federal disaster areas due to the disasters which hit the area two weeks ago:

The president’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Newton, Jasper and Barry counties.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cost uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

R. David Paulison, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Michael L. Karl as federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

FEMA said that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance Saturday by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and spe
ech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CDT.

Mental evaluation sought in Memorial Middle School shooter case

Brett Meeker, public defender for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, asked for a mental evaluation for her client during a hearing Friday in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Judge David Mouton also set tentative trial dates in December and January:

Meeker submitted reports to the judge from a doctor and psychologist who have recently examined White. She is asking that he be transferred to the Western Missouri Mental Health Center in Kansas City for an evaluation on the question of competency to assist in his own defense.

Meeker said after the hearing that, in her opinion, her client’s mental clarity has deteriorated during the course of his incarceration.

“I have concerns about that,” Meeker said. “But, I’ll leave it up to the medical experts whether or not he meets the statutory requirements for assisting in his own defense.”

The defendant’s mother, Norma White, said after the hearing that she supports the request for a mental-health evaluation of her son.

White, 15, was 13 and a seventh grader at Memorial Middle School in October 2006 when he took an assault rifle into the school, fired it into the ceiling, then aimed the weapon at Principal Steve Gilbreth and attempted to shoot again, but the weapon jammed, according to authorities.

He is charged with two counts of assault, and single counts of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where is Neosho Forums?

I have had about a dozen e-mails asking what has happened to Neosho Forums, which has disappeared for the past several days. If anyone has any information, please respond to this post.

Fired Up Missouri: Blunt administration violated Sunshine Law to help company connected to first lobbyist Andy

Fired Up Missouri, the blog which promotes Democratic party issues, has been writing about the unsuccessful attempt by the Blunt administration to drastically increase the amount of money people have to pay to obtain state vehicle and driver's license records. The blog has noted the increase was designed to benefit a client of Andy Blunt's lobbying partner Jay Reichard:

So, at this point we know that:

a) BearingPoint wanted a contract to build a multi-million dollar online portal for the state by which it could provide access to Department of Revenue records;

b) BearingPoint recommended to the state that it could afford this portal if it jacked the price charged for driving records up some 300,000%;

c) as we see in Lieb's story, state law on records provision prohibits the state from charging record requesters for costs associated with equipment like the web portal, as proposed by BearingPoint;

d) BearingPoint hired Andy Blunt partner Jay Reichard to lobby the Blunt Department of Revenue for the contract;

e) a compliant Blunt administration went ahead with the BearingPoint plan and awarded the contract, even in the face of the fact that the financing scheme was illegitimate;

f) legislators went nuts over the huge fee increase and killed the hike in the waning days of the legislative session.

By heavily supported inference, we also know that Matt Blunt and his administration aren't too big on enforcing or living by the terms of state record retention law when it's personally, politically or professionally inconvenient.

The connections between Bearing Point and Andy Blunt were first noted in the April 29, 2006, Turner Report, which noted the connection between Bearing Point and the Voter ID movement in Missouri:

It hasn't taken long for the vultures to circle in on the almost certain success of the bill which would require all Missourians to provide photographic voter IDs.
The Missouri Democratic Party noted in an April 18 press release that the bill mandates that "taxpayers pay (Governor) Blunt's fee office operators, some of whom gross as much as $700,000 a year, an additional $1 million for providing photo IDs to Missourians so that they can vote."
The bill, which was passed by the Senate April 20, is scheduled to have a hearing Monday before the House Rules Committee.
Undoubtedly, companies will be vying to provide these voter IDs and one of the companies that stands a good chance of landing the state contract is Austin, Texas-based BearingPoint. On March 21, BearingPoint, which describes itself as a "leading global management and technology consulting firm," announced a teaming with Colorado-based Archon Technologies to "jointly pursue opportunities to provide information technology solutions for vehicle registration, drivers licensing and revenue management services to state, provincial, territorial and local motor vehicle departments in the United States and Canada."
The BearingPoint news release continued, " 'By aligning our business processes and information systems with Archon, BearingPoint will be better able to provide states with cost effective solutions to comply with the federally-mandated Real ID Act,' said Gary Miglicco, vice president for BearingPoint’s National Motor Vehicle Solutions Practice. 'Together, our two firms will review potential opportunities and work together to provide clients with integrated solutions that will allow them to upgrade their current systems and deliver results to citizens and other key constituents in an accelerated time frame.' Miglicco said the companies have already identified nearly a dozen potential market opportunities for 2006 and beyond."
Assuredly, Missouri is one of those markets since the following day, March 22, a Missouri lobbyist, Jay Reichard, filed documents with the Missouri Ethics Commission registering BearingPoint as a client. Reichard has some interesting connections. He shares a number of clients with another lobbyist, Andrew Blunt, younger brother of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, with most of those clients added to his list shortly after the governor took office.
Though Andrew Blunt is not listed as a lobbyist for BearingPoint (a wise move since the FBI is currently looking into the license fee operations in the state), there is little doubt that Blunt and Reichard are closely connected.
There is also little doubt that this is yet another chapter in the culture of corruption that encompasses Missouri.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wife asks for dissolution from Neosho minister accused in sex case

Newton County Circuit Court records indicate Shirley Russell, wife of Acts II pastor Randall Danny Russell, filed May 14 for a dissolution of their marriage. A hearing is set for 3 p.m. July 7.
Russell is charged with three counts of child molestation, eight counts of statutory sodomy and single counts of statutory rape and child abuse in connection with alleged sex acts with underage church members.

His next hearing in that case is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. June 9.

In another development, Judge Kevin Selby granted a full order of protection against Russell May 21, which will be in effect for one year. On-line court records do not indicate who requested the order.

Jefferson City police arrests former Collins mayor on child sex charge

A $5,000 bond has been set for former Collins Mayor Allen Kauffman, who was charged May 14 in Cole County with sexual misconduct involving a child less than 14. The incident allegedly occurred March 21, 2007, according to court records.

Kauffman, 62, who is a minister, is charged in Newton County with three counts of enticing a child, after being caught in one of Diamond Police officer Jim Murray's internet stings. Kauffman was still Collins mayor at the time of his arrest. He resigned shortly thereafter.
He has hired southwest Missouri's most prominent criminal defense attorney, Dee Wampler, Springfield, to represent him. The next pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. June 9.

Scott one of six senators to vote against Ethan's Law

Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, whose district includes Lamar, was one of only six senators to vote against Ethan's Law May 13. The bill requires for-profit private swimming facilities to carry sufficient liability insurance.
The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and was handled in the Senate by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, will go into effect immediately after the governor signs it, since it carried an emergency clause.
The bill, whose co-sponsors included Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, Ed Emery, R-Lamar, and Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, is named after six-year-old Ethan Cory, who drowned at The Swimmin' Hole in Joplin on July 17, 2007.

KODE, KSPR ABC affiliates receive more time for appeal of FCC NYPD Blue fine

ABC affiliates, including KODE in Joplin and KSPR in Springfield, will have an extra month to appeal an FCC fine over a 2003 airing of NYPD Blue that was ruled indecent:

According to an attorney familiar with the case, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals set a new briefing schedule in the challenge by ABC and its affiliates of the FCC’s $1 million-plus fine against them for a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue that showed too much of a woman’s backside and side for the FCC’s liking.

Briefs by ABC and the stations are now due June 20. Those briefs had been due at the end of this week -- May 23 -- but the court had to consolidate challenges by other individual stations in other circuits, which required the court to come up with a single briefing schedule.

ABC paid a fine of $1,237,500 in February -- a step it said it needed to take so that it could go immediately to court in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. That is the same court that found the FCC’s fleeting indecency policy arbitrary and capricious, but the FCC said the issue is not fleeting, but lingering, nudity.

The scene is described in the FCC ruling, portions of which were printed in the Jan. 29 Turner Report:

The complaints refer to a scene at the beginning of the program, during which a
woman and a boy, who appears to be about seven or eight years old, are involved in an incident that includes adult female nudity. As confirmed by a tape of the program provided by ABC, during the scene in question, a woman wearing a robe is shown entering a bathroom, closing the door, and then briefly looking at herself in a mirror hanging above a sink. The camera then shows her crossing the room, turning on the shower, and returning to the mirror. With her back to the camera, she removes her robe, thereby revealing the side of one of her breasts and a full view of her back. The camera shot includes a full view of her buttocks and her upper legs as she
leans across the sink to hang up her robe. The camera then tracks her, in profile, as she walks from the mirror back toward the shower. Only a small portion of the side of one of her breasts is visible. Her pubic area is not visible, but her buttocks are visible from the side.
The scene shifts to a shot of a young boy lying in bed, kicking back his bed
covers, getting up, and then walking toward the bathroom. The camera cuts back to the woman, who is now shown standing naked in front of the shower, her back to the camera. The frame consists initially of a full shot of her naked from the back, from the top of her head to her waist; the camera then pans down to a shot of her buttocks, lingers for a moment, and then pans up her back. The camera then shifts back to a shot of the boy opening the bathroom door. As he opens the door, the woman, who is now standing in front of the mirror with her back to the door, gasps, quickly turns to face the boy, and freezes momentarily. The camera initially focuses on the woman’s face but then cuts to a shot taken from behind and through her legs, which serve to frame the boy’s face as he looks at her with a somewhat startled expression. The camera then jumps to a front view of the woman’s upper torso; a full view of her breasts is obscured,
however, by a silhouette of the boy’s head and ears. After the boy backs out of the bathroom and shuts the door, the camera shows the woman facing the door, with one arm and hand covering her breasts and the other hand covering her pubic area. The scene ends with the boy’s voice, heard through the closed door, saying “sorry,” and the woman while looking embarrassed, responds, “It’s okay. No problem.” The complainants contend that such material is indecent and request that the Commission impose sanctions against the licensees responsible for broadcasting this material.

Tornado damage assessments still coming in

A Neosho Daily News article by John Ford has the latest on Newton County tornado damage assessment:

On Tuesday, Gary Roark, director of Newton County emergency management, said after completing initial assessments last week, federal officials said close to 200 homes in the county were either destroyed or so badly damaged they were uninhabitable.
Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said 141 homes were destroyed in the county, with 51 having damage so severe no one could live in them, and another 185 sustaining minor damage. Another 80 homes had some damage incurred as a result of the tornado: shingles missing from roofs, siding peeled off of structures. Meanwhile, nine businesses were listed as having major damage.

But the numbers are low, Roark cautioned.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we will have 175 homes destroyed,” Roark said. “I know the numbers are low, and really all they’re for is to show the president that we have enough damage for a disaster declaration.

“I know some businesses have been destroyed,” he said

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

News-Leader: Governor should veto repeal of campaign contribution limits

An editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader urges Gov. Matt Blunt to veto a bill which would remove all campaign contribution limits:

If the governor signs the bill, the money will soon start flowing, both from the big donors who don't mind publicity and the ones who want to employ the confidentiality that political action committees offer.

The legislature has made that possible by removing limits on contributions but then doing nothing to change the process of contributing by committee.

So now, for example, a proponent of school vouchers who has taken his stand publicly can give as much as he wants to any candidate and put his name proudly on that contribution. Meanwhile, a lobbyist group supporting, say, the adult entertainment industry can continue to give money to political action committees with no trace of where the money originated.

Area representatives vote to toss out campaign contriibution limits

Our area representatives make big claims each year of being in Jefferson City to represent the so-called "little guy." And while that may be true, one of their votes in the waning moments of the just-completed legislative session represents a slap in the face to "little guys" all over the state of Missouri.

By a vote of 83 to 72, the House voted to repeal campaign contribution limits, opening the door for special interests and certain retired billionaires with a love of educational vouchers to pour as much money into political campaigns as they can.

All but one Joplin-area representative voted for the measure, which had already been passed by the Senate, and is now on its way to Governor Matt Blunt, who has indicated he will sign the bill. Those voting for the bill were Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, and Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho. The only area representative not to vote for the bill was Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who voted "present" due to a conflict of interest. The Missouri Ethics Commission ruled recently that Richard could keep thousands of dollars in excess campaign contributions he received during the seven months limits were repealed in 2007...if the legislature passed a new law repealing the limits. While many other politicians, including Stevenson and Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, returned excess contributions, Richard claimed a "hardship" because he had sprinkled his money to the campaign accounts of his fellow representatives in a successful attempt to buy their vote to become the next Speaker of the House.

The senator who proposed the bill, Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, claims he did so because the special interests were already making these contributions, exceeding the limit by laundering them through a maze of party committees. This bill, he said, would benefit the people (and, of course, benefiting the people was the only thing Shields had on his mind when he proffered this legislation) by making campaign financing more "transparent."

Yet when the final version of the bill passed, only minor changes had been made. Those who do not care if it looks like they are trying to buy elected officials can donate as much as they want through their own name. Those who want to hide their identities can still do so through the party committees, which received only minor tweaks. So much for transparency. No one has yet explained why we simply could not have kept campaign contribution limits and plugged the committee loopholes.

It never fails to amaze me that our elected officials continually give lip service to doing what the people want them to do...unless, of course, it interferes with what they want to do.

In the 1990s, the issue of campaign contribution limits came before Missouri voters and 77 percent of them said they wanted limits, so we have had them for more than a decade. The only Missourians who do not want limits are the special interests and the legislators who are vying for their contributions.

And now they have won the day. In the biggest irony, in addition to the transparency argument, some of these self-serving elected officials claim this is a "free speech" issue. If you limit how many dollars a billionaire can put into a campaign, they argue, you are restricting his free speech.

Thanks to our state legislators, billionaires and well-heeled special interest groups have their unlimited freedom of speech. Now we will find out how much their free speech will cost the rest of us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saga Communications drops below $5 a share

Saga Communications, owner of KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin/Pittsburg market, continued a steady drop in its stock price Monday falling 12 cents per share to close at $4.93. The stock was selling for $10.02 per share one year ago.

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield, closed at $8.94 Monday down 16 cents. Nexstar stock has been steadily rising over the past several days, but is far below the $14.98 per share it was selling at a year ago.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Former Globe investigative reporter's 15th book published

Former Joplin Globe investigative reporter Max McCoy spoke in Pittsburg last week, promoting I, Quantrill, his 15th book. The Pittsburg Morning Sun's Nikki Patrick penned a profile of McCoy:

"The book is about the last few weeks of Quantrill’s life," said McCoy during a telephone interview from Emporia State University, where he is now an assistant journalism professor.

He grew up in Baxter Springs, not far from where Quantrill attacked a column of troops under the leadership of Union Gen. James G. Blunt in October 1863. Blunt, who was commander of the District of the Frontier, was moving his headquarters from Fort Scott to Fort Smith, Ark.

"This was after Quantrill had burned Lawrence," McCoy said. "Blunt saw a group of riders outside Baxter Springs, thought it was a welcome party, and sent his military band up front to play."

Quantrill’s Raiders killed more than 80 of Blunt’s 100-member escort.
"Blunt did escape with his life, but Quantrill captured his sword and some personal papers," McCoy said. "That was a sore point for him the rest of his life."

More about McCoy's books can be found at his website.

After six-day delay, East Newton holds graduation

My alma mater, East Newton High School held its graduation ceremony Sunday, six days later than originally scheduled, thanks to the tornado that ripped through Newtonia and Granby a week ago Saturday. Rick Rogers and the Neosho Daily News offer coverage in today's edition:

Katlyn Peterson is the valedictorian of the class of 2008. Jessica Brust gave the invocation.

“It has been a long ride, and I think our class had a great bond,” said Alaina Lawson, ENHS Class of 2008 salutatorian. “We had our ups and downs, but we are still strong and I am thankful for that.”

Lawson then referenced the tornado and the damage it left in its wake.

“I am thankful no one is missing, and no one is not here today,” she said. “We have some classmates who have lost their homes, but I am thankful everyone is here today.”

(Neosho Daily News photo)

Joplin judge seeking spot on Missouri Supreme Court

Daniel Scott, Joplin, a judge on the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals, is weighing placing his name in consideration for a soon-to-be vacant Missouri Supreme Court position, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch Political Fix:

Those who might be weighing a bid include four from the Western District: Paul Spinden, James Smart, Lisa White Hardwick and Alok Ahuja; two from the Southern District: Gary Lynch and Daniel Scott; and one from the Eastern District: Kurt Odenwald.

The betting is that the Appellate Judicial Commission will give Blunt someone more to his liking this time around. Attempts to change the nonpartisan court plan failed in the legislative session that ended Friday.

My vanishing old neighborhood

Though my parents' house can and will be salvaged, and their garage rebuilt, the old Newtonia neighborhood, which suffered tremendous damage from last week's tornado, will never be the same.

Though the people who lived in the houses surrounding my parents house, Doc and Bernice Hailey, Jim and Grace Harris, Russell and Flora Patterson, and Malda Lacy have long since left Newtonia (and of that group only Grace Harris is still living), their houses had stood as reminders of their presence until the tornado.
Now it is highly doubtful that their homes will remain standing (and for the most part the Pattersons' house and the Lacy home are gone).

The rest of the community is in much the same shape, though I am sure Newtonia will bounce back.

(Malda Lacy's former house and the former home of Russell and Flora Patterson)

A ceremony without airhorns

I read with interest Neosho Daily News Publisher Rick Rogers' article on the graduation at Diamond High School Friday night.
I wasn't able to be at the graduation, which I regretted since this particular group included the final group of seventh graders I taught at Diamond Middle School, but from Rick's description, it sounded like there was at least one thing I would have hated about the ceremony:

Proud parents, distant relatives and friends filled the gymnasium at Diamond High School to the rafters, taking pictures of their son or daughter, and even used an air horn blast a few times to let the entire gym know they were proud of their graduate.

I can't think of many more selfish acts that someone attending a graduation ceremony can do than sounding an air horn and disturbing people who have come to attend a joyous, yet solemn ceremony.
I attended the Diamond High School graduation last year and the air horns were sounding every two or three graduates, sometimes still going off as the next student's name was introduced, preventing the family and friends of that student from being able to fully enjoy that once-in-a-lifetime moment.

And perhaps it is too much to expect school officials at Diamond or at the many other schools where this type of behavior is tolerated to be able to completely stop this type of juvenile nonsense, but when no effort is even made, as was the case in May 2007, that simply encourages more inconsiderate friends and family members to ruin the ceremony for others.

It does not have to be that way. I attended the commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon at College Heights Christian School, where each announcement of a graduating senior was greeted by applause and some yells, but no conspicuous demonstrations.
Admittedly, the ceremony was held in a church, which I am sure makes a difference, but I guarantee you there are many public school ceremonies in southwest Missouri where air horns and obnoxious demonstrations are strongly discouraged.

The time for air horns, if ever there is such a time, is after the ceremony is over. Personally, I would like to see them banned entirely.

On a personal note, though it seems hard to believe, this year also marks the graduation of my eighth graders from my first year at South Middle School. Many graduated from Joplin High School over the weekend, while another, Kristin Haddad, was graduating at College Heights.
Best of luck to all graduating seniors.

Cardinals pay tribute to Stan the Man

My dad introduced me to the joys of listening to St. Louis Cardinals baseball in 1962 and I am still listening 46 years later. I clearly recall the first game I listened to ended with catcher Gene Oliver winning the game for St. Louis with a home run in the ninth inning. After that, I was hooked.

The first two years I listened were the last two years that the greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan "The Man" Musial roamed the outfield for the Cardinals. In his final year, 1963, the Cardinals made a late push for the pennant that fell just short, losing by one game to the Los Angeles Dodgers. I still remember the disappointment I felt even though 45 years have passed.

The present-day Cardinals paid tribute to Stan the Man Sunday:

Often Musial is asked what he would hit if he played in these times. After some consideration Sunday, he said, "I guess I'd hit above my average, which was .331. I'd be making a lot of money."

Musial was assisted out of the cart and to the microphone and back to his seat during the ceremony. But there was one move he made that required no help. Musial offered up one more time one of the most famous swings in history, the one you might have seen and maybe the one your father might have seen. As always, he never lost his balance. Grown men smiled.

These days, Musial said he watched all the Cardinals games, because he likes baseball and, he added, "There's nothing else on TV."

The statue of Musial placed outside the previous Busch Stadium in 1968 — the fans had that replica Sunday — never was particularly a favorite of his.

"I would have had them change the face, the legs were too thick and they didn't have my stance," he said.

But, over the years, he has grown accustomed to it. And four other smaller statues of Musial have been made.

"There's one down in Springfield, Ill., and one in Springfield, Mo., and there's one here in St. Louis," he said.

Then Musial laughed that playful "tee-hee-hee" laugh and said, "I've got more statues than Lincoln."

The day could come, maybe 10 years from now, when Musial might have to share the torch with Albert Pujols, the modern-day equivalent of Musial. Asked if Pujols, an avowed fan of Musial's career, could break his records, Musial said, "He has a chance to. He loves baseball, he's a good first baseman. ... You know the first time I saw Albert Pujols? He gave me a big hug and kissed me on the forehead."

Not many players have a nine-foot statue and a plaza and street named after them. When it was suggested that Musial shouldn't drive too fast now on his own street, Cardinals vice chairman Fred Hanser smiled and said, softly, "Oh, yes, he

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Post-Dispatch editorial: the sad legacy of the Jetton era

An editorial posted on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website sums up Rod Jetton's years in power in the Missouri House as a waste:

Perhaps the greatest irony of Mr. Jetton’s last days in the Legislature was that work on voter ID, as well as work on such causes as abortion restrictions and illegal immigration, was held up by a Jetton sweetheart deal that even his GOP colleagues hated.

A year ago, Mr. Jetton had engineered a stealth amendment to an economic development bill that benefited developer Robert W. Plaster of Lebanon, a major campaign contributor and hunting buddy of the speaker’s. The amendment allowed a single person — in this case, Mr. Plaster — to incorporate land near Table Rock Lake as a “village,” thus bypassing local officials in Stone County.

Other developers began trying to take advantage of the “village law,” causing local officials around the state to complain to their legislators. Their effort to repeal the village law caused a logjam and filibusters during the last week of the legislative session. Mr. Jetton finally relented at 4 o’clock Friday morning, but only after cutting a deal that gives Mr. Plaster more time to set up his village.

By then, even some of his fellow Republicans were sick of him. Still, by dragging his feet Rod Jetton may inadvertently have saved the people of Missouri from several other lousy laws. It’s not much of a legacy for the star of the Class of 2000, but it’s all there is.

Jetton's connection to Robert Plaster was explored in the Oct. 17, 2007, Turner Report and this is a prime example of money influencing politics:

Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, received $6,375 from Lebanon developer Robert Plaster or interests connected to him on Sept. 24, according to his third quarter disclosure report filed Oct. 11 with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The report indicates the Speaker Jetton Leadership Committee received maximum $1,275 contributions from Plaster, something listed as Plaster Grandchildren Invest, Evergreen National, and Empire Ranch. All have the mailing address, Box 129, Lebanon.

The Springfield News-Leader has had a series of article and editorials exploring how Jetton inserted a provision in a law that went into effect Aug. 28 that will allow Plaster to have an easier time taking property he owns and incorporating it as a village, which will exempt it from such governmental controls as planning and zoning ordinances

Friday, May 16, 2008

Session ends without Voter ID legislation

Missouri legislators who were pushing the unnecessary Voter ID amendment ran out of time today so we are safe for the time being from this attempt to stop phantom illegal immigrants from voting in state elections:

Voting rights advocates and the state’s top election official celebrated the inaction on the amendment.

“It’s a victory for voters’ rights,” Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, said. “This debate has been about ensuring fair elections, and elections cannot be fair if eligible voters are not allowed to make their voice heard on Election Day.”

Michael Slater, deputy director of Project Vote, which campaigned against the measure, said the resistance to the measure was unprecedented.

“Small-city papers like The Joplin Globe and The St. Joseph News-Press opined against the voter ID rules, along with The Kansas City Star and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch,” Mr. Slater said. “You rarely see pressure move this fast or this effectively.”

News Tribune owners looking at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina

Little Rock-based WEHCO Media, which recently bought the Jefferson City News Tribune, is considering buying newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina, according to an article in today's Arkansas Business:

Paul Smith, president and general manager of the Democrat-Gazette, confirmed Friday that Wehco Media of Little Rock had requested information about properties owned by Landmark Communications of Norfolk, Va. Smith specifically mentioned The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., The Roanoke Times of Roanoke, Va., and The Greensboro News & Record of Greensboro, N.C. He said the he didn't know whether Wehco would actually make a bid.

Smith said Wehco requested information about the Landmark papers during the first stage of a possible sale. Landmark announced in early January that it was considering selling many of its properties, including The Weather Channel and The Virginian-Pilot, according to Editor & Publisher, a trade publication.

Wehco has not made a bid on the properties and is among many possible bidders, Smith said.

Donnelly: Koster should be ashamed

Noting Sen. Chris Koster's filibuster of the Village Law, one of Koster's Democratic primary opponents for attorney general, Rep. Margaret Donnelly, ripped the Harrisonville Democrat today, with her campaign issuing the following release:

As the legislative session comes to a close, it is usually the final opportunity for lawmakers to pass bills helpful to their constituents. However, one tag team of lawmakers, Senators Chris Koster, D-Raymore and Senator Victor Callahan
D-Independence used the final hours of the legislative session to filibuster the "Village Law Repeal" bill in the State Senate. The legislation had two major provisions: the first repealed the "Village Law"; the second placed tougher restrictions on sex shops and pornography. After a long filibuster a compromise was reached. The bill passed, but without the emergency clause allowing it to become law immediately.

Numerous newspaper editorials have condemned the "Village Law" because of the proliferation of so called "villages" popping up in many areas of the state as a way for developers to avoid accountability to county government. The provision was inserted at the last minute last year and permits development to occur regardless of the impact on neighboring communities. This has been a pet project of Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton, a close friend of Koster's.

State Representative Margaret Donnelly commented on the filibuster saying, "It is outrageous that in the final days of session Senator Koster has made it a priority to filibuster a bill in order to help his friend Speaker Jetton. The repeal of the village law provision is essential to protecting the wishes of neighboring citizens from projects such as gaming or CAFOs. He must also be against putting regulations on sex shops, since his filibuster resulted in that portion being stripped from the bill. Although the repeal of the village law finally occurred, without the emergency clause it will be the "Wild West" for developers from now until August.

"I expect more from a candidate for Attorney General. He should be ashamed," said Donnelly. "This shows once again that Koster values his special interests and Republican friends over the best interests of all Missourians."

Governor asks President Bush to declare Jasper, Newton counties federal disaster area

Gov. Matt Blunt today urged President Bush to designate Jasper and Newton counties as federal disaster areaa. The following news release was issued:

Gov. Matt Blunt today asked President Bush to quickly approve two separate Disaster Declarations for both Individual Assistance and Public Assistance for Clay, Douglas and Jackson Counties impacted by the May 2 tornadoes, and Barry, Jasper and Newton Counties impacted by the May 10, 2008 tornadoes.
"The two separate tornado events were devastating to our citizens. I appreciated the recent visit by Homeland Security Chertoff and FEMA Administrator Paulison which gave me the opportunity to show them first hand the destruction caused by the tornadoes in Southwest Missouri," Gov. Blunt said. "While I understand FEMA might prefer two separate disaster requests, I hope the President will combine both events into one declaration to better assist in the recovery efforts in the affected areas."
The May 10 tornadoes caused 16 deaths and more than 200 storm related injuries, in addition to leaving 9000 customers without power in Barry, Jasper and Newton Counties. The damage assessments were completed on May 15th. The Joint Preliminary Damage Assessments included inspections of more than 550 damaged primary residences in the three counties. Teams identified 154 homes that were destroyed and 58 homes that had major damage. The teams also identified $6.2 million in costs to public infrastructure.

Carl Junction assistant superintendent takes top job at Nevada

Carl Junction R-1 Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Stephens will be the new superintendent of the Nevada R-5 School District:

Stephens and his wife Kelly have two daughters, one who is 8 months old and one who is 2 1/2 years old. Stephens received his undergraduate degree from Missouri Southern State University, his masters degree from Pittsburg State University and has received his doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
He has 23 years of experience; 13 in the classroom as a special education teacher and counselor and 10 in administration, one as middle school assistant principal, six as principal and three as assistant superintendent.

"Newtonia has stopped the bleeding"

With nearly one week passed since the tornado that devastated Newtonia, Newtonia Baptist Church minister Doug Gripka told Neosho Daily News reporter Wes Franklin, Newtonia has "stopped the bleeding:"

“The big thing we’ve been doing these last few days is stopping the bleeding,” Gripka said. “And I think we’ve about accomplished that.”

He said the church is now preparing for the long-term recovery. It will remain open as long as needed, Gripka said, as the community picks up the pieces.

“We’ll continue to provide (relief) service as long as we’re needed, but I think the dimension of what we’ve been doing is going to drop off greatly in the next couple of days,” he said.

More than 100 students from area high schools are expected to come to the village tonight to pick up trash, and more volunteers are anticipated this weekend to offer what clean-up help they can.

Electric and telephone service is mostly up and running in those homes still habitable.

But much of the large debris and rubble removal waits on word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a declaration of natural disaster, according to Newtonia Mayor Dee Wormington.

Judge overrules defense motion in Memorial Middle School shooter case

Thomas Gregory White, the 15-year-old charged in connection with the October 2006 shooting incident at Memorial Middle School, will be wearing Jasper County Jail clothing to all court appearances except his trial.

In a decision handed down Thursday, Jasper County Associate Circuit Court Judge David Mouton overruled public defender Brett Meeker's motion to allow the teenager to wear his personal clothing at all court appearances. The exception, Mouton said, would be at trial.

No decision is listed on court records on Meeker's request that Mouton reconsider his decision to allow television cameras in the courtroom at all hearings.

White was a 13-year-old seventh grader at Memorial when he took an assault rifle to the school, fired the weapon into the ceiling and then pointed it at Principal Steve Gilbreth. White allegedly then tried to fire the weapon at Gilbreth, but it jammed.

White is charged with two counts of assault, and single counts of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape.

Status conference scheduled for attorney general lawsuit

A 10:45 a.m. May 27 status conference has been scheduled in the civil rights lawsuit filed against Attorney General Jay Nixon's office by fired lawyer Marla Grothoff.
Five months have passed since court documents were filed indicating that a settlement had been reached in Ms. Grothoff's lawsuit.

As noted in the Nov. 6 Turner Report, the settlement, the details of which have not been made available, was arrived at that day following a session which was attended by Ms. Grothoff and her attorney Daniel Pingelton, Karen Mitchell, McAdams and Ms. Vasterling of the attorney general's office.

Ms. Grothoff served as an attorney for the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Division of Social Services from 1988 to 2003. When the decision was made to transfer the legal work for that division to the attorney general's office, most of the lawyers were transferred to the attorney general's office, according to Ms. Grothoff's petition, which was originally filed in Boone County Circuit Court, but not Ms. Grothoff.

In her lawsuit, Ms. Grothoff claimed she was discriminated against because she is a quadriplegic with limited use of her hands.
The attorney general has denied Ms. Grothoff's claims.

The last status conference was held April 15.

Globe: Battlefield group vows to rebuild Ritchey Mansion

Today's Joplin Globe features an article on the Newtonia Battlefield Protection Association's plan to rebuild the tornado-damaged Ritchey Mansion:

“We can fix it. We’ll come back,” said Kay Hively, a member of the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association and one of the leading advocates for preserving the house and nearby grounds. The tornado caused extensive damage.

“It ripped off all three chimneys, ripped off part of the brick in the front and ripped off the roof in about four major pieces,” said Russ Hively, mansion caretaker. He also is a member of the association, which owns and operates the home.

In addition to the exterior damage, Russ Hively reported minimal damage to the mansion’s “soft contents” such as bedding, carpets, rugs, curtains and blinds.

Kay Hively said the two-story house was built around 1851-52 by Matthew Ritchey and his slaves. The red bricks were made of clay taken from a nearby spring.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

4-Hers to help Neosho tornado victims

University of Missouri's Southwest Region News Service offers the following article concerning 4-Hers helping a Neosho 4-H family that was hit hard by the effects of Saturday's tornado:

Members from several 4-H clubs in southwest Missouri are responding this weekend to a request for help by travelling to Neosho to aid the Wortman family after they lost everything on their farm in the May 10 tornado.

Becky Fay, 4-H youth development assistant in Greene County, began working immediately after the tornado to get 4-H’ers in southwest Missouri together to help 4-H families in Newton County. She has been joined by Kelly Shilling who is meeting groups iNeosho and leading them to the Wortman’s farm.

“There is a great need for cleaning debris out of pastures, shingles, boards, tin and tree limbs at the Wortman farm,” said Fay. “This 4-H family has lost everything so they have no storage right now but money would also be of assistance.”

The Salvation Army is taking donations in Joplin at (417) 624-4528 and a Salvation Army warehouse in Neosho is also taking donations at 1300 Howard Bush Road, near the airport. Both locations say they need personal hygiene items, clothing of all sizes, baby formula and diapers and non-perishable food.

Monetary donations can be sent to the Newton County Extension office, 1900 South Highway 71, Neosho, 64850 in the name of Newton County 4-H Council and noted ‘Disaster Relief 2008’.

“This past tornado has really affected our 4-H family in southwest Missouri. As many as 15 of our 4-H families in Newton County have severe damage and this one family has lost everything -- house, barns, animals, cars and farm equipment,” said Fay.

Haley Wilkerson, a member of the Clover Comets 4-H Club near Rogersville, is traveling to Neosho on Saturday with her boyfriend, a member of a 4-H Club in Lawrence County.

“I think this will be an eye opening experience. I feel really sorry for the people out there that lost everything. I can't even begin to imagine how awful that would be. I am not sure how much help I will be, but I will do my best to be of service,” said Wilkerson.

Gail Driskell, a co-leader for Sac River Stablemates 4-H Club located near Willard, Mo., has several reasons for heading down to Neosho on Friday to help the Wortman family.

“One reason I am going to help is the bond of 4-H. These 4-H families in Newton County personally are a part of my bigger 4-H family. What greater opportunity to put the 4-H pledge to action by using my hands and my time to help other 4-H families in need,” said Driskell.

The Sac River 4-H Club competed against a team from Newton County in the Horse Bowl this past year so Driskell said she does feel a personal connection to the Wortman family because of that competition.

“But most importantly, I also serve a God who commands us to love our neighbors and to help the least of these. God has really pressed upon my heart this week the simple command of ‘go’ so, I'm listening and going,” said Driskell.

For more information on how to help the Wortman family or other 4-H families in Newton County, contact Kelly Shilling at (417) 385-8972. She is working to coordinate other work groups as well as the donation of items.

Lamar guardsman featured in News Tribune article

When writing about Jefferson City News Tribune reporter Michelle Brooks' features on Missouri soldiers, I overlooked a feature she did earlier this week on Spec. Michael Garfield from Lamar:

His family recently was able to see him and the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and visit with him briefly through the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Bosslift.

His dad, Terry Garfield, works in emergency medical services. Michael's wife, Brittney, is a combat medic, too.

So it was neat to see him helping the other soldiers' after that drill, Terry said.

“I could really identify,” Terry said. “This is a good place for him. He has a lot of compassion for others.”

A busy, self-employed construction worker, Terry grabbed the chance to see his son in training with the Bosslift. It might be the last chance Terry will see his son before he goes serves in Kosovo for the next year with the 110th.

“It never really sunk in to me exactly what they went through ... or how proud they make you,” said Terry, with tears filling his eyes. “It's a good experience to take back with us.”

Terry's son-in-law also will be deploying with military police to Baghdad soon. And his youngest son plans to join the U.S. Army after graduation this month in Lamar.

“We could form our own little army,” Terry joked with wife, Samantha.

Globe editorial: Photo ID not needed

In an editorial in today's edition, the Joplin Globe came out strongly against the proposed Voter ID amendment:

If Missouri had cases of voter impersonation linked to voter fraud, then perhaps the measure would be necessary. But Secretary of State Robin Carnahan says that’s not the case. In fact, there has never been a case in Missouri. She says the problems with voting that do exist would not be fixed by requiring a photo ID.

A voter ID bill in Indiana went to the U.S. Supreme Court. That court ruled that states could require voters to present a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Consequently, during the May 6 presidential primary election, at least a dozen elderly nuns, several recently married women who changed their names when they married and a number of students with out-of-state driver’s licenses were not allowed to cast ballots.

Those without photo ID generally are women, the elderly or the poor.

We have enough bureaucracy.

Heaping on one more barrier, or making the system even more prohibitive for some, smacks of political gamesmanship.

Let’s get down to taking care of problems that are real.

Unfortunately, it is an election year, and creating imaginary crises is a staple of election years.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

June 9 preliminary hearing scheduled for Neosho pastor

A 9:30 a.m. June 9 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Randall Danny Russell, 49, Neosho, pastor of Acts II Church on two counts of child molestation, two count of first degree statutory sodomy and five counts of second degree statutory sodomy.

Russell is alleged to have taken advantage of his status as a pastor to sexually abuse four underage girls. The particular incidents with which Russell has been charged allegedly took place in 1996 and 2004.

Public defender objects to cameras at Memorial Middle School shooter hearings

The public defender representing Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White filed a motion in Jasper County Circuit Court today asking Judge David Mouton to reconsider his decision to allow cameras in the courtroom.

Brett Meeker also asked that her client be allowed to wear his personal clothing than Jasper County Jail clothing to his hearings.

Mouton approved the request for cameras in the courtroom May 12.

White, 15, was a 13-year-old seventh grader at Memorial in October 2006 when he took an assault rifle into the school, fired the weapon into the ceiling, then pointed it at Principal Steve Gilbreth and allegedly tried to fire the weapon, but it jammed.
White has been locked up since the incident. He faces two charges of assault and single charges of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape.

Ohio attorney general resigns

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann resigned today, less than a week after the firing three of his staff and forcing the resignation of Chief of Staff Edgar Simpson, the former editor of the Joplin Globe:

The resignation comes a day after Democrats filed nine articles of impeachment and the Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill allowing Inspector General Tom Charles to investigate Dann's office.

Investigators for Charles began removing equipment, including computers, from Dann's office earlier Wednesday

Jefferson City paper focuses on returning soldiers

Missouri papers have, on the whole, done a poor job of covering state soldiers' roles in the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An exception has been the Jefferson City News Tribune, primarily due to the consistently excellent reporting of Michelle Brooks.
Michelle, a Lockwood native who got her start in journalism in the early 1990s as a high school student writing school news for The Carthage Press, has two features on Jefferson City area soldiers returning from Afghanistan in today's edition and has been covering the homefront and Missouri soldiers ever since Sept. 11.

"Home from Afghanistan"
features this passage:

As part of the training effort, the Missouri citizen-soldiers in January escorted 19 members of the ANA to Fort Riley, Kan., where the foreign soldiers observed how an American military installation is run and practiced what they had learned so far.

The 17-member unit would show the developing Afghan army how they would do a mission or procedure, Hiland said. Sometimes they would take the advice and sometimes they would do things their own way, he said.

Part of the goal was to help the army win the “hearts and minds” of the public, to let them know the government is helping to pull away from the Taliban, Hiland said.

“We had to remember it's their army,” he said.

Other American units will continue preparing and training the Afghan army.

“We brought the (Afghan) army to a certain readiness level,”
Worley said. “I think we developed a good foundation for the next team to come in.”

In the other article, "Warm welcome ends long time away from home," Michelle explores the reunion of soldiers and their loved ones after a 12-month separation:

Sgt. Maj. Steve Hiland stepped off the bus and into the eager arms of his wife, Lt. Col. Vicki Hiland.

The Hilands have been separated most of the last three years. Lt. Col. Hiland returned from 16 months in Iraq only five months before Sgt. Maj. Hiland deployed for this mission to Afghanistan.

“But when you both wear the uniform, that's what you've gotta do,” Lt. Col. Hiland said. “I'm glad to have him home safely (now).”

So the Russellville couple is looking forward to simply spending time with each other in the next few weeks.

It is refreshing to see a newspaper that has not forgotten that we do have people who are stepping forward to serve their country. We owe a big thank you to Michelle Brooks and the Jefferson City News Tribune.

Negotiations break down, Ohio attorney general vows to stay

Only a few hours after it appeared his resignation was imminent, Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has vowed to stay on the job.

Dann is still enmeshed in the scandal that last week claimed the position of several staff members, including chief of staff (and former Joplin Globe editor) Edgar Simpson, who resigned rather than be fired:

The day started with scandal-plagued Attorney General Marc Dann offering to succumb to demands he resign, but only under certain conditions.

Rebuffed, Dann retreated, dug in his heels and by day’s end pledged to keep his post.
“The Attorney General has decided to continue doing his job,” said the one-line statement issued Tuesday by Dann’s spokesman Jason Stanford.

Dann, a Democrat, admitted May 2 to an extramarital affair with an employee that he said contributed to an atmosphere leading to sexual harassment claims against a top aide.

Three aides were forced out in the harassment investigation that showed management encouraged a casual work environment with frequent profanity and inappropriate interactions with subordinates.

Impeachment proceedings against Dann began yesterday in the Ohio legislature.

News-Leader pays tribute to Casey

A Springfield News-Leader editorial pays tribute to fallen firefighter Tyler Casey:

Firefighters from other departments have begun posting messages of sorrow and brotherhood on the fire protection district's Web site.

One, from California, says to Tyler: "Your brothers and sisters in the fire service shall carry the watch from here."

Another says, "It is a sad day in many firefighters' lives as we mourn the loss of a fellow firefighter."

And the most heart-wrenching, from a volunteer who worked with Tyler in the Seneca Area district:

"You meant the world to me, and when you asked to follow in my footsteps I couldn't have been more honored. ... You always stepped up to the plate when needed. I will miss you more than anyone will ever know.

"I love you son."

News-Leader posts photos of tornado damage

Photos of tornado damage have been posted at the Springfield News-Leader website.

Newtonia and Granby photos can be found at this link.

This page contains links to those photos plus others from Neosho, Seneca, Racine and elsewhere.

Links provided to Rountree, Casey obituaries

Obituary information for the Rountree family, which had four members killed during Saturday's tornadoes can be found at this link and this link.

Obituary information for Seneca firefighter Tyler Casey can be found here.

Globe editorial praises Seneca fireman

In an editorial in today's edition, the Joplin Globe praised Seneca fireman Tyler Casey, who was killed Saturday during a tornado:

The world needs more people who, like Tyler Casey, are willing to put themselves aside as they try to help others.

We commend the actions of the young man, and extend our sympathies to his family, his 2-year-old daughter and to his fiancee, who is expecting his child.

Tyler Casey stood tall when it counted.

Additional charges filed against Neosho pastor

The Joplin Globe reports that the Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's office has filed 10 more charges against Randall Danny Russell, pastor of Acts II Church in Neosho:

The Newton County prosecutor’s office filed five more counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, two counts of first-degree child molestation and a misdemeanor charge of second-degree child molestation against Randall “Danny” Russell, the 49-year-old pastor of the Acts II Church near Neosho.

Russell already was facing single counts of second-degree statutory rape, second-degree statutory sodomy and child abuse related to a woman who came forward in late April with allegations that Russell began molesting her and taking nude photographs of her in 2003, when she was 16.

Two more alleged victims surfaced after those charges were filed April 30, and a fourth alleged victim was named in court documents filed Tuesday.

Assistant Prosecutor Bill Dobbs said the women, all members or former members of the Acts II Church, describe initial alleged incidents of touching or kissing that would progress to more direct contact and culminated, in the case of the first woman to come forward, with alleged sexual intercourse.

“It’s as though he had a prescribed pattern he would follow as he would groom these girls,” Dobbs said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Daily profiles Seneca firefighter who was killed in tornado

The Neosho Daily News continues to do what it does best- provide blanket coverage during critical times. Its coverage of the tornadoes, following up in the tradition established by coverage of the ice storms, the Micronesian church killings and Rowan Ford's murder, has been stellar.

The latest example is Managing Editor John Ford's feature on Seneca firefighter Tyler Casey, who lost his life during the tornado:

Redings Mill Fire Chief Andy Nimmo credited Casey with saving the lives of three people before he was injured.

“The key is he sacrificed his life so that others would live,” Nimmo said. “He was out warning people so they could get to safety, and then a tornado got him.

“I have a tremendous amount of pride for what he did. I wish I could be as much of a firefighter as he was. Here he was, just 21 years old and not getting paid anything for what he did. He could have run the other way, but he ran toward it, and gave his life saving others. I hope everyone realizes how much of a hero he was.”

Obama arrives in Southeast Missourian

Barack Obama's Town Hall meeting in Cape Girardeau has been posted on the Southeast Missourian's home page, there was no mention of it on there a couple of hours ago.

Respected veteran reporter Rudi Keller handled the coverage which included this passage:

When it is finally time to choose a president in November, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama told more than 200 people gathered into the cutting room at Thorngate Ltd. Tuesday, the choice will be clear.

President Bush will not be on the ballot, he said, but his policies will. U.S. Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, has shown little inclination to change the policies that have put the U.S. into an expensive war in Iraq, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and seen the price of gasoline rise to levels that make driving to work an expensive necessity, he said.

"John McCain is running for George Bush's third term," Obama told the crowd of Thorngate workers, invited Democratic activists, city dignitaries and people who came to see the candidate without any real hope of hearing him speak. The event was billed as an invitation-only town hall meeting, but Obama's campaign team allowed about 60 people who had been waiting outside for a glimpse to come in.

The Southeast Missourian's video from Obama's appearance can be found at this link.

The Southeast Missourian put together an excellent package on the Obama visit.

Transcript of Clinton West Virginia victory speech provided

Thank you, West Virginia.

You know, like the song says: “it's almost heaven,” and I am so grateful for this overwhelming vote of confidence.

There are some who have wanted to cut this race short. They say “give up, it's too hard, the mountain is too high,” but here in West Virginia, you know a thing or two about rough roads to the top of the mountain. We know from the Bible that faith can move mountains and, my friends, the faith of the Mountain State has moved me. I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard.

I want to commend Senator Obama and his supporters. This continues to be a hard-fought race, from one end of our country to the other. And yes, we've had a few dust-ups along the way, but our commitment to bring America new leadership that will renew America’s promise means that we have always stood together on what is most important.

Now, tonight I need your help to continue this journey. We are in the homestretch. There are only three weeks left in the final contests, and your support can make the difference between winning and losing. So I hope you'll go to and support our campaign.

You've heard this before – there are many who wanted to declare a nominee before the ballots were counted or even cast. Some said our campaign was over after Iowa, but then we won New Hampshire. Then we had big victories on Super Tuesday and in Ohio and Texas and Pennsylvania, and of course, we came from behind to win in Indiana.

So, this race isn't over yet. Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win and both Senator Obama and I believe that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be seated. I believe we should honor the votes cast by 2.3 million people in those states and seat all of their delegates. Under the rules of our party, when you include all 50 states, the number of delegates needed to win is 2,209, and neither of us has reached that threshold yet. This win in West Virginia will help me move even closer.

Now, in a campaign, it can be easy to get lost in the political spin and the polls or the punditry, but we must never lose sight of what really counts, of why all of us care so much about who wins and who loses in our political system. An enormous decision falls on the shoulders of Democratic voters in these final contests and those Democrats empowered to vote at our convention. And tonight, in light of our overwhelming victory here in West Virginia, I want to send a message to everyone still making up their mind.

I am in this race because I believe I am the strongest candidate - the strongest candidate to lead our party in November of 2008 and the strongest president to lead our nation starting in January of 2009. I can win this nomination if you decide I should, and I can lead this party to victory in the general election if you lead me to victory now.

The choice falls to all of you, and I don't envy you. I deeply admire Senator Obama, but I believe our case, a case West Virginia has helped to make, our case is stronger. Together, we have won millions and millions of votes - by the time tonight is over, probably 17 million, close to it. We've won them in states that we must be prepared and ready to win in November – Pennsylvania and Ohio, Arkansas and New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and now West Virginia. It is a fact that no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia.

The bottom line is this – the White House is one in the swing states and I am winning the swing states. And we have done it by standing up for the deepest principles of our party with a vision for an America that rewards hard work again, that values the middle class and helps to make it stronger.

With your help, I am ready to go head-to-head with John McCain to put our vision for America up against the one he shares with President Bush. Now, I believe our party is strong enough for this challenge. I am strong enough for it. You know I never give up. I’ll keep coming back, and I’ll stand with you as long as you stand with me.

Together, we will draw the stark distinctions that will determine the future direction of our nation, the difference between ending the war in Iraq responsibly or continuing it indefinitely, between health care for everyone and more uninsured Americans, between standing up for the middle-class families that you represent or standing up for the corporate special interests.

So, I ask you, Democrats, to choose who you believe will make the strongest candidate in the fall and who is ready to execute the office of the presidency of the United States.

People ask me all the time, why am I in this race. Well, I’m in it because of the people that I have worked for my entire life and the people I meet along the campaign trail, people who need someone who fights for them because they're fighting so hard every single day, the people who drive for miles to show their support, who come with the home-made sign, who raise money by skipping those dinners out, who have stood fast and stood strong. I’m in this race for the millions of Americans who know that we can do better in our country, for the nurse on her second shift, for the worker on the line, for the waitress on her feet, for the small business owner, the farmer, the teacher, the coal miner, the trucker, the soldier, the veteran, the college student.

All of the hardworking men and women who defy the odds to build a better life for themselves and their children. You will never be counted out, and I won't either. You will never quit, and I won't, either.

The question is, why do so many people keep voting? Why did 64% of Democrats say in a recent poll they wanted this race to continue? Because in the face of the pundits and the naysayers, they know what is at stake. They know that we have two wars, an economy in crisis on the brink of a recession, $9 trillion of debt, oil prices shooting through the roof, gas prices and grocery prices hurting people who desperately are looking for a way to just keep going day to day. They know they need a champion. They need someone who's going to never stop fighting for health care that covers everyone, no exceptions, for an economy that lifts everyone up, for good jobs that won't be shipped overseas, for college affordability, for all that you can do to own a home and then to keep it.

This election is fundamentally about whether or not the American dream remains alive and well, for our children and our grandchildren. This is the core of my life and my political beliefs: that we owe so much to future generations, that we do not want to see that dream recede, that we know people have to work hard, and we expect you to do just that and to take responsibility, but at the very least, you should have a President who is on your side again.

And I believe that this campaign has been good for the Democratic Party and good for our country. People are discussing and debating issues. They are turning out in record numbers to register and to vote. There is an excitement about politics that is the lifeblood of our democracy.

For me, this election isn't about who's in or who's out or who's up or who's down. It’s about the common threads that tie us together – rich and poor, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. We are united by common values. We all want a better world for our children, and we want the best for our country. And we are committed to putting a Democrat back in the White House.

And our nominee – our nominee will be stronger for having campaigned long and hard, building enthusiasm and excitement, hearing your stories and answering your questions. And I will work my heart out for the nominee of the Democratic Party to make sure we have a Democratic President.

As we look at the stakes in this election, I think we can all agree it’s been unprecedented. We haven't had an election like it for as long as anyone can remember. It is still so close and it really does depend upon those who will vote in these next contests and those who have the awesome responsibility as delegates of our great Democratic Party.

I’m asking that people think hard about where we are in this election, about how we will win in November, because this is not an abstract exercise. This is for a solemn, crucial purpose: to elect a president to turn our country around, to meet the challenges we face and seize the opportunities. It has been a long campaign, but it is just an instant in time when compared with the lasting consequences of the choice we will make in November. That is why I am carrying on, and if you give me a chance, Democrats, I’ll come back to West Virginia in the general election and we'll win this state and we'll win the White House.

I am honored and grateful for the support and hospitality of the people of West Virginia. I spent a few minutes with your wonderful national treasure, Senator Byrd, this morning and we talked about his beloved West Virginia. I told him where I’d gone and what I’d seen. I talked about the people I had met. And he just broke into the biggest smile. I don’t know that any man has ever loved a state more than Robert C. Byrd loves West Virginia.

I am grateful for the graciousness of Governor and Mrs. Manchin. Governor Manchin is winning a great victory himself tonight, and I want to thank Joe and Gayle for welcoming me to Governor Manchin’s hometown as we went to Fairmont for a great election last night. I want to thank Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, former Governor Hulett Smith, Brigadier General Jack Yeager, all of the West Virginia veterans who honored me by their support and I honor their service.

Thanks to my friends in the labor unions who stood with us every step of the way, we wouldn't be here without you. And a special thanks to my outstanding staff, volunteers and supporters here in West Virginia and across America.

At least once, usually a half a dozen times a day, Bill and Chelsea and I check in with each other and I wish every West Virginian could have heard our calls as we compared our experiences here in this state. We’ve had the best time.

And I will be back. As we move on now to the next contests, in Kentucky and Oregon, in Puerto Rico, in Montana and South Dakota, tonight I'm thinking about Florence Steen from South Dakota, eighty-eight years old and in failing health when she asked that her daughter bring an absentee ballot to her hospice bedside. Florence was born before women had the right to vote, and she was determined to exercise that right, to cast a ballot for her candidate who just happened to be a woman running for president. Florence passed on a few days ago, but I am eternally grateful to her and her family for making this such an important and incredible milestone in her life that means so much to me. I’m also thinking of Dalton Hatfield, an 11-year-old boy from Kentucky, who sold his bike and sold his video games to raise money to support my campaign.

This is a great and good nation because of people like Florence Steen, Dalton Hatfield, and their families. Her memory and his future are worth fighting for. As long as we remember that there is no challenge we cannot meet, no barrier we cannot break, no dream we cannot realize. So, let's finish the job we started. America is worth fighting for.

Thank you and God bless you and God bless America. Thank you all so very much.

Clinton vows to continue battle for nomination

Like the song says, "It's almost heaven," Hillary Clinton said, opening her victory speech in Charleston, W. Va. "There are some who wanted to cut this race short. They said give up, but here in West Virginia, you know a thing or two about rough roads to the top of the mountain."

"I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard."

Mrs. Clinton said she and Barack Obama have always stood together on what is most important.

Then she returned to the battle. "We are in the homestretch." She made a pitch for campaign contributions.

"There are many who wanted to declare a nominee before the ballots were counted or even cast." She related her victories along the way after she had been counted out, including New Hampshire and last week's come-from-behind victory in Indiana.

"This race isn't over yet."

She renewed her plea to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan. "I believe we should honor the votes cast by 2.3 million people from those states and seat all of their delegates." She noted that neither she nor Obama has reached the 2,209 delegates (counting Michigan and Florida) she says either she or Obama need to win the nomination.

"I want to send a message to everyone still making up their minds, I am in this race because I believe I am the strongest candidate, the strongest candidate to lead our party in the election of 2008 and the strongest president."

"The choice falls to all of you and I don't envy you. I deeply admire Sen Obama, but I believe our case is stronger." She repeated her campaign's mantra about winning the states, including West Virginia, that the Democrats will need to win in order to defeat John McCain in November.

Mrs. Clinton noted that no Democrat since Woodrow Wilson in 1916 has won the presidency without winning West Virginia.

"I will stand with you as long as you stand with me," she told the audience.