Monday, August 31, 2009

More fun for McCaskill at Springfield town hall meeting

The screaming ninnies were out at Senator Claire McCaskill's town hall meeting in Springfield today as this video shows:

Faculty senate president: There is a growing dissatisfaction with President Speck

Missouri Southern State University's Faculty Senate voted 23-2 today to form a committee to study a vote of no confidence in President Bruce Speck,

An article on the decision, posted earlier tonight on website of The Chart, Missouri Southern's student newspaper, shows just how much fear Speck has generated around the campus since Faculty Senate President Roger Chelf noted that only tenured faculty members would serve on the ad hoc committee, sparing others from Speck's wrath:

The Faculty Senate sent the following letter to Speck and other top campus officials:

This is to inform you that the Faculty Senate has formed an ad hoc committee for the purpose of determining the proper procedure for taking a vote of no confidence in President Speck by the teaching faculty of MSSU. The committee is also charged with collecting the evidence that demonstrates a vote of no confidence is both necessary and deserved. We expect that this committee will have completed its task by the next Faculty Senate meeting, which is scheduled for October 5, 2009. At that time, we will convey our evidence to you, and if and when a vote is taken, we will inform you of the results.

Speck no confidence vote may be on MSSU Faculty Senate agenda today

A no-confidence vote in Missouri Southern State University President Dr. Bruce Speck may be on tap when the university's Faculty Senate meets today.

Speck has been the center of controversy since his arrival at MSSU in early 2008. Brought in as the only finalist (the other withdrew to take another job), Speck's brief tenure has seen the dismantling of the International Piano Competition, an almost complete demolition of the university's international mission, chaos and fear among his top officials, and a series of incredible public relations blunders.

When copies of the university's newspaper, The Chart, were taken away from a career fair by the enrollment director because it had a story about declining enrollment. Rather than coming down on the side of the First Amendment, Speck issued a mealy-mouthed promise to look into the incident.

He has kept faculty members at their current salary level, while continuing to be involved in one pie-in-the-sky building plan after another, including the formation of a medical school at the university, which Speck says will require a $7 million building for dead bodies.

In the most recent fiasco, which for many was the last straw, Speck "entertained" Joplin Rotary members with a song that made light of the university's alleged financial crisis, joking about furloughs and other matters that faculty members and students do not consider to be joking matters.

Those matters are in addition to revelations from The Turner Report about racial discrimination accusations made against him during his time as provost at Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tenn.

And sadly, this is only a partial list of the complaints that have been lodged against Speck in only a year and a half at Missouri Southern.

Whether the problem lies just with Bruce Speck or with his chief supporter among the university's Board of Governors, Dwight Douglas (or more likely with both) it appears the campus' long record of stability at the top has been completely decimated.


(Anyone with information about the Faculty Senate meeting or anything else having to do with Missouri Southern, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment.)

Former KODE anchor Tara Brown vanishes again

Former KODE anchor Tara Brown has pulled another vanishing act, according to this online forum in Pensacola, Fla., where she has most recently worked as a morning anchor at WEAR.

Ms. Brown, if you recall, left KODE in 2006 in a swirl of controversy, as I wrote in a Nov. 12, 2006, post:

The reason for the abrupt departure of KODE anchor Tara Brown depends on who you ask.
Some readers have told me it came as a result of a principled stand by Ms. Brown over a decision made by the higher-ups in the KODE news department.

Others describe it as either a "prima-donna" move by Ms. Brown or a shrewd maneuver to enable her to leave the station and take a position at another television station.

Ms. Brown walked out on KODE Monday, cleaning out her desks and leaving the station after a disagreement over the use of a sweeps package on the McDonald County cult/ritual sex story, a story on which Ms. Brown has led the way since the arrests of leaders of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in late August.

Sources have told The Turner Report Ms. Brown was angered by an order to turn over the videotape of her report to KSNF to use on its broadcast. Ms. Brown was adamantly against that idea, but finally agreed to let KODE's sister station use the tape the following day. That idea did not fly with station officials, who reminded Ms. Brown of the shared services agreement that Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF (and obviously, the party in control since Mission is obviously a dummy corporation), and Mission Broadcasting have.
At that point, the sources say, Ms. Brown walked out and immediately cleaned out her desk.

Ms. Brown's detractors do not depict this as a principled stand in favor of her story and its use on KODE. They say Ms. Brown was grandstanding in an effort to find a way to walk out of her contract with KODE and accept a position with a station in a larger market. Reportedly, Ms. Brown's contract allowed her to leave KODE, which is in one of the smallest markets in the United States, to go to a top 50 market. Ms. Brown's detractors indicate she has a job in waiting at a larger market, but not a top 50 market.

Ms. Brown, the former Tara Paat, was a onetime Miss World Canada, who gave her title due to a dispute with pageant officials following a trip to South Africa in which she observed racial discrimination which she felt was tacitly approved by pageant officials, according to a Chicago Tribune article.

It's all in the name

In her most recent capital report, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, provided a handy list of addresses of area, state, and national officials to contact about problems.

Those included herself, our Seventh District Congressman and both of our U. S. Senators. I noticed that she called herself Marilyn Ruestman, the senators Claire McCaskill and Kit Bond, and the Congressman Roy Blunt. But when it came to the President of the United States, he was listed as Barack Hussein Obama.

Not only does Mrs. Ruestman appear to be hitting the Rush sauce, but does she really expect her constituents letters to have a better chance of reaching someone important if they include Hussein in the name?

Steep drop for KOAM parent company's stock

Sage Communications, owner of KOAM and KFJX, followed its recent streak of large stock price increases with a steep fall Friday.

The company's stock fell three dollars per share to $12.93.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock was up 14 cents to $2.73 per share. Nexstar Broadcasting owns/operates KODE and KSNF in Joplin and KOLR and KSFX in Springfield.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Baseball diamonds are a Talboy's best friend, or I get by with a little help from my lobbyists

When the Kansas City Royals played host to the St. Louis Cardinals June 19-21, Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, was there for all three games.

During the first game, he plopped himself down in the most expensive seats at Kauffman Stadium, the Crown Seat, described on the Royals' website as a place where a fan can "enjoy a number of benefits including meals, snacks and beverages in the exclusive Crown Club, and in-seat wait-service."

On the Saturday and Sunday of the series, Talboy also showed his dedication to the local Royals, though he did not sit in a Crown Seat.

Or to paraphrase the old Mastercard commercials:

Crown Seat tickets at a Royals-Cardinals game- $250
Dugout Box Seats - $43

Having the same special interests whose legislation you vote on pay for your seats and meals- Priceless

Reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission show lobbyist Madeline Romious, AT&T not only paid for Talboy's Crown Seat ticket, but also for two others, at a cost of $760.

Picking up the $90 tab for the Saturday game was Nancy Giddens, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

Finishing off the series, Gregory Gaffke, representing Embarq provided Talboy with $184 worth of tickets.

The three-day total- $1,034

Mike Talboy is racking up lobbyists' gifts at a near-record pace. As I noted in the last post, Talboy tops The Turner Report Hall of Shame for the Missouri House of Representatives with $6,480.61 for the first six months of 2009. That total is nearly $2,500 more than the runner-up, his fellow KC Democrat, Leonard Hughes.

And things have gotten worse since the conclusion of the 2009 legislative session. Between June 3 and June 30, a four-week period, Talboy received $2,314.15 worth of gifts, more than 150 of the 163 members of the House of Representatives have picked up during the entire year.

Add the $1,143.44 on Talboy's ledger during the final two weeks of May after the session ended and he had a total of $3,457.59 in six weeks, more than all but two other representatives had collected for the entire year.

During that time period, Talboy's gifts included:

-$995.86 from Kelly Gillespie, Missouri Biotechnology Association, for travel and lodging for the National Summit on Biotech Diversity in Atlanta, Ga. While he was at the summit, Talboy had two meals paid for by lobbyists- one for $30.39 by Monsanto's Duane Simpson, and the other, a $24 meal at Dantanna's, by Debra Flores, Boeringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals. Dantanna's is described this way on its website:

Dantanna’s combines culinary excellence with the entertainment value of sports to create the ultimate restaurant experience. Dantanna’s is not a sports bar – it’s Atlanta’s only upscale sports restaurant that exudes the sophistication and elegance of a five-star restaurant and excitement and entertainment of having a private box at your favorite game.

-Ameristar Casino lobbyist Sarah Topp, representing the Missouri Railroad Association, paid for $59.50 worth of concert tickets on June 3.

-Betsy Ledgerwood, Missouri Coalition of Children's Agencies, paid $282.14 for airfare to a conference.

-On June 22, Sara Schuett, Missouri Bar, paid $475 for continuing legal education services and $304.88 for travel.


Even though Talboy piled it on during the last two weeks of May and the month of June, lobbyists also plied him with gifts during the legislative session, including:

-On Inauguration day, Franc Flotron, representing his lobbying firm, Flotron & McIntosh footed the bill for $153.99 in meals, while Charles Simino, Embarq, paid for $84.16.

-Brent Hemphill, Hemphill & Associates paid for $153.40 in meals, food, and beverage on March 11.

-Madeline Romious, AT&T bought Talboy four tickets to a first round NCAA Basketball Tournament in Kansas City March 19. That bit of March Madness cost $252.


UPDATE- Documents posted today on the Missouri Ethics Commission website show Mike Talboy is now over $9,000 in lobbyists' gifts, nearly $5,000 more than the nearest legislator.

Kansas City Democrats top Turner Report Hall of Shame; Talboy a runaway winner

Somewhere in the dim corner of hell reserved for political bosses, Tom Pendergast must be smiling.

Eighteen members of the Missouri House of Representatives accepted more than $2,000 in lobbyists' gifts during the first six months of 2009, and the top two come from Pendergast's home town of Kansas City, and from his beloved Democratic Party.

Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, not only is at the top of The Turner Report Hall of Shame, he was the runaway winner. With only half of the year gone, Talboy has already collected $6,480.61 in lobbyists' gifts.

His fellow KC Democrat, Leonard Hughes, compiled a respectable $3,994.06 to pull into the runner-up position.

Of the 18 nearly all were from either the Kansas City or St. Louis area, and 12 were Democrats, including six of the 10 who made the Hall of Shame.

The others joining Talboy and Hughes in the top 10:

3. Timothy Jones, R-Eureka $3,530.25
4. Chris Carter, D-St. Louis $3,303.07
5. Martin Rucker, D-St. Joseph $3,299.34
6. Shalonn Curls, D-Kansas City, $3,255.97
7. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, $2,914.91
8. Tim Flook, R-Liberty, $2,871.26
9. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, $2,714.48
10. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, $2,614.15

The other eight, receiving dishonorable mention:

11. Ted Hoskins D-Berkeley $2,607.97
12. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, $2,568.57
13. Michael Spreng, D-Florissant, $2,445.82
14. Steve Webb, D-Florissant, $2,256.15
15. Michael Corcoran,D-St. Ann $2,162.14
16. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, $2,072.77
17. Don Calloway, D-St. Louis, $2,035.80
18. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, $2,020.58

More information about the Hall of Shame winners will be featured in upcoming posts.

For a detailed Turner Report examination of Mike Talboy's gifts from lobbyists, go to this link.

Thirty-nine representatives have accepted more than $1,000 in lobbyists' gifts in 2009

As a prelude to the upcoming Turner Report Hall of Shame for the Missouri House of Representatives, I note that 39 representatives have already accepted more than $1,000 worth of lobbyists gifts during the first six months of 2009.

Sadly, that number should increase by four or five once July reports are posted.

Eighteen have already surpassed the $2,000 mark.

Globe glosses over accused killer's probation violations

Buried at the end of Saturday's Joplin Globe story on the preliminary hearing for the accused killers of Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage was a brief mention of Winans' previous criminal record and probation violations:

Winans also has a brief criminal record, including a felony charge of drug possession in Jasper County that was pleaded down to misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia in May of last year. When the drug charge was first filed in January 2008, he was on probation in Barton County for stealing a vehicle in 2005. The charge resulted in revocation of his probation and 120 days of shock incarceration.

He was placed back on probation a short time before the Sheldon murders.

This reads more like the Joplin Globe attempting to show that this information, which it has not featured in any other story about the murders since Darren Winans and Matthew Laurin were arrested two months ago, is not really that important.

At this link, you can find what has been written in The Turner Report about Winans' probation violations.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Education Commissioner to share vision for public educaton with Joint Committee

Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro will share her vision on the future of Missouri education at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education 9 a.m. Sept. 16.

The meeting agenda indicates Ms. Nicastro will also discuss difficulties in reaching that vision.

Rupp: "Strong chance" Career Ladder program won't be funded

Buried toward the bottom of his latest capital report, Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St.Charles, notes that the Career Ladder program for Missouri teachers may not be completely funded for the 2009-2010 school year. This is buried below Rupp's recitation of all of the good things that the legislature did for education during the 2009 session. The text of his report is printed below:

With the school year now underway, it seems only fitting to highlight the many legislative successes for K-12 schools that came from the 2009 session of the General Assembly. Despite a downturn in the nation’s and state’s economy, Missouri passed one of the most meaningful education reform bills in the last decade, and, for the fourth year in a row, continued its commitment to fully fund the school funding formula — adding $63 million for public schools, WITHOUT a tax increase.
That’s a pretty remarkable feat, particularly in these tough economic times, and can be credited to fiscally responsible budgeting in recent years and the General Assembly’s knowledge that funding education is the best investment it can make for Missouri residents.
Four years ago, the Legislature created a stronger school funding formula that distributes state aid to individuals based on student need, not assessed property values, and this has been a tremendous success for many of our school districts. Under this formula, funding for K-12 schools in District 2 has increased 24.26 percent, with a total of $33.3 million in increases since fiscal year 2007. Our schools are set to receive $160 million for this school year — a $7.3 increase over the previous year.
This year, there is also a unique funding opportunity for K-12 classrooms with one-time budget funding available through federal stimulus dollars allocated through this year’s budget. More than $17 million will go to nine school districts in District 2 over the next two years, with each school deciding the best way to utilize this money to enrich education.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that once again the Legislature for the fourth year in a row also increased funding for higher education in support of our state’s commitment to keep education our number one priority and to ensure our future workforce is the most educated in the nation. A new Senate Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee is studying how elementary, secondary, and higher education systems prepare students to be productive and successful citizens in Missouri and is in the process of creating long-term plans with the goal of making Missouri one of the top 10 states for education within the next 10 years.
Missouri also continued its commitment to education this year by passing one of the most meaningful education bills in the last decade. Among the measures passed are: developing performance standards for teachers; creating a method of obtaining teacher certification for individuals to teach in the areas of banking or financial responsibility; expanding virtual classrooms; and creating a non-profit P-20 Council to create a more efficient education system for grades P (preschool) to 20 (post secondary) to adequately prepare Missouri students for entering the workforce. My proposals to bring about more financial and educational accountability to charter schools and to require school districts to have a policy on seclusion rooms and restraint methods are also included in the legislation slated to become law on Aug. 28.
In addition, we ensured money derived from the passage of Proposition A last November by Missouri voters will go to all school districts plus we removed the 5 percent growth cap on the school funding formula so that funding for schools will now grow based on need and not be artificially capped.
The state’s economy did impact some areas in education funding, including the Missouri Career Ladder Program for educators. With major gaps in the budget, there’s a strong chance the program won’t be fully funded in next year’s budget. Federal stabilization funds are being used as a temporary funding source. Please be assured that whatever happens we will do all we can to retain this valued program that recognizes and rewards the extra efforts of our teachers who are working to guarantee the success of our students.
As always, if you have any questions about this week’s column or any other matter involving state government, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can reach my office by phone at (866) 271-2844.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Richard receives $25,000 from Southwest Missouri Leadership PAC

Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, received $25,000 from the Southwest Missouri Leadership PAC Friday, according to a 48-hour report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The Southwest Missouri Leadership PAC reported a $10,000 contribution from Neosho banker Rudy Farber Thursday.

Jeff Smith is a crook, plain and simple

Coverage of disgraced Sen. Jeff Smith, who resigned his seat earlier this week on the same day he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice, has bordered on the maudlin, with many reporters mentioning his great potential and going into details about the wonderful things he accomplished during his short time in office.

In the resignation letter he sent to supporters, Smith spent far more time talking about his accomplishments than he did the fact that he was a criminal who lied repeatedly to authorities, had no problem with trying to convince others to lie, and did not have a second thought about trying to palm off his sins on a dead man. Does this sound like someone who is contrite?

But I’m proud of my work in the Senate. With the help of my legislative staff, colleagues, and issue advocates, I believe I positively impacted several policy areas. I worked to create the Missouri Teaching Fellows Program to bring top-notch teachers to struggling school districts, expanded early childhood education for impoverished City children, and helped add $5M in bonuses to the salaries of City teachers whose students make exceptional academic progress.

My office spent many hours working with advocates for eco-friendly policies. I led the drive to pass a Green Sales Tax Holiday for energy-efficient appliances, a tax deduction for home energy audits, and a mandate that Missouri increase its energy efficiency standard for state buildings.

Working with the Fathers Support Center of St. Louis, I sponsored and passed two bills that will transform our child-support system. One will help fathers struggling to pay child support avoid felony convictions and jail time by creating “fathering courts” to help non-violent offenders find jobs and resume support payments, saving the state millions in incarceration costs. The second will reduce erroneous paternity judgments and ensure that men with DNA tests showing non-paternity will no longer have to pay for children who are not theirs.

Finally, I helped successfully defend Missouri’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which has done more than any other program to revitalize formerly dilapidated urban neighborhoods, creating jobs and putting abandoned buildings back onto the tax rolls.

Smith's record has been just as consistent when it comes to his sense of entitlement and his belief that the rules that apply to mere mortals do not apply to him. His political career began with this attempt to derail Russ Carnahan's candidacy through illegal means and his continued attempts to cover it up have been going on ever since.

Just as revealing was Smith's July 31, 2007, arrest at the Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville. Smith at the behest of Isle of Capri lobbyist Lynne Schlosser, used Rep. Joseph Aull's identification to gamble, something that Smith knew was illegal. As I wrote in the Sept. 25, 2007, Turner Report:

Smith, Rep. Joseph Aull, D-Marshall, Aull's wife Candee, Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, were having a night out on the town at the expense of a lobbyist representing a special interest with a stake in numerous bills that will come before the legislature during the 2008 session.

Shortly after Smith's arrest, I noted in the Aug. 6 Turner Report that Smith had been a big-time recipient of casino industry contributions, many carefully laundered through other committees:

An examination of Missouri Ethics Commission records shows Smith received $2,600 which can be directly traced to casinos during 2006, as well as $5,400 from casino lobbyists or their clients.
Another $4,800 appears to have come from Ameristar Casinos after being legally laundered through a Democratic party committee. On Aug. 12, 2006, the 94th House District Democratic Committee received a $5,000 contribution from Ameristar Casinos. Three days later, the committee gave $4,800 to Smith. Oddly, Smith's own committee disclosure form says the 94th Committee contribution came Aug. 11...the day before the committee received the Ameristar Casinos contribution.
Other casino or casino-related contributions for Smith include:

-30 days after general election 2006- Harrah's Operating $650, Isle of Capri Casinos $650
-Eight days before the election 2006- $500 contributions from Missouri Dental PAC, Missouri Pharmacy PAC, and Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists, all clients of Ameristar Casinos' lobbying firm Gamble & Schlemeier
-October 2006- John Bardgett and Associates, lobbying firm for Pinnacle Entertainment and numerous other clients, $650; Penn National Gaming $650
-30 days after primary- Two $650 contributions from Missouri Pharmacy PAC and $650 from MORESPAC, clients of Gamble and Schlemeier, $650 from Bardgett, $650 from Bardgett's lobbying firm
-94th House District, $4,800

Chris Liese, a former state representative from St. Louis, and now a lobbyist for Isle of Capri spent $910 wining and dining the legislators and Mrs. Aull on July 31, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents. A total of $130 was spent on "meals, food, and beverage" for each person, the documents indicate.

Reports of Smith's behavior at the Isle of Capri lend even more credence to the earlier mentioned sense of entitlement. He refused to stop using his Blackberry,a violation of casino rules, he gambled on someone else's identification, which was illegal at the time, and when he was caught on it, it was the law that was bad, not Jeff Smith.

The charges against Smith, Aull, and Ms. Schlosser were dropped in April after the casino industry used its influence to change the law.

This time, there is no way for Smith to weasel out of his facing his responsibility, but please let's drop this nonsense about Smith's guilty plea being some kind of tragedy.

Jeff Smith was not some kind of Sir Galahad with tragic weaknesses; he is a crook, plain and simple.

Faculty Senate reportedly ready for no confidence vote for Speck

Missouri Southern State University's embattled president Dr. Bruce Speck appears to be headed for another defining moment in his controversial tenure Monday when the university's Faculty Senate meets.

From all indications, a vote of "no confidence" in Speck's administration appears likely.

Earlier Turner Report posts on Speck can be found at this link.

Why hasn't the Joplin Globe mentioned accused killer's repeated probation violations

Nearly two months have passed since the arrest of Darren Winans, 21, Jasper for the murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon, Carthage, and the area's newspaper of record, the Joplin Globe, has still not printed one word about Winans still being free after committing one probation violation after another.

The Globe saw fit to print every grisly detail of the Sheldons' murder, but still has not delved into what should be a central issue in the coverage of the story- how is it that Darren Winans was still free and able to allegedly commit these murders. Also, if Winans was still free after repeated violations, how many other potentially violent offenders are walking the streets?

The following information comes from the August 4 Turner Report:

Barton County Circuit Court online records indicate Darren Winans, 21, Jasper, one of two men charged with the Oct. 11, 2008, murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage, was in court July 28 and "denies all violation allegations."

The probation violation was filed after the Jasper County Sheriff's Department charged Winans and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and a single count of burglary in connection with the Sheldons' murder.

Court records indicate Judge Charles Curless issued the order that Winans be brought to Lamar for the hearing. Winans will not be required to be in Barton County for the next violation hearing, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 25.

An examination of Winans' records indicate that at the time he is alleged to have murdered the Sheldons, he should have been behind bars, since he has a history of parole violations.

Winans pleaded guilty in Barton County Circuit Court March 21, 2006, to stealing a motor vehicle and was sentenced to five years in prison by Judge Curless. At that point, the sentence was suspended and Winans was placed on supervised probation for five years.

His first probation violation was reported Nov. 3, 2006. At a hearing 11 days later, Judge Curless continued the probation. The next violation was filed Jan. 2, 2008, and another filed Jan. 30. No hearing was held for the first violation. The second violation appears to be his arrest on drug charges in Jasper County. Judge Richard Copeland signed off on a deal that let Winans plead guilty to a misdemeanor and sentenced Winans to one year in the county jail, then suspended the sentence and placed him on unsupervised probation for a year. After that, a probation violating hearing was held in Barton County where Curless sentenced Winans to prison for five years, but kept the case on a 120-day callback. Winans' prison stay began May 1, according to court records, and concluded Aug. 28, six weeks and two days before the Sheldons were murdered.

Winans' next probaiton violation was reported three days after the murder, according to court records, with two more violations reported Oct. 30 and Dec. 9. The records do not indicate that hearings were scheduled for any of the three alleged violations.

In the meantime, Jasper County Circuit Court records show Winans' "ex-spouse" asked for a child protection order to be issued May 19. During a May 27 hearing, Winans denied her allegations, but Judge Stephen Carlton issued the full order of protection. Whatever the allegations were, online records do not show that any probation violation was filed.

Apparently, it took two murders to get a hearing.

Hearings set for today for accused killers of Carthage couple

Preliminary hearings for the two men charged with the Oct. 11, 2008, murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon, owners of the Old Cabin Shop in Carthage, are scheduled for this morning in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Darren Winans, 21, Jasper, and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, face two counts of first degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and a single count of burglary.

Accused killer of Nevada teens arraigned, pleads not guilty

Garrett Matthew Mason, 17, Nevada, charged with two counts of first degree murder in connection with the May 25 stabbing deaths of Annie Reed, 18, and Kylie Leyva, 14, Nevada, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Tuesday in Vernon County Circuit Court.

Memorial Middle School shooter sentencing delayed

Sentencing for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, originally scheduled for today, has been pushed back to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, according to Jasper County Circuit Court online records.

"Due to lack of sheriff officers to transport the defendant, the sentencing hearing scheduled for Aug. 28 is reset to Sept. 4," the record says.

White, 17, has been in the Hawthorn Psychiatric Children's Hospital since pleading guilty June 26 to two counts of assault and one count of armed criminal action in connection with the October 2006 shooting at Memorial Middle School. Police reports indicate White took an assault rifle to the school, fired the weapon into the ceiling, and then pointed it at Principal Steve Gilbreth. When he attempted to fire, the weapon jammed.

White had also been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and attempted escape, but those charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement. Since the June 26 court appearance, White, who was a seventh grader at Memorial when the incident occurred, has been evaluated by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Division of Youth Services, to see if he should be put into the dual jurisdiction program.

White has been locked up since his arrest the day of the shooting.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

State audit of Vernon County released

State Auditor Susan Montee released an audit of Vernon County today. The cover letter for the audit is printed below:

The financial condition of the General Revenue (GR) and Special Road and Bridge (SRB) Funds is deteriorating. The 2009 amended budget projects cash balances of $9,757 and $71,753 at December 31, 2009, for the GR and SRB Funds, respectively.
As noted in previous audits, the SRB Fund budgets do not include reasonable estimates of disbursements; and as a result, administrative service fee transfers from the SRB Fund to the GR Fund were excessive.

The county does not have a written policy and effective monitoring procedures regarding vehicle and equipment usage. Mileage/usage and maintenance logs are not maintained for the road and bridge department vehicles and equipment or most Sheriff's department vehicles. Fuel usage is not reconciled to fuel billings. In addition, the county allows a deputy sheriff who resides outside the county to commute to and from work in a county-owned vehicle.

The County Commission does not review or approve property tax additions and abatements. Contracts with cities for collection of property taxes do not clearly define procedures for assessing and distributing penalties on delinquent city tax payments.

The Deputy Public Administrator received compensation beyond her regular compensation; however, these payments were not supported by records of work performed, were not reported on the deputy's Forms W-2 or Forms 1099-MISC, and payroll deductions were not withheld.

The County Clerk does not prepare minutes for closed session meetings of the County Commission.

Other findings in the audit report address accounting controls and procedures in the Prosecuting Attorney's office, the Sheriff's office, and the Circuit Clerk's office.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Russ Carnahan reacts to Jeff Smith guilty plea

It was Jeff Smith's attempts to coverup an illegal smear campaign on Russ Carnahan that eventually ended the St. Louis Democrat's Senate career and could put him in a federal prison. In this video by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jake Wagman, Carnahan reacts to Smith's guilty plea:

McCaskill remembers Ted Kennedy

Another video from Jason Rosenbaum on YouTube- Sen. Claire McCaskill remembers Ted Kennedy who died late Tuesday:

McCaskill town hall meeting gets rowdy

Whatever happened to good old fashioned civility?

Sen. Claire McCaskill's town hall meeting in Jefferson City ran into a few rude people, as evidenced by Jason Rosenbaum's YouTube video:

Gulf Street Partners' Daniels has checkered history

The city of Lamar, still attempting to jumpstart its economy after the 2007 closing of O'Sullivan Industries, received a jolt of hope from the news that Gulf Street Partners bought the old O'Sullivan building and is planning on leasing the facility to Polymer- Wood Technologies, which will hire up to 400 to 500 workers eventually.

City officials should be careful not to go overboard in what it gives Evan R. Daniels, who heads both Gulf Street Partners and Polymer-Wood Technologies. Daniels has a history of making big promises and then failing to deliver.

This was first noted in the Nov. 4, 2007 Turner Report. This is what I wrote:

Lamar residents, still reeling from the closing of O'Sullivan Industries earlier this year, were thrilled recently when it was announced that Dallas-based Polymer-Wood Technologies would take over a portion of the O'Sullivan plant and hire up to 475 workers over an extended period of time.
However, court documents indicate that the last company managed by Polymer-Wood Technologies CEO Evan R. Daniels, Trio Industries, ended up in bankruptcy with disappointed folks in Greenville, Miss, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, who had counted on manufacturing jobs that had been promised to them.
And in documents filed Oct. 13, 2005, in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Daniels' former partner, Robert E. Gyemant, accused Daniels of "theft of corporate property, unjust enrichment, misappropriation of trade secrets and tortious interference," with Trio after the two partners had a falling out.
A description of Daniels' plans for Lamar was featured in an Oct. 24, 2007 Lamar Democrat article written by Richard Cooper:

"Area I of the redevelopment project will renovate an existing 518,000 square foot building bounded by Gulf and 21st Streets to create a state-of-the-art fully automated wooden door manufacturing facility to be occupied by Polymer-Wood Technologies of Dallas, Texas. Evan Daniels, CEO of Polymer-Wood Technologies, was present at the meeting and indicated that he intended to move his principal manufacturing and distribution point to Lamar. According to Daniels, his operation (also known as Gorilla Door) should eventually create 475 new jobs, although that number will be phased in over several months as the transfer is made. Polymer-Wood Technologies will lease its operational space from SEA. Area I is scheduled to begin and be completed in 2008. Total developer cost is estimated at approximately $41,460,000."

According to Melissa Dunson's article in the Joplin Globe, the Dallas company's plans hinge on receiving tax credits made possible by the passage of the economic package sponsored by Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin:

"Evan Daniels, president and chief executive officer of Polymer-Wood Technologies, emphasized that the deal was hinging on the economic incentives, but Lamar Mayor Keith Divine said the plan has approval from all the needed groups and he thinks every member of the City Council realizes how crucial the new business is.

“ 'Right now this means everything to us,' Divine said of the pending sale. 'Things haven’t been very good here for business for the last three or four years, pretty much since (O’Sullivan) declared bankruptcy. I think just about everybody (on the council) realizes the criticality of this thing going through.'

"Divine said he’s pleased with Polymer-Wood’s business plan not only because it gets the company into Lamar quickly, but because there’s planned growth in the region.

“ 'There’s plans for as many as four other spec buildings between now and 2016,' he said."


Evan Daniels' previous business, Trio Industries, manufactured doors, counter tops, and vanities, ran into considerable financial problems, according to court documents.
Trio borrowed $108,000 from Charter Capital Management on Aug. 22, 2005, at a time when Daniels was still company president, and never repaid the money. Last month, U. S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlen ordered Trio to pay 785,778.90, plus turn over millions of shares it had promised as collateral on the loan.

Charter Capital was not the only company Trio promised a cut of the company, according to documents filed in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 2003, it had borrowed up to $1 million from Merit Capital. According to the petition:

"Desperate for money, Trio Industries Management borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from Merit Capital, but has flatly refused to repay the money."
ShareSleuth, a website featuring business news, also did some digging into Trio Industries, and found the company also left a lot of unpaid debts over the years before it finally declared bankruptcy this year. This passage comes from Sharesleuth's Oct. 26, 2006, edition:

"Trio went public in 2004 through a reverse merger with a shell company. Its stock trades infrequently, and in low volumes. The most recent trade was Oct. 13, at a price of $3.50 a share, according to

"Trio acquired an idled carpet plant in Greenville, Miss., earlier this year, according to news outlets in that region, and said it would spend $3.5 million to convert the factory to a coating center.

"Sharesleuth’s investigation turned up several questions about Trio and its prospective value. Lawsuits filed in city, state and federal court in Dallas over the past few years show that Trio has been sued repeatedly for nonpayment of debts. The suits include efforts to collect delinquent payments for office furniture and temporary staffing. The latter case was filed in February.

"In its biggest pending case, Trio is fighting a creditor who is claiming the rights to 30 million shares of stock that were pledged as collateral for a loan and represent a majority stake in the business.

"Sharesleuth also found that two of Trio’s top executives have previously run afoul of securities regulators. And the company’s former president said in an affidavit in March in one court case that he went to the SEC with concerns that Trio was deceiving investors.

"Trio did not respond to questions submitted by Sharesleuth.

"Trio’s chairman, Robert E. Gyemant, previously was charged by the SEC with insider trading. The agency alleged in 1982 that Gyemant and two other directors of a San Francisco-clothing chain sold stock ahead of that company’s bankruptcy filing. Gyemant settled the charges without admitting or denying guilt, and agreed to a permanent injunction barring future violations.

"Trio’s vice president and secretary, Brian N. Johanson, was disciplined by securities regulators in California and Virginia in the late 1990s in connection with the unregistered sale of stock in two other small companies.

"California regulators issued a cease-and-desist order against him.Virginia regulators assessed a $79,000 penalty against Johanson and a $224,000 penalty against his company, BLB Financial Inc. of Solana Beach, Calif. They agreed to waive the penalties if all of the investors in the state who bought shares from Johanson’s firm got their money back.

"At the same time that Trio is trying to get its Mississippi plant up and running, it is working to block a New York financier who says he is entitled to 30 million shares of stock it pledged as collateral for a loan it did not repay on time.

"The suit claims that Trio, in August 2005, was willing to pay $8,000 in interest, plus 200,000 shares of stock, for a one-month loan of $100,000. Trio also agreed to put up the 30 million shares in the company as a guarantee. Trio said in court filings that it was unaware its financier was a convicted felon. The company added that the lender, Beryl Zyskind, blocked its attempts to repay the loan so that he could claim the collateral.

"In an unusual legal maneuver, Gyemant sought a temporary restraining order in January against his own company, asking a judge to block any transfer of shares to Zyskind or his company, Charter Capital Resources Inc. Gyemant argued that he would be harmed financially and his majority stake “eviscerated’’ if Zyskind gained full control of the stock, which the filing described as nearly 65 percent of Trio’s outstanding shares. The judge granted the request and ordered Trio to cancel the stock certificate. The case has since been transferred to federal court, where Trio and Charter Resources continue to trade accusations."

The ShareSleuth article had the following information about Evan R. Daniels:

"Evan R. Daniels, Trio’s former president and one of the creators of its original powder-coating technology, said in his affidavit in one of the lawsuits that he asked Gyemant to resign after witnessing him 'lie and deceive investors.' Instead, Daniels said, Gyemant changed company bank accounts, held meetings without him, stopped paying him and told others that Daniels was responsible for all of the problems at the company.

"Daniels said in the affidavit that he reported the situation to the SEC’s district office in Fort Worth. He said its representatives advised him to resign from all positions with Trio and related entities, and to turn in his 7.2 million shares of Trio’s common stock so he would not be 'considered a co-conspirator in the actions of Mr. Gyemant.' "

“ 'I was, at that time, the single largest investor and shareholder within the entire Trio Industries group of companies,' Daniels said in his filing. 'Every available dollar that I inherited or earned was in the companies as capital or loans.'

"Gyemant, who had also worked with Daniels at a California company called Modular Office Solutions, which was founded by Daniels, responded to Daniels' charges by accusing him of theft of corporate property and stealing trade secrets.

Disgraced former legislators surrender passports

Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis, who resigned their seats Tuesday when they pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, surrendered their passports Tuesday, according to documents filed in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Smith's sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 17 in St. Louis. Brown's sentencing will be held at 10:30 a.m. that day.

Crowell salutes the late Warren Hearnes

In his latest capital report, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau recalls former Missouri Gov. Warren Hearnes, who died last week:

On August 16th, Missouri lost a dedicated Missourian, former Governor Warren Eastman Hearnes. Last Wednesday, his casket was placed in the Capitol Rotunda to allow friends, family, and the public to pay tribute to “The Gentleman from Mississippi.” His casket was draped with a Missouri flag that he had saved for over 40 years to be used on that day.

Sen. Crowell with Betty and former Gov. Warren Hearnes at the Capitol in 2005.

I was born in 1972 and, since his last year in the office as governor was 1973, the most I knew of him growing up was the Hearnes Center in Columbia. However, after being elected to the General Assembly, I got the opportunity to know the former governor and first lady, Betty Hearnes. I worked closely with them on improving the lives of those with autism, and I was inspired by the dedication and focus they shared to better our state and the lives of all Missourians.

Warren Hearnes grew up in Southeast Missouri, and spent most of his life in his hometown of Charleston. He served his community, state, and country – as a West Point graduate and Army Lieutenant, local attorney, majority floor leader of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State, and our 46th Governor. Throughout his life and the many public offices he held, he remained dedicated to the values we all hold dear—community, faith, and family.

Former Governor Hearnes’ life was filled with accomplishments, a legacy that still touches so many in our state. He made a difference for children and working families facing the challenges of mental illness, was a champion for education, and strengthened communities throughout Missouri by focusing on business and economic growth. He also championed

Former Governor Hearnes’ casket was placed in the Capitol Rotunda to honor his service to Missouri.

legislation creating the state’s teacher retirement system, sheltered workshops for the developmentally disabled, and the state’s first civil rights act regarding public accommodations. In the words of Governor Jay Nixon, who spoke at the service in Charleston last Friday, “A knowledgeable lawyer, a talented politician, a wise statesman, a loving husband and father … Governor Hearnes invested his many talents to make this community and our entire state a better place — for Missouri’s children, for our working families, for those living with mental illness.”

Governor Hearnes will be missed by his family, friends, community, and all Missourians. This is a time for all of us whose lives were touched by his work and efforts to remember and honor “The Gentleman from Mississippi.”

Carnahan to speak at MSSU

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a candidate for U. S. Senate will speak at a rally at the Mills Anderson Justice Center on the Missouri Southern State University campus Thursday, Sept. 10,

Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. Ms. Carnahan is scheduled to speak at 8:30 p. m.

Local TV stocks continue to climb

Stock prices for Saga Communications and Nexstar Broadcasting continued to climb Tuesday.

Saga, owner of KOAM and KFJX, improved another 45 cents to close at $16.85 per share. The sock price has increased $5.15 in the past four days.

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner/operator of KODE and KSNF in the Joplin market and KOLR and KSFX in the Springfield market, improved 70 cents to close at $2.54 cents per share. Nexstar stock has increased $1.15 per share in the last two days.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jeff Smith: Let's blame it on the dead guy

Not knowing that his conversation was being overheard by the feds, Sen. Jeff Smith, who resigned his seat and pleaded guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice, tried to talk his co-conspirator, Rep. Steve Brown, into blaming everything on the late Artie Harris.

During a June 30 meeting at Starbuck's Cafe in Clayton, Smith told Brown, "Can you put it on Arnie?" Smith asked. "If you can just put it on Arnie." Arnie Harris, a key member of Jeff Smith's 2004 Congressional campaign, died shortly after being interviewed by the FEC about accusations, since proven to be factual, that Smith's campaign worked with Milton "Skip" Ohlsen on the direct mailing of attack literature against the eventual winner of the Democratic primary, Russ Carnahan.

Smith continued to take that cowardly approach during another meeting with Brown and 2004 campaign treasurer and co-conspirator Nick Adams June 30 at Smith's home, again with the FBI listening in.

Smith and Adams tag-teamed Brown to get him to lay the entire blame on Harris. Adams said, "I'm alive and Artie's dead. Can was emphasize this was Artie's deal?"

Smith added, "Artie would totally want us to throw him under the bus here."

Humphreys contributes $50,000 to Richard

Christmas came early for Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R- Joplin, who received a $50,000 campaign contribution from David Humphreys of TAMKO in Joplin Aug. 24, according to a 48-hour report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

FBI wiretap leads to Sen. Jeff Smith's guilty plea

It may have been Milton "Skip" Ohlsen who steered the FBI in the direction of Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, but it was Smith who ended up giving the feds the information that led to his guilty plea today in federal court to two conspiracy to obstruct justice charges.

Smith, not realizing his conversation was being monitored by an FBI wiretap June 1 confirmed his connection to an unsuccessful backdoor attempt to derail Russ Carnahan's successful primary bid for the House seat being vacated by Richard Gephardt.

"Did I know (Milton Ohlsen) was going to do something/" Smith told his co-conspirator, Rep. Steve Brown during the telephone conversation. "Yeah, I mean I thought he was going to do something. If I didn't think he was going to do something, hen I would have said to Artie (Harris) and Nick (Adams) don't waste your time talking to that guy."

During that conversation, which was included in documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Smith acknowledged he knew Brown had paid Ohlsen money for the illegal mailing:

"I vividly remember somebody being like well (Ohlsen) wants to do this, and I was like, well, f------ let him do it, sweet. And they're like, well, he's going to need the money to do it, he'll need to get it from your donors, and I said, like hopefully, my donors will give it to him."

The court documents indicate another conversation between Smith and Brown, this one face to face was also monitored. During that conversation, Smith talked about what evidence the FBI had against him "I don't think he (Ohlsen) taped any phone conversations with me. I mean, I pray he didn't. I may have had a phone conversation with him where I acknowledged what he was doing."

Smith then admitted he was fully aware of what Ohlsen was doing. "I'm assuming that I broke the law by having knowledge of what (Ohlsen) was going to do. I don't know how they could prova that."

Smith then told Brown to lie to investigators. "Don't do anything stupid," he said. "Stupid would be telling them that things that are happening in your brain."

Smith said when he was interviewed he would be "Ninety percent honest."

Smith's sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 17, two weeks after his successor will be chosen in a special election.

Text of Smith's announcement of resignation to supporters is provided

Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, who resigned from the Senate today after pleading guilty in federal court to two federal election conspiracy charges, sent this letter to supporters:

Dear Friend,

Today, with great sadness and regret, I am resigning from the Missouri Senate.

During my 2004 Congressional race, I became aware of an independent effort to produce two mailers to benefit my campaign. Federal campaign finance law prohibits specific coordination between a campaign and anyone preparing an independent expenditure.

When the independent operator requested funding, I authorized a close friend to raise money for the effort, and my press secretary provided public information about my opponent’s voting record. I withheld my knowledge of these facts during the Federal Election Commission’s 2004 investigation, misleading investigators and filing a false affidavit.

The FEC cleared our campaign of wrongdoing. But in 2009, the government received new information and reopened its investigation. When questioned, I stood by our 2004 account and encouraged my close friend to do so, misleading the authorities. Today I am taking full responsibility for my mistakes, and have pled guilty to obstructing justice.

This event has humbled me. I have done some significant introspection and that has been the hardest part: coming to terms with my own poor judgments and mistakes.

I apologize to my constituents, my staff, my Senate colleagues, my supporters, and to Congressman Carnahan. I am sorry to be leaving an institution I dearly love and the chance to represent a City with so much potential. Most importantly, I apologize to my family for not living up to what you expect of me, or what I expect of myself.

But I’m proud of my work in the Senate. With the help of my legislative staff, colleagues, and issue advocates, I believe I positively impacted several policy areas. I worked to create the Missouri Teaching Fellows Program to bring top-notch teachers to struggling school districts, expanded early childhood education for impoverished City children, and helped add $5M in bonuses to the salaries of City teachers whose students make exceptional academic progress.

My office spent many hours working with advocates for eco-friendly policies. I led the drive to pass a Green Sales Tax Holiday for energy-efficient appliances, a tax deduction for home energy audits, and a mandate that Missouri increase its energy efficiency standard for state buildings.

Working with the Fathers Support Center of St. Louis, I sponsored and passed two bills that will transform our child-support system. One will help fathers struggling to pay child support avoid felony convictions and jail time by creating “fathering courts” to help non-violent offenders find jobs and resume support payments, saving the state millions in incarceration costs. The second will reduce erroneous paternity judgments and ensure that men with DNA tests showing non-paternity will no longer have to pay for children who are not theirs.

Finally, I helped successfully defend Missouri’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which has done more than any other program to revitalize formerly dilapidated urban neighborhoods, creating jobs and putting abandoned buildings back onto the tax rolls.

I hope that my Senate tenure, albeit brief, is remembered as productive and beneficial to those I served. I thank my colleagues with whom I worked on the above as well as my trusted and loyal aides: Stacy Morse, Christine Brauner, Johnny Little, and Kailey Burger.

I am saddened by the thought that some may give up on politics because I let them down. I was blessed to have so many amazing volunteers who worked to support me with no political experience and developed a passion for activism through their work. Today I fear that some of them – some of you – may feel as if your efforts were in vain. But they were not.

If you helped in my election to office, my 3-on-3 basketball tournament and community fair, my MLK Jr. Blvd. cleanup, or other programs I promoted, please don’t let my mistakes sour you on active civic involvement. There are no perfect people and no perfect candidates, but I hope you’ll find a candidate or a cause in which you believe and fight for it with the same zeal you fought for me. Because the real tragedy of my lapses would be if they discouraged people like you from civic engagement.

Mary Pickford once said that failure is not falling down but staying down. I won’t run for office again, but I’ll stay active in the causes that animate me – from urban education to preserving historic neighborhoods to providing health care for all – to try and help the City I love continue its return to the glory of its past.

Thank you for being a part of my life the last few years. I deeply regret the mistakes that have forced my resignation, but I hope you will balance them against the totality of my service, and that we can work together again in the future.

Speck's civil rights book comes complete with nifty piece of timing

It was probably just a coincidence that Austin Peay President Dr. Sherry Hoppe and Provost Bruce Speck decided to write a book on a chapter of the civil rights movement in Memphis at a time when they and the university were being sued for racial discrimination.

That book, Maxine Smith's Unwilling Pupils, published in 2007 by the University of Tennessee Press is the one and only book either Dr. Hoppe or Speck, who is now president of Missouri Southern State University, has written about civil rights, though both have authored or co-authored several books.

The genesis for the book came from a meeting Dr. Hoppe had with the book's subject, Maxine Smith at a Tennessee Board of Regents meeting. Dr. Hoppe said she heard Mrs. Smith speak, was fascinated by her, and suggested that a book be written.

The timing, as mentioned before, could not have been better for such a book as far as Dr. Hoppe was concerned. Her early years at Austin Peay had been marred by the lawsuits, which also included Speck as a defendant.

The following passage is taken from an earlier Turner Report post:

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.

Initially, according to interviews with Austin Peay's campus newspaper, the All State, Dr. Hoppe told Mrs. Smith she had a faculty member who could write the book. At that time, the faculty member, Dr. Dwonna Goldstone was writing Integrating the 40 Acres: The 50-Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas.

Dr. Goldstone agreed to write the book, but later withdrew when it became clear that what Dr. Hoppe wanted was a hastily-written book, which would not allow any kind of scholarly investigation into Mrs. Smith's life.

The writing duties were turned over to Dr. Hoppe herself and Bruce Speck, the two people most cited in the racial discrimination complaints against Austin Peay.

Speck said the fast turnaround time was due to Mrs. Smith's health. He told the All State, "Maxine's health is not very good, so there was a concern to make sure we got something out."

Dr. Goldstone had written one chapter, in the book, which was used, according to an All-State article, which was written after word reached the campus newspaper that there were problems with the book. At that point, Dr. Hoppe acknowledged that Dr. Goldstone had written the chapter and said she had been given credit. That credit amounted to a citation to the chapter Dr. Goldstone wrote, indicating she had "contributed."

The book was criticized in the All State by Austin Peay professor of history Richard Gildne, who dismissed it as "a work of public history," as opposed to academic history, where books often take several years to write. Dr. Hoppe wanted the Maxine Smith book written in months.

In the All State interviews, Dr. Speck explained the research process, saying he and Dr. Hoppe examined the contents of 50 boxes of Mrs. Smith's records stored in the archives at the Memphis Public Library. "When they saw something they wanted, they photocopied it, he said." That process took four or five days. While they were going through the archives, interviews took place, but those interviewed were not questioned by Dr. Speck or Dr. Hoppe, but by others. "We took two or three people to conduct the interviews," Speck told the campus newspaper.

The manuscript took two months to write, Dr. Speck and Dr. Hoppe, but it was more than that. They also worked on weekends and a couple of vacation days. And the process, Dr. Speck told the All State was "educative." Speck was shocked to find out that racial discrimination actually occurred in the South in the 1950s.

"We started reading about how African Americans were treated. They were really treated with disdain."

That is putting it mildly, Dr. Speck.

The proceeds from the book go to a scholarship set up in Mrs. Smith's name.

Local TV stocks rise sharply

Saga Communications, parent company of KOAM and KFJX continued its recent stock market roll Monday.

The company saw its stock rise another $2.15 per share to $16.40. The price was improved $4.70 per share over the last three trading days.

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner/operator of KODE and KSNF in the Joplin market and KOLR and KSFX in the Springfield market, also had a good day Monday, with its price increasing 56 cents per share to $1.84.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Court documents: Ex-wife claims criminal connected to prominent Missouri Democrats threatened to kill her

Milton "Skip" Ohlsen, the shady operator, who is scheduled to plead guilty Sept. 23 in federal bank fraud charges threatened to kill his wife if she tried to take their children, according to a petition filed by Ohlsen himself in a 2008 libel suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

Reporters at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, including former Springfield News-Leader Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger, have been doing a bang-up job investigating Ohlsen's background.

Ohlsen, who has been connected to Sen. Jeff Smith and Rep. Steve Brown, in the Post-Dispatch investigation, and who was just connected to a bombing earlier today, is no stranger to the courts, having faced drug and weapons charges in the past.

In a bizarre lawsuit filed in 2008 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Ohlsen sued Joel Hollenbeck, Maryland Heights, and Paul McElligot, Arnold, for libel.

Included among the "libelous" things allegedly written about Ohlsen on a website:

-He was being investigated by the Federal Election Commission (he was).

-One of the men sent a letter to Ohlsen's wife claiming her husband was having an affair so Mrs. Ohlsen would divorce her husband (she did).

-Ohlsen was involved in a domestic violence complaint (he was kind enough to file the copy of the police report that was featured on the website with his libel suit), including his wife's statement that "he threatened to kill me if I tried to take his children away from him and I am starting divorce proceedings. This was not the first time he has harmed me."

Court records show Mrs. Ohlsen was granted sole custody of her children, ordered to pay $1,836 per month child support, and pay $5,100 for her legal fees. So far, the payments have not been made, according to court records.

The libel suit was dismissed with the judge ordering Ohlsen to pay the costs.

KOAM dominates July Nielsen ratings

KOAM's morning, noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.newscasts beat KSNF and KODE combined in the July Nielsen ratings.

The report also included good news for KODE, which drew more viewers than its sister station KSNF at 5 and 6 p.m. and drew even at 10 p.m., and for KFJX which drew more viewers for its 9 p.m. newscast than either KODE or KSNF drew at 10 p.m.

The number of viewers for each time period is listed below:

6 a.m.-7 a.m. KOAM 9,000, KSNF 4,000, KODE 3,000

Noon- KOAM 15,000 KODE (All My Children) 4,000 KSNF 3,000

5 p.m.- KOAM 21,000, KODE 8,000, KSNF 6,000

6 p.m.- KOAM 27,000, KODE 10,000 KSNF 8,000

9 p.m. KFJX 11,000

10 p.m.- KOAM 28,000, KODE 9,000, KSNF 9,000

In the 6:30 p.m. timeslot, KFJX's reruns of CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men drew as many viewers, 11,000 as KODE's Entertainment Tonight 6,000, and KSNF's Deal or No Deal 5,000 combined.

The viewers of all three of those programs, however, fell 9,000 viewers behind the 31,000 who watched KOAM's longtime favorite Wheel of Fortune.

Roe files motion for summary judgment

The attorney for Republican political operative Jeff Roe, the former chief of staff for Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves, filed a motion Aug. 6 in St. Charles County Circuit Court, asking that s summary judgement be granted for his client in the libel suit filed against Roe by St. Charles

Joe 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?

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.

Roe filed a countersuit at one point, but later dismissed the action.

Online court records show no hearings have been scheduled.

Goodman outlines his legislation that will go into effect Thursday

In his latest capital report, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for the Seventh District Congressional seat currently held by Roy Blunt, outlined legislation that he sponsored or co-sponsored that will become law Thursday:

August 28 is the day most bills passed by the Missouri Legislature and signed by the Governor are officially enacted into law. As we approach the enactment date, I will review some of the bills I was privileged to help advance this year.

Of the more than 500 Senate bills introduced this year, 36 Senate bills were signed and 12 were vetoed. One hundred and three House bills were signed into law and 11 were vetoed (11 budget bills also contain line-item vetoes).

Here is a list of the legislation, signed into law, which I either sponsored in the Senate or handled in the Senate for a colleague in the House:

Senate Bill 36 – This legislation increases the maximum sentence for forcibly raping or sodomizing a child younger than 12 years old to life in prison with no possibility of parole, probation or release - ever. Before we passed this law, these deviants could become eligible for parole after serving 30 years of a life sentence. That was simply wrong. Any person who violently rapes a child should receive the maximum punishment the state can give, and we need to do everything in our power to prevent any child from becoming the second victim of such an offender. I am tremendously grateful to Rep. Jay Wasson for handling this bill in the House after it passed the Senate.

House Bill 919 - This legislation was sponsored in the House by Rep. Marilyn Ruestman and is an expansion of a bill I handled in 2006 (HB 1827) with Rep. Jay Wasson. The earlier bill allowed small businesses in Missouri to pool together and insure their employees as one large group, thereby greatly reducing their premiums. This bill has made insurance more affordable for many Missouri employers who are now providing coverage for their employees. When Representative Ruestman asked me to help her pass a bill to give sole proprietorships the ability to join such pools, I was somewhat skeptical about its chances for success. Any insurance reform bill, even those that are conservative and based on free market principles, face an uphill battle in the General Assembly. I am pleased that Rep. Ruestman and I were able to pass this bill through our respective chambers. This will bring Missouri’s smallest businesses an alternative to unaffordable or government run healthcare.

House Bill 83 – This bill changes the laws regarding travel club membership contracts. House Bill 83 adds even more consumer protection to the travel club legislation that I sponsored in 2006. It protects consumers by giving them the right to cancel a membership contract with a travel club even if they use some of the membership benefits during the three-day rescission period. Rep. Dennis Wood and I worked together to pass this bill through our respective chambers.

House Bill 205 – This legislation, sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Parson, prohibits the sale of any cigarette in Missouri that has not been tested, certified and marked that it has met certain fire safety standards, such as being self-extinguishing if not puffed. Unfortunately, many house fires across Missouri are started every year by unattended cigarettes. This was tragically illustrated by an apartment fire in my district just this year. Many other states already require self-extinguishing cigarettes. I certainly believe that Missourians are worthy of the same protections.

Senate Bill 154 – This bill authorizes non-for-profit sewer companies to accept and run sewer and domestic water services. Many subdivisions and real estate developments are created with their own sewer or water systems. Often, as time passes, no one in the development wants to run the sewer or water system anymore. Under this bill, the property owners' association, or whoever owns the system assets can them convey them to a local not-for-profit sewer company, as long as the service area does not overlap with a municipality. Over the long haul this will help to ensure that sewer companies are run by competent and qualified individuals. This, in turn, will help our lakes and streams remain clean for recreation and tourism in the Ozarks. I am grateful to Rep. Maynard Wallace for his help in getting this legislation through the House.

Original language from several other bills I sponsored was amended on to other bills that eventually received the governor’s signature. For instance, language from my Senate Bill 155, which requires the Missouri Accountability Portal to provide the public with information relating to state contracts and tax credit issuance, was included in HB 191, which was passed and signed by the Governor.

Also, language from my Senate Bills 221 and 402 was added to HB 62, the omnibus crime bill. This language expands the crime of resisting or arrest to include an arrest for a warrant issued by a court or a probation and parole officer. It also expands the crime of tampering with a judicial officer to protect our prosecutors who are on the front line making sure criminals are put behind bars where they belong.

This year, in your General Assembly, we worked to make Missouri more free of government interference, more safe from those who prey on the weak and helpless, and more open and accountable to people that elect us. Although we did not accomplish everything we wanted to further these objectives, I think the balance sheet will show it was still a successful year.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve you in the Missouri Senate, and am optimistic about what we accomplish together in the future!

(Photo: Jack Goodman is shown at the Newton County Republican Watermelon Feed held last month at Big Spring Park in Neosho.)

Arraignment set for man accused of killing Nevada teens

The arraignment for Garrett Matthew Mason, 17, Nevada, charged with two counts of first degree murder in connection with the May 25 stabbing deaths of Annie Reed, 18, and Kylie Leyva, 14, Nevada, will be held tomorrow (Tuesday, Aug. 25) in Vernon County Circuit Court.

GateHouse Media stock falls to 19.5 cents

GateHouse Media stock, which had reached the rarefied atmosphere of 25 cents per share recently, fell back below 20 cents today, closing at 19.5 cents per share on the Pink Sheets, down 1.5 cents.

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

Accused killer of Carthage couple asks for continuance

The public defender for Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, one of two men accused of murdering Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage Oct. 11, has asked for a continuance. Laurin's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Public defender Christopher Hatley, Springfield, has also asked that charges against his client be dismissed.

The other defendant, Darren Winans, 21, Jasper, will be allowed to wear civilian clothing rather than an orange Jasper County Jail jumpsuit when his preliminary hearing is held 9 a.m. Friday, thanks to a ruling issued today by Judge Richard Copeland.

KOAM parent company up another $1.15

The stock price for Saga Communictions, owner of KOAM and KFJX, improved another $1.15 to $14.25 per share Friday.

The increase followed a jump of $1.40 per share on Thursday

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ruestman: The people must not be stifled

In her latest capital report, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, defends the First Amendment rights of those who have been disrupting town hall meetings on healthcare:

Recently, the news has focused around town hall meetings being held by members of Congress. After failing to pass socialized healthcare before their August break, the Democrats returned to their districts to drum up support for it. Instead of support, they are quickly learning that Americans are strongly opposed to the newest socialism scheme. So, as they did with Joe the Plumber, they are seeking to discredit the average, hard-working American.

Our Founding Fathers knew that the government can control its people if it can suppress their voices. While passing the Bill of Rights, they were sure to include our Freedom of Speech in the First Amendment.

I would like to remind everyone of the exact wording in the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

For the third in my series on conservative principles, I’d like to discuss our First Amendment rights. Our nation remains great and true to its values only by keeping the power in the hands of the people.

What our Democrat Congressmen have forgotten is who can hire and fire them. When their constituents show up to oppose the healthcare bill, they refuse to listen. Instead of taking it for what it is – the voice of the people rising up – they say it’s not real, “manufactured” or a Republican conspiracy. Some of them are so adamant about not listening to the people; they are canceling their town hall meetings and scheduling manufactured conference calls where they can pick and choose who is involved. In Missouri , our Senator chose to cancel one of her meetings and one of our U.S. Representatives seemed to restrict his meeting for union members.

In these times when the elected representatives are trying to stifle our voices, we should remember the First Amendment. We have the right of free speech. We have the right to peaceably assemble. We have the right to petition our government for the redress of grievances. These Congressmen have some grievances to redress. The people must not be stifled!

Some search committees take hiring a university president seriously

In the days before they interviewed Dr. Bruce Speck, members of the Presidential Search Committee visited the campus of Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tenn.

They visited with faculty, administrators, and students, and carefully checked the references of Dr. Bruce Speck, a candidate for university president at that point.

Unfortunately for the faculty, students, and patrons of Missouri Southern State University, it was not the MSSU Presidential Search Committee headed by Dwight Douglas that performed so admirably, it was the search committee for Missouri Western University in St. Joseph.

Less than two months before Missouri Southern hired Speck, one of only two candidates presented to the Board of Governors, and the only one who was actually interviewed (the other one dropped out when he was hired at another university), the St. Joseph Search committee not only visited Austin Peay, but also the campuses of the other two finalists, Dr Robert Vartabedian, at Eastern New Mexico University, and Dr. David Atkinson, at Manotick, Ontario, Canada. All three men were eventually interviewed by the board.

And incidentally, the Missouri Western Board of Governors discussed hiring a search firm in open session, unlike the Missouri Southern Board, which violated Missouri's open meetings law by taking the discussion behind closed doors.

During community sessions at St. Joseph, the public asked Speck and the other candidates any questions they wished. They did not have to write them out and have them pre-screened as was the case with the public session set up by Douglas at MSSU.

The Missouri Southern Board of Governors appointed the presidential search committee under a shroud of secrecy, again violating the open meetings law since there is absolutely no exception for appointing a committee.

The following passage is taken from a Sept. 20, 2007, Joplin Globe article written by Joe Hadsall:

In August, board Chairman Dwight Douglas said the meeting was not a violation of the Sunshine Law. He said the action behind closed doors was justified because the governors would be mentioning the names of prominent people. Douglas said the board wanted to be able to notify the committee members before their names were publicized.

While it is noble that Douglas, a lawyer who should have known better, was so solicitous of the sensitivities of "prominent people," it was still an obvious Sunshine Law violation.

In a news release, however, Douglas did make an accurate assessment of the effect Bruce Speck's hiring would have on Missouri Southern State University, even before Speck was hired:

“This undertaking is one of the more important events that will take place in the city of Joplin. It will shape the future of higher education for the area for years to come.”


From Saturday: MSSU Presidential Search Committee didn't do its job.

Insurance official contributes $25,000 to Missouri Republican Party

Michael Merriman of Americo, Kansas City, a provider of life insurance and annuity products, contributed $25,000 to the Missouri Republican Party Thursday, according to a 48-hour report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Daily News editor offers tribute to Harlan Stark

In a rare Sunday offering of his Whirled Peas column, Neosho Daily News Managing Editor John Ford offers a rribute to the late Harlan Stark, who died Friday:

Harlan was an old-time shoe-leather reporter. He hit the coffee shops, the donut shops, the little cafes and greasy spoons, looking for leads. Harlan talked with everyone, from the “movers and shakers” to those who moved the salt shakers.

I don’t know what he would make of journalism today. Given his work with his long-time partner, Dick Keezer, I think he would have dived right into photo slideshows and videos, but would probably be leery of trusting the Internet as an information source. It seems to me he would have rather talked to the court clerk face to face to find out what was on an upcoming docket, rather than pull up the records electronically on Case.Net.

Harlan was one of those vets young reporters could look up to, could admire. The type of reporter who strived to get it right, and would freely admit when he was wrong.

Some thoughts on the death of Harlan Stark

As I was growing up in Newtonia, one of the everyday rituals was heading to Gum's Store after school to await the arrival of the Neosho Daily News.

Back then, the newspaper was delivered to the store, which also served as the community's post office, and Postmaster Vernie Browning would put the newspapers in the mailboxes.

Depending on how early they arrived, I would either take it directly home or I would sit on the steps and read it from front to back. My favorite parts were the sports section, the editorial page, which always included the Washington Merry Go Round, first with Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, then after Pearson's death, just Anderson, for all of the dirt in Washington, and I read the opinion papers where learned pundits told me that no one would dare run against President Johnson in 1968, George Romney was a shoo-in for the Republican presidential nomination that year, and Edmund Muskie was a cinch for the Democratic nomination in 1972.

I also read the national news items, many of them about the ongoing war in Vietnam and in later years about the Watergate investigation and subsequently, the resignation of President Nixon, and his pardon by President Ford.

And I read the local news items, nearly all of which, it seems through the dim recesses of memory, were written by two men, Bill Ball and Harlan Stark. Mr. Ball, who provided the coverage of local sports, as well as many as many straight news items, died many years ago.

I read moments ago of the death of Harlan Stark. Mr. Stark's obituary says he was with the Neosho Daily News for 23 years. It seems like it was longer, though the Daily has gone through many reporters through the years as it has transitioned from Harlan Stark and Bill Ball to such later mainstays as the late Dean Keeling, Anne Cope, Rob Viehman, and Bill Ball's son, Buzz Ball, to today's staff, including John Ford and my fellow Newtonia native Todd Higdon.

While it takes many hard working people to put together a newspaper, everyone from the publisher to the receptionists to the advertising salesmen and circulation workers, to the public the face of a newspaper is usually the people whose bylines grace the pages of each edition.

For nearly a quarter of a century, the face of the Neosho Daily News was provided by Harlan Stark and Bill Ball. They offered stability and integrity, two items in short supply in today's media climate.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cleaver on healthcare: I am willing to listen to any idea

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo, offered the following thoughts on health care in his letter to constituents:

I am committed to a health care plan that covers every single American, reduces the cost of care, allows people to keep their insurance if they like, and prohibits insurers from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions or onset of a tragic illness. Period. I am willing to do whatever is necessary to construct a plan that accomplishes those central goals. I believe in the public option, but frankly, I do not care what that plan is called or who gets credit as long as it works.

We would be well served, when we return to Washington, to reset the discussion, take a deep breath and look at the plans on the table and ideas not yet considered with fresh eyes. It is absolutely critical we make this work and I am willing to listen to any idea and consider any adjustment that covers every American and reduces the cost of health care.

MSSU Presidential Search Committee failed to do its job

Faculty members at Austin Peay University would have been happy to have given the Missouri Southern State University Presidential Search Committee the lowdown on the havoc created by Dr. Bruce Speck on their campus...but no one ever asked.

During the past few weeks, I have corresponded via e-mail and had telephone conversations with current and former Austin Peay faculty members and students and none of them knew of anyone who had talked to anyone at Missouri Southern about Bruce Speck.

Had they talked to any of the sizable anti-Speck contingent at Austin Peay, the committee, which was led by MSSU Board of Governors member Dwight Douglas, would have discovered the following things:

-Speck was considered an enforcer for the university's former president, Dr. Sherry Hoppe, who created the same kind of friction on campus during her tenure as Speck has created at Missouri Southern.

-Hoppe and Speck created havoc for the international studies program at the university, forcing it to go through an audit. Speck has taken the same kind of approach to what had been Missouri Southern's crown jewel, its international mission.

-After Speck was named provost at Austin Peay, he made friends at the first meeting with faculty afterwards by insisting that they did not work enough hours and they were prone to inappropriate relations with students. Both allegations appeared to have come out of left field.

-Speck and Ms. Hoppe were sued by African American faculty members who charged them with discrimination. One of the members said, as I have noted on The Turner Report, that Speck called her "uppity." Though the faculty members who talked to The Turner Report said those who sued did not have a strong case (and their lawsuits were tossed out both at the district and appellate levels), the situations would never have occurred if Speck and Hoppe had used some tact when dealing with people.

-Faced with the lawsuits and charges of racial discrimination, Hoppe made a deal to have a respected faculty member and historian write a biography of Memphis civil rights pioneer Maxine Smith. When the professor, Dwonna Goldstone, was not willing to sacrifice academic integrity or scholarly standards to push the book through in a few months for the political pick-me-up Hoppe and Speck needed, they pushed Dr. Goldstone into removing herself from the project, and wrote it themselves, a book that was derided as more a "popular history" book than an academic history.

The search for a replacement for Dr. Julio Leon, who was forced out by the Board of Governors after a quarter of a century, began in controversy as the board discussed in closed session the hiring of a search firm, a clear violation of the Sunshine Law.

Forty-one applicants sought the position, but only two were deemed worthy of an interview, and when the other candidate took the president's post at another university, the Board ended up interviewing only one candidate, Speck, whom Douglas then shepherded through a public session in which questions and answers had to be written and pre-screened, which prevented anyone from seeing how well Speck reacted under pressure.

In upcoming posts, I will examine in detail each of the items I have mentioned.