Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spokesman: Releasing Joplin R-8 audit, continuing work is what Schweich would have wanted

In this video from KRCG in Jefferson City, Spence Jackson, spokesman for the state auditor's office says work will continue to be done as planned despite the death of Thomas Schweich.

That will include the release of the Joplin R-8 State Audit Tuesday, Jackson said, though the auditor's office will not hold a public meeting in Joplin as originally planned.

Winter weather advisory still in effect for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)










Winter storm warning issued for Springfield area

(From the National Weather Service)


608 PM CST SAT FEB 28 2015









Agenda posted for Monday Joplin City Council meeting

March 2, 2015
6:00 P.M., Council Chambers
Call To Order
Pledge of Allegiance
Roll Call
Proclamation Designating March 3, 2015 As Read Across America In Honor Of Dr. Seuss
Finalization Of Consent Agenda
Reports And Communications
Citizen Requests And Petitions
Request To Address Council
Rebekah Oehring, 1809 Connor, Clinical Director, Lafayette House, requests to address council regarding the proposed Municipal domestic violence ordinance.
Public Hearings
Consent Agenda
Ordinances - Emergency
Council Bill No. 2015-002
An Ordinance amending Chapter 82, Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions, Article III, Offenses Against Public Peace, and enacting a new Section 82-82, Domestic Assault., of the Joplin City Code; and, containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE declaring a public necessity for the acquisition by condemnation proceedings of real property and easements described as Part of the Southwest Quarter of the Southeast Quarter of Section 13, Township 27 North, Range 33 West, in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri, for the construction of storm water improvements near 29th and Arizona Avenue, directing the City Attorney to commence an action to obtain said property; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE declaring a public necessity for the acquisition by condemnation proceedings of real property and easements described as Part of the Southeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter of Section 13, Township 27 North, Range 33 West, in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri, for the construction of storm water improvements near 29th and Arizona Avenue, directing the City Attorney to commence an action to obtain said property; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving a contract with Emery Sapp & Sons in the amount of Seven Hundred Forty Eight Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty Seven and 57/100 Dollars ($748,827.57) for the 32nd Street & Arizona Avenue Regional Detention Basin project in the City of Joplin, Missouri providing how the cost shall be made and levied, and containing an emergency clause;
AN ORDINANCE approving an agreement for Allgeier, Martin & Associates for Sixty Eight Thousand and no/100 Dollars ($68,000.00) for Consultant Services for the Storm Sewer System Repairs in the non-CDBG-DR-eligible area of the recovery zone project and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving an agreement for Allgeier, Martin & Associates for One Hundred Seven Thousand Eight Hundred and no/100 Dollars ($107,800.00) for Consultant Services for the 15th & Highview Drainage System Repair and Replace project and containing an emergency clause.
Ordinances - First Reading
Ordinances - Second Reading And Third Reading
Unfinished Business
New Business
Vote to go into closed session, which shall pertain to legal action, causes of action, or litigation including a public governmental body and any confidential or privileged communications between a governmental body or its representatives and its attorneys as set forth in Section 610.021(1) RSMo, as amended, 2014.  This meeting, record, and vote to be closed to the extent provided by law. The City Council shall adjourn at the end of the session.

Majority floor leader: Tom Schweich was a man with immense talent, fierce convictions

(From House Majority Floor Leader Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff)

This Thursday was a tragic and surreal day in Missouri Politics. Shortly before 12:00 P.M. Thursday, news began to circulate in Jefferson City that State Auditor Tom Schweich was in the hospital. A short time later we learned that Auditor Schweich had died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A little before 2:00 we came together with our Senate counterparts, as well as the Governor and other concerned citizens in the Capitol, to hold a prayer service in the House Chamber. The Chamber was dark, and eerily quiet. It was a scene that stood as a powerful contrast to the spirted and busy atmosphere of that same room a couple hours earlier.

Over the past four years, I had the opportunity to serve with Auditor Schweich and to get to know him. I will remember him as a man with immense talent, deep passion, and fierce convictions. His unblemished career of public service demanded those qualities. Before being elected as State Auditor in 2010, Tom had already accomplished more than most can hope for in a lifetime. He served as chief of staff to three U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations. He, along with former Sen. Jack Danforth, led investigations into Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas. And, he was an ambassador to Afghanistan where he fought opium production and helped set up a judicial system that respected the rule of law.

He was also an outstanding Auditor. He approached the job with a tenacity that turned what is often viewed as mundane job of looking at books and crunching numbers – into something we should all be excited about. Tom relished his role rooting out fraud, waste and abuse in government. He was proud of the fact that more than 30 local government officials had been prosecuted for embezzlement as a result of his audits. In 2014, I had the opportunity to work with him to improve our state’s budget process. He was incredibly helpful to that effort, and as he was with others, incredibly generous with his time.

But, I will also remember his sense of humor, and wit. Two years ago I joined Tom in a Missouri Lincoln Day tradition of elected officials scooping ice cream for attendees at the annual convention. As we started he looked at me and said “You know Todd some people may not support right to work – but everyone can support the right to scoop.” I laughed and for the next hour we took turns telling the same joke to everyone who came through the line. Just last week he was once again scooping ice cream for people at the State Lincoln Day event in Kansas City.

Politics and government can, at times, be a rough endeavor. All too often we lose perspective on the relative importance of arguments and petty disagreements. We make more of our fights, our victories, and our failures than we should. Tragedies like the one this week have a way of restoring perspective. They have a way of reminding us that behind the public perception of elected officials – are human beings. People who knew Tom professionally and politically will mourn the passing of a dedicated public servant and state auditor. But it is more important for us to remember that his wife and children will mourn the loss of a loving husband and dedicated father. My thoughts and prayers are with Auditor Schweich’s family and I hope you will extend yours to them as well.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud Preview now available as an e-book

With the impending release of the audits for the Joplin R-8 School District and the City of Joplin, I thought it would be an opportune time to revisit how we got to the position where we are today.

My book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: How Greed and Corruption Destroyed the Joplin Tornado Recovery, which will be published a few weeks after the release of the city audit, details the story of Joplin from the tornado to the present and eventually will be in the neighborhood of 300 to 400 pages and will offer information on everything from the firing of Mark Roar, the collapse of Wallace-Bajjali, the ups and downs of C. J. Huff to the release of the audits, including the untimely death of State Auditor Thomas Schweich.

Using sources ranging from videos, recordings (secret and otherwise), government documents, court records, and interviews, I have done my best to tell the story of how Joplin's recovery changed from being the feel good story for the ages to a cautionary tale of how not to let dreams and ambitions outweigh necessity.

As of a few moments ago, the preview edition, the first 10 chapters of the book and approximately 100 pages, depending on your reader, is available in an e-book format from Amazon Kindle. This is the edition that was released to a select few readers a week ago.

The chapters include the following:

Chapter One- The tornado hits and this chapter takes three of Joplin's leaders, City Manager Mark Rohr, Superinrendent C. J. Huff and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer through the tornado and the period right after it.

Chapter Two- Mark Rohr's first press conference at 5:30 a.m. Monday, May 23, background on how Rohr arrived at this point in his career, C. J. Huff is interviewed by Fox News' Greta Van Susteren in his first brush with fame; Huff tries Disaster Recovery for Dummies as he tries to figure out what to do.

Chapter Three- David Wallace of Wallace-Bajjali learns about the tornado; Mayor Mike Woolston sees the town he knows totally changed and two schools he attended destroyed;. Woolston, Rohr, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian and the beginning of the Citizen Advisory Recovery Team (CART).

Chapter Four- Angie Besendorfer begins to dream of what the Joplin R-8 School District can become; Besendorfer's background, including Lamar and her turbulent time as superintendent of the Reeds Spring School District, her arrival in Joplin and losing the superintendent job to C. J. Huff

Chapter Five- C. J. Huff announces there will be school, how the R-8 Board of Education behaved during that time. Huff and Besendorfer threaten to fire anyone staff member who talks to the media.

Chapter Six- Barack Obama and the Westboro Baptist Church arrive in Joplin, the Joplin Tornado Memorial Service; Mark Rohr delivers a speech at the Moment of Silence and turns people's thoughts from death toward recovery.

Chapter Seven- How Bright Futures came into being. details on C. J. Huff's background that led him to begin Bright Futures, one major claim about Bright Futures that simply is not true; how C. J. Huff worked to bring up the Joplin High School graduation rate.

Chapter Eight- How Bright Futures USA hijacked Joplin Tornado recovery funds and how Ron Richard and the Joplin legislative team helped it do so; Angie Besendorfer makes it possible for school to start on time, the truth about how the MODOT building became the administration building for Joplin R-8, how R-8 officials decided to tear down a perfectly good two-year-old middle school that could have been reopened in time for the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

Chapter Nine- David Wallace comes to Joplin, CART takes over, Wallace pushes for Joplin to hire a master developer, Mike Woolston and Jane Cage go to Waco to examine Wallace-Bajjali projects. Councilman Ben Rosenberg offers the only opposition to the hiring of the master developer

Chapter Ten-  David Wallace unveils his $794 million plan, what Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck was doing while other leaders were making their presence known after the tornado and how one of Speck's wildest ideas became a keystone in David Wallace's plan.

Million dollar lawsuit filed against Joplin R-8 School District

Less than a week before the Joplin R-8 School District settled a sexual harassment lawsuit, it was already facing another one.

A million dollar lawsuit filed February 10 in Jasper County Circuit Court claims Kathy Dukes reported to human resources director Tina Smith (pictured) that her supervisor, Herbie Coleman Jr., was sexually harassing and stalking her.

Six days later, Smith took decisive action, placing the alleged victim, Dukes, on paid administrative leave.

A month later, despite a notice that said Dukes' complaint had been confirmed, Smith pressured Dukes into quitting, holding the threat of a bad job reference over her head.

Smith and Superintendent C. J. Huff signed a document (shown to the left) in which Dukes swore not to sue for sexual harassment in return for a "neutral job reference" and four weeks of severance pay.

Dukes, a utility worker, and Coleman, her supervisor, "began a relationship as a result of an indication by Mr. Coleman that he was separated from his wife and was going through a divorce," according to the petition.

Dukes discovered that Coleman was not getting divorced, so she ended the relationship and asked Coleman "not to communicate with her outside of work.

After the relationship ended, Dukes said, she "began to suffer from multiple incidents of stalking and harassment at the hands of Herbie Coleman where he would stalk her after hours and harass her while at work about who she was with and where she had been after working hours,:

Dukes claims that Coleman went "as far as harassing her present boyfriend by sending him letters with false negative information about the plaintiff in an effort to break up the relationship between the plaintiff and her present boyfriend."

After a fellow employee told her she should talk to someone about the harassment, Dukes scheduled an appointment with Smith on December 13, 2013.

During that interview, Dukes told her story and played recordings of the harassing calls from Coleman, according to the petition. Smith said she would begin an investigation.

Six days later, Dukes was placed on administrative leave for allegations of misconduct.

On Monday, January 13, 2014, during what is described as an "uncomfortable meeting" between Smith and Dukes, "Ms. Smith, by way of pressure and coercion, talked Ms. Dukes into signing a mutual separation agreement and release."

During the meeting, Smith asked Dukes if she had looked for work and "don't you think it would be best if you found another place to work," adding "no one wants to work with you any more."

Smith also gave Dukes a letter in which she said her investigation indicated Coleman had violated board policy. "An investigation of the grievance has been completed and the district finds adequate substantiation exists to support an infraction of board policy.

"At Joplin Schools, we are committed to providing a learning and working environment that is free from harassment and discrimination. All participants in the educational process are expected to follow policies and administrative procedures of the district. Subsequently, the district has responded with the appropriate actionable measures."

Dukes signed the "mutual separation agreement" in which she "hereby releases and forever discharges the Joplin Schools Board of Education, its employees, its affiliates and subsidiaries, together with their respective directors, officers, agents, employees, and board of director, from any and all claims or other causes of action she may have against them relating to or arising out of Doris Kathrine Dukes' employment with Schol, including, but not limited to any claim of sexual harassment, or hostile work environment, or retaliation related to filing sexual harassment complaints, or any other cause of action related to her employment or her separation of employment, Missouri Statutes or Federal Constitution.

"The Joplin Schools hereby agrees to accept her resignation and will provide a neutral letter of reference consistent with policy. As and for additional consideration, the Joplin Schools shall pay the amount of $2,820.80 representing four weeks' pay less all required withholdings.

"As and for additional consideration herein, Doris Kathrine Dukes, hereby voluntarily resigns from her employment with the Joplin Schools, effective this date, January 14, 2014."

Count I of the lawsuit alleges wrongful discharge and violation of public policy and asks for $1 million in punitive damages.

Dukes, who is represented by William G. Weber of the Evenson, Carlin, Cooper, and Weber LLC firm in Pineville, is asking for a jury trial.

In the district's response to the lawsuit, lawyer Karl Blanchard asks that the lawsuit be dismissed because it "fails to state a cause of action" on which either relief or pnnitive damages can be awarded.

If the lawsuit is not dismissed, Blanchard says, the district is asking permission to have all of Dukes' last 20 years of work records provided.

Earlier this week, Judge David Dally officially dismissed another lawsuit in which former custodial supervisor George Morris, who said he had been sexually harassed by buildings project director Mike Johnson, was fired. The amount the district had to pay to settle the lawsuit has not been revealed.

C. J Huff to hold press conference as audit is officially released

A few moments ago, Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff revealed to staff how he is going to handle the release of the state audit of the school district on Tuesday.

Originally, a 5 p.m. meeting had been scheduled for that day with State Auditor Thomas Schweich revealing the contents of the audit. With Schweich's death Thursday, plans changed and now the audit will be released to the public on the state auditor's website.

Huff, shown in protective gear as he awaits the fallout from the audit, told staff that he plans to answer all of the public's questions:

I just got off the phone with the State Auditor's Office. As it stands right now we will receive the final draft, embargoed audit results on Monday. The results will be posted on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. on the State Auditor's website.

Joplin Schools will also post the audit results at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning on our district website. A press conference will be held at 10 a.m. as well. A location for the press conference will be determined on Monday. We are also tentatively planning a community event Tuesday evening to give patrons the opportunity to ask questions regarding the report. Time and location regarding the community event will be determined on Monday as well.

As they deal with the tragic loss of Auditor Schweich, we continue to work closely with the staff of the State Auditor's Office and will keep you apprised of any changes or new information.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

Joplin R-8 audit will be released Tuesday; no public meeting will be held

The Joplin R-8 School District state audit will be released on Tuesday as planned, but there will be no public meeting, according to a news release issued moments ago.

The release, from Spence Jackson, communications director at the state auditor's office reads as follows:

We will release the audit of the Joplin School District on Tuesday as planned but without a public presentation. Thank you, in advance, for understanding this necessary change in plans.

The change in plans came after the death of State Auditor Thomas Schweich on Thursday.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Joplin officials send disapproving message to KOAM reporter's bosses

E-mails obtained by KOAM through a Sunshine Law request show that city officials were not at all pleased with reporter Jordan Aubey's coverage of the $5 million dollar loan from Springfield-based trucking company Prime to former Joplin master developer Wallace-Bajjali.

After Aubey's first report indicated that the city of Joplin may owe money to Prime, public information officer Lynn Onstot sent a February 10 e-mail to Aubey's newsroom bosses, News director Kristi Spencer and news assignment editor Stephanie Marsh, complaining about the veteran reporter's coverage:

Kristi and Stephanie,

City Manager Sam Anselm asked that I forward this to you so you are aware of the occurrence.

I was not present during the interview, however the story that ran did not relate to the original premise of Jordan's request about seeking Prime as a potential developer for Joplin. The story did run was inaccurate and misleading, as Sam's clarification states below. In light of this, and prior incidents similar to this, Sam noted that he will begin recording the interviews he conducts with Jordan.

The city works hard to provide accurate and timely information to the public via news media, as well as other resources, so we appreciate your willingness to help us achieve this goal as we move forward.

Anselm approved the Onstot message to Aubey's bosses, writing "Sounds good," after she sent it to the city manager for his approval.

Aubey's original story had mentioned that Prime could come after the City of Joplin for what it was owed, something which both Anselm and Mayor Michael Seibert told KOAM and the Joplin Globe, which has played a wait-and-see what Jordan Aubey comes up with and then knock it down approach, was not going to happen.

In Aubey's second report on the Joplin/Prime situation, Prime's attorney, Richard Walters, indicated that a lawsuit was indeed a possibility. City officials are in overdrive trying to make sure that does not happen.

The city's approach now appears to be to wait it out until Aubey and KOAM stop running stories or the public loses interest.

In an e-mail, dated February 9, Anselm says simply, "This, too, shall pass."

In his latest report, Aubey reveals that the city has already paid Prime $1 million.

Video- Prayer service held for Schweich in Jefferson City

This video from Fox 4 in Kansas City was taken during a prayer service at the state capitol after the death today of State Auditor Thomas Schweich.

New radio ad launched today: We will squash Schweich like the bug that he is

The advertisement doesn't make any difference now but a group called Citizens for Fairness launched this radio ad which compares the late State Auditor Thomas Schweich to Mayberry deputy Barney Fife, says he is corrupt, and that he was encouraged to run so Democrats would have an easier candidate to beat in the general election.

Schweich is an obviously weaker opponent against Democrat Chris Koster. Once Schweich obtains the Republican nomination, we will quickly squash him like a bug that he is and put our candidate, Chris Koster in the governor’s mansion.”

Now Schweich's opponent, Rex Sinquefield's puppet, Catherine Hanaway has a clear path to the nomination.

Federal grand jury indicts Joplin couple on child pornography charges

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

A Joplin couple are among five persons indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesdayday in four separate and unrelated cases related to the sexual exploitation of children.

“Protecting the most vulnerable members of our society is a top priority of the Department of Justice,” U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickinson said. “We are committed to protecting our children from sexual predators and bringing their abusers to justice. Exploiting and abusing a child to produce pornography – as charged in each of these indictments – carries a tough mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole.”

USA v. Dickerson
Nicholas James Dickerson, 30, of Branson, Mo., was charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. Dickerson is employed by the Western Taney County Fire Protection District as an EMT and volunteer firefighter. Dickerson was residing in living quarters at a Branson fire station at the time of the alleged offense.

The federal indictment alleges that Dickerson used a minor to produce child pornography on Feb. 7, 2015. The indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Dickerson on Feb. 19, 2015.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, Dickerson sold his iPhone to a Nixa, Mo., business on Feb. 9, 2015. An employee of the business noticed Dickerson deleting images or files from the phone while standing at the counter, the affidavit says, and after the transaction was complete the employee noticed that the “deleted pictures folder” was still present on the screen. The employee saw an image that appeared to be child pornography and alerted the store owner, who contacted law enforcement.

Investigators identified the nine-year-old victim in the image. Dickerson told investigators that he took the photo while sexually abusing the child victim in his living quarters at the fire station, the affidavit says, and that he sexually abused the victim on multiple occasions. Dickerson also told investigators he had shown pornography to the child victim.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the FBI.

USA v. Britten

Ernest Britten, 36, of Joplin, Mo., and his ex-wife, Kendra Britten, 33, of Miami, Okla., formerly of Joplin, were charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo.

The federal indictment alleges that Ernest and Kendra Britten used a minor to produce child pornography from June 23, 2005, to July 2, 2012. The indictment also charges Ernest and Kendra Britten with receiving child pornography over the Internet from Dec. 27, 2010, to Nov. 10, 2011.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

USA v. Peterson

Michael Douglas Peterson, 32, of Morristown, Tenn., formerly of Barry County, Mo., was charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Peterson on Jan. 23, 2015.

The federal indictment alleges that Peterson used a minor victim to produce child pornography from March 1, 2014, to Jan. 21, 2015. Peterson is also charged with using his cell phone during that time to entice the minor, who was younger than 17, to engage in illicit sexual behavior.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, Peterson was exchanging nude photos via cell phone and engaging in sexual activity with the 15-year-old victim in Cassville, Mo. A state arrest warrant was issued for Peterson, but he could not be located.

The victim’s mother took her to live in Tennessee. Federal agents later located Peterson in Morristown, Tenn., where he was living with the child victim and her mother. Peterson was arrested and remains in federal custody.

Peterson told federal agents the child victim’s mother allowed him to move into their home and was aware that he and the child victim engaged in sexual intercourse. The child victim, the affidavit says, is pregnant with Peterson’s child. She was taken into protective custody and placed in foster care.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.

USA v. Hall
Michael Roger Hall, 19, of Kenton, Ohio, was charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Hall on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.

The federal indictment alleges that Hall used a minor to produce child pornography from Dec. 7 to 9, 2014. The indictment also alleges that Hall communicated via the Internet to entice a minor victim to engage in illicit sexual behavior.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, Hall was exchanging nude images over the Internet with a 9-year-old victim in Ava, Mo. Hall and the child victim, who began communicating through an application on her Kindle Fire, allegedly discussed meeting for sexual contact.

A law enforcement officer, portraying the identity of the child victim, began communicating with Hall. Hall was arrested on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015, and remains in federal custody.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the Ava, Mo., Police Department, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force and the FBI.

Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

Nixon: Schweich was brilliant, devoted, accomplished public servant

Gov. Jay Nixon today released the following statement upon the death of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich. The Governor also has ordered flags at all Missouri state facilities to be immediately lowered to half-staff to honor his passing.

“I join all Missourians in mourning the passing of State Auditor Tom Schweich, a brilliant, devoted and accomplished public servant who dedicated his career to making Missouri and the world a better place,” Gov. Nixon said. “From his courageous work to combat the illegal drug trade abroad in Afghanistan to his tireless efforts to protect the interests of taxpayers here in Missouri, Tom Schweich’s exceptional intellect and unwavering dedication to public service left a legacy that will endure for many years to come. The First Lady and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Tom’s wife Kathy and two children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr.”

MO GOP Chairman: I am in utter shock at Schweich's tragic passing

(From the Missouri Republican Party)

Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock released the following statement on the passing of State Auditor Tom Schweich:
“I am in utter shock at the news of Tom Schweich’s tragic passing. Tom will be remembered as a tenacious, energetic, effective elected official who worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of this state and this nation. I ask all Missourians to join me in praying for Tom’s family.”

Spokesman confirms Schweich's death

The following statement was just received from Spence Jackson from the Missouri State Auditor's office:

It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich today. Please keep in mind his wife Kathy and two children.

State Auditor Schweich dead from self-inflicted gunshot wound

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that State Auditor Thomas Schweich, who was scheduled to be in Joplin next Tuesday to release the audit of the Joplin R-8 School District, has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound:

Schweich was taken to a St. Louis-area hospital Thursday after what his office initially described as "a medical situation" that occurred at his home in Clayton.

Earlier, a police source said Schweich had sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but the initial statement from Schweich's office said only that he was being treated.

"He is receiving treatment at a local hospital," the earlier statement said. "We ask for respect and privacy for him and his family during this time."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Wallace-Bajjali news, KOAM's Jordan Aubey leads, Joplin Globe follows

An interesting byproduct of the departure of former master developer Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners from Joplin has been watching the way the area media has handled the ongoing story.

Recently, KOAM's Jordan Aubey broke the story about the $5 million loan Wallace-Bajjali had received from Springfield trucking company Prime, a loan that was also signed by former Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr and a representative of the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation.

Aubey's report indicated that the city might be on the hook for all of part of the $5 million.

The Globe, relying on famed legal expert Mayor Michael Seibert, followed the next day with an article indicating that when Joplin cut its ties with Wallace-Bajjali, it also severed its responsibility for the Prime loan.

Earlier this week, KOAM's Aubey struck again, this time with a report that included an interview with Prime's attorney, who indicated that the trucking company might sue the city.

So naturally, the Globe responded with a page one article in today's edition, in which reporter Debby Woodin covered the ground Aubey covered as far as the possibility that Prime might become involved in some of Joplin's projects to get a return for its loan. Of course, there is no mention of any possibility of a lawsuit.

The lesson to be learned for those who are wanting to see news in the Joplin Globe- give Jordan Aubey a call. If he does a report, you can be sure the Globe will have something in a day or two.

Joplin R-8 borrows $28 million; Globe doesn't even mention it

Things certainly have changed in the nearly four decades since I began working as a reporter.

I remember a time when a school district borrowing $28 million and discussing it during a board of education meeting would have been considered front page news.

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education agreed to borrow another $28 million Tuesday night, including $14 million to pay off the $37 million the board borrowed in August and another $14 million to make sure contractors can be paid.

That decision is not only left unmentioned on page one of today's Joplin Globe, but you won't find it anywhere else in the newspaper either.

The borrowing becomes an even more important story when the debt is supposed to be paid back by $30.4 million from federal and state agencies, and at this point, the district cannot be certain that it will receive the money.

It should be interesting to see how the area's newspaper of record covers the upcoming release of the Joplin R-8 state audit report.

Smith pleads not guilty in Trevor Webb stabbing death

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 10, in Newton County Circuit Court for Ryan Smith, 21, Joplin, who is charged with first degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the February 22 murder of Trevor Webb, 30, Joplin.

Smith was arraigned Tuesday and entered a not guilty plea.

Smith is being held in the Newton County Jail with a $250,000 cash only bond.

The accompanying report is from KOAM's Stacey Lindsey.


Graves: Rise of Islamic terrorism is cause for alarm

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

Every day that the threat posed by Islamic militants goes unchecked, the world becomes a more dangerous place. It is imperative that we use every tool at our disposal to protect our people, defend the homeland, and preserve our interests abroad.

The rise of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa is cause for great alarm. The acquisition of land, resources, and manpower by various terrorist organizations presents a serious threat to our allies and our national interests. Most recently, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has acquired vast amounts of land in the Middle East and are recruiting jihadi militants from all over the world to join their cause. They are quickly marching towards establishing an Islamic caliphate.

ISIS poses a clear and present danger to international stability, as it aims to establish an Islamic state that would serve as a breeding ground for training terrorists to carry out attacks. This cannot be allowed to happen. ISIS is slaughtering innocent Christians, Jews, and Muslims who do not ascribe to their radical views of the world, and they will continue to do so until they are stopped.

We must be vigilant in our efforts to degrade their ability to recruit followers, execute attacks, and ultimately destroy this threat. We have seen first-hand the repercussions of not directly confronting terrorism abroad. I take this issue very seriously and will continue to do everything within my power to protect our country and its citizens.

Hartzler returns from trip to Guantanamo

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) made the following statement after returning from a Congressional fact-finding trip to Guantanamo Bay on February 24, to examine the facilities and get information on the transfer of detainees from the facility.

“As the Chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, it was prudent I was able to get this firsthand experience in order to provide sensible oversight on this issue. It is very concerning that terrorists are being transferred and, in some cases, are returning to the fight against us. As the administration continues to transfer detainees back to hostile and unstable areas, more and more are capable of harming Americans.”

“The administration needs to listen to the advice of its own task force and detain or prosecute these detainees. Transferring these terrorists out of GTMO with insufficient security assurances puts Americans at risk. Continuing these transfers, with little to no assurances that they will not return to fight against Americans, is irresponsible. We will continue to conduct robust oversight of the transfer process to ensure these terrorists are not able to return to take up arms against us.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hartzler on Keystone veto: Obama continues to play politics with our prosperity

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) made the following statement after President Obama vetoed the pro-growth, job-creating Keystone XL Pipeline Authorization bill:

“The American people have shown overwhelming support for the Keystone XL pipeline. With his veto, President Obama has chosen to ignore their wishes, putting environmental special interests ahead of American jobs and greater energy security. The president’s own State Department’s study has shown that the Keystone pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment while bringing over 42,000 American jobs into the economy. I am disappointed that the president continues to play politics with our prosperity.”

David Wallace on Linkedin: I rebuilt Joplin after the tornado

LinkedIn is one of those social media sites where people can post their entire careers in hopes of landing better jobs or clients or connections.

Most people stick fairly close to the truth.

Others, like former Joplin master developer David Wallace, formerly of Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners take a more creative approach to their history.

On Wallace's LinkedIn site, as a "developer and visionary entrepreneur," though it is hard to find anything he actually developed and his vision when it comes to Joplin is through his rear view mirror.

Here is how the former Sugar Land mayor described his time with Wallace-Bajjali, including the three years in Joplin:

Founder and CEO

Wallace Bajjali Development Partners
 –  (9 years 1 month)Sugar Land, Texas
Private, real estate investment and consulting firm specializing in a variety of real estate services to investors, developers and institutional owners.
-Used extensive development experience, private equity funds and knowledge of public-private partnerships to develop assets ranging from single-family developments, student housing, office, retail, multi-family, assistant living, memory care, etc. Master Developer hired by the city of Amarillo, Tulsa, San Antonio, and Joplin, MO to redevelop the community following the devastating EF-5
 tornado that struck on May 22, 2011.
Wallace's profile indicates he is now an investment banker.

Joplin R-8 Board votes to borrow $28 million to finish buildings project

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education approved borrowing another $28.35 million to complete the buildings project made necessary by the May 22, 2011, tornado.

The district borrowed $37 million in August to meet cash flow needs and pay building contractors. The new amount includes $14.15 million to pay off that debt and $14.2 million to "complete invoice payments to building contractors."

CFO Paul Barr said the debt will be paid back through $30.4 million the district expects to receive from SEMA, FEMA, and other agencies. Barr said he was confident that money would be received, though he has also indicated in the past that the district's request include money for items that were not approved by the state and federal agencies, including $4,079,345 for FEMA 404 Safe Rooms, $20,213,105 from FEMA and SEMA, $3,115,000 on SEMA 10 percent reimbursement, and $3 million from an Economic Development Administration equipment grant.

This was how the EDA described that $3 million grant in 2013:

Earlier this year, EDA also invested $3 million in Joplin to support the rebuilding and equipping of the Franklin Technology Center. Operated by the Joplin School District, the Franklin Technology Center will provide skills training to students in the school system, as well as specialized training to adults already in the workforce, allowing for the enhancement of the career training program focused on manufacturing and technology.

This project is part of a $200 million appropriation made by Congress to EDA to help communities that received a major disaster designation in fiscal year 2011 with long-term economic recovery and infrastructure support.

Most of the grant was used for audio-visual equipment, including the jumbotron type device (video scoreboard) in the Joplin High School gymnasium

The Board approved a financing proposal from Bank of America which would have to be paid in full by June 1, 2016. By doing it this way, Barr said, the district will save $167,392 in interest.

Superintendent C. J. Huff indicated he thought the district had done a great job with the building project, but with so little information to go on when the April 2012 bond issue was planned, they had no idea that the budget would need to be increased by a considerable amount.

McCaskill wants to end trade embargo with Cuba

U. S. Senator Clarie McCaskill, who just returned from a visit to Cuba favors ending the trade embargo that has been in place since Fidel Castro took over the nation in 1959.

Trucking company: We may sue the City of Joplin

Mayor Michael Seibert said the city of Joplin does not owe the Springfield trucking company a cent.

The Joplin Globe took particular joy in parroting Seibert and saying there was nothing Prime could do to get back the $5 million it loaned to former master developer Wallace-Bajjali. When the city terminated its contract with Wallace-Bajjali, they said, it ended any debt the city might have owed to Prime despite the fact that the loan agreement included signatures from Mark Rohr, who was city manager at the time, and from a member of the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation.

KOAM's Jordan Aubey is reporting today that Prime may very well sue the city to get its $5 million back:

"The master development agreement has been violated. So we're no longer under that master developer agreement and so I'll leave that just as there," says Seibert.

We asked Seibert if that was a fact or opinion by city hall.

"Well, I think we have legal opinion on that," says Seibert.

"It gets into some legal technicalities, but there are certain provisions which survived the termination of that agreement (Wallace Bajjali agreement), which are expressly set forth in that agreement (financial collateral agreement)," says (Prime attorney Richard) Walters.

Joplin could face litigation over this matter.

"That has not been determined yet," says Walters. "And we're looking for more of a positive solution to that, as opposed to litigation."

Watch Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting live at 6 p.m.

C. J. Huff shares "inspiring vision" at Bright Futures USA Conference

The Twitter world is abuzz after Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff shared his "inspiring vision" with those attending the second annual Bright Futures USA Conference being held on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.

delivers a great speech today here at "What if every kid graduates from school with a servants heart."

Leading with a Servants Heart - Tk U Inspiring morning session

Inspiration from - service matters - to our children - to our collective future.

Thx for sharing your vision and passion to strengthen our communities so that kids can self actualize.... I matter

Excellent Session!

"In the absence of a family, we have to create one around [the children]" - CJ Huff

(Bright Futures USA Photo- C. J. Huff and Bright Futures USA CEO Kim Vann during a panel discussion Monday during the opening day of the Bright Futures USA Conference at MSSU. Huff's keynote speech was delivered this morning.)

Joplin Progress Committee preparing to put money into R-8 Board election

With no city council elections this year, the Joplin Progress Committee appears to have started collecting money to influence the Joplin R-8 Board of Education election.

The collecting began last Wednesday, according to the committee's 40-days-before-election disclosure report filed Sunday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The report showed $1,400 was raised during a four-day period, giving the committee $4,621.40 when the documents were filed.

The biggest contribution, $500, came from Cynthia Schwab, Joplin.

Nine others contributed $100 apiece:

Brad Beecher, Carl Junction, Empire District Electric Company
Clifford Wert, Webb City, retired U. S. Bank president
Ronald Getz, Joplin, Empire District Electric Company
Karen Plott, Carl Junction, Choice Marketing
T. J. Franz & Associates, Webb City
Henry Robertson Sr., Joplin, retired
Troy Hill, Joplin, BKD LLP
Rodney Spriggs, Joplin, Vintage Stock
Sara Newman, Joplin, retired

Though the Joplin Progress Committee has not announced which candidates it will support, there appears no doubt that one of its favored candidates will be Nancy Good, who is one of three candidates running for the one-year seat left open by Dawn Sticklen's resignation after Sticklen enrolled her daughter at Webb City High School.

Good, a Joplin Progress Committee member and chairman of Bright Futures USA, was also the campaign treasurer for two of the committee's favored candidates, current R-8 board member Shawn McGrew and Joplin City Councilman Mike Woolston.

During last year's board election, the Committee endorsed five of the seven candidates, everyone except Debbie Fort and Dave Guilford.

Word has gotten back to the Turner Report that committee leaders have told candidates not to expect support if they are linked to this blog in any way.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Joplin R-8 Board expected to set March 25 as date for collective bargaining vote

A vote on what organization will represent Joplin R-8 teachers in collective bargaining will be scheduled for March 25, according to documentation for Tuesday night's 6 p.m. Board of Education meeting.

Both NEA and MSTA have filed requests to serve as the collective bargaining agent for district teachers, counselors, and librarians.

The following post comes from the Joplin NEA website and was written by NEA local president Crystal Stokes:

Ray Smith, MNEA Uniserv Director, and I spent a little over an hour with Dr. Huff, Tina Smith, Board attorney, another group, and the election judge, Mr. J. Dick Waers from Kansas City, discussing election parameters. The bargaining unit (any full-time employee on the teacher salary schedule who does not hire, fire, or evaluate) will be the ONLY people who will cast ballots.

Tentative agreement was reached on election sites, though this could change. At this time, it looks as though Cecil Floyd and Kelsey Norman Elementary Schools will be the two polling places. JNEA suggested a third site, but there hasn't been agreement on that. The first election is scheduled for March 25th from 3:15pm-7:30pm. (At this time, we cannot say for certain there will be a second election - stay tuned.) After meeting the election judge, who has overseen similar elections in Springfield and in the Kansas City area, we can assure you - without any doubt - that this will be a fair election process.