Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The story of Annie Sharp and Randy Turner's birthday card

I really did not want to talk to her.

And for the life of me, I had no idea why Annie Sharp wanted to talk to me.

If you were Annie Sharp, would you want to talk to somebody who describes you accurately day after day?

But there she was, heading across the Corley Auditorium at Missouri Southern State University, a smile plastered across her face to the second row seat where I was sitting preparing to take notes on the Joplin R-8 Board of Education candidate forum.

"Mr. Turner, didn't you just have a birthday?" she asked.

"I don't have a birthday until next year," I said, but she quickly brushed that off and continued a conversation that was already one sentence longer than I would have preferred.

"I know you had a birthday, I used to send you a card on your birthday."

So that was what this was all about. I had written about her using her access as a board member to boost her re-election campaign.

And I still don't recall ever receiving any birthday cards from her, though it may well have happened.

Left unmentioned was the fact that I had written about her sending birthday cards and including her campaign literature, definitely crossing the ethical line.

As I sat there, I considered explaining that to her, but as I did, everything else she has done the past several months, every time she has crossed lines which she should never have crossed- using school facilities and a captive audience of teachers to make her campaign video, e-mailing teachers and asking for help with her campaign, asking for teachers' home addresses (and then apparently getting them through the teachers' records), and aiding and abetting one of the most morally bankrupt superintendents this area has ever seen.

It was an awful sight, seeing Annie Sharp's political life flashing before my eyes.

So I didn't say anything and after an awkward pause, she left, clearly irritated with me. For some reason, she thought I would really want to talk to her.

Those few sentences were enough, make that too much, for me.

As for my birthday. Annie Sharp was wrong- by more than three years. My last birthday was February 29, 2012. As I told her, I will be having a birthday next year.

Don't bother to send me a card, Annie.

The most expensive school board race in Joplin history

It does not take long to read through the contributors to Jeff Koch's second campaign for Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

There are none.

Koch, who has been running on a platform of fiscal responsibility, was only $16 above the $1,000 level which requires candidates to file disclosure forms...and the money, which was used on signs and cards, came out of his own pocket.

As a challenger to a spending mentality he has criticized, Koch wants to show you can get quality without spending a fortune.

Koch faces two opponents in a race for two three-year seats- incumbent board president Anne Sharp and former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts. Since Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Roberts to be the next head of the Department of Public Safety, he will not serve if elected and he is not spending any money on the campaign. In fact, he returned a $1,750 contribution from the Joplin Progress Committee.

Despite his lack of expenditures, at this moment, Koch has spent more on his campaign than the other two candidates combined- of course, that is only because at the end of the day the Jasper County County Clerk's office had still not received Anne Sharp's eight-days-before-election disclosure report, which was due Monday.

Considering that Sharp put inserts in the Sunday Joplin Globe, including one I saw 30 miles away from Joplin, and that she hired a public relations firm to do a controversial video utilizing district teachers without their consent, it is almost a certainty that she will have spent far more than Koch.

Even without knowing how much money is being spent by Anne Sharp's campaign, it is safe to say that the spending for the one-year unexpired term on the R-8 Board of Education dwarfs previous board races.

As noted Monday in the Turner Report, Bright Futures USA Chairman Nancy Good has received more than $10,000 during her campaign, including $3,500 from the Joplin Progress Committee and more than $5,000 from Missouri REALTORS, which was used to finance a mass mailing.

Jennifer Martucci is matching Good dollar for dollar.

It appears Martucci may be attempting to show that she can handle larger amounts of money more responsibly than her opponent. While Good is a member of the Joplin Progress Committee and is heavily financed by people connected with the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART), Bright Futures USA and the Joplin Progress Committee, with their unflagging support of C. J. Huff and earlier of Wallace-Bajjali, Martucci's contributors include some who leveled criticism of Wallace-Bajjali from the start, particularly Joplin City Council members Ben Rosenberg and Bill Scearce.

In her financial disclosure document, Martucci reported receiving $10,379.50 during her campaign, including a $3,000 loan from her husband, lawyer Patrick Martucci.

Other contributors mentioned on her report include the following:

William Scearce, Design Benefits, Joplin, $100
Charles Sticklen, lawyer, Joplin, $100
Benjamin D. Rosenberg, DDS, Joplin, $100
Scott Vorhees, lawyer, Joplin, $3,300
Roger Johnson, lawyer, Joplin, $1,000

Martucci is using a large amount of that money to finance television advertising, spending $2,623 with KSN and $2,116.50 with KOAM, according to the report.

Another $610.80 went to AMI for radio advertising, with $1,266.90 going to Datagraphics for printing.and $609.08 to the Lettershop for postage.

Left behind in the spending is the third candidate, Melinda Campbell.

Campbell has raised $3,119.60, a figure which would have put her near the top in the spending in past elections. During the past four and a half weeks, she has received $1,070 in contributions including the following:

Lynn Royle, retired, Joplin, $100
Mitchell Stinnett, Joplin, Mercy Hospital administrator $300
Rikki Smith, Crosslines Charities, $25
Betty Duckworth, retired, Joplin, $25
David Bennett, Tri-State Engineering, Joplin, $100
Chris Martin, Allgeier Martin and Associates, Joplin, $25
Amy Bass, Empire District Electric Company, $20
John Roberson, retired, Joplin, $20
Roper Honda, Joplin, $680
Kirk Harryman, teacher, Joplin School District, $250
Charles Sticklen, Jr., attorney, Joplin, $100
Brent Baker, Empire District Electric Company, Joplin, $50
Barbara Cox, retired, Joplin, $50

Campbell has spent $1,431,57 with Datagraphics printing for yard signs and banners.

Spurned lover arrested in murder of Granby man

Connie Ford, 65, Fairview, is being held on $500,000 bond, charged with murder and armed criminal action in connection with the Monday murder of John Jordan, 58, Granby.

From KSN's coverage:

The Newton County Sheriff's Office says Jordon and Ford shared a relationship, although Jordon is married to someone else. Jordon was trying to break it off, however, Ford wasn't ready for the relationship to end.
Around 2:15 yesterday afternoon, the Newton County Sheriff's Office received a phone call from a residence in Neosho notifying officers that Ford came to their home and told them she had shot Jordon. Granby police officers went to Jordon's residence, located at 1264 Spruce Street in Granby, where they found him dead. Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland says Jordon was shot once in the chest.

Officers went to the Neosho caller's residence where they found Ford, who was then taken into custody. Officers also recovered a handgun from inside Ford's purse that was inside her vehicle. 

Content of Spence Jackson suicide note revealed

Jefferson City Police say Spence Jackson, the media director for the late State Auditor Thomas Schweich, was worried about losing his job when he killed himself.

During a news conference this morning, the content of Jackson's suicide note was revealed with Jackson saying that he could not take being unemployed again.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hartzler: I am fighting to protect religious liberty

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) joined 66 fellow Republican Study Committee (RSC) members in the effort to protect the religious liberties currently cherished by employers and institutions located in the District of Columbia. She signed a letter last week to Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Andre Crenshaw, calling on Congress to use its authority to block funding for two controversial measures passed by the D.C. City Council that threaten religious freedom.

Including the District of Columbia’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act and the Human Rights Amendment Act in the Fiscal Year 2016 D.C. Appropriations Bill would, according to the letter, “undermine long-standing religious protections contained in the Constitution, as well as federal law protecting the free-exercise of religion.”

The letter continues: “This provision would force religious institutions and other pro-life employers to violate deeply held beliefs, values, and principles, and would amount to a government-mandated violation of the Constitution.”

“Violations of the Constitution are always wrong, but they are more egregious when Americans are forced by their government to take actions that go against their religious beliefs,” Hartzler added. “I believe Congress must be prepared to approve language in the Appropriations Bill that protects the rights of Americans against those whose desire is to interfere with our nation’s Constitutional guarantees.”

House bill would require smaller Missouri schools to consolidate

(From Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-O'Fallon)

The Missouri General Assembly was on Spring Break last week. Before we left I filed a controversial bill to improve funding for education, HB1292.

The state of Missouri has 522 school districts and 194 of them are considered small school districts with a total of 350 students or less. HB 1292 will consolidate these school districts by having either small districts combine to become one district with more than 350 students or a small district to join with a larger neighboring districts. By eliminating administrate costs we will have more money for teachers and real education.
This bill affects school districts not school building as is clearly stated in the bill “8. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the closing of any school or school facility” I have no intention of closing schools; I am attempting to make sure that the taxpayer’s money is spent on the students and not on administrators. There is no reason that two adjacent school districts with 200 students, who are located in the same county couldn’t join forces and become one district with 400 students.

As Chairman of the Education budget I have learned that we spend an extra $15M on these school districts outside of the Foundation Formula. By combining these districts we can put that money back into the formula for all the students in our state.

Student Freedom of Association Act

HB 104 prohibits an institution of higher learning from taking
any action or enforcing any policy that denies a religious student association any benefit available to other student organizations or from discriminating against a religious student organization with respect to the benefit based on any of the religious requirements or leadership standards placed on the organization.

The bill prohibits any institution of higher learning from substantially burdening a student's exercise of religion unless the institution can demonstrate that application of the burden is in furtherance of a compelling interest of the institution and is the least restrictive means for doing so. Any student or religious student association that has been aggrieved as a result of a violation of these provisions may assert the violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding against the public institution of higher learning and obtain appropriate relief, including damages.

Across the United States colleges and universities are enforcing what they are calling, “an all comers policy.” An all comers policy states that no student could be excluded from a leadership post of a student club or organization on ideological grounds. College Republicans must allow Democrats to seek office; the environmental group had to welcome climate-change skeptics; and a leader of a religious group could not be dismissed if she renounced faith midyear. (The administration usually grants an exception to sororities and fraternities.)

This policy has become an attack on the religious clubs. In the first year of implementation at Vanderbilt University, 14 campus religious communities—comprising about 1,400 Catholic, Evangelical, and Mormon students—lost their organizational status. This means they could not advertise or meet on campus. They are, in fact, silenced and ostracized by this policy based upon their religious doctrine. This movement is sweeping across the United States into all universities and colleges. All of the universities in the California state system have now adopted it. So it is only a matter of time, before the Missouri colleges and universities attempt to stop their students from meeting like-minded people on their college campus. HB 104 will hopefully stop this Theophobia from spreading to our schools and impacting our children.

Former board candidate: Koch, Martucci, Roberts- It's a way forward

(From Joplin resident and former Joplin R-8 Board of Education candidate Hal Robertson)

The Joplin School Board race is an interesting thing to watch these days. Having entered and exited the race, I’m still very interested in the outcome and, as in any election, there will be winners and losers. My largest fear is that the real losers could be Joplin voters, taxpayers and students.

The race is complicated this year for several reasons. First, there are three available seats, but they’re not equal. Two of the seats are for full, three-year terms but the third seat is for just one year. Voters will choose one of the three candidates vying for the one-year seat. The remaining three-year seats have some issues.

In the beginning, there were a total of four candidates for the three-year seats - I was one and had to drop out of the race. That left incumbent Anne Sharp, newcomer Jeff Koch and former Joplin Chief-of-Police, Lane Roberts. However, Roberts was recently appointed as the head of the Department of Public Safety for the State of Missouri and will be unable to serve on the Joplin Board of Education. To complicate matters further, his name will still appear on the ballot, since the candidates were finalized and certified at the end of January. This may cause some confusion, but it also provides a unique opportunity. More on that in a minute.

Another complication is the current state of affairs with our existing Board of Education. After spending millions upon millions of dollars they didn’t have (and then borrowing millions to pay back millions, with millions still owed), the district’s bank account is fading fast. When asked about this issue, the administration and a majority of the current Board start singing the theme song to the Lego Movie: Everything is Awesome!

Further complicating things is the recent State Audit Report on the Joplin Board of Education. A thorough read shows embarrassing mismanagement of funds and a general carelessness about the handling of resources and the law. In a very real sense, they got a “D” on their report card. When asked about this issue, the administration and the majority of the current Board continue singing the theme song to the Lego Movie: Everything is Awesome!

In addition, and contrary to popular spin, our overall academic scores are falling. While we can argue about the metrics of standardized tests and graduation, the simple fact is that Joplin Schools were ranked 373 out of 504 in Missouri last year. When asked why, the administration and the majority of the current Board keep singing Everything is Awesome!

Finally, there is the question of whether our current administration is doing the job they were hired to do and whether we can continue down the road we find ourselves on. When confronted with this question, you guessed it, Everything is Awesome!

For me, the worst part is that our incumbent candidate and two of the other candidates know the song by heart and sing it every chance they get. Just the tiniest bit of research tells me that everything is not awesome in Joplin schools and I believe, if we elect the singers, we lose.

That makes two candidates a clear choice for me: Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci. In the recent candidate forum held at MSSU, both Koch and Martucci displayed a working knowledge of our school system and a clear view of our current circumstances while the others waffled. These two have students in our schools and have jumped through all the parental hoops. They know what they’re talking about.

That brings us to the final three-year seat. If you believe, as I do, that we can’t afford to continue with the policies of the past and that 15 years is more than enough time for any person to sit on the board, we need an alternative. Believe it or not, that means we have to vote for - and elect - Lane Roberts. Yes, I just said he can’t serve, but electing Lane Roberts for the final three-year seat triggers a special provision in the election law. If an elected official cannot serve, the Board is required to name a replacement for a one-year term.

This one-year appointment accomplishes several things. First, the new board - if it includes Koch and Martucci - will look and vote very differently that our current board. Second, there is at least a chance that the appointee won’t know the words to Everything is Awesome. Finally, regardless of who is chosen, they are only guaranteed one year in office, limiting their long-term impact and influence.

Is it a loophole? Yes. Is it a political maneuver? Yes. Is it the only way to break the current cycle? While there are no guarantees, this looks like our last window of opportunity in 2015. Koch, Martucci and Roberts. It’s a way forward and the ticket I’ll be voting for on April 7.

Nancy Good prepared to spend $10,000+ to win one-year Joplin R-8 board seat

The Joplin Progress Committee, the same group that brought us Wallace-Bajjali, is doubling down on its efforts to elect Bright Futures USA Chairman Nancy Good to a one-year, unexpired seat on the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

The Committee contributed $1,750 to the Good campaign today, adding to the $1,750 it gave her March 12, for a combined total of $3,500.

In addition, the Missouri REALTORS PAC has spent $5,520.43 with at least some of that amount paying for a mass mailing.

Good reported $8,320.43 in contributions in her eight-days-before-election reported filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission, an amount that does not include today's Joplin Progress Committee contribution. Combined with that $1,750, Good has received at least $10,070.43 in contributions to this point.

Those who contributed to Good during the last four and a half weeks include the following:

Nancy Good $100
Jim Willis, Allgeier Martin and Associates $200
Committee to Elect Ron Richard $250
Red-Wood Development, Joplin, $100
Bo Lee, attorney, Joplin, $100
Jhan Hurn, Community Support Service of Southwest Missouri $100
Gary Burton, lobbyist, $100

Good had $2,800 left in her account before the arrival of today's $1,750 infusion.

Those who have contributed to the Joplin Progress Committee can be found at this link.

Electrical contractor hits Joplin R-8 with $7 million dollar bill for work on JHS

Fifteen days after a state audit of the Joplin R-8 School District said the R-8 Board and Administration had spent more than $3 million in their rush to open the new Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center on time, the district received a bill for another $7 million plus from the company that did the electrical work for the buildings.

With the $7 million, the total that Superintendent C. J. Huff's decision to accelerate construction over the spring and summer months of 2014 to get JHS open by the beginning of the school year now tops $10 million, without guarantee there are no more bills to come.

The bill, dated March 18, and addressed to Huff, Archie Smith of Universal Construction Company, the project manager, and architect Chad Greer of Corner, Greer and Associates, puts the blame for the extra costs squarely on the acceleration of the project.

In the bill, the P1 Group asks for $7,078,464, including $2,379,986 for "acceleration inefficiencies," $1,439,215 for "overtime inefficiencies," and $711,952 for "added supervision,"

The extra supervision was required when Universal, at Huff's request, gave the go-ahead to push the project to try to meet Huff's self-imposed deadline of having the school ready by opening day. P1 was forced to increase its staffing from 30 to 100, according to the bill.

"P1 was forced to work additional man hours due to the accelerated, disrupted, bi-furcated, out-of-sequence and delayed work method experienced throughout the project.

"In addition, P1 was not able to achieve its planned rate of efficiency due, in part, to the fact that when the work was accelerated and P1 was required to staff the project with up to 100 men working 8,200 man hours per week rather than the planned average crew size consisting of 30 men working 1,200 man hours per week and with a projected maximum crew size of 42 men working 1,680 man hours, the quality of the laborers diminished."

Interestingly enough, P1 notes in the letter accompanying its bill that it was not the low bidder for the project.

The $7 million is not covered by any of the $74 million in loans the district has taken since last August.

The documentation was included in a lawsuit filed by the school district today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The school district claims it does not owe P1 anything because "despite demand, P1 Group has failed to remedy its defective work and says that all of the costs claimed by P1 "were not included into an approved change order."

The two-count action claims breach of contract and asks for a declaratory judgment..

The district has hired the high-powered Polsinelli Law Firm of Kansas City to handle the lawsuit and is asking for a jury trial.

Joplin oncologist pleads guilty to dispensing illegal drugs to cancer patients

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

An oncologist who operated a clinic in Joplin, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to dispensing foreign, misbranded drugs to his cancer patients.

Robert L. Carter, 74, of Carthage, Mo., waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to a federal information that charges him with buying and selling misbranded prescription drugs.

Carter was the president and medical practitioner of Robert L. Carter, M.D., in Joplin, from Oct. 23, 1991, to April 2, 2012. As a medical oncologist, Carter provided care and treatment for patients with cancer and blood diseases. The practice purchased prescription drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, which were prescribed by Carter and were administered and dispensed through the practice. Reimbursement for the drugs and their administration was sought from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Tricare as well as other private health care benefit programs.

In April 2010, Dr. Carter began ordering prescription cancer drugs from Quality Specialty Products (QSP) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. QSP sold drugs – which had been obtained from foreign sources and which had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for distribution or use in the United States – to physicians and other health care providers in the United States.

QSP shipped misbranded and FDA-unapproved drugs to Carter at his practice in Joplin. These misbranded and FDA-unapproved drugs were administered to Carter’s cancer patients and Carter was reimbursed by government and private health insurance programs.

The labeling for the prescription drugs that Carter purchased from QSP was different than the versions of the drugs the FDA had approved for distribution in the United States. Among other things, they did not have labels bearing the symbol “Rx only,” and the labeling for some of the drugs was in one or more foreign languages. Some of the prescription drugs lacked mixing and use instructions in the English language.

Carter paid $971,854 in restitution today to Medicare, Tri-Care, Missouri Medicaid, Oklahoma Medicaid and Kansas Medicaid. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Carter also must forfeit to the government $1.2 million, of which $228,145 was paid today, representing the proceeds from his scheme. Carter is subject to a sentence of up to one year in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $100,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abram McGull, II. It was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.

Jennifer Martucci releases new ad

In her new advertisement, Joplin R-8 Board of Education candidate Jennifer Martucci calls for bringing spending under control and empowering teachers.

Joplin R-8 School Board doesn't want to hear you

It has not been easy for constituents to address the Joplin R-8 Board of Education since C. J. Huff arrived in town in 2008, a year in which Anne Sharp was serving as board president, the position she holds now.

Constituents have to register in advance, they have to speak on a subject that is on the agenda, and they are limited to three strictly timed minutes.

Apparently, even that is not good enough. Those who go to the "How to Address the Board of Education" page on the district website, can click on a link to get a form to fill out.

Unfortunately, when you click that link, you reach an error page.

Of course, that could be a metaphor for the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

Hearing delayed for former JHS teacher facing sex charges

The hearing for former Joplin High School communications arts teacher Jessica Low, 33, originally scheduled for this morning in Jasper County Circuit Court, has been postponed until Monday, April 27, at her request.

The court docket indicates that on that date either motions hearing will be held or Low will change her not guilty plea.

Low faces felony rape, sodomy, and pornography charges.

Low, 33, was arrested shortly after the school day ended at the 9-10 Center (the former Memorial Middle School) May 29. Low had taught at JHS for two years.

State auditor issues statement on death of Spence Jackson

(From State Auditor John Watson)

On behalf of the State Auditor’s Office, I want to ask citizens of Missouri to join us in keeping the family of Spence Jackson in your thoughts and prayers. Mr. Jackson was a respected spokesman for the Auditor’s office and long-time servant in state government. The work of the Missouri Auditor’s office will continue in this difficult time, but no doubt it will be with heavy heart.

John Watson, Missouri State Auditor

Police: Schweich spokesman died of self-inflicted gunshot wound

The Jefferson City Police Department is saying that Spence Jackson, 44, the media coordinator for the late State Auditor Thomas Schweich died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound:

Authorities said a family member called police to Jackson's apartment to check on him Sunday night after being unable to reach him. Officers entered the apartment, in the 900 block of Southwest Boulevard in Jefferson City, and found Jackson dead in his bedroom.

Police said there were no signs of forced entry or struggle. The investigation is open and an autopsy is planned for today, but authorities said their initial assessment indicates. Jackson killed himself.

Jefferson City Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker would not comment on the time of Jackson's death, nor of the location of the wound. He said the department was not releasing any more information until the 11:30 a.m. press conference.

Media reports: Schweich media coordinator Spence Jackson commits suicide

 Only slightly more than a month after the suicide of his boss, State Auditor Thomas Schweich, media sources are reporting that Schweich's media coordinator Spence Jackson, 44, has also killed himself.

From the KTVI report:

Jefferson City police say they won`t release any details until later Monday morning. An official with the Cole County Sheriff`s Department says they have no comment at this point. Jackson had been Schweich`s media director since May of 2011. He also held other key republican jobs in state government.

Jackson was critical of Schweich`s political adversaries and even called for the resignation of Missouri`s Republican Party Chairman John Hancock. That came after allegations that Hancock was behind an anti-Semitic ‘whisper campaign’ that may have led to Schweich committing suicide. Hancock has strongly denied that accusation.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Frazier Glenn Miller trial to be held in August, Miller denied internet access

An August 17 trial date will be set for Frazier Glenn Miller, Aurora, who is charged with murdering three people at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.

In this video, Miller can be heard making several outbursts during his arraignment. Miller, an avowed racist, is a former candidate for Seventh District Congress and caused problems in Joplin nine years ago when he distributed racist literature by throwing it into people's yards.

Former JHS teacher may plead guilty on sex charges Monday

A motions hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court for former Joplin High School communication arts teacher Jessica Low, who faces felony rape, sodomy, and pornography charges.

The online court docket indicates that Low may choose to change her plea at that time.

If there is no change in plea, motions will be heard and a trial date set. The case is being heard by Judge David Dally.

Low, 33, was arrested shortly after the school day ended at the 9-10 Center (the former Memorial Middle School) May 29. Low had taught at JHS for two years.

The probable cause statement is printed below:

I, Det. Chip Root, knowing that false statements on this form are punishable by law, state that the facts contained herein are true:

I have probable cause to believe that on May 25, 2014, at (address omitted), Jessica Lynn Low, a white female, committed one or more criminal offenses of statutory rape in the second degree, statutory sodomy in the second degree, furnishing pornographic material to a minor.

On May 28, 2014, it was reported by the Joplin School District that they had received an anonymous complaint that Jessica Low, a Joplin High School teacher, had sent nude images of herself to a Joplin 10th grade student, identified as 16-year-old "IF (date of birth omitted) via cellular telephone.

School district staff reported the incident to the Joplin Police Department. The affiant contacted IF's father regarding the complaint. The father admitted that he had witnessed the nude images of Jessica Low on his son's cell phone on May 25, 2014.

The father further stated that he had spoken to his son and his son's 16-year-old male friend about Low sending the nude pictures of herself. The 16-year-old friend is identified as "MS" (date of birth omitted) . MS volunteered that he had also observed the nude images of Low and had also had sexual intercourse with Low.

IF also admitted that he had witnessed the nude images of Low and also had sexual intercourse with Low. IF's father admitted that he had witnessed the nude images of Jessica Low on his son's cell phone while at their Joplin residence.

He advised he and his wife confronted Low by telephone and she subsequently admitted to sending the nude images to their son. The father further stated he recorded the images sent by Low using his cell phone, which was later examined with his permission. Several nude images of a white female were observed including photos of the subject's breasts and close-up photos of her vagina and some images depict the use of a sexual device.

On May 29, 2014, the affiant witnessed a child forensic interview at the Joplin Children's Center of IF. During the interview, IF declared that he had received 25 to 40 nude images of Jessica Low via cell phone text messages and admitted they had discussed meeting for sex. He stated the images depicted her breasts, as well as her vagina and said she was masturbating during the images. The child advised Low had sent him the images on Wednesday of last week, May 28, 2014.

On May 29, 2014, the affiant witnessed a child forensic interview of MS at the Joplin Children's Center. During the child's interview, MS disclosed on Monday, May 19, 2014, Low followed MS home from school and the two had vaginal intercourse on the living room floor of his residence. He said on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, Low again followed him home from school and she performed oral sex on him and they also had sexual intercourse a second time.

Billy Long: We must protect our children from runaway debt

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

The majority of our national debt is simply a result of unnecessary, wasteful spending that is focused on the “here and now” rather than the future. There has also been a lackluster desire to fix budget-busting problems with long-standing safety net programs.  

The debt is the total of yearly budget deficits over time and interest paid on borrowed funds from nations like China.  Thankfully, the House has proposed a budget to reduce the deficit, diminishing the need to borrow, and begin reversing the debt.

The House’s A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America would cut $5.5 trillion in spending with no tax increases, and balance the budget in less than 10 years.

This budget takes several approaches to relieve Americans of constant regulatory pressure and tax burdens.  It would repeal Obamacare, which has driven up health care costs through numerous tax provisions and driven down Americans’ full work potential due to employer mandates.  States would have more control to shape education, food stamp and Medicaid programs to meet their needs, benefiting all Americans.  This budget would simplify the tax code.  The budget would not only increase fiscal security but also strengthen national security.

Balancing the budget should be common sense.  Every American balances their budget to make ends meet.  Why should the federal government be any different?  The proposal is a solid step to reverse reckless spending.  I support this budget to strengthen our nation, to clean up our fiscal house for American families and protect our children from a runaway debt burden.

Hartzler: House budget is fiscally responsible, provides for strong defense

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

The House passed a budget resolution this week. Getting a budget passed is no small feat. It was an honor to work with my colleagues on both the Budget and Armed Services Committees to craft a budget that provides for a strong national defense, makes fiscally responsible choices, and balances, unlike President Obama’s budgets, which haven’t balanced since he took office.

By doing so, we have passed a budget that keeps Americans safe from the national security threats of today and from the fiscal threats from overspending and crushing debts. As we debated the various budget bills, I spoke on the House floor about the obligation of the federal government to provide for a strong national defense and the fiscal merits of this budget.

Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District is home to two major military installations, Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood. Having provided for adequate defense funding means our troops would not be subjected to the disastrous sequester cuts that would have been triggered under President Obama’s budget proposal. Given the looming cuts to personnel at Fort Leonard Wood and the A-10 at Whiteman, this budget’s defense allotment was particularly important both to Missouri’s Fourth and our national security.

Armed Services Committee Chairman, Mac Thornberry even commented on the need for such funds stating,“Congresswoman Hartzler was instrumental in helping to secure the funds needed to ensure our military is adequately funded to face the threats of today and prepare for those of tomorrow. I sincerely thank her for efforts to keep America secure.”

The budget resolution lays out a plan on how Congress will appropriate money for the various functions of the federal government. Both the House and Senate pass their own versions, and then the two chambers will get together to compromise on a unified resolution. For the first time since I have been your Representative, we enjoy Republican majorities in both chambers, making compromise on a final budget easier to accomplish. Once we get a final budget, we can begin appropriating the funds needed in various areas of government. One positive provision in our budget is a provision called “reconciliation.” This is a potential option to pass special bills in an expedited manner. I am hopeful this will allow us to get some major legislation to the president’s desk this year.

Cleaver: Speaker Boehner was right; this bill strengthens Medicare

(From Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

This week, I received call after call on a certain bill coming before the House for a vote. Some callers asked me to vote for the bill. Some callers asked with me to vote against it. To those doctors, nurses, and senior citizens who took the time to call me and my staff, I appreciate hearing your thoughts, and I do value your messages. To the hospital officials and health center advisors who came in to meet with me, thank you for your time and your insights. At times like these, I know it is important to listen to all sides and sentiments on an issue before making a decision.

My decision, ultimately, was to vote yes. Yes on a bill that will help seniors, doctors, hospitals, health centers, and children in need. Yes to solve a problem that has plagued us perennially.

The bill was H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. It replaces the SGR, or Sustainable Growth Rate formula. What is SGR? It’s the way the government tallies up how much to pay doctors who treat patients with Medicare. The Sustainable Growth Rate was poorly named, because in truth it was the opposite of sustainable. For the first few years, it worked well enough.

Soon it was clear that SGR was broken. If Congress did not act, then doctors wouldn’t be paid fairly. That would undermine Medicare. That would endanger care for seniors. Every year, Congress would throw its hands up in the air and put a patch on the perennial problem, passing another “doc fix.” Imagine if you tried that at your job, or if your child did it at school! Seventeen times, over the past twelve years, we have kicked the can down the road. Medicare deserves more than a band-aid fix, but that is all Congress was giving. No more.

This bill puts those problems behind us. This bill takes the old, broken formula, and replaces it with a new formula that will reward value, ensure the proper payments to doctors, and improve the quality of care for patients.
This bill is an example of true bipartisanship and good governance—so rare these days. Both Democrats and Republicans came together to pass this bill overwhelmingly, by a vote of 392-37. And if you can believe it, I agreed with words that Speaker John Boehner spoke yesterday about this very bill:

“Today, the House will pass legislation that’ll make real progress in strengthening Medicare. This is a bill that will provide better health care for seniors and real savings for taxpayers. The bill will permanently replace the so-called ‘doc fix’ budget gimmick with a system that’s more stable that rewards quality and innovation in the delivery of our health care. It will help ensure that seniors have access to their doctor, and put in place a stronger Medicare program to aid every American who are trying to care for their elderly parents.”

I am not afraid to say it: Speaker Boehner was right. And the bill includes other ways to help our public health and well-being.

This bill extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years. CHIP helps 93,000 children in Missouri afford medical care.
The bill extends funding for Community Health Centers by $7.2 billion for two years. There are three community health centers in Missouri’s Fifth District: Health Care Coalition of Lafayette County, Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, and Swope Health Services. At their thirteen locations in our community, these health centers serve over 60,000 underserved patients and communities.

There are also bipartisan provisions to strengthen Medicare’s ability to fight waste, fraud, and abuse, and to build on existing program integrity policies. There are funds that will help rural hospitals serve their patients. There are funds to help increase the number of primary care doctors and dentists in communities that need them. There are funds for outreach programs to provide help and guidance to new mothers, and to families with children who have special health-care needs.

You may say, this is all well and good, but how is it all paid for? Are we raising the cost of Medicare? The bill was paid for with savings from providers and from beneficiaries. Ninety-eight percent of beneficiaries are unaffected. The vast majority of the savings from beneficiaries come from the very top two percent of Medicare enrollees, beginning in 2018. The only retirees affected by the provision are single people who make more than $133,500 a year, and couples who make more than $267,000 a year. The rest of the savings from beneficiaries comes from a modest Medigap reform. Believe it or not, as a result, the Medigap premiums will actually be lower!

Ultimately, this bill was the right way to solve a really tough problem. This will help our seniors and children in need, the doctors who treat them, the hospitals and health centers where they get their care, and children around the country.

Friday, March 27, 2015

State auditors unable to review more than $4 million in post-tornado Joplin R-8 donations

The recently issued state audit of the Joplin R-8 School District does not mention the millions of dollars in donations the district received following the May 22, 2011, tornado.

There is no hint of mishandling of donations in the audit report, something that Board President Anne Sharp stressed during the candidate forum Monday night at Missouri Southern State University.

"The state audit showed that we had not mishandled anybody's donations or anybody's money," Sharp said, answering a question about the district's financial condition.

The lack of any finding of wrongdoing is also noted on the district's website by Superintendent C. J. Huff. "We are also pleased to report that there were no findings related to the significant number of donations given to Joplin Schools and Joplin Schools Foundation," Huff said.

What neither Sharp nor Huff mention is that auditors were unable to examine documentation for more than $4 million worth of donations because those donations were made to the Joplin R-8 Foundation, an independent entity over which the auditors had no jurisdiction.

Administration sources tell the Turner Report that all donations that were earmarked for specific purposes were sent to the Foundation and then were returned to the school district where much of the money was placed in the general fund.

Donations that were not specifically earmarked, for the most part did not go through the Foundation.

Undoubtedly, one of the questions that would have been asked had the late State Auditor Thomas Schweich had been in the Joplin High School cafeteria to hold the public release of the audit earlier this month would have been if there had been any mishandling of the donations.

Schweich, with his reputation for honesty, would likely have said that no wrongdoing had been found, but his team had been unable to examine at least three-quarters of the donations that were sent the school's way.

The Joplin R-8 Foundation's Form 990 document filed for July 2011 through June 2012 shows $4,257,009 in donations.

What some of that money was used for (not all was spent during that time period) is detailed in this fashion:

-$40,000 Joplin Schools technology
-$34,700 Major Saver Distribution to Joplin Public Schools
-$44,292 Bright Futures
-$79,035 Joplin Schools Snack Pack
-$35,292 Elementary school percussion instruments
-$1,845,915 Joplin R-8 School District miscellaneous needs

Similarly, the auditors did not have the authority to examine Bright Futures USA documents, since that is also an independent entity, allegedly not connected with the school district.

Billy Long, Hartzler urge Nixon, Koster to join immigration lawsuit

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) and Missouri colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives today sent a letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster imploring them to join the lawsuit brought by the State of Texas and 25 other states against the president for his unconstitutional executive actions on immigration.

Congresswoman Hartzler joined Representatives Sam Graves, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Jason Smith, and Ann Wagner in sending the letter.

“The law-abiding citizens of Missouri deserve to be represented in this matter,” Hartzler said. “It is imperative that Missouri join with the 26 other states in this lawsuit and allow justice to be served for all Missourians. Not only were the president’s actions an affront to the separation of powers, but they also displayed a willful disregard of the laws already in place. Missourians deserve to be represented in this case and to seek redress for the President’s unconstitutional actions.”

Congresswoman Hartzler represents Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves on the House Agriculture, Armed Services, and Budget Committees.

“The president’s actions were never authorized by law and will cause immense damages to the State of Missouri and its citizens.”

“We share a responsibility to uphold the Constitution of the United States and a duty to represent law-abiding Missouri citizens. Failing to take action to stop these harmful orders is a dereliction of those duties…”

Costa Bajjali on Joplin lawsuit: I intend to fully defend myself

David Wallace is still nowhere to be found, but his former partner in Wallace-Bajjali Development Partners, Costa Bajjali is fighting back.

Bajjali told Houston television station KHOU he has not seen the City of Joplin's lawsuit, which alleges fraud and says Wallace-Bajjali did not help "grow or rebuild Joplin in any way."

Earlier this week, the I-Team caught up with Costa Bajjali after a hearing on an unrelated lawsuit.

Bajjali insisted most of the money paid by the city was used to reimburse expenses related to millions of dollars in grants and tax credits Wallace Bajjali helped secure for Joplin. The city values those grants and tax credits at just under $24 million; Bajjali puts the total at $50 million.

He also denied his company was to blame for the lack of progress on proposed redevelopment projects.

Bajjali denied the city's allegations of fraud, gross negligence and willful misconduct, but refused to comment when the I-Team pressed him further.

In a statement today, Bajjali said he has not seen Joplin's lawsuit, but added, "I do fully intend to defend myself in response to any unfounded allegations asserted by any party."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Elvis Presley comments on City of Joplin's lawsuit against Wallace-Bajjali

The City of Joplin filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against former master developer Wallace-Bajjali on the same day that David Wallace filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, drawing this commentary from the late Elvis Presley.

Jurors say life in prison for murderer of MSSU coach

The jury recommended life in prison with parole for Jeffrey Bruner after convicting him on first degree murder and armed criminal action charges in connection with the November 1, 2013, shooting death of Missouri Southern State University offensive line coach Derek Moore in front of the Northstar 14 Theater.

Jurors did not buy the idea being pushed by the defense that Bruner was out of his mind because his estranged wife, who was on a date with Moore at the theater, had had numerous affairs during their marriage and had driven him into killing Moore.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 18.

The video is from KODE News.

Medical school coming to Joplin

You have seen that headline before during the days when it was referred to as Speck's Folly, but this time the money is there and the medical school is coming to Joplin.

From KODE's report:

The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences' College of Osteopathic Medicine has been granted permission to begin developing a school in Joplin. KCU anticipates 150 students per year passing through the new school. The facility would be a collaborative effort, involving Mercy Hospital Joplin, Freeman Health System, the City of Joplin and other local organizations.

Freeman has pledged a multi-million dollar gift to help develop the campus, along with committing to provide residency and training opportunities for students of the Joplin campus. Officials with Mercy have offered to donate the property and buildings that served as the hospital's temporary facility following the May 2011 tornado.

Joplin Progress Committee pours $3,500 into Sharp, Good campaigns

The people who gave Joplin Wallace-Bajjali are doing their best to keep C. J. Huff in power.

An eight-days-before-election report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows that the Joplin Progress Committee contributed $3,500 to two pro-Huff candidates for the Joplin R-8 Board of Education, Board President Anne Sharp and Bright Futures USA Chairman Nancy Good, with each candidate getting $1,750.

The Committee initially had endorsed three candidates, Sharp, Good, and former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts, but Roberts has said he will not serve after Gov. Jay Nixon appointed
him as head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety. The committee also sent Roberts a check for $1,750, but he returned it on March 20.

The contributions to the candidates were made March 12, according to the report.

The committee received $1,500 over the last four and a half weeks, with contributions from the following

Charles Kuehn, Joplin, Four State Homes $200
Jane Cage, Joplin, CART chairman $100
Jerrod Hogan, Anderson Engineering $100
James Hicklin, Abbey Title Company $100
TroJen Properties LLC, Joplin $100
Michael Wiggins, Webb City, Granny Shaffer's Restaurant, $100
Fred Osborn, Carl Junction, Mercy Hospital, $100
Gary Pulsipher, Joplin, Mercy Hospital $100
Veri Properties, Carl Junction $100
Dr. Lance Beshore, Joplin, Leggett & Platt $100
Sharon Beshore, Joplin $100
Gary Brown, Joplin, BKD LLP $100
The Doris Carlin Team, Inc. Joplin $100
Michael Pence, Joplin, $100

The contributions may not be over. The report says the committee still has $3,829.63 in the bank and people who would probably be happy to contribute more.

At its 40-days-before-election filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, the Joplin Progress Committee reported the following contributions:

Brad Beecher, Carl Junction, Empire District Electric Company $100
Clifford Wert, Webb City $100
Ronald Getz, Joplin, Empire District Electric Company $100
Karen Plott, Carl Junction, Choice Marketing $100
T. J. Franz and Associates, Webb City, $100
Henry Robertson Jr. Joplin $100
Troy Hill, Joplin BKD LLP $100
Cynthia Schwab Joplin $500
Rodney Spriggs, Joplin, Vintage Stock, $100
Sara Newman, Joplin, $100

C. J. Huff's plan- Anne Sharp wins even if she loses

When C. J. Huff first learned that Gov. Jay Nixon had appointed former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts as head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, he breathed a sigh of relief.

Roberts would not be able to serve on the board of education so Board President Anne Sharp would remain on the board and he would control at least four and possibly five seats on the board, depending on what happens in the three-way race between Melinda Campbell, Nancy Good, and Jennifer Martucci.

At that point, it never occurred to Huff that Lane Roberts could still win, though he has said he would not be able to serve. By the time, Nixon made the appointment, it was too late for Roberts to have his name removed from the ballot. The ballots had already been printed and were already at the Jasper County Clerk's office.

Then Huff begin hearing that more and more people were talking about voting for Roberts anyway and forcing the new board to have to appoint a replacement for Roberts.

At that point, sources in Huff's inner circle told the Turner Report, he began researching the possibility of  simply allowing Anne Sharp to continue on the board if Koch and Roberts are elected. The same plan, of course, would not be used if Sharp and Roberts were elected. Koch would have zero chance of being appointed.

At this point, the sources say, Huff believes he can keep Anne Sharp on the board no matter how the voting turns out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Joplin teachers approve collective bargaining by a wide margin

Joplin R-8 teachers, tired of having no voice in the school system, voted overwhelmingly today for collective bargaining and they want it done by one group.

Today's election was the first of two. In the next step, the teachers will decide if they want to be represented by Joplin NEA or by the Joplin Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the Missouri State Teachers Association.

Out of 216 who voted, 162 voted to be represented by one organization and 46 wanted both organizations, while eight opted not to be represented and supposedly continue to "meet and confer" as Board President Anne Sharp said during the candidate forum at Missouri Southern State University Monday night.

The teachers needed only 109 votes, more than 50 percent, and topped that by a wide margin.

Accused killer's wife: I slept around

During testimony today in the Jeffrey Bruner trial, his estranged wife, Michelle, admitted to having affairs with a number of men during their marriage and said her husband knew about the affairs.

The defense says Dawn Bruner's infidelity is what led to her husband losing control and shooting Missouri Southern State University offensive line coach Derek Moore to death at the Northstar 14 Theater November 1, 2013.

From the KODE report:

After the prosecution rested, the defense called Bruner's estranged wife, Michelle, to the stand. They made it a point to focus on her infidelity in the couple's marriage. After this, they timelined the events of the night leading up to the shooting.

The defense then displayed a Facebook photo of Michelle and the victim, Derek Moore, taken that night outside the theatre. It was at that point that Michelle became emotional and began to cry. Bruner also became very emotional when the picture was shown, breaking down into tears.

Later on in the day, the defense called Jeffrey Bruner to take the stand. When they asked him about the same photo he said quote "I couldn't understand it, I couldn't understand where it came from. I was hurt, I was angry." The prosecution cross-examined Bruner about his involvement in the shooting. Bruner then said quote, "It felt unreal, like a dream sequence."

Jasper County youth offenders being sent elsewhere after failed inspection

Jasper County youth offenders are being sent to Greene County after the detention center failed a recent inspection.

From the report by KOAM's Lisa Olliges:

The detention is old and creates maintenance challenges for Jasper county.

It failed a recent fire inspection forcing repairs.

Jasper county commissioner Darieus Adams says, "We needed to do some adjustments to the heat and air and to the hot water system. We had to fix a couple door locks and had to fix a couple smoke detectors to bring it back into compliance."

But it's not capable of keeping offenders overnight. So juvenile officers, often stretched thin for resources, drive youth to the Greene county juvenile detention center in Springfield,

Local police say it won't impact how they deal with offenders. But it would be easier to have a facility here.

Pineville sex offender pleads guilty to child porn charge

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

 A Pineville, Mo., man who is a registered sex offender pleaded guilty in federal court today to producing child pornography.

Jeremy Wayne Law, 30, of Pineville, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to attempting to use a minor to produce child pornography. Law, who was previously convicted of sexual abuse with a minor in New York, is a registered sex offender.

By pleading guilty today, Law admitted that he communicated via text messages with a 16-year-old female, identified as “T.C.,” who resided in New York. Investigators found pornographic images and videos of T.C. on Law’s computer. Law also admitted that he had twice engaged in sexual intercourse with T.C. in a vehicle and that he had sent her an image of his genitalia.

Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the court is requested to impose a sentence of at least 25 years in federal prison without parole and not more than 35 years in federal prison without parole. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abram McGull, II. It was investigated by the FBI, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force, the Northwest Arkansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the McDonald County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Hamburg, N.Y., Police Department.

Former Joplin master developer files for bankruptcy

Saying that he owes between $10 million and $50 million, former Joplin master developer David Wallace, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Tuesday in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.

In the petition, Wallace lists 407 creditors including the City of Joplin, the City of Amarillo, his father, David Wallace Sr., his ex-wife Kathy Wingo, his former business partner Costa Bajjali, former employees Gary Box and Raymond Braswell, Gryphon Tenant, Joplin; Karen Love, Neosho; Linda S. Teeter Insurance Company, Joplin, Ness Design Architects, Joplin, Stouffer Communications, Neosho, Tracey Martin, Martin Law Office, Joplin; USA Print, Joplin; Wallace-Bajjali, B&S Construction, Oronogo, and attorney Thomas Taylor, the court-appointed receiver who is suing him to recover money for investors in the BizRadio scheme.

Wallace says he has between $500,000 and $1 million in assets.

The filing took place on the same day a status hearing was held in the receiver's action against Wallace and Bajjali.

Defense: Wife's affairs led Bruner to shoot MSSU coach

Testimony began Tuesday in the first degree murder trial of Jeffrey Bruner for the November 1, 2013 shooting of MSSU offensive line coach Derek Moore.

From KOAM's Jordan Aubey's report:

Prosecutors say while Jeffrey Bruner was on his way to Joplin's Hollywood Theaters, he first dropped off his daughter, Alexis. The 16-year-old daughter testified in court that her dad told her she probably wouldn't want to see him shoot someone, also saying that she won't have a mom or dad by the end of the night, and that he was going to jail.

Alexis testified that Jeffrey Bruner texted her while he was at the movie theater, asking what type of clothes her mom, Michelle, was wearing.

Witnesses who were at the theater that night testified that Bruner shot Derek Moore several times. Prosecutors say Moore's lung was bruised by the bullets, his diaphragm was torn, a major artery was broken, and his spinal cord was damaged, leaving him paralyzed while dying. Witnesses say while Moore was not able to move, Bruner kicked him several times.

But Bruner's defense says Bruner felt Moore was reaching for a weapon, and that Bruner shot in self defense. Bruner's defense claims Bruner had no intention of harming anyone. The defense also says Bruner suffered a mental defect, acute stress disorder, from all of his wife's affairs.

Witnesses testified that after Bruner shot Moore, Bruner said, "They posted it all over Facebook. What's a guy supposed to do?"

C. J. Huff: I authorized Anne Sharp campaign video

Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff told KZRG Tuesday night that he had given Board President Anne Sharp permission to have her public relations team shoot a campaign video during a teachers' professional development meeting February 20.

Superintendent CJ Huff tells News Talk KZRG everything was by the book.

"The Board policy stipulates that if somebody wants to shoot video or take pictures on our school campus, somebody from the outside, they need to seek permission from the Superintendent, being me, and Annie did that."

The fact that neither Huff nor Sharp, who refused to comment to KZRG, see any ethical problems with shooting this video with a captive audience of teachers, says a lot about both of them.

Huff also told KZRG that the meeting was not staged for the campaign video, noting that it had been on the calendar for months.

As usual, this is a case of Huff revealing a portion of the truth, but omitting relevant details. Huff was the one who sent all employees an e-mail talking about the important announcements he was going to make. More than $12,000 was spent as "incentives" for teachers for this meeting. The teachers were then used as a backdrop for a campaign video. 

Knowing that Huff and Sharp were doing this was likely to keep any employee from protesting since we have seen the lengths Huff is willing to go to in order to punish those who have crossed him.

Potential for large hail, damaging winds in Joplin area tonight

(From the National Weather Service)

552 AM CDT WED MAR 25 2015












State audit criticizes Koster's conflicts of interest

(From the Missouri State Auditor's office)

Missouri Deputy State Auditor Harry Otto released the audit of the Missouri Attorney General's office (AGO) Tuesday.

In the areas audited, the overall performance of this entity was Fair.

The AGO lacks adequate policies and procedures to identify and address certain conflicts of interest. The attorney general recently acknowledged accepting campaign contributions and other gifts from companies and/or their attorneys and lobbyists, that were under investigation by the AGO. Accepting items from individuals or entities while the AGO has legal actions pending against them, or is investigating them for potential legal action, gives the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In Nov. 2014, the attorney general announced he will no longer take contributions from people or companies under investigation by his office, either currently or in the previous 90 days, or from lobbyists or attorneys representing those individuals or companies; and will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists. As of Feb. 2015, the AGO has yet to adopt this directive in a formal policy.

The attorney general provided salary increases to over 200 employees during the period Jan. 2012 to August 2014. These increases represented an annual total increase in salaries of $1.2 million annually and averaged nine percent per raise. Of 42 raises reviewed, 18 raises (43 percent) totaling $67,262 do not appear reasonable.

To read the full report, visit: http://www.auditor.mo.gov/AuditReports/AudRpt2.aspx?id=59

Listening session set for Southwest Missouri Democrats

(From Southwest Missouri Democrats)

Southwest Missouri Democrats will hold their monthly breakfast on Saturday, March 28th, at 9:30 a.m. The breakfast will be served in the meeting room of the Laborers Local 319 at 2001 Empire, Joplin, MO 64804, where the Southwest Missouri Democrats offices are located. The meal will be potluck.Guests are asked to bring a breakfast casserole, fruit, or baked good.

The program will include a listening session. All local Democrats are welcome to express their opinions about an array of political topics and goals for our organization as we move forward to 2016.

Volunteer opportunities and upcoming events will be announced to the group. For more information contact Krista Stark at swmodems@gmail.com or 417-437-8443.

Stacey Newman: House GOP has no regard for the poor

(From Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis)

Last Wednesday the House debated over 3 hours on new restrictions for a federally funded program designed for the extreme poor in Missouri.
 SB 24 , "The Strengthening Families Act"— would reduce lifetime eligibility for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, currently at 5 years (Senate wants a 4-year limit, House wants a 2-1/2-year limit).  Over 20,000 Missourians (two thirds are children) would lose federal benefits (averaging only $234 a month for a family of three).
I stood at my microphone for the entire 3 hours - as did many of my Democratic colleagues - yet only a few of us were allowed to speak.  I was not recognized to debate.
 We were outraged that the House GOP priority has absolutely no regard for the poorest of Missourians, many of whom are severely physical or learning disabled and many of whom are victims of domestic violence. 90% of families on TANF have 3 or fewer children and most are single mothers.  
We know that poverty and hunger are widespread in Missouri: 1 of 4 families with children is food insecure.  The income guideline for TANF is about half the federal poverty level. So, what is the reason to punish those who are most in crisis?
Rep. Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton), the House bill sponsor said: "Are 100% of people on TANF truly needy?  Let these people out of their butterfly net and let them go on their way."
She also said, when inquired of on the floor, that "additional TANF monies slated to go to state 'Alternatives for Abortion' programs would lower out of wedlock pregnancies".
We are having trouble understanding that.
Rep. Marcia Haefner (R-South St. Louis County) said: "Strong families include 2 parent families who can earn a living. Two parent families is the purpose of TANF."
Rep. Sue Allen (R- Town & Country) said:  "There are many other programs and places for young pregnant women to go.  They can become independent and rise out of poverty."
What a simple solution.
Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston): "I am the poster child of this bill.  I was 15 and pregnant. In my heart, the system keeps people from rising to their potential."
I keep wondering...why do Democrats who represent suburban/urban areas care more about those in poverty than do legislators outstate who have higher populations of poor in their counties?
 SB24 passed the House 115-44 (I voted NO).  It will now have one final vote in the House and Senate before reaching the governor's desk. 
Last Thursday the House passed HB104, the "Student Freedom of Association Act", by avote of 117-38 (I voted NO).  Democratic Representatives Butler, Curtis and Harris voted YES with the GOP majority.
HB104 — would prohibit institutions of higher learning from taking actions denying benefits to religious student associations based on requirements that leaders or members adhere to the association's "sincerley held religious beliefs".
Again, more than 10 Democrats, including myself, stood at our microphones for over 1 1/2 hours but were denied the chance to speak by Speaker Diehl.
HB104 would bar the University of Missouri system from enforcing it's "all comers" non-discrimination policy, which mandates that all students who attend the university must be welcomed into all recognized student groups.
HB104 would give religious student groups the rights of churches while at the same time receiving state subsidies.  HB104 would force Missouri colleges to give discriminatory student groups fees paid by all students, even if that student group bars LGBT people, specific religions or races from joining.
HB104 would prevent a Missouri university from any recourse if a religious student group was caught chanting offensive discriminatory terms, similiar to the recent SAE fraternity situation at Oklahoma University.
In the last decade as universities have expanded their nondiscrimination policies to include sexual orientation, religious groups such as the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Christian Legal Society have challenged these policies on the basis of "religious freedom".
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that requiring officially recognized student groups to comply with a school's nondiscrimination policy did not violate a student religious organization's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and expressive association. Legal Society v. Martinez 130 S.Ct. 2971 (2010).
Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), an attorney, wrote in his newsletter:  "For 2 days, the opposition twisted it's talking points and pretzeled the debate to make the bill about repulsive or objectional beliefs. Our First Amendment rights to speech, assembly and association, endowed by our Creator, are not subject to government approval.  No Missourians should be discriminated against for exercising their right to religious association."
The raucous debate often neglected one point: Religion and public money do not mix.  
Religious student groups should NOT be allowed to use public money and resources to push their agendas and tenets.