Monday, August 31, 2015

Frazier Glenn Miller after guilty verdict: The fat lady just sang

The jury did not agree with Frazier Glenn Miller's argument that he was "right, just, and moral" in killing three people at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.

The jury took only only two hours to find the Aurora man guilty. When the verdict was announced, Miller said, "I guess the fat lady just sang."

The penalty phase begins tomorrow morning.

Could another editor have won the Pulitzer for the Globe?

In my post on the Joplin Globe a few minutes ago, I mentioned that some were touting the newspaper for the Pulitzer Prize three years ago for its tornado coverage.

In the back of my mind, I recalled that after I posted a video of the Tuscaloosa newspaper winning the Pulitzer for the coverage of that city's tornado, a reader left a lengthy comment, exploring the question- Would the Joplin Globe have won the Pulitzer Prize with a different editor, other than Carol Stark at the helm?

The three replacement editors the reader suggested were former Globe Editor Ed Simpson, former Carthage Press Editor and Neosho Daily News Publisher Rick Rogers, and me.

While I had some mild disagreement with some of the reader's psychoanalysis of me, I thought it was interesting then and remains so. How would the Globe have been different the past three years with any of the three editors, or with someone else running the show?

The comment is printed below:

I was not surprised that the Joplin Globe did not win the Pulitzer Prize. Globe employees obviously went through a lot just to keep the paper coming out every day after the tornado, but there was a certain spark missing in its coverage. Since you posted the story a couple of days ago about some expert thinking the Globe might receive a Pulitzer, I have been thinking about how the Globe might have done in the competition with one of the three big journalism egos of the past 20 years as editor instead of Carol Stark.

Yes, I have been wondering if the Joplin Globe would have had their Pulitzer with Ed Simpson, Rick Rogers, or you, Randy Turner, as the newsroom leader.

I can almost guarantee that all three of you believe that you would have brought home the prize.

Ed Simpson would not have let the Kansas City Star come in and outshine the Globe on the daily coverage and on the book. The Globe with Simpson in charge had a knack for investigative reporting that simply has not been done since May 22- except by the Star. Where is the money going? Simpson wouldn't have let his reporters accept the word of officials and allowed his reporters to regurgitate press releases. That same attitude would probably have kept him from getting the Pulitzer. Simpson's Joplin Globe never had anyone who could capture the voice of the community, the same problem the current Globe has.

A team led by Rick Rogers would have been in the running the whole way. At Neosho, Rogers showed what he could do when breaking news hit. The Daily was all over the church shooting and the ice storm, just to name two big stories. Rogers always inspired loyalty in the people who worked for him and he was not afraid to jump in and help out. Though he was a publisher and not an editor at Neosho, my guess is he would have followed the same pattern had he been in charge of the Globe. The design would have been far superior and the current Globe did a pretty good job with design.

You, Mr. Turner, are the wild card, At Carthage, your newspapers always looked like they had 20 reporters working for them instead of just a few. Unlike Rick and Ed, you always had a way of speaking directly to the reader and you always had a knack for hiring the best writers. You, like Rick, would have jumped right in and written stories and columns. Having you leading the Joplin Globe would never have worked. You were always at your best when you were competing with the Globe and the local TV stations and your pattern over the years has been to shy away from any type of challenge like being editor of a larger newspaper. You do have Ed's knack for investigative reporting combined with Rick's eye for the features, but you lack, unless you had Rick or Ron Graber working with you, the design eye that it would take to get the Pulitzer.

Could the three of you working together have accomplished it? Not a chance, because the three of you could never work together.

My final thoughts:

Could Ed Simpson have won the Pulitzer? No, he has the brains, but not the heart.

Could Randy Turner have won the Pulitzer? Maybe as a columnist; there has been no one better at writing thought provoking and touching columns over the years, but you could never win it as Globe editor. Give you some of your top reporters from the Press days and let you compete with a smaller staff and I can see a Rocky-like ending.

Could Rick Rogers have won the Pulitzer? He had the knack for rising to the occasion on every occasion, an ability to inspire his reporters, links into the news pipeline at Missouri Southern, and unlike you, Randy, he is much better dealing with the general public.

Rick Rogers would have won the Pulitzer.

A long-time observer of local news

The people of Joplin should sue the Globe for non-support

It seems hard to believe now, but in the early months of 2012, national publications were speculating that the Joplin Globe was going to win the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in journalism, for its coverage of the tornado.

Those people obviously had not read the newspaper.

The people who work at the Globe suffered just like the rest of the city after the May 22, 2011 tornado. Some lost their houses; some lost loved ones.

The Globe staff continued to put out the newspaper day after day, providing a valuable source of information. The reporters were ready to rise to the challenge of covering the number one story in the nation.

Unfortunately, for a newspaper that had a team capable of delivering superlative coverage in the wake of the biggest disaster to ever hit this city, while the reporters were ready, upper management and the newsroom leadership never sounded the charge.

For the first several days, obviously it was a major task to simply publish the newspaper, but even then, the Globe failed to serve as the voice of the community. It ceded that responsibility to Chad Elliot, Josh Marsh and the people at KZRG, people who suffered as much as anyone in Joplin, but stayed on air, 24/7, not only providing a lifeline to a community in desperate need of one, but also establishing the Zimmer stations as the go-to source for news about the Joplin Tornado.

As it became apparent that the rebuilding of Joplin was going to be the major story for the next several years, it was vital for the community to have a news source that kept an eye on the millions of dollars that were coming into the city.

This did not just mean seeing which businesses were going to rebuild and which were gone for good, though those stories were important. It also meant keeping a closer eye than ever on the people who made the decisions. It also meant being ready to pursue stories which might not reflect well on our leaders.

In that, the Globe has failed miserably and continues to do so. And not just with its coverage of government, but also with how it has handled major stories involving charities and businesses.

When the Globe was told that the Salvation Army had received millions of dollars in tornado relief money and had spent little of it in Joplin, the editors decided not to pursue the story. The source took it to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Globe also ignored early information that the Home Depot building had only been built to withstand 85 mile per hour winds. That story went to the Kansas City Star. When a Joplin woman who lost her husband and two children in the tornado filed a lawsuit against Home Depot (which locals found out about initially by reading the Turner Report), the Globe's Facebook site featured dozens of comments saying that the woman was trying to cash in on the loss of her loved ones. How could you blame Home Depot, they asked. Perhaps some of those people might have thought differently about the lawsuit had they been aware of the information that was in the Kansas City Star.

The Globe served as a cheering section for anything that was suggested by former City Manager Mark Rohr, former R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer.

No one ever questioned just how the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team was formed. Rohr, in his book Miracle of the Human Spirit, wrote that it consisted of an informal group that had already been meeting. The first public meeting of CART was held after this informal group's leadership and top members had already been selected.

The Globe went along willingly with the notion that all of the ideas for projects came from a bulletin board at a CART meeting that anyone could put suggestions on. With that many suggestions, how is it that nearly all of CART's ideas were ones that the original CART members had been promoting, for the most part unsuccessfully, for years?

Where was the investigative reporting when the idea of hiring a master developer was first suggested? Where did this idea originate? We know now that it came from David Wallace of Wallace Bajjali.

Why did the Globe never look into the background of Wallace Bajjali? I only needed a few minutes to find enough information to let me know that the city was asking for trouble. The Globe accepted Mark Rohr's word that he had checked into the company's background and he would "stake his reputation on it."

As more and more information was discovered about Wallace Bajjali, the Globe remained silent. It took the master developer's departure for the Globe to suddenly begin writing about how awful Wallace Bajjali was.

The same plan was used in the Globe's coverage of the R-8 School District. Consider the following approaches taken by the area's newspaper of record:

-Ignored a government scientific report that showed there was never any need to demolish East Middle School and keep students and staff in a warehouse building for three years.

-Failed to report CFO Paul Barr's statement on $8 million of "might-as-well" spending that was used for unnecessary athletic items at Joplin High School.

-Never called C. J. Huff to task for failing to tell the public that an employee in his technology department admitted to having pornographic photos of 10 Joplin High School girls on his laptop. The official statement from Huff said the employee had no contact with students.

-Went along with Huff's litany of excuses for why so many teachers were leaving the district. With 597 teachers in the district and more than 400 leaving in the last four years, even with some of the teachers replacing others who left a year or two earlier, it is still obvious that more than half of the teachers who were in the district four years ago have departed.

-Overlooked Huff's boorish behavior toward board members during meetings.

-Immediately began to criticize new board members who were having to deal with actions bordering on obstruction that were done by the previous board.

The most egregious violations of the Globe's responsibility as a watchdog for the public interest came in the way the newspaper dealt with investigations conducted by outside sources, especially the Loraine Report and the recently-issued state audit of the City of Joplin.

When the Loraine Report was issued, the Globe, admirably most thought, went to court to battle for the release of 10 missing pages from the report, and also for the exhibits and sworn statements that accompanied the report.

After winning its court battle, the Globe concentrated on portions having to do with fired City Manager Mark Rohr and never used its vast resources (at least compared to other news outlets in the Joplin area) to uncover the story. The newspaper provided more space to Rohr and Joplin businessman Charlie Kuehn to refute the report than it gave to the report itself.

While doing research for my latest book, I was surprised to discover that the first mention of possible conflicts of interest regarding Councilman Mike Woolston was in the pages of the Globe. The subject was broached during a Joplin City Council meeting. Woolston denied the allegation and the mention was buried on an inside page, deep into a lengthy council write up that had begun on page one.

Woolston's alleged misdeeds were pushed aside by the Globe after its reporters finally had their hands on the Loraine Report. They ignored sworn statements that indicated Woolston had used prior knowledge of development in the 20th and Connecticut area to buy up land for Kuehn, which was then sold at a hefty profit to the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation. Property owners testified that Woolston had called them "stupid" for not selling.

Woolston's interview with investigator Thomas Loraine was even more troubling. He made it clear that he had attended planning and zoning meetings as a "private citizen" to support Kuehn's projects, adding that he realized that it would send the message that he, a councilman, had a special interest in those projects. That did not bother him in the slightest.

The Globe also ignored warning signs raised by the report that all of Wallace Bajjali's dealings, including ones that amounted to millions of dollars, were being done totally through Rohr, with no input from the city attorney, including the contract that made the council reluctant to fire Wallace Bajjali for fear the city would have to forfeit $3 million to get rid of the company.

Instead, the Globe attacked the report, concentrating on its treatment of Rohr and the fact that it ended up at nearly double the price that had been agreed upon. The price was a legitimate issue, but anyone who read through the report can readily see that it was worth that much money, if not more.

The Globe provided considerable space for those who attacked the report and questioned its integrity. Never once was it mentioned that Editor Carol Stark refused to talk to Loraine, most likely because it would have been obvious that she directed news coverage to attack council members Bill Scearce and Ben Rosenberg, with much of the information being provided to her on the sly by Rohr.

It did not take long for the attack on the state audit of the city to begin. In the two weeks since the report was issued, as far as I can determine, the Globe has yet to print a letter to the editor or a "guest column" from someone who agrees with the report. It seems highly unlikely that the newspaper has not received any since the comment sections at the Globe, KZRG, KOAM, the Turner Report, and other news sources indicate that considerably more than half of the comments are negative concerning Woolston and city officials and not about the audit itself.

The Globe printed a perfunctory editorial about the need for the city to do its business in the open and then turned its guns on the audit. Major space on the opinion page of the Sunday edition was provided to guest columnist Anson Burlingame, who explained what a poor job the auditors did, the same message he tried to put across during an interminable, almost incomprehensible, monologue he performed at the Corley Auditorium on the MSSU campus the night the audit was released.

Burlingame defended Wallace Bajjali, saying that the company could have succeeded if it had been left alone without interference (presumably from council members Scearce and Rosenberg, as well as the others who were in the so-called Bloc of 5).

The same argument was made in a lengthy opinion page column by Rohr in Saturday's edition. The column was headlined "Ex-city manager offers story behind the failure."

No, Carol Stark or whichever editor handled that page. He did not offer the story behind the failure; he offered his version of the story behind the failure. According to Rohr, Wallace Bajjali did nothing wrong.

The one thing that neither Rohr nor Burlingame ever explains is why should we believe Wallace Bajjali would have been successful in Joplin when the company had never successfully completed a project anywhere else?

Why should we have had any expectation of Wallace Bajjali seeing through its $794 million plan to completion when David Wallace had never been involved with a project of anywhere near this magnitude?

Despite what Rohr and Burlingame say, the problem was not that the council interfered with Wallace Bajjali, it was the decision to allow outside vested interests to have the major say in hiring a master developer and with recommending that the position be created without a more thorough study. If there would have been some council interference before the hiring of David Wallace, a great deal of grief could have been prevented.

The latest attack on the audit came from Editor Carol Stark herself, using the Sunday opinion page. The headline reads, "Change in state law would improve audits." Almost the entire column was critical of the audit process.

Do you sense a pattern developing?

When Tom Loraine uncovered problems in the city, the Globe attacked the audit. It cost too much; he wouldn't answer the Globe's questions.

And now the state auditors are being secretive and we need to change the law because they are making allegations that hit hard at the Globe's buddies, like Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian, the people on CART, and, of course, beloved city officials like Mike Woolston.

The Globe has had access to the Loraine depositions for a year and four months. Those prove conclusively that, at the least, Woolston skated on the edge of illegal behavior. Woolston (and the Globe) seem to be of the opinion that if something is legal, that automatically makes it ethical. Anyone who reads the transcript of Woolston's interview with Loraine, which is almost completely reprinted in my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud is going to have a hard time being convinced that this man knows the meaning of the word "ethical."

A Pulitzer Prize for the Joplin Globe?

The people of Joplin should sue the newspaper for non-support.
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Joplin man pleads guilty to drug, weapon charges

Michael J. Watson, 37, Joplin, pleaded guilty to drug and weapon charges Friday in U. S. District Court in Springfield.

The background of Watson's case was featured in this May 5 news release from the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri:

Today’s indictment alleges that Watson was in possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute on April 10, 2015. Watson is also charged with one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Watson allegedly possessed a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic pistol on April 10, 2015. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Watson has prior felony convictions for assaulting a law enforcement officer, possession of a controlled substance, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting a lawful stop.

Watson was arrested on April 10, 2015, when a Joplin police officer contacted a vehicle that Watson was driving. The officer initially stopped a man walking out of the Sunrise Inn motel at 3600 Rangline, and the man indicated that he was with the four occupants of a Nissan Sentra that was parked nearby. One of the passengers started to get out of the car, and the officer told him to stay in the vehicle. The man closed the passenger door and Watson, the driver, allegedly fled in the vehicle at a high rate of speed.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, the officer returned to his vehicle and began to back up in order to follow the Sentra. Watson drove the Sentra straight into the patrol car at a high rate of speed. The collision with the passenger side of the vehicle caused significant damage. The officer felt his body leave the driver’s seat and fly upward, striking his head on the roof of his patrol vehicle. Watson got out of his car, fell to the ground, then fled on foot. Three passengers also fled on foot, in the opposite direction. The officer pursued Watson, who stumbled and fell to the ground after he jumped over a fence. The officer caught up with him and, while Watson was on the ground, saw the loaded firearm in a holster on Watson’s right side. The officer also found a hard case in Watson’s left front pocket that contained methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

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.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nhan D. Nguyen. It was investigated by the Joplin, Mo., Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

R-8 Board sets special meeting to discuss strategy for district improvement

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will discuss strategy for district improvement during a 5:30 p.m. Tuesday special meeting at the Memorial Administration Building.

The agenda also includes bids for two projects.

The board is expected to approve a $58,450 contract for Satterlee Mechancial Contracting Corporation to extend a gas line into the HVAC lab at Franklin Technical School.

Also on tap is a $254,067 contract to Trane USA to replace defective HVAC units at Columbia, West Central, and Kelsey Norman elementary schools.

Children's book tops Amazon Joplin Tornado book rankings

The newly-published children's book about the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado, I Survived the Joplin Tornado, by Lauren Tarshis tops the rankings of books about the tornado. It is the highest ranking book ever about the event, coming in at number 639 out of more than 10 million books on Amazon.

The ranking may have even been higher just after its August 15 publication date, but I hadn't checked it out for the past few weeks.

The rankings are listed below:

1. I Survived the Joplin Tornado, Lauren Tarshis 639
2. 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 219,576
3. Joplin 5:41, Kansas City Star, 223,013
4. Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, Randy Turner 554,881
5. Spirit of Hope: The Year after the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 903,001
6. Simple Pleasures, Kenna White 1,198,874
7. Lily: A True Story of Courage and the Joplin Tornado, Carolyn Mueller 1,206,116
8. Using Social Media in Disaster Recovery, David Burton, Genevieve Williams, Rebecca Williams 1,385,062
9. 32 Minutes in May, Joplin Globe 1,471,222
10. When the Sirens Were Silent, Mike Smith 1,702,100
11. Miracle of the Human Spirit, Mark Rohr 1,958,157
12. Life After the Storm, Debbie Fleitman 2,146,850
13/ Shatterproof, Katrina Hoover, 2,200,346
14. Tornado Warning; The Extraordinary Women of Joplin, Tamara Hart Heiner, 2,345,723
15. Singing Over Me, Danielle Stammer 2,403,547
16. When the Storm Passes, Julie Jett 2,441,894
17. Hindsight: Lessons Learned from the Joplin Torando, Zac Rantz 2,756,015
18. 5:22: Stories of Survival, Stories of Faith, Scott Hettinger
19. Out of the Wind, D. Hoggatt 3,369,648
20. Scars from the Tornado, Randy Turner 3,399,437
21. Joplin Tornado House of Hope, Tim A. Bartow 3,736,221
22. Joplin, Missouri Tornado of May 22, 2011, David Prevett, 4,593,062
23. Mayday in Joplin, Donald Clugston 5,073,107
24. 20th and Rangeline, Joplin, Missouri 6,070,680
Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, features more of the personal tornado stories that made 5:41 the top seller among all Joplin Tornado books online. It also includes stories from the following year as Joplin struggles to recover, with more first person accounts from those who volunteered, as well as original reporting and commentary from authors Randy Turner and John Hacker.

Joplin city manager provides weekly update

(The following update was provided by Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm to the City Council Friday.)

Good afternoon, everyone. Please see below for this week’s update.

 Key Meetings

-On Monday, staff from HR, Parks and Recreation, and I met to discuss some possible position changes within parks and recreation due to a restructuring of the department. We will have a meeting with finance staff next week to review the financial impact of these changes, but it is my hope to have this discussion with you during our budget work sessions.

-Later that morning I attended the monthly meeting of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. Following up on our meeting from Monday night, if you have not submitted your suggestions for items to include with the new contract to either City Attorney Edwards or myself, please do so at your earliest convenience.

-Monday afternoon, AtCM Kelly and I met with finance staff to review the evaluation of user fees and charges report compiled by finance in conjunction with other departments. There are a few fee requests that we need to do additional research on, but I anticipate the bulk of the fees will be ready for your review and discussion during our budget work sessions.

-On Tuesday, department heads and I met to discuss the audit findings. Specifically, we made it through the first three findings of the audit report. The website has been updated to reflect that 67.8% of insurance proceeds have been collected under the duplication of benefits provision (Recommendation 3.3). Pertaining to Recommendation 3.4, we will be retraining staff on how to locate and secure the proper suspension and debarment paperwork. Finance will now be responsible for retaining the proper documentation related to this finding.

-Later that afternoon, AtCM Kelly and I met to review his progress on developing a five-year Capital Improvement Plan for use by council and staff in planning out the next several years of capital expenditures. Work continues on that project and our hope is to have a draft document ready for your review at the budget work sessions, even though no formal action will be required by you at this time.

-On Wednesday, the Infrastructure Team (staff from public works, planning, and Deloitte) met to review their progress on mapping out the use of the CDBG-DR funds for infrastructure work in the recovery area. Based on the dollars budgeted for Infrastructure Projects #1 and #2 (but not including the Main & 20th Street road projects), PW staff is recommending a mix of stormwater (18%), sanitary sewer (31%) and surface element (51%) repairs throughout all zones, but concentrated in the heart of the damage area based on condition assessments that took place over the past several months. Next week, the Infrastructure Team will be meeting with the engineering consultants to prepare next steps and a timeline for implementation. After those meetings take place, I will likely be asking Deloitte staff to give a presentation/update to the council and the public at a future council meeting.

-On Thursday morning I attended a meeting with several local residents who are interested in sharing more about all of the positive things going on in our community, in spite of what we read in the headlines or on Facebook. The impetus behind the meeting was a book called For the Love of Cities, by Peter Kageyama, whom you may recall was in Joplin in May of 2013 to talk to several residents about what we can do to show our love for the cities in which we live. The “I Am Joplin” mural on 6th and Main was the direct result of that visit. Discussions are still in the early stages, but as I learn more I’ll pass the information along.

-Later that afternoon, Director Tuttle, AtCM Kelly and I accompanied council member Colbert-Kean on a tour of the city with officials from the National League of Cities. We discussed our recovery efforts and the use of various state and federal resources to help us, economic development efforts, and other topics.

-Earlier this afternoon, representatives from several departments met with the Finance Committee to answer questions related to the fee study that the finance department has completed with the help of several departments. The committee voted to advance the study to the council for review, which will also occur during budget work sessions next month. I would like to commend staff at all levels for their efforts in bringing this information to you, with a particular word of thanks to Assistant Finance Director AJ Whistler, for his efforts in researching our costs, city comparables, and compiling the report for your review.

-To end the week, I met with Callie Hudson with the Downtown Joplin Alliance. They are moving their office to 515 S. Main next week, and she also informed me of an exciting restaurant start-up/incubator opportunity that will be coming to 1st and Main, in the former Cooper’s 66 restaurant. We discussed the downtown parking proposal more, and I’ll be gathering additional information next week to share with you. Thank you to those of you who have provided input thus far; I’ll provide a summary of everyone’s responses along with additional information/answers to some of the questions you’ve raised.


Earlier this week I asked our Neighborhood Services Supervisor, Stephen Grindle, to provide an update on some of the changes taking place within the division. I am excited about the change in direction that is taking place within the division, and I think it will have some positive impacts on our community as the vision becomes a reality.

Reiboldt: EPA coal regulations a solution in search of a problem

(From Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho)

One of the key components of any successful and growing economy is affordable energy, and certainly this is true in Missouri. Like most U.S. states we are dependent upon coal for much of our electricity. Energy, especially electricity, is a foundational resource for a better quality of life, economic prosperity and environmental improvement. Global energy demands will continue to grow as there are over a billion people lacking access to electricity. Their need and our continued need for affordable and reliable energy is of the utmost importance in the world today.

Coal continues to be the world’s fastest growing, least expensive and most reliable energy resource, supplying almost 50% of the U.S. and global electricity needs. When putting together an energy plan for the future, a balance is necessary to ensure reliability of available resources. Coal, as well as oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric and renewables (solar and wind) will all be necessary to provide affordable energy for our nation and the world.

Since 2000 the cost of generating electric power in the United States has increased by nearly 50%. As this “pain at the plug” continues, a question to consider is, “Does coal have a future in the production of electricity?” The United States is called the “Saudi Arabia” of coal, with almost 30% of the world’s supply found here. Perhaps a better way to answer the question is by asking, “Will coal be a player in the future?” Many say, “Yes, and with today’s technology, we can continue to use it with almost zero atmospheric emissions.”

For me to better understand our future energy needs and to see how coal can play a part in that energy balance, I recently took part in a legislative tour of Prairie State Generating Company’s facility in southwestern Illinois. Sponsored by Peabody Energy Corporation headquartered in St. Louis, the tour allowed us to get a firsthand look at modern day coal production and gave us ample opportunity to ask hard questions regarding coal and its usage. The tour itself took place in the Illinois Basin, one of our nation’s leading coal producing areas, an area covering 50,000 square miles and including most of Illinois, parts of Indiana and western Kentucky. The Illinois Basin contains the nation’s third largest reserve of coal.

Basically located in the middle of corn and soybean fields, the Prairie State Generating facility is hailed as being amongst the nation’s cleanest energy producing facilities. It gets its coal via conveyors from the coal mine located across the road from the generating plant, thereby negating the need for additional transportation. The Prairie State Generating facility has a 1,600 megawatt plant that is owned by eight non-profit utilities, with Peabody Energy owning 5%. We were told the generating plant, having come on line in 2012, invested more than $1 billion in environmental emissions control equipment. They said that owners’ focus is to deliver reliable electricity to all its members at a reasonable cost while maintaining proper protection of the environment. We saw firsthand their commitment to employee safety and to protecting the environment.

In addition, we learned that when monitoring air quality, there are four major pollutants to consider: nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury levels. The facility we toured is in compliance with all federal and state requirements and has successfully removed 85% of nitrogen oxide, 98% of sulfur dioxide, 99% of all particulate matter, and 90% of all mercury from its emissions. Not only does this facility meet all permit requirements, but it actually exceeds them. After touring the generating plant and the nearby adjoining mine, I have no doubt that coal can and will have a significant place in our future energy resources, especially after seeing firsthand how efficient and environmentally compatible it is.

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, air quality in our nation has continued to improve and is today among the best in the world. With advanced technologies available to us, we are on target to see air quality continue to get even better; however, new federal standards recently proposed by the EPA on coal generating plants could be the costliest regulations ever mandated on any U.S. company in our nation’s history. Many believe that the EPA is acting outside its authority under the Clean Air Act in an attempt to rewrite energy policy and force a standard that is impossible to achieve, thus seeking to discredit and eliminate the use of coal.

The day we toured this facility, even under full plant generation, the air was so clean and clear we were able to see up to 30 miles away in all directions as we stood outside on the six story platform near the exhaust stack. So, once again, it appears the EPA is mandating a solution in search of a problem, without any consideration of the people.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ethics hearing for Mike Woolston postponed

(From the City of Joplin)

The hearing for Councilman Mike Woolston on alleged ethical violations that was originally scheduled for Monday, August 31, 2015 has been reset for September 14, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. Councilman Woolston hired attorneys Charley German and Jason Hans of Kansas City, and they requested the continuance. Municipal Judge Chuck Brown is the hearing officer assigned to preside and decide procedural matters at and related to the hearing. He granted the continuance request.

The City’s budget work sessions originally scheduled for September 14 through September 16 will be moved to Tuesday, September 15 through Thursday, September 17. Thursday’s session will only be held if budget discussions are still ongoing at the close of Wednesday’s meeting.

For more information, contact Lynn Onstot, Public Information Officer at 624-0820

Hartzler: Congress must say no to deal with Iran

(From Fourth District Congressman Vicky Hartzler)

I have previously expressed my concerns regarding the nuclear deal with Iran – a state sponsor of terrorism – calling it dangerous because the agreement hands the Iranians billions of dollars in sanctions relief while allowing them to continue their march toward nuclear capability.

I have been discussing these concerns with citizens as I travel around Missouri’s Fourth District, most notably at two informational presentations I held in Harrisonville and Sedalia. These forums provided an opportunity for Fourth District residents to share their thoughts and concerns with me. Based on the comments I continue to hear, I share your concern about this deal.

If this deal weren’t dangerous enough, we recently learned of a side deal that was cut between the IAEA and the Iranians, allowing Iran to use their own “experts” to inspect the Parchin nuclear site, removing impartial international inspectors completely out of the equation. Parchin—an Iranian military installation—is where it is believed that Iran has been working on nuclear weapons. This side deal, while not negotiated by the Obama Administration, was blindly accepted by the administration as part of the larger package. This is outrageous!

A state sponsor of terrorism, which is being monitored to ensure it does not engage in the development of nuclear weapons, is being allowed to monitor itself. It was bad enough when Secretary of State John Kerry’s promise of “24/7” inspection authority evolved into giving the Iranians "24 days" notice of a desire to inspect, but now the Iranians will be allowed to use their own inspectors to investigate violations at a secret Iranian military complex.

Since details of this side deal have come to light, it is fair to ask how many more of these special deals have been negotiated as part of the overall agreement and why the Obama Administration agreed to them.

Knowing what we know now, it is truly baffling that any Member of Congress would vote “yes” on this agreement. Congress must do what is in the best interests of our national security and that of our allies in the Middle East and around the world by giving a resounding “NO” to this perilous deal.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

R-8 Board approves $1,078 payment to mortgage company for "student need"

When former Superintendent C. J. Huff launched Joplin Bright Futures in April 2010, it was praised, and rightly so, for its efforts to meet student needs within 24 hours.

If students needed coats, shoes, or supplies of any kind they had it within 24 hours. As time passed, the scope of Bright Futures expanded to include such things as food packets to take home over the weekend.

Nearly $10,000 was spent on gifts during the holiday season.

And now, it appears that the organization may be expanding into questionable territory.

During Tuesday night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting, the board approved a $1,078.92 bill from Caliber Home Loans, an expenditure that was described as "student need," on the bill list. Another "student need" listed was $825 to T & J. Smith Properties.

In July, the board approved a $500 payment to Empire District Electric Company, $300 to Hull Plumbing, and $714 to Brown Property, again, all for "student need," which is almost always the code words for Bright Futures.

The question is not whether the district can afford to do these things. Bright Futures is reportedly completely funded through donations, but having the school district, through Bright Futures, is paying for someone's rent and utilities, is setting a dangerous precedent. With so many people who have trouble making ends meet, do we have a panel deciding who receives this kind of help? It certainly isn't the Board of Education.

Are the decisions being made by the blue ribbon Bright Futures Advisory Board? Or are the decisions left completely up to those who are running Joplin Bright Futures, people with little or no experience in dealing with issues that are normally left to social service agencies"

A few other interesting bills that were approved by the board Tuesday night:

-Another $222.14 for Director of Curriculum, Learning, and Assessment Sarah Stevens to cover expenses from her presentation at the Visible Learning Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Stevens helped fired consultants Paul Bloomberg and Barb Pitchford of Core Collaborative put on a workshop on how successful their program was here. The workshop was held at the annual Visible Learning Conference in San Antonio, Texas, and Stevens was joined by Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier, Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens, and Executive Director of Special Services Mark Barlass. WIth the latest expenditure, taxpayers paid more than $3,000 for the trip, including $575 in expense reimbursements in July and $2,396 in February.

-$74.69 to Schlotzsky's Deli for salad baskets with chicken and cinnamon rolls, listed as "supplies."

-$232 to the Rib Crib for a meal for the July Board of Education meeting

-$370 to the Joplin Rotary Club for Bright Futures Director Melissa Winston's membership dues

--$300 for "security services" for the July Board of Education meeting

-$41,666 to Shopko for the lease for the mall high school

-$11,187.50 to Northpark Mall for the rent for the mall portion of the high school

A signing for my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado will be held this Saturday, August 29, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Always Buying Books in Joplin. Hope to see you there.

Hero for hire? C. J. Huff's back

With leadership in such short supply these days, former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff has decided to step into the breach and offer his services.

The CJ Huff Group, an educational management consulting company was formed last month in Joplin, while the Missouri Secretary of State's records show at CJ Huff LLC was formed July 24.

According to his Linked In description, Huff offers the following services:

Providing leadership, consultation services to individuals, organizations and agencies in the areas of strategic leadership, community engagement, crisis management, long range planning, innovations in 21st Century education and strategic communication.

Services include keynote presentation, large and small group workshops, one-on-one consultation with ongoing support, group facilitation and general consulting.

Follow C. J. Huff in his journey from tornado hero to educational consultant in my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado. A signing for the book will be held this Saturday, August 29, 1 to 3 p.m. at Always Buying Books in Joplin. The book is available at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe, and The Book Guy in Joplin, Pat's Books in Carthage, and Cato's Connection in Lamar. It is also available in e-book and paperback formats from

Bankruptcy trustee seeks info on shell company that bought Joplin Coca-Cola building

Lawyers representing the trustee in former master developer David Wallace's Chapter 7 bankruptcy are asking a federal judge to compel the release of documents surrounding the purchase of the old Coca-Cola Building in Joplin.

In documents filed Friday in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, the Diamond McCarthy law firm of Houstin, representing trustee Rodney Tow, asked that Judge Jeff Bohm order former Wallace-Bajjali President Bill Ewing to turn over the documents for Virginia Acqusitions, a limited liability company formed by Wallace-Bajjali for the express purpose of buying the Coca-Cola building at 1301 Virginia Avenue. The court documents indicate Ewing is a 50 percent owner of Virginia Acquisitions.

After Wallace reached out to Ewing in  a July 15 e-mail, Richard Walters, with the Springfield law firm of Spencer Fane, which served as the registered agent for Virginia Acquisitions told the trustee on July 23 that he had searched his records located the following items:

Articles of Organization – Virginia Acquisitions, LLC (signed and filed with the Missouri Secretary of State)

Operating Agreement - Virginia Acquisitions, LLC (signed by the members).

Employer Identification Number issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

Real Estate Purchase Agreement between Virginia Acquisitions, LLC, as Seller, and the Trustee of the Cynthia D. Neal Trust, as Buyer (draft form only).

E-mail from Bruce Anderson to our Firm requesting the formation of Virginia Acquisitions, LLC.

(Note: Anderson was Wallace-Bajjali's finance director and is currently suing Wallace and Costa Bajjali in Jasper County Circuit Court for breach of contract.)

As of August 20, the trustee had not received the Virginia Acquisitions documents.

The Coca-Cola building was the only property Wallace-Bajjali ever purchased from the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation.

The hearing on the motion to compel documents is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ridder on professional development: Let's ask the teachers what they need

The formula to create an excellent school system, contrary to the jargon-filled insomnia cures that some of former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff's remaining administrative team inflict upon the Board of Education, is a simple one.

Hire good teachers, give them the tools to succeed, then get out of their way.

That approach does not guarantee increased test scores every year, but it certainly would never allow the kind of multi-year decline the school district has seen during Huff's tenure.

The Huff leftovers provided some evidence Tuesday night of why district scores were low again this year. Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens talked about the lack of experienced teachers, an ironic comment since the Huff Administration demoralized and decimated the system to such a point that the faculty has had a more than 50 percent turnover in the past four years, leaving a faculty top heavy with teachers with less than five years of experience.

Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier, who needed a high-powered microscope to see some of the scores in the grades she is responsible for once again floundered through a presentation filled with educational buzzwords that at one time may have impressed the Board of Education, but not this Board of Education.

Both she and Cravens spoke of "learning intentions," "stakeholders," and the educational bureaucrats' sentimental favorite "rigor."

By the time Doshier was finished, the rigor seemed more like rigor mortis.

You couldn't have blamed any Joplin teachers who watched the board meeting if they thought that C. J. Huff may be gone, but his vengeful spirit lives on.

Then Doshier was asked about what professional development was being done. She stammered, she sputtered, then she started to male an excuse about the district changing course when the board booted the high-priced Core Collaborative consulting firm, saving more than $100,000.

Doshier indicated they had to change course, but they would come up with something.

Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder cut her off and then said the words R-8 teachers have been waiting to hear for the past seven years. "We need to talk to the teachers and see what they need."

It is that simple.

In the best school districts, the professional development is teacher-driven. Under C. J. Huff and his long-time assistant superintendent Angie Besendorfer and their administrative team, the professional development has never been about the teachers, but about the administrators. It has always been a new initiative, meetings that spend more time on meaningless data and the accompanying paperwork, and of course, infuriating team-building exercises in which teachers are treated like children instead of adults.

Adding to the resentment was the perception that many of those who were putting the teachers through the paces were people who had little success when they were in the classrooms or as principals.

Hopefully, this is a sign that a much needed change is here.
A couple of weeks ago, I corresponded with someone in the education field about professional development and what form it should take. The discussion was based on an article in the Denver Post that said most professional development for teachers was meaningless.

This is what I wrote to that person:

I have noticed quite a few articles on this topic lately and I am almost completely in agreement with the critics of the types of workshops and training that teachers receive. After No Child Left Behind was passed during the Bush Administration, hundreds of fly-by-night operators realized there was a killing to be made from this type of professional training. You have people like Bloomberg at Core Collaborative who take others' ideas, repackage them, and then present them as some sort of cure all for everything that ails education. For the most part, the ideas were not that good in the first place.

You also have the indoctrination meetings and that there are specifically to collect and work with data. There is nothing wrong with using data to improve education, but much of the data that is being reviewed at these meetings is meaningless.

As an example, I recall a few years ago that the teachers at North Middle School, threw themselves completely into the Acuity tests, to the point of designing all of their teaching around these tests. All remediation was based on Acuity. When the Acuity tests were given that year, North had the highest scores. That did not turn out to be an indicator of potential success on MAP. North was at the bottom that year. Meaningful data in this instance would have been the poverty levels in North. Poverty levels have always been more indicative of how students will fare on standardized tests.

Instead of spending hundreds of thousands on professional development that appears to be designed to make all teachers the same no matter what their strengths and weaknesses are, workshops and seminars should be devoted to things that would make it easier for teachers to succeed in the classrooms.

Rather than spending countless hours going over data, why not have workshops that help younger teachers deal with discipline in the classroom. Cutting down on the time spent trying to corral unruly students would do more to increase the level of learning at classrooms than any pre-packaged system.

Instead of talking about the need for classes to be relevant, why don't we have workshops designed to help teachers with ideas of bringing current issues into the classroom?

Why not have workshops to help teachers on methods to connect with parents.We spend so much of our professional development time working on pie-in-the-sky programs that we neglect areas that could do much more to improve students' learning and make classroom teachers more effective.

Why is it necessary to spend so much money on outsourced professional development. Even with the number of experienced teachers who have left the district over the past few years, there are still many veteran teachers in our district who could provide meaningful professional development without having to send people all over the United States and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.Why not offer stipends to these veteran teachers and see how much more relevant the professional development time would be for the teachers.

Why not work out exchanges with area school districts where we save money by having their experienced educators who have knowledge in some specific area come to Joplin, while we send ours to talk to them? This type of exchange would benefit Joplin and area schools since it would provide the required professional development at a savings. Or how about the possibility of using today's technology to hold professional development via Skype. A few years ago, someone in the district had the bright idea of having the middle school teachers in each area have the 7:15 meetings together at one school. While it did offer the opportunity for the teachers to get together, it created havoc for those who had to get back to their schools by the time classes started. I suggested Skype at that time, but it was never seriously considered and we had problems with those meetings all year.

Another thing that localizing the professional development and making it more relevant to the teachers would do would be to increase teacher buy-in.

Useless professional development and requirements to supply more and more data of the useless variety are among the reasons that excellent teachers have been checking out of Joplin and checking into other school districts.

Copies of my book, Let Teachers Teach, will be available Saturday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. when I have a signing at Always Buying Books. Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud and my other books will also be available. The book is also available in e-book and paperback formats from

Woolston: Success of Zerkapalooza proves people don't want hearing

How does Mike Woolston know that the citizens of Joplin do not want him to have to go through a hearing in which it is determined if he committed ethical violations and should be removed from the City Council?

He saw the proof on Main Street last weekend.

"The apparent success of Zerkapalooza event by private citizens this weekend is an indication of the desire of our citizens to move forward," Woolston told the City Council Monday night.

Woolston did not elaborate on how he reached that conclusion. Some possibilities:

-The appearance of "Free Woolston" bumper stickers at Zerkapalooza, though reports indicate there was an equal number of "Nothing is Free With Woolston" bumper stickers.

-Woolston saw many people not moving backwards and naturally assumed that they wanted to move forward.

-A man looking suspiciously like Woolston worked his way through the crowds saying, "I can tell you one thing about Mike Woolston. He never bought any property from known gamblers 20 years ago. And that wasn't the dog on my lap when I was driving downtown. Wait a minute, let me rephrase that. The Joplin Globe loves me. Let's move forward."

The accompanying video picks up the City Council meeting right at the time Councilman Ben Rosenberg read the list of charges against Woolston, The hearing is scheduled for next Monday, August 31, at City Hall.

A signing for Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption,and the Joplin Tornado, which details activities of Mike Woolston during the time in question, will be held 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Always Buying Books. The book is available locally at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe, and The Book Guy in Joplin, Pat's Books in Carthage, and Cato's Connection in Lamar. It is also available in e-book and paperback formats from

Democratic Attorney General candidate Hensley releases new video

The new video from Democratic Attorney General candidate Teresa Hensley

More Missouri graduates taking ACT exams, scoring higher

(From the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

More Missouri graduates took the ACT exam in 2015 than in 2014 while scoring higher than the national average, according to data released by ACT on Wednesday.

49,640 students in the class of 2015 took the test (77 percent of the graduating class) compared with 48,864 in the class of 2014. Since 2011, Missouri has seen a 2 percent increase in graduating seniors who have taken the exam.

“The ACT is one tool used to measure college and career readiness,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “We are pleased that the percent of Missouri students meeting readiness benchmarks continues to exceed national averages on all four measures: English, mathematics, reading and science.”

The 2015 average composite score of 21.7 remains higher than the score of 21.6 Missouri maintained from 2005-2013. Missouri remains above the national average of 21.0. Ninety-one percent of Missouri graduates who took the ACT indicated they wished to pursue post-secondary education.

Missouri graduates also outscored the national average in percentage of students achieving college readiness benchmarks in each subject area:
English, 71 percent; higher than the national average of 64 percent
Reading, 51 percent; higher than the national average of 46 percent
Math, 44 percent; higher than the national average of 42 percent
Science, 42 percent; higher than the national average of 38 percent
All four subject areas, 30 percent; higher than the national average of 28 percent

The 2014-15 school year marked the first time the state offered a one-time administration of the exam to all 11th-grade students in the state. The same opportunity will be offered to 11thgraders during the 2015-16 school year. Today’s data reflect the 2015 graduating seniors and do not include 11th-grade scores from the spring of 2015.

The ACT is the primary college-entry exam used by Missouri students and is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest. College and career readiness is a primary goal of Missouri’sTop 10 by 20 initiative, which aims to make Missouri a top 10 state for education by 2020.

Americans for Prosperity launches ad for override of right-to-work veto

Today Americans for Prosperity Missouri announced it will be running new television advertisements starting Thursday. The six-figure ad buy represents another major investment, on top of previously announced ads (see background). The ads will last several weeks and be broadcast across the state. The new ad focuses on the urgency of overriding Gov. Nixon's veto of right to work in the coming weeks.

Rachel Payton, AFP Missouri's Deputy State Director, released the following statement about the ad:

"Right to Work is vital to Missouri's future successes. This legislation is proven to create more high-paying jobs and boost overall economic health in the 25 states that already embrace this great idea. Right to Work has created 3.6 million jobs over the past 10 years in these states. It's time we bring some of that success to Missouri."

"It's no secret that AFP has been on the front lines of the battle for Right to Work in Missouri. You can expect to encounter our TV and radio presence all the way up until the Legislature votes on September 16th. Our organization has knocked over 70,000 doors, made over 250,000 phone calls, and has had thousands upon thousands sign our petition in favor of this policy. Right to Work is extremely important in getting Missouri back on a path to prosperity, in order to create more good-paying jobs, and keeping people in the state. All eyes will be on state lawmakers to reject Governor Nixon's veto and stand up for this sensible, pro-growth policy."

Danforth contributes $10,000 to Peter Kinder campaign

It was a sure bet that former Sen. John Danforth was not going to endorse Catherine Hanaway for governor. Now it appears that Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder may be his choice.

A 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows that Danforth contributed $10,000 to Kinder's campaign on Tuesday.

Though no link was proven between Hanaway and a political attack ad against the late State Auditor Thomas Schweich, which may have led to Schweich's suicide, it was connected to people who were backing Hanaway's candidacy.

Danforth was Schweich's mentor and supporter his candidacy for governor and his candidacy for state auditor.

Whether any of the other candidates for the GOP nomination will receive any money from Danforth remains to be seen, but it is almost a certainty that he will not be giving anything to the Hanaway campaign.

Former Webb City principal pleads guilty to double murder

Former Webb City High School Principal Mark Porter pleaded guilty today in Greene County Circuit Court to two counts of second degree murder.

Porter's trial had been scheduled for May 10, 2016.

Porter's sentence is expected to be life in prison for both murders.

DNA evidence and stolen coins led the Springfield Police Department to arrest former Webb City High School Principal Mark Porter for the murders of Gary and Jan Tyrrell of Springfield, according to the probable cause affidavit:

On 5-1-2014 at 1202 hours, Sgt. Mike Lucas was dispatched to 3232 S. Greenbrier to check the well-being of the residents. The 911 caller reported she was out of state and had been unable to reach her parents, Gary Tyrrell and Jan Tyrrell, by telephone. Sgt. Lucas was unable to contact anyone at the residence, but noted the doors and windows were closed and secured.

On 5-1-2014 at 1904 hours, Springfield Police officers were dispatched back to 3232 S. Greenbrier after the original 911 caller arrived at the residence and discovered both of her parents' cars were present and no one would answer the door. The called requested the police respond because she was afraid something had happened to her parents and she did not want to enter the residence.

On 5-1-2014, I conducted an interview with the 911 caller and daughter of Gary and Jan, Jessica Tyrrell. Jessica reported she last spoke with her mother by telephone around 1500 to 1530 hours on 4-30-2014. Jessica reported her father would routinely send her a text message in the evenings to tell her goodnight. She said she did not receive this text on 4-30-2014. Jessica stated she attempted to call and text her mother and father the following day, 5-1-2014, and had been unable to reach them by cell phone or by home telephone.

Later Corporal Neil McAmis spoke with Gary's brother Larry during this investigation. Larry provided information that he had spoken to Gary by telephone on 4-30-2014 around 1900 hours after Gary finished teaching his class. I later spoke to a student from Gary's class who confirmed the class ended shortly before 1900 hours. These are the last times I can confirm someone saw or spoke with Gary.

I had previously examined the recent calls logged in Gary's cell phone and observed the last received call was from Larry at 1900 hours on 4-30-2014. I checked the missed calls on Gary's cell phone and discovered the first missed calls on the phone appeared to have been missed starting shortly after 2100 hours on 4-30-2014.

On 5-1-2014, officers arrived at the residence at 1906 hours and discovered the daughter had opened the overhead garage door. Officers entered the residence through an unlocked door leading from the garage into the residence. Officers located a male and a female, later determined to be the residents, Gary and Jan Tyrrell, deceased inside the home. Officers reported there was blood on Gary's shirt and blood pooling on the floor near his head. Officers also reported Jan was discovered lying face down in a separate area of the home. Officers discovered Jan had what appeared to be a hole in the back of her head and blood pooled around her. These officers checked the residence and secured it with crime scene tape.

The Springfield Police Department Homicide Response Team processed the home for evidence. The detectives did not find any signs of forced entry. The Tyrrell home was furnished with very high dollar items. These items did not appear to be touched or moved. There was a walk-in safe in the garage that had scratch marks on the door. These marks appeared as if someone had tried to break into the safe.

Detectives also found paperwork within the home which appeared to provide a partial inventory of some gold and silver items along with their possible values at different selling prices. The paperwork was located within binders that were removed from a tote bag owned by Gary. I discovered on several of the handwritten pages that someone had noted the possible value of silver coins with a face value of $1,336.60 in silver coins that would be worth approximately $22,000.

Crime scene detectives discovered a latex glove on the floor of the finished basement at 3232 S. Greenbrier during the crime scene processing. The latex glove appeared to have been turned inside out as if done during removal from the wearer's hand. The glove was located in close proximity to Jan's body. The glove was collected as evidence and subsequently examined by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory. A DNA profile was developed as a result of the examination of the glove. The major component of the profile exhibited male gender characteristics and was not consistent with the DNA profiles of the victims, Gary or Jan.

Jan Tyrrell appeared to have died as a result of blunt force trauma. Detectives located several little pieces of a substance believed to have been broken off of the object used to strike her near her body. Gary Tyrrell appeared to die as a result of two gunshot wounds. Gary's body also had some small pieces or flecks of the same unknown substance near his body.

In interviews with the Tyrrells' family members, I learned that Mark E. Porter was a friend of Gary's. I also learned that Porter recently asked Gary for $250,000. Gary did not loan Porter this money. The family told investigators that Mark and Gary were very close friends. Mark was one of the few people that was allowed into the Tyrrell home.

All of the evidence on scene suggests that whoever killed Gary and Jan Tyrrell knew them. There are no signs of forced entry and the Tyrrells were very careful about who they let into the home. I also learned during this investigation that Mark Porter sold $1,321.10 of face value silver coins of May 2, 2014. This amount is $15.50 less than the amount of $1,336.60 in face value silver coins documented on paperwork found in the Tyrrell home. Mark Porter received $18,531.40 when he sold the silver coins.

During the investigation, I interviewed Mark Porter. Porter stated he had known Gary and Jan for several years. Porter also told me that Gary taught a class at the Executive Center on West Battlefield on Wednesdays for William Woods University. He said the class was scheduled to start at 1730 hours and was supposed to last for four hours.

Porter said he was supposed to have met Gary on Wednesday 4-30-2014 at 2000 hours, but Gary never arrived. He reported he was supposed to meet Gary at McDonald's near Battlefield Road and 65 Highway. He told me he waited at that location from about 1945 to 2030 hours. Porter stated he did not try to call Gary but drove to Gary and Jan's house after Gary did not meet him. He said he was unable to contact anyone at the house. He reported he returned to work at the IBM offices located 3315 E. Ridgeview St., Springfield, Greene County, and worked until 2130 to 2200 hours.

During this investigation, a Springfield Police Department undercover detective was able to obtain a coffee cup used and then abandoned by Mark Porter. The MSHP Crime Laboratory developed a DNA profile from this coffee cup. The lab reported that the DNA profile from the coffee cup was consistent with the DNA profile developed from the latex glove found in the Tyrrells' home.

The probable cause affidavit was written by Corporal Chris Barb of the Springfield Police Department.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

KGCS to air Woolston hearing live

(From Southern News Service)

A new edition of “Newsmakers” has been announced, as well as schedule changes on KGCS-TV.

Joplin Mayor Michael Seibert is the guest on the upcoming “Newsmakers” interview program. Seibert provides follow-up to the recent audit report released by State Auditor Nicole Galloway, including a discussion of the next steps being taken by the city. He also discusses development and future plans in the city of Joplin.

The program will air at the following times:

Sunday, Aug. 30 – 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 31 – 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 1 – 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 2 – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 3 – 5:30 p.m.

It can also be seen at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, on KOAM-TV, and on YouTube at

KGCS will record the Joplin School District’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and will broadcast it at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27.

A special meeting of the Joplin City Council will air live at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31. (This is the evidentiary hearing for Councilman Mike Woolston)

KGCS programming may be seen over the air on digital channel 22 and on regional cable television systems including Cable One, Mediacom, and Suddenlink. The station operates as a service of the Department of Communication at Missouri Southern State University.

Right to Work (for less) Town Hall Wednesday

(From Southwest Missouri Democrats)

Mayor Seibert: We take the auditors' accusations very seriously

In this 30-minute interview with Judy Stiles of KGCS, Joplin Mayor Michael Seibert says the following things concerning the state audit:

We're going to be a much better run and efficient city because of the audit.

That type of process (hiring a master developer) is something we will never consider using in the future.

We expect to meet the expectations of the state auditor (when the follow-up visits occur).

We take the accusations very seriously, especially when they are about some of our own.

The discussion on the audit takes place in the first 10 minutes of the video.

Watch the Joplin R-8 Board of Education live at 7 p.m.

Joplin man pleads guilty to tax fraud

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

Four more co-defendants have pleaded guilty in federal court to aiding and abetting a fraudulent tax return preparation scheme that claimed nearly $340,000 in fraudulent income tax refunds.
 Jeannie Marie Rhodes, 34, of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush today to making a false claim.
 Shawna Marie Hughey, 37, of Joplin, Mo., formerly of Springfield, Johnny L. Cooper, 28, of Springfield, and William J. Coonce, 29, of Otterville, Mo., pleaded guilty on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Hughey and Coonce each pleaded guilty to two counts of making false claims. Cooper pleaded guilty to one count of making a false claim.
 Co-defendant Cherie Christine Dupuis, 43, of Springfield, pleaded guilty on July 21, 2015, to leading the fraudulent tax return preparation conspiracy. Dupuis admitted that she and co-conspirators defrauded the government by filing false claims for income tax refunds from February 2009 to March 2012. In the false and fraudulent federal income tax returns they prepared and filed, conspirators claimed refunds from the IRS totaling approximately $340,630, of which approximately $336,839 was false.  Over the course of the scheme, the total actual tax loss to the IRS was $284,169.
 Dupuis admitted that she filed fraudulent federal income tax returns in her own name and for at least 19 other individuals. Dupuis would usually split the fraudulent refunds with her co-conspirators. The total amount of the false claims Dupuis personally prepared and/or filed was approximately $298,708, with approximately $256,281 being paid on these false claims and a loss to the government of approximately $213,711.
 Rhodes admitted that she aided and abetted Dupuis, and was aided and abetted by Dupuis, in filing a false federal income tax return in 2012. The return listed wages that Rhodes had not received and claimed a refund to which Rhodes knew she was not entitled. Rhodes provided his personal information to Dupuis, which Dupuis then used to file false income tax returns. The total loss to the government was $6,881.
 Hughey admitted that she aided and abetted Dupuis, and was aided and abetted by Dupuis, in filing false federal income tax returns in 2011 and 2012. Both returns listed wages that Hughey had not received and claimed refunds to which Hughey knew she was not entitled. Hughey provided her personal information to Dupuis, which Dupuis then used to file false income tax returns. The total loss to the government was $22,626. Hughey also admitted that she paid Dupuis approximately $1,500 for the preparation of her and Cooper’s 2011 federal income tax returns.
 Cooper admitted that he aided and abetted Dupuis, and was aided and abetted by Dupuis, in filing a false federal income tax return in 2012. The return listed wages that Cooper had not received and claimed a refund to which Cooper knew he was not entitled. Cooper provided his personal information to Dupuis, which Dupuis then used to file false income tax returns. The total loss to the government was $10,100. Cooper also admitted that he paid Dupuis approximately $2,000 from the proceeds of his fraudulent tax refund.
 Coonce admitted that he aided and abetted Dupuis, and was aided and abetted by Dupuis, in filing false federal income tax returns in 2010 and 2011. Both returns listed wages that Coonce had not received and claimed refunds to which Coonce knew he was not entitled. Coonce provided his personal information to Dupuis, which Dupuis then used to file false income tax returns. The total loss to the government was $15,652. Coonce also admitted that he paid Dupuis approximately half of the proceeds of his fraudulent tax refunds.
Co-defendants Jeannette R. Dunn, 48, of Huntsville, Ark., formerly of Springfield, Asia Michelle Couchman, 26, of Oak Grove, Mo., and Delbert L. Allen, 37, of Pleasant Hope, Mo., formerly of Springfield, have pleaded guilty to the same charges.
 Under federal statutes, Hughey and Coonce are each subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000 and an order of restitution. Rhodes and Cooper are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
 This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Billy Long to hold town hall in Joplin Thursday

Seventh District Congressman Billy Long will hold a town hall 7 p.m. Thursday, August 27, at Granny Shaffer's, 2728 N. Rangeline Road, Joplin.

Those attending are welcome to come early and order off the menu or just attend the 7 p.m. meeting.

Long will offer an update from Washington, D. C. and will answer questions and listen to comments.

Graves: Teachers, parents, not Washington bureaucrats, should make education decisions

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

A new school year is in full swing across the Midwest. I know it all too well, as my youngest daughter just started her freshman year at Mizzou. Her first day of kindergarten still doesn't seem that long ago.

As students and teachers return to the classroom this fall, the House and Senate will be working jointly to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act.

I have always believed that teachers and parents are better positioned to make decisions for their schools than bureaucrats in Washington.

Education should not be an issue that divides Republicans and Democrats - everyone wants our children to go to good schools, have success in the classroom, and lead productive lives. But the simple fact is that the Education Department, working from hundreds or thousands of miles away, just cannot know what is best for every community in America.

Thomas Jefferson once said "That government is best which governs the least.” There is nowhere his words ring truer than in our schools.

Joplin City Council votes 8-1 to hold hearing on Woolston ethics violations

The Joplin City Council voted 8-1 moments ago to hold an evidentiary hearing one week from today to address possible ethics violations by City Councilman Mike Woolston.

Woolston cast the only dissenting vote.

Councilman Ben Rosenberg made the motion for the hearing, quickly seconded by Bill Scearce. At the conclusion of a special meeting in which the city's tax levy hearing was held and a discussion was held with Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian concerning the city's contract with the Chamber, Rosenberg read a lengthy list of charges against Woolston, accusing him of "tarnishing the reputation of this body," with his actions.

Rosenberg noted the allegations, included both in the state audit and in the Loraine Report, that Woolston had used insider knowledge he obtained as a member of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART) to benefit Joplin businessman Charlie Kuehn of Four State Homes. Though Woolston has claimed from the beginning that he only accepted one commission from the sale of property in the area of 20th and Connecticut, Rosenberg noted that he had benefited from becoming the exclusive real estate agent handling deals with Four State Homes, "a significant financial incentive."

Rosenberg also cited Woolston's involvement with the Hope Valley TIF, which he in voted in favor of without disclosing that he was a business partner of developer Kevin Steele, who was proposing the TIF. Woolston also voted for the TIF, instead of abstaining.

Woolston and Kuehn are also both involved in the South Main TIF, which was approved by the council during its August 17 meeting.

Rosenberg also cited another allegation that was made in the Loraine Report, not by Loraine, but by Woolston himself, when he conceded that he had appeared before Planning and Zoning, as a private citizen, not as mayor, to aid with Kuehn's projects.

Rosenberg also alleged that Woolston had violated the code of ethics in the City Charter when he shared confidential information about the development of the 20th and Connecticut area with Kuehn.

Woolston said, "I have done nothing wrong." He asked that the council reject the hearing so that the citizens of Joplin could "move past this."

He quickly pivoted from that thought, though, and after saying he wanted it all to be over with, armed with materials prepared by his lawyer, Woolston gave a lengthy timeline for how the process should be held, which would culminate in a hearing February 1, 2016 or more than five months from now.

With extra appeals, Woolston's plan would last through April 2016.

Councilman Ryan Stanley said he was not sure one week would be enough time for Woolston to prepare, but he did not like the idea of waiting until February 1.

Councilman Gary Shaw said he would vote for the August 31 hearing, because he wanted to hear facts and not "opinions" like those he says were included in the state audit report.

If the council finds that Woolston violated the ethics code, he could be automatically removed from office.

Want to find more about Councilman Mike Woolston's actions before next Monday's hearing. Woolston is prominently featured in my book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado. A signing will be held this Saturday, August 29, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Always Buying Books in Joplin. The book is available locally at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe, and The Book Guy in Joplin, Pat's Books in Carthage, and Cato's Connection in Lamar, as well as online in e-book and paperback formats at