Monday, August 24, 2015

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


Anonymous said...

Uh... Isn't Woolston voting on this motion one more conflict of interest?
He should have abstained.

Anonymous said...

Here is another example of entitled behavior. Voting not to have a hearing on your own possible ethics violations when the party should be abstaining. That the possible ethics violations could include not abstaining when there was a personal interest, makes for a déjà vu type situation.

8-1. What was gained by not abstaining other than to look stupid and implicated?

Dusty Roads said...

His departure is long over due

Anonymous said...

He should have abstained. I agree with 9:04 the vote did made him look stupid and implicated. I'm waiting for the Mayor to make another statement about Woolston being an "honorable" man. In some ways he's worse than Wallace. He was one of us and the citizens placed their trust in him to represent us. He failed miserably. I hope to God we can get him off the Council next week. He doesn't deserve to be there. He squandered his credibility. I'm also very skeptical of doing business with any company his greedy paws are involved in.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, did anyone expect any other outcome? Joplin was awash in money and that brings great temptation into the mix. As far as I am concerned this guy is guilty of fraud and theft by deception and needs to go to jail for it, however, he is not the only one who took advantage of people who were in crisis mode for his own personal enrichment and I am convinced that only a Grand Jury will be able to sort it all out.

Anonymous said...

I am convinced that only a Grand Jury will be able to sort it all out.

There's a saying that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, which is surely an exaggeration ... but first, you need a prosecutor who's willing to make the effort, who's interested in bringing corrupt officials to justice and protecting the public. As of yet, I don't see any such prosecutor interested in this mess.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Mr. Woolston the main ring leader in pressing for an investigation of Mr. Scearce for renting a space to a couple old time bookies. Mr. Scearce never lobbied for huge tax breaks for those guys and actually can't be held culpable for what a tenant does inside the rooms of rented property. Boy, was that a big mistake. He is responsible for starting his own demize. That alone shows the guy isn't the brightest bulb on the tree. And my response to the standard claim of, "I am convinced I did have done nothing wrong" is, what blue collar crook ever did anything wrong? It is re-assuring that we have a big bunch of city leaders telling us about all the things they didn't do wrong.

Anonymous said...

In response to is my understanding that any citizen can initiate action by the Prosecuting Attorney on this issue. All it would take is for a Joplin citizen to do so. Given the amount of evidence that exists from both the Lorraine report and and State Audit report there is sufficient information for the Prosecuting Attorney to move forward with an indictment. It is my belief that there may be some hesitation in doing so because of the other players that will invariably be ensnared in a full out criminal investigation. I don't believe for one minute that Mr. Woolston is the only individual who had a hand in this whole messy affair. Pure and involved a concerted effort of those within the City management, Chamber, and CART. That is a lot of corn to shuck!!

Anonymous said...

10:27 AM: The key concept would seem to be psychological projection. Someone who seems to be dishonestly corrupt like Woolston, who shows no signs of admitting that to himself, is said to be likely to project that flaw onto others.

Steve Holmes said...

Has any reporter even tried to talk with Charlie Kuehn?

What's the story on his office building under construction near 32nd & Connecticut? I haven't seen any progress there in months?

Anonymous said...

That's a great question right there, why hasn't anyone got Charlie Kuehn on the record? Or Gary Box? Or the other locals Wallace-Bajjalli hired from Joplin?

It would appear to me that there are a few sources who know more than what is being reported by the local media.

Read today that KOAM has a story about the audit in regards to the losses suffered by the gold course and airport. One of the golfers quoted noted the reason why the gold course loses money is because it needs improvements. Really? Sink another $500,000 into a venue that loses $250,000 or so annually? Schifferdecker is not designed to be operated to turn a profit or even cover costs, its a quality of life (think parks) benefit to being a resident of Joplin or the greater metro. More than just Joplin folks play Schifferdecker. What does it cost to operate annually? $500,000? $700,00? A new pro is not going to close the gap nor eliminate a $250,000 operational loss. Impossible.

Besides, even if he generates more rounds played at Schifferdecker, operational costs (think repairs and maintenance) will also increase.

As for the airport. It operates at a loss too, but not only is it a quality of life benefit for the residents of Joplin, but the surrounding region AND an economic development tool, if used (think sold to prospective business developers) wisely. I question the economic development being done in our region. Have they had some wins? Yes. But the overall scoreboard shows we are trailing in the game.

Anonymous said...

That's a great question right there, why hasn't anyone got Charlie Kuehn on the record? Or Gary Box? Or the other locals Wallace-Bajjalli hired from Joplin?

Something tells me those people are not talking unless they get a subpoena. The people we have been hearing from are in danger of losing their positions and are desperately trying to avoid that.

Steve Holmes said...

Kuehn sent a statement to the Globe. The story is in today's paper.

As to Gary Box, he now has a company, Gary Box Consulting.

I hope someone asks Trish Raney, too, as well as the other CART members not yet on record, as to their rationale for supporting Wallace Bajjali.