Saturday, April 30, 2016

Empire District Electric stockholders to vote on merger June 16

The selling will continue during the annual meeting May 2, but the actual shareholder vote to approve Joplin-based Empire District Electric Company's sale to the Canadian Algonguin company will take place during a special meeting June 16, according to company officials.

The following statement was given by Empire CEO Bradley Beecher during the quarterly earnings hearing Friday:

Shareholder approval is also required for the transaction. We have set May 2, 2016, as the record date for determining eligibility to vote on their agreement and planned merger. We expect to hold a Special Shareholders Meeting on June 16, 2016, to conduct the vote. A final proxy and voting instructions will be mailed to shareholders next week.

Last week, we began joint meetings at the senior management level to initiate the transition and integration planning process. As we work to fulfill the conditions to close the merger we remain focused on business as usual at Empire.

Engler: SJR 39 was unnecessary, likely unconstitutional

(From Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington)

In the final weeks of session, we are hearing a lot of Senate bills on the House floor and few of our own House bills are moving. Sponsors are hoping their amendments can survive joint Senate/House conference committees. We are also busy in committees hearing House bills that members want heard even though they won’t pass this year.

The biggest thing that happened this week was the hearing and committee vote on Senate Resolution 39; the so-called “Religious Freedom” bill. This legislation did not pass out of committee. If passed it would have put this issue on the ballot and I think the voters would have eventually voted it down. It passed the Senate, also known as the “deliberative body” in less than two weeks after being introduced.

Thirteen years ago my former colleague and I put into statute these same protections. Since then, no one in the state of Missouri has lost a lawsuit and no minister has ever been forced to perform a same sex marriage.

SJR39 was poorly written and possibly unconstitutional, and the only reason to pass the bill was to boost our religious base. Many people don’t realize that Missouri is one of the few states where you can legally fire someone if they are gay. I would question anyone that doesn’t think that this is strong enough discrimination policy. I believe that this issue would have been viewed by most as just hate.

I don’t think that was the supporters’ intent, but the result would have been a “summer of hate” with millions of dollars spent by nearly every large corporation in the state that have already come out strongly against the bill. Missouri would have been the focus and laughingstock of the national press again. After Ferguson and the recent issues at the Mizzou campus, this would have been devastating. Even if the vote were successful it would've only achieved the result of putting in the constitution what are largely protections that are in our statutes already

Speaker outlines new, unnecessary gun laws approved by House

(From a portion of Speaker of the House Todd Richardson's weekly newsletter)

The House gave approval to two pieces of legislation to bolster the gun rights of law-abiding citizens this week. 

House Bill 2057, sponsored by Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, would ensure that concealed carry permit applicants cannot be charged a fee in excess of $100 and prohibits additional fees that may be charged including any fee for fingerprinting or criminal background checks. 

House Bill 1468, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, would allow Missourians to carry a concealed weapon without the need for a permit. Referred to as constitutional carry, the bill would allow any person to carry a concealed firearm anywhere that isn’t expressly prohibited by law. 

This brings Missouri statute in line with the constitutional change made by Missouri citizens in 2014 that allows the right to permit-less carry. 

Both pieces of legislation now move over to the Senate for further consideration.

Missouri's 52 GOP delegates- 37 Trump, 15 Cruz

(From the Missouri Republican Party)

Missouri Republican Party has released the unofficial results of the Congressional District Conventions, which took place today to select delegates to the Republican National Convention and nominate presidential electors.

Based on the results of Missouri’s presidential preference primary on March 15, the delegates selected in Congressional Districts 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8 are bound to Donald Trump, and the delegates selected in Congressional Districts 4, 5, and 7 are bound to Ted Cruz.

The results are unofficial until the State GOP receives certification from each convention, a process which may take several days to complete.

Please note: 25 additional national delegates will be selected at the State Convention in May. The State Chairman, National Committeeman, and National Committeewoman will also serve as delegates. In total, Missouri has 52 national delegates—37 bound to Donald Trump and 15 bound to Ted Cruz.

Friday, April 29, 2016

My open heart surgery and a few announcements

You do not get to recover if you never entered the battle.

That is one of the old chestnuts I have unearthed as I try to achieve some normalcy in the aftermath of my latest battle with health issues.

Those who have read my Facebook page have known that on the early morning of Monday, April 17, approximately 2:30 p.m., I checked myself into the Freeman Emergency Room, not knowing I was in the process of having a heart attack.

Truth be told, it may have been a second one. I had a similar pain for a short time the previous evening. It went away quickly, but after a year that has seen me go undergo four stents, I decided I would go to the emergency room at the next hint of chest discomfort.

A quick procedure was done to implant a balloon which would stay in while my body was being drained of a blood thinner I had taken following the stents. The balloon stayed in for the next week, leaving me on my back in the Freeman ICU.

The procedure, a triple heart bypass, was conducted during a five-hour period the evening of Friday, April 21. I was told it was a success and now the hard part would begin- doing the necessary work to bring myself back to regular, ordinary life, as it is.

I did my best during this past week to do what I was told, not complain, and work toward being released as soon as possible. The hard-working people at Freeman have done so much for me over the past year, that I will never find a way to repay them.

The last thing they needed was some 60-year-old whiner, realizing that his life had taken a change for the worse and dragging everyone down into the mud with him. I won't say that I did not complain, but if I did, I quickly apologized for it and tried to do better the next time.

When it was time for four a.m. x-rays, three-times-a-day physical therapy, or having to take a dozen pills at a time when I was on a restricted liquid diet. (I have a hard time swallowing pills without plenty of water). I went along with it.

Finally, on Thursday, my last physical therapy session, took me into an area of the hospital where I could walk up and down stairs. I went up the stairs once and back down, but it was a big thrill when I was told, "You're ready."

Thursday night and Friday, I moved into my new home for the next month or so, though it is a home with which I am familiar, having lived there from 1956 through 1977. My parents, in their 80s, are stuck with me until I am freed from doctors' restrictions on my driving and traveling.

With the help of Freeman Home Health, we are not having to do this alone. Miracles truly have taken place in medicine over the past few decades.

Of course, my parents are stuck with someone who has a beard that should make people wonder if the rumors of Merle Haggard's death were not exaggerated.

As the hours passed, I put off writing this post. I was not sure what I wanted to say. During a brief period of this enforced separation from blogging, I read some of the comments that had been left on the blog and on my Facebook pages.

One woman as much as said that she hoped I had another heart attack and died. Others who were upset about posts I had written earlier, had similar comments, most referring to me as an unfeeling person who writes whatever he wants to do just to damage people's lives.

I would say the people who feel inspired to share such comments on social media are the ones who do not care about damaging lives.

I don't plan on dwelling on what those people say. I prefer to think about and humbly say thank you to all of you who have given me your prayers, your kind wishes, and your thoughts about the work I do.

I don't plan on overdoing it, but the Turner Report, Inside Joplin, Inside Joplin Obituaries, and whatever other blogs I am working on, will continue, I will keep writing books, and I am hoping to have a couple of surprises to announce in the near future.

Thanks again to the best support staff a recovering open heart surgery patient could ever ask for.

Seven Joplin R-8 teachers resign, one retires,

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education accepted seven faculty resignations and one retirement during the April 15, closed session.

Those resigning:

Christina Patterson
Julain Pock
Heather Shull
Shelby Sullivan
Mary Baum
Tobin Schultz
Edward Trumbell


Kristi McGowan

In other action, the board approved the hiring of building principals Christopher Bozarth, Shalley Lundien and Brian Olivera.

The board also hired the following certified personnel:

Jennifer Hancock, 
Rachael Sachs 
Elizabeth Shannon
Shelly Tarter 
Kasondra Turley.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Anatomy of a merger: SEC document details Empire District Electric sale

A preliminary proxy statement filed by Empire District Electric Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission March 30 details the decision to offer the Joplin-based company for sale, the steps that were taken to arrange for bids, the bidding process, and how Canadian company Algonquin eventually became the successful suitor.

The information, though it makes for mind-numbing reading in some places, includes how Empire District Electric reacted when its sale plans were leaked to the media, the late entrance of an alternate bidder, the departure of other bidders who initially showed interest, and just about everything except why the company's management and board of directors thought a sale/merger was necessary.

The Board and management of Empire regularly review and assess Empire's long-term business plan and strategic alternatives available to enhance shareholder value, including potential business combination transactions.
On October 29, 2015, the Board held a meeting that was also attended by certain members of senior management, representatives of Moelis and a representative of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP , which we refer to as Cahill, Empire's outside legal counsel. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

C. J. Huff to go beyond bake sales at Missouri PTA Convention

Former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff will present two sessions a week from today, Saturday, April 23, at the Missouri PTA Convention in Columbia.

The sessions are described below. The second one, a panel discussion, will feature the current head of Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA), a member of the board for Bright Futures USA that hired Huff as a paid consultant.

Beyond Bake Sales …A Framework for Higher Levels of Parent/Community/School Engagement
Presenter:  Dr. C.J. Huff, Retired, Superintendent, Joplin Schools
Are you ready for a new approach to support your schools? You shouldn’t have to do it alone. In this motivational session, attendees will learn specific strategies on how to more fully engage their school community to better serve children and teachers.   Dr. Huff is an educator that has 20 years of experience of working in public schools and recently retired from the Joplin School district where he served as superintendent since 2008.  

Building a Winning Team – a panel discussionPresenters:  Dr. C.J. Huff, Retired, Superintendent, Joplin Schools; Melissa Randol, ESQ., Executive Director Missouri School Boards’ Association; Jennifer Case, Vice-President, Blue Springs R-IV School District Board of Education; Lori Prussman, Missouri PTA Treasurer and School Board Member, St. Joseph School District
Description:  What is the best way to approach my principal?  Is it ok to ask for a meeting with the superintendent?  Should PTA be represented at school board meetings?  How much should/can PTA be involved in the decision making for the district?  Often PTA leaders are unsure about how to work with their district’s different levels of governance.  Bring your questions and join  Dr. C. J. Huff, Melissa Randol, Jennifer Casey and Lori Prussman in a lively panel discussion.  Let’s share ideas about building good working relationships that benefit our children, parents, staff and community.

After the PTA Convention, Huff's next public appearance seems to be his presentations as part of panel discussions during events during the five-year anniversary of the Joplin Tornado observance.

Parents upset about R-8 attorney's romance with superintendent

The controversy surrounding the romantic relationship between the $400,000 a year superintendent of the Lee's Summit School District and the school district's attorney continues.

An angry group of parents attended the Board of Education meeting this week demanding that the district sever its relationship with the Guin Mondorf law firm because of Superintendent David McGehee's romance with attorney Shellie Guin.

Guin Mondorf has worked for the Joplin R-8 School District on two recent high profile cases. During the summer of 2015, the firm represented the district against a lawsuit filed by three Joplin residents seeking to overturn the Jasper County Commission's appointment of Sallie Beard, Ron Gatz, and Gary Nodler to the Board of Education.

In May 2013, Guin served as the prosecutor in my termination hearing.

The Lee's Summit board intends to retain Guin Mondorf. The district spent $13,000 to hire two outside law firms to conduct an investigation into whether there was a problem. Unbelievably, the investigators said there was no problem since the school district was using other lawyers in the firm to conduct its business and not Guin.

Of course, Guin being a name partner in the firm would still be profiting from the school district's business.

The board voted 4-3 to keep Guin Mondorf.

(KZRG photo of Guin taken at my hearing May 23, 2013)


Billy Long speaks out on House floor against internet regulation

Friday, April 15, 2016

Campaign finance reports: Koster has $7 million in bank

Candidates for governor filed their financial disclosure reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission Friday and the big money was in Attorney General Chris Koster's campaign account.

Koster, the only Democrat in the race to succeed term-limited Jay Nixon, collected $2,169,808 during the past three months and has $7,446,359.80, nearly as much as the four major Republican candidates combined.

Topping the cash game for the GOP was former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens with $1,015,988.85 during the quarter. Greitens has $4,130,296.79 in his account.

Businessman John Brunner raised $158,057.54 and has $3,235.814.60, while Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder picked up $328,295.53 and has $624,521.52.

Former Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway, who hasn't picked up a big check from retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield in quite some time, raised $254,251 and has $1,581,464.54 in her campaign account.

$1 million for Greitens, but more than $600K from out-of-state sources

Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens cracked the one million dollar barrier with his first quarter fundraising, but more than 60 percent of his money came from out-of-state sources.

Greitens' financial disclosure report, filed Friday with the Missouri Ethics Commission, showed $1,015,988,85 in contributions, with $654,380 coming from outside of Missouri's borders.

Greitens' contributors included bankers, hedge fund owners and venture capitalists, as well as a few notable names.

Chicago Cubs owner Marlene Ricketts contributed $25,000. Ricketts is the wife of T. D. Ameritrade owner Joe Ricketts.

Linda McMahon, head of McMahon ventures (and wife of WWE front man Vince McMahon) contributed $10,000.

One of the larger contributors was Michigan Republican Party chairman Ronald Weiser, who gave $50,000. Weiser was ambassador to Slovakia during the George W. Bush Administration and was one of the primary architects of Michigan right-to-work legislation.

Cleaver: We must close the wage gap between men and women

(From Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

On Tuesday, we marked Equal Pay Day, the day when, more than three months into the year, women’s wages finally catch up to what men were paid in the previous year. Once again, I call on all Members of Congress to come together in support of the passage of the critical Paycheck Fairness Act. More must be done to close the wage gap that still exists between women and men.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the women in our state of Missouri still earn only 77.4 cents for every dollar earned by men. And nationwide, women earn only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, putting Missouri behind the national average. The Equal Pay Act was passed in June of 1963, but a new study finds that women won’t see pay equity with men until 2059, based on the rate that the pay gap has been closing since 1960.
Today, women make up about half of the workforce, and it is wrong that on average they are still being paid less than men. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. While women’s role in our economy has changed dramatically, America’s workplaces have simply not kept up.

I am a proud cosponsor, along with every other House Democrat, of the critical Paycheck Fairness Act, which is designed to help women finally achieve equal pay for equal work, by strengthening and closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers; require employers to show that pay disparity is truly job-related, not based on gender; strengthen remedies for women experiencing pay discrimination; and empower women in the workplace through a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills.

We must do something real about closing the wage gap – by taking up the Paycheck Fairness Act for full consideration. Equal pay is not simply a woman’s issue – it is a family issue. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families. We should not rest until we achieve true pay equity for women – ensuring that all American women in the workforce are receiving equal pay for equal work.

Parents of Diamond teen killed in accident file wrongful death lawsuit

The parents of a Diamond High School honor student who was killed in a January 4 one-car accident filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver.

The action is to finalize a settlement with the insurance company.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Newton County Circuit Court by Gary and Christy Miksell, Diamond, parents of 15-year-old Jacee Miksell against Haylee A. Heidlage-Barnes, 16, a Diamond High School student.

The accident occurred 7:55 a.m. January 4 on Pelican Road, two miles east of Diamond. According to the Highway Patrol report, a 2000 Buick Regal driven by Barnes, ran off the right side of the roadway, struck a ditch and overturned, ejecting Jacee Miksell, who was not wearing a seat belt. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Barnes suffered minor injuries and was treated at Freeman West Hospital, Joplin.

Online court records indicate Barnes insurance company is represented by St. Louis attorney Michael D. Mayes.

The action was filed 19 days after what would have been Jacee Miksell's 16th birthday.

(Updated to note that the lawsuit, which in these types of cases lists the driver as the defendant, is actually a matter of dealing with the driver's insurance company.)

Billy Long: Domestic abuse victims deserve hope, safe havens

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

If you watch local newscasts in Missouri’s Seventh Congressional District, you can’t help but have noticed the plethora of domestic violence and child abuse stories. The thought of people living in torment without anywhere to turn for safety should be repulsive to any caring human being. The need for federal legislation is crucial to protect these victims, but delivering them safety will require local community involvement as well.

Nationwide, child abuse and domestic violence statistics are staggering; the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that more than 30 percent of women have experienced at least one form of physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Each day, an average of three or more women are killed by their significant other while approximately 24 people are victims of these situations each minute.

Also, the most recent HHS data shows that nearly 700,000 cases of child abuse or neglect were reported in 2013, including 205,438 sexual abuse and 60,897 physical abuse cases. The same year, more than 3 million children received services from Child Protective Services (CPS), and nearly 80 percent of child fatality reports indicated their parents’ abuse or neglect as the cause of death.

Statistics in the Ozarks have mirrored these trends. In Springfield, Missouri, for example, police reported that aggravated domestic assaults increased 20 percent from 2013 to 2014 and, in February of last year, Police Chief Paul Williams said his officers were responding to 13 domestic assault calls daily. The most recent reports from the Missouri Department of Social Services are even more troubling: per capita, child abuse is more prevalent in Springfield than St. Louis or Kansas City.

Last May, I met with 14 Southwest Missouri abuse victim advocacy groups – Springfield Police Department, Joplin-based Lafayette House, Springfield-based Harmony House and others – to gain a clear picture of how I can best help fight for relevant law enforcement, medical, and counseling resources in Congress. Equally as important, I knew that a meeting like this would create local synergy among these groups and local businesses to combat this violence.

At this meeting, Harmony House – an organization that provides shelter, advocacy, and education for domestic abuse survivors – shed light on exactly how dire a situation these victims are in. Recently, numbers of women and children in need of safe places to sleep have drastically outpaced their resources; Harmony House was forced to turn away 412 victims of domestic abuse in 2010 and by 2014 that number had grown to 2,326.

Thankfully, urgent dialogue like this has begun to bear fruit. As always, folks in the Ozarks pull together when called upon. As a result, Harmony House will be moving to a new facility soon with increased bed capacity plus providing transitional apartment housing for domestic abuse survivors while getting back on their feet. Other groups have been making progress in their own ways; the Springfield Police Department's Family Violence Task Force, for example, was created to improve both domestic violence investigatory methods, while involving local businesses, churches, and civic leaders to help educate the community.

All Americans should join these efforts to drastically reduce these cases of domestic abuse. This abuse will live with children and oppressed women for as long as they live, and increase their susceptibility to suicide or depression. Every single American must be enlightened to this lurking threat and encourage their neighbors to take a stand against it. This is a top priority of mine in Washington, where I will continue to share stories of Southwest Missouri’s successes in this fight with other members of Congress – encouraging that they spur aggressive anti-domestic violence collaboration in their districts as well.

Agenda posted for Monday's Joplin City Council meeting

April 18, 2016
6:00 P.M., Council Chambers
Call To Order
Pledge of Allegiance of the United States of America
Roll Call
Finalization Of Consent Agenda
Reports And Communications
Citizen Requests And Petitions
Request To Address Council
Bree O’Haro, 2314 S. Joplin Ave, Joplin MO, requests to address Council regarding sewage spill over in her home.
Ted & Amy Donaldson, Director And President Of Compass Quest Veteran Services, A Non-Profit Organization Providing Support For Veterans, Serving Military And Family Members In The Joplin Area, Would Like To Address Council Regarding A Community Event Scheduled For Friday April 22, 2016.
Public Hearings
Consent Agenda
Minutes Of The April 4, 2016 City Council Meeting
Minutes Of The April 11, 2016 City Council Special Meeting
Ordinances - Emergency
AN ORDINANCE     declaring a public necessity for the acquisition by condemnation proceedings of right of way and easements located on property described as All the East Half of Lot Numbered Three (3) in SWOBODA ADDITION to the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri, for the widening of St. Louis Avenue, directing the City Attorney to commence an action to obtain said property; and containing an emergency clause. 
AN ORDINANCE     declaring a public necessity for the acquisition by condemnation proceedings of right of way and easements located on property described as All of Lot Numbered Six (6) in SWOBODA ADDITION to the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri, for the widening of St. Louis Avenue, directing the City Attorney to commence an action to obtain said property; and containing an emergency clause. 
AN ORDINANCE authorizing the execution of an Agreement by and between the City of Joplin and Crews Construction Inc., to provide construction services for installing 75hp Pumps and improvements for the Filmore Bridge Lift Station, not to exceed Three Hundred Sixty Seven Thousand and No/100 Dollars ($367,000.00) and authorizing the Director of Public Works to execute said Agreement; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving an agreement with CJW Transportation Consultants in the not to exceed amount of One Hundred Fifteen Thousand Nine Hundred Twenty Dollars, ($115,920.00) for Professional Engineering Consulting Services authorizing the Director of Public Works to execute the same; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving a Trash Billing and Collections Agreement, by and between the City of Joplin and Allied Services, LLC. d/b/a Republic Services of Galena, dealing generally with trash billing and collection services by the City on behalf of the residential trash provider; authorizing the City Manager to execute said Agreement by and on behalf of the City of Joplin; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE amending the Annual Budget of the City of Joplin for the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 as adopted by Ordinance 2015-168 on October 19, 2015, to adjust appropriations and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving a contract with Crossland Construction for the Public Safety Training Facility project in the amount of Four Million, Seven Hundred Seventy-Eight Thousand Dollars.  ($ 4,778,000.00) in the City of Joplin, Missouri; providing how the cost shall be made and levied and containing an emergency clause.
Ordinances - First Reading
AN ORDINANCE amending Chapter 42, Courts, Article II, Municipal Court, Division 1, Generally, Section 42-35, Court costs and other fees, by repealing Section 42-35(g) of the Joplin City Code.
AN ORDINANCE repealing Section 26-91, Building Permit Fees; Reinspection Fee of Article IV, Permits and Fees, of Division 2, Licenses, of Chapter 26, Buildings and Building Regulations, of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Joplin, and enacting in lieu thereof a new Section 26-91, Building Permit Fees; Reinspection Fee of Article IV, Permits and Fees, of Division 2, Licenses, of Chapter 26, Buildings and Building Regulations, of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Joplin to implement certain fee changes; and setting a date when this Ordinance shall become effective.
Ordinances - Second Reading And Third Reading
Unfinished Business
New Business
Mayor Appointments To Boards And Commissions

Joplin accepted into Central Ozark Conference

(From Joplin Schools)

Joplin Schools is excited to share that the Central Ozark Conference Board of Superintendents voted today to give final approval to Joplin’s request for membership in the large division of the COC for all sports and activities effective in the 2018-2019 school year.

The large school division of the COC currently includes the area school districts of Carl Junction, Carthage, Neosho and Webb City. It also includes the regional districts of Branson, Nixa, Ozark, Republic and Willard.

“On behalf of the COC, the superintendents are excited to welcome Joplin to what we feel is the most prestigious conference in the state of Missouri,” said COC President Dr. Shawn Randles. “We look forward to their collegiality, sharing each others best practices and encouraging a high level of competition on the fields and courts as we are all partners in education, and we all want what is best for southwest Missouri students.”

Joplin Schools submitted its application last fall. As part of the application process, the COC superintendents granted their executive committee of conference principals and athletic directors the approval to review the application. This review included research about the district, site visits and interviews. Following the review, the executive committee made a recommendation for approval to the COC superintendents. Final approval by the COC superintendents came today after a two-month waiting period allowing COC superintendents to seek consensus regarding the approval from their boards of education.

“We are grateful and excited to be accepted into the COC. This approval not only enables Joplin Schools to renew local rivalries in all sports and strengthen our programs to meet the level of competition in the COC, it will also lessen travel time and increase learning time for our students and provide cost savings related to travel. This ties directly to the goals in our new district strategic plan,” noted Joplin Schools Athletic Director Jeff Starkweather. “We have had a great relationship with the Ozark Conference and look forward to competing in that conference through the 2017-2018 school year.”

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fired R-8 employee's attorney to get a crack at Tina Smith

The attorney representing a fired Joplin R-8 employee in a sexual harassment lawsuit will have the chance to put the district's Chief Operating Officer Tina Smith on the hotseat.

Jasper County Circuit Court records indicate Kathy Dukes' lawyer, William G. Weber of the Pineville firm of Evenson, Carlin, and Cooper LLC, will depose Smith 1 p.m. June 7 in the Joplin office of the district's attorney Karl W. Blanchard.

The questioning will continue throughout the day and if more questioning is needed, it will continue the next day and any following days as needed.

Dukes' million dollar lawsuit was filed on February 10, 2015, less than a week before the district settled another sexual harassment lawsuit .

The lawsuit claims Dukes reported to human resources director (her title at that time) Tina Smith (pictured) that her supervisor, Herbie Coleman Jr., was sexually harassing and stalking her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seibert: There was nothing wrong with how Wallace-Bajjali was selected

As the fifth anniversary of the Joplin Tornado nears, a concerted effort is taking place to rewrite history.

Though state audits, the Loraine Report and my book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, have shown clearly that steps were taken to pave the way for Wallace Bajjali to come in to Joplin, creating the unnecessary position of master developer, making sure that Texas conman David Wallace's firm was hired for that position.

That wasn't the case, Joplin Mayor Michael Seibert said in an interview published in the latest edition of Joplin Regional Business Journal. Responding to a question on what his biggest disappointment has been, Seibert responded as follows:

I think obviously there is a lot of disappointment with what we had hoped to accomplish with the master developer. It didn't turn out as we had envisioned it, but we learned a lot of lessons out of that.

We were trying to make decisions in the middle of a disaster and we made the best ones we could make in that kind of situation.

There was nothing nefarious about who was picked or how the process happened. The fact is we were able to receive a lot of money from the master developer's efforts on our behalf. The reality is we secured about $50 million and it will be shown in progress over the next few years.

That same revisionist view of recent Joplin history will be on view for the nation next month when many of the same people who made numerous mistakes, including the Wallace-Bajjali fiasco, will be those who will be taking a victory lap next month, telling the national media how their wisdom led Joplin out of the wilderness and on the road to recovery.

Affidavit: Diamond Board member had sex with teen twice at his home

Former Diamond R-4 Board of Education member Johnny Russow had sex with a 16-year-old twice at his home, according to the probable cause affidavit from Newton County Deputy Mike Barnett.

Russow was charged Wednesday with two counts of statutory rape, but the 16-year-old told investigators that she had sex with Russow, 44, in two other places prior to the incidents in Russow's Diamond home.

From the probable cause affidavit:

I witnessed an interview with KA, a now 17-year-old girl. (She) disclosed when she was 16 years old, she had sexual intercourse two different times with Johnny Russow, a 44-year-old man.

KA disclosed that Johnny Russow had sexual contact with her in two other jurisdictions prior to the two incidents that occurred in Diamond, Missouri.

KA disclosed that she was at Johnny Russow's home and he told his daughter  to go outside and feed the animals.

KA disclosed that Johnny called her into the bathroom where he was at. KA disclosed that Johny got behind her and took off her pants and bent her over. (At that point, he had sex with her, according to the affidavit.)

KA disclosed that this happened one more time at Johnny Russow's residence. KA disclosed that she went into Johnny's bedroom and he took off her pants and laid her on the bed. (The affidavit then described the sex act.)

Russow resigned from the Diamond School Board April 6.

(KOAM photo)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Teacher charged with indecent exposure, sending explicit videos to students - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Diamond School Board member charged with statutory rape

Diamond R-4 Board of Education member Johnny Russow, 44, has been charged with two felony counts of second degree statutory rape, according to online Newton County Circuit Court records.

One incident allegedly occurred January 1, 2016, with the other incident taking place on February 1, 2016.

Bond has been set at $6,000.

The case is being investigated by the Newton County Sheriff's Office.

White supremacist seeks release from probation so he can help FBI

McDonald County white supremacist Robert Joos wants the government to grant him an early release from probation so he can help overworked FBI agents to track down the thieves who stole money from his church.

In documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Joos, who spent five years in prison on weapons charges, said that he trusted the wrong people to take care of his church, the Sacerdotal Church of David, while he was locked up. He has served one year of his three-year probationary period:

Continued supervision simply costs more than it's worth, especially since I'm so far from Springfield. It's also hindering the investigation of the ongoing (another truck stolen January 17, 2016) looting (over $1 million in damages) of the church, in that I can't cross state lines to follow leads for the FBI, Joplin office being overworked due to extreme number of meth addicts operating in this area.

My trusting the wrong people to secure church property while I was gone puts the burden of recovering damages on me.Therefore I request early termination of my supervised release.

Joos was arrested in 2009 as part of an FBI investigation into a 2004 racially motivated bombing in Scottsdale, Arizona, which also resulted in the arrests of national white supremacist leaders, the Mahon brothers, Dennis and Daniel.

An Associated Press article in 2009 described Joos' operation:

The Missouri affidavit says the Mahons told an undercover federal agent that white supremacists used Joos's remote property in southwestern Missouri's McDonald County for survival training.
One of the Mahon brothers described Joos as "an expert on weapons, explosives, bomb making and general survival skills," the affidavit said.

Joos himself told undercover agents who visited his property of the importance of having firearms "in several locations" and said he used 18 caves to hide weapons, according to the affidavit.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Joplin city manager provides weekly update

(Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm provided the following update to City Council members Friday.)

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

Key Meetings

-On Wednesday, I met with Chamber President Rob O’Brian to discuss economic development projects and activity. We discussed retail efforts on Range Line and in downtown, and I got an update on the progress of the advanced training center. In other ED news, we were asked by the Economic Development Administration about potential opportunities using remaining funds from the library project for other projects in the community. We have identified two possible projects – the first being an extension of a sewer line and installing two lift stations between 32nd and 20th near Wildwood Business Park. The second would be an extension/enhancement of 26th Street out at Crossroads Industrial Park. The JRC is a co-applicant on the grant, so these projects will be discussed at next week’s JRC meeting.

-Last night, we had our first meeting of the Sales/Use Tax Citizens Task Force, to begin the process of discussing the sales tax on titled equipment issue, and the use tax issue. The meeting went well, and we have scheduled our next meeting for April 14th at 4:00 p.m. here at City Hall. The Task Force’s goal is to have a recommendation to you by the second meeting in May, to ensure that we meet the state deadline of May 24th to place the item(s) on the ballot, if that’s what the committee recommends.

-Earlier today I toured several projects with Public Works Director Nick Heatherly and Assistant Director Dan Salisbury. Work is gearing up on the Zora and St. Louis widening projects, while the widening of Maiden Lane is winding down. Consultants are also working on our application for TIGER funds that will focus on the 32nd Street corridor. The overpass project on 20th Street is also moving along at a steady pace. Several bids were opened this week on other projects that will come to the council for consideration in the near future.


-Next week I will be ready to share the results of the salary survey that my office has conducted over the past year. We are nearing completion on the financial analysis to give you some idea about what the cost would be, but my hope is to present a few options for discussion at a future work session. Several employees have indicated a strong interest in seeing the results of the survey, and while I am reluctant to present the results to them without having a concrete plan in place for how to pay for it, I will be sharing the information with employees as well.

-Staff in our parks department continues work on updating the fee schedule for Memorial Hall. Activity at the facility is picking up, so I commend the parks department staff for their efforts in bringing new life back to this historic building until a long-range plan for the building can be developed.

-Staff has been putting together information for the new council member orientation, and I have reached out to the new members to identify some dates that will work for them. As soon as a date is confirmed, I will extend an invitation to the entire council to attend. I am planning for the possibility of an all-day orientation at this point.

-The review of the state audit follow-up continues, and there have been a few changes to the status of some of the findings since the auditor’s office last met with us. The only remaining review is with Auditor Galloway herself, so we suspect the delivery of the follow-up report will take place soon. The report will be posted to their website, and we will receive notice before it is posted. You may have received a test email verifying your address, but it will go to current and incoming council members as well.

In the Pipeline

-As mentioned last week, the finance department has scheduled training sessions for employees and supervisors to receive training on our purchasing system as well as our policies and procedures, to address the audit finding pertaining to purchase orders. Training will take place from April 18th to the 20th .

-I will be out of the office May 4-6 attending the Missouri City/County Managers Association annual conference.

Emery suggests closer scrutiny of businesses that oppose SJR 39

(From Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)

“If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.” Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson’s words seem more relevant daily as Missourians and Americans battle with the ever-increasing size and scope of government. Each Missouri budget is illustrative of the direction of your state government. Above all else, even if we pass no other bills, the Missouri Constitution requires the Legislature to pass an annual balanced budget. Missouri’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget is not final until the House and Senate reach full agreement and it is signed by the governor. Nevertheless, an important step was accomplished last Thursday, when the Senate passed House Bills 2001 through 2012, representing the bulk of anticipated expenditures for the next fiscal year (July 1 through June 30).

This year’s budget spends approximately $27.2 billion which is approximately one billion dollars higher than the prior year’s expenditures. With federal budgets in the trillions of dollars and state budgets in the billions, it is not easy for us to relate. Here are some breakdowns of averages:

2016 budget expense $27.2 billion

Expense per tax payer $7,041

Expense per adult $5,806

Expense per person $4,471

Expense per household $11,519

Increase per person $ 167

Increase per household $ 424

$/ taxpayer less Federal tax $ $4,685

Some noteworthy issues in the budget included an increase in funding for the public defender system, designed to ensure justice is served by an adequate defense even when a citizen cannot afford an attorney. There was reduced funding for the University of Missouri - Columbia in response to perceived mismanagement and a misaligned authority structure. A study of the University’s management structure is also being proposed. The budget bills were also written in a way to ensure Missourians who oppose abortion are not being forced to fund it – Planned Parenthood will no longer be a qualified Medicaid provider.

Fiscal Year 2016 is projected to be the first year of a long-overdue income tax cut that could reduce Missourian’s taxes by as much as $69 million. It is disturbing that last week the Senate passed and sent to the House a fuel tax increase expected to raise $230 million, much of that from Missouri drivers. (If passed by the Legislature, the proposal will go to a vote of the people.) In addition, a cell phone tax was voted out of the Senate Commerce Committee this week, which would increase Missourian’s taxes up to $15 million. I voted against both measures; it seems somehow disingenuous to be claiming credit for a tax decrease when taxes are being raised by concurrent proposals.

Some have asked about the progress of Senate Joint Resolution 39, which affirms constitutional protections of religious liberty and freedom of conscience relative to marriage. It has been assigned to a House committee but has not yet had a public hearing in that chamber. It is disappointing to see a number of businesses, who depend on Missouri customers, publicly oppose the religious protections of SJR 39 and hammer legislators to oppose it. Some of them include MasterCard (makes me glad I use VISA), Edward Jones, Monsanto, AT&T, Ameren and Dow Chemical. Their opposition has motivated me to begin checking product labeling more closely than ever before.

Koch, Martucci to head Joplin R-8 Board of Education

This is not your 2015 Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

One year ago, board member Lynda Banwart blocked the election of Debbie Fort as board president. When Fort was trying to convince Banwart she would be a good president, Banwart told her, "I see you not being able to work with other people."

That impression, Banwart said, came because Fort had "forced" former Superintendent C. J. Huff into attacking her because he was "very protective of his leadership team."

At the time, Banwart's response stunned the Joplin community since Huff had bullied Fort since her election to the board in April 2014 and Banwart was saying that Fort had brought on the attacks by displeasing the man who was bullying her..

What a difference a year makes.

After the swearing-in ceremony for newly-elected board members Jennifer Martucci, Sharrock Dermott, Lori Musser, and Chris Sloan tonight, nominations for board president opened with Banwart saying, "I nominate Debbie Fort."

Unlike last year, Fort has a new position at work that requires more of her time, so she declined the nomination. Fort nominated last year's board president, Jeff Koch, who was elected unanimously.

For vice president, Sloan nominated Martucci, with Banwart nominating Dermott.

As the first one nominated, the Martucci vote was held first. After six board members, including Dermott, voted "yes," Banwart said, "OK, yeah," and it was unanimous.

The meeting began with a presentation of lifetime passes to Joplin R-8 activities to departing board members Sallie Beard, Ron Gatz, and Gary Nodler, who were appointed by the Jasper County Commission in June to replace Lane Roberts, who was unable to serve because of his appointment as director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety and Mike Landis and Randy Steele, who quit when things stopped going their way.

The meeting took a total of 15 minutes, ending with Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder jokingly saying, "I want everybody to tell Gary Nodler about the shortness of this meeting."

(Photo: Board Secretary Pat Waldo swears in Jennifer Martucci, Sharrock Dermott, Lori Musser, and Chris Sloan.)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

McCaskill: It's time to drill down on college affordability

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

Two weeks ago, I met with hundreds of Missourians to discuss the crisis of ballooning college costs and student debt in our country. And now, I’m getting to work.

I heard from first-generation college students navigating a complicated system on their own, kids from single-parent households struggling to meet financial reporting requirements, and community college students grateful for the opportunities that Missouri’s A+ program has given them.

I heard from parents wanting their kids to reach for the stars but afraid of the financial hurdles ahead, and families trying to contribute to tuition while still paying off their own student debt. I heard from educators and administrators frustrated at having their hands tied by cumbersome bureaucracies, and technical schools committed to developing a strong, well-trained workforce.

With this in mind, I’ve come back to the Senate to drill down on college affordability and help get Missouri students, families, and educators the resources they need to succeed.

There is no better way for me to tackle the issues facing Missouri families than by hearing from them directly, which is why I am so grateful to everyone who came out to speak with me last week. With your input, we can — and must — reform our higher education system.

Please continue sharing your tuition and student debt experiences with me by using #CollegeCosts on Twitter and Facebook, and learn more about my tour at

Order your free e-book copy of Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud

It is looking more and more like the new book Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker and I have been working on, tentatively titled 5:41: Five Years Later, will not be published until after the five-year anniversary, but for those who have yet to read my last book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, I am offering a one-week special.

No, I am not giving away the entire book for free, but those who send me their e-mail addresses will receive a free 100-page preview of the 532-page book. And you can feel free to forward it to anyone who might be interested in reading it. You can e-mail me at

The preview tells the story of the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado, through the eyes of Joplin city leaders, including City Manager Mark Rohr, Mayor Mike Woolston, R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff, and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer and details the steps those people and other leaders took in the days after the tornado, with all of the information thoroughly researched.

Details on the creation of CART (Citizens Advisory Recovery Team) and how Texas con artist David Wallace of Wallace Bajjali was invited into Joplin are revealed.

The preview also includes some information that did not make it into the final edition of the book, with most of that centering on former Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck.

The preview includes the following chapters:

1. May 22, 2011- The tornado experiences, in their own words, of Mark Rohr, C. J. Huff, and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer

2. Disaster Response- How Mark Rohr and C. J. Huff reacted to the tornado and their first dealings with the media

3. The Tornado Mayor- Mike Woolston's story, David Wallace learns about the tornado, Mark Rohr and Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Director Rob O'Brian begin thinking of the city's future beyond tornado recovery

4. Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud-  Angie Besendorfer's story, including her turbulent time as superintendent of the Reeds Spring School District, her arrival in Joplin, and her reaction at being passed over in favor of C. J. Huff

5. We Will Have School- C. J. Huff makes his famous declaration, first in front of his administrative team and a silent board of education, then to a national audience in an event that was purportedly for the "school family. Huff takes steps to control all media coverage, I return to tornado-stricken East Middle School and go into areas of Joplin that have been devastated by the disaster and return to my home to find a threatening message from Huff.

6. A Presidential Visit- Barack Obama and the Westboro Baptist Church arrive in Joplin for a memorial service one week after the tornado. Mark Rohr sets the city's sights on the future.

7. Bright Futures-  The teaching experiences that led C. J. Huff to create Bright Futures, what Angie Besendorfer really thought of Huff's pet project, the truth about Joplin's improved graduation rates

8. Finding Temporary Schools- Even as Angie Besendorfer is doing the work to make sure school opens on time, C. J. Huff is taking another approach, something he has never mentioned in any of his speeches. MODOT offers use of its building in Joplin, but not for the purpose of housing administration

9. Enter Wallace-Bajjali- The beginnings of what led to CART and the Joplin Progress Committee,  David Wallace arrives in Joplin. Mark Rohr and the Jane Cage-led CART stack the deck in Wallace's favor as a master developer is hired, the background of Wallace-Bajjali that they conveniently overlooked.

10. The $794 Million Plan- David Wallace reveals his plan for the City of Joplin, David Humphreys and his family step in to help the city and the school district, the tornado story of Bruce Speck.