I was fortunate enough to have that experience several times as I was reviewing documents, video of televised meetings, letters, and everything else that I used in the writing of Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado.
Anyone who has read the book knows that one of the biggest miscarriages of justice has been the scurrilous personal attacks of the Joplin Globe and its frequent guest columnists Anson Burlingame and Geoff Caldwell against the five Joplin City Council members who voted to fire City Manager Mark Rohr.
Of the five, only one, former Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean, remains on the council. Thanks to the Globe's decision not to use material from the Loraine Report (after spending thousands on a court battle to get the complete report released) and the entrance of big money from the Joplin Progress Committee into the municipal elections, two of the five, Trisha Raney and Jack Golden, were defeated in April 2014.
The other two, Bill Scearce and Ben Rosenberg, left the council quietly last month. After years of public service, both men opted not to run for re-election.
And as they left, no one said much of anything.
I would like to change that now.
Over the last months of Mark Rohr's time in Joplin and in the months following his firing, the Joplin Globe targeted Scearce and Rosenberg with a ferocity that would normally be reserved for mass murderers (or David Wallace after the city's elite told the Globe it was all right to write bad things about the Texas con artist).
Globe Editor Carol Stark put her best reporters (and also did some work herself) in trying to tie Scearce into a two-decade-old gambling operation. The Loraine Report later cleared Scearce of the allegations. The FBI did not find any information that could lead to a Scearce indictment and had closed the investigation years earlier, but it remained a viable story for the Globe because Scearce dared to oppose Rohr and had been on the losing side in the first vote to oust the city manager.
The battles Scearce had to fight against a media source that was bound and determined to destroy him are spelled out in great detail in my book.
Scearce was not the only who was targeted by the Globe. Globe readers will recall that the newspaper ran a page one story about a traffic stop involving Rosenberg several months after it happened. Rosenberg was cited for driving with his dog on his lap. While Rosenberg did not acquit himself well during that traffic stop, the Globe got on its high horse about city councilmen expecting special treatment. That is a legitimate concern, but there was no doubt this story would likely have never seen the light of day if Rosenberg had been a Mark Rohr supporter.
Rosenberg, as much as anyone, opened the doors to allow Joplin taxpayers to receive a behind-the-scenes look at the corruption that enveloped the city during the first years of the tornado recovery process.
When Councilman Mike Woolston pushed for an investigation of Scearce on the gambling matter, it was Rosenberg, who outmaneuvered Woolston by suggesting that the investigation should also look into Woolston's behavior in helping buy up property in the tornado recovery area for his business partner, who then worked with Wallace Bajjali to resell the property to the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation at much higher prices.
Rosenberg said that, of course, he did not believe Woolston had done any such thing, but surely Woolston would want to make sure that his good name was cleared. Woolston had no choice but to go along.
That one move by the crafty Rosenberg opened the door, not only for Osage Beach investigator Thomas Loraine, but later for Missouri state auditors to uncover a multitude of activities that, at the least, spelled conflict of interest. At the worst,the evidence strongly indicated fraud and misuse of office.
I would be the last to say that Bill Scearce and Ben Rosenberg are perfect. None of us are, but these gentlemen, both of whom served the public in many years and in many capacities, saved their best for last, and in so doing, earned the gratitude of the people of Joplin.
Profiting Off the Tornado
Last night, I wrote about those people, including CART leader Jane Cage, former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff, and others who are involved with the four-day observance of the fifth anniversary of the Joplin Tornado, people who have continued to profit by pushing a version of the tornado recovery that is distinctly removed from reality.
The post has received numerous comments, including the following one from someone who is clearly not one of my supporters:
Randy Turner, you yourself have made money off the tornado, with your three books being sold on Amazon! Pot, meet kettle.
I doubt that there are many readers who feel the same way this one did. My guess is this person would find fault with anything I do, but let me set the record straight.
First of all, I have four books, not three, about the Joplin Tornado that are selling on Amazon. Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker and I wrote two, 5:41 and Spirit of Hope, I worked with the students at East on Scars from the Tornado, a book that should have been a source of pride for the Joplin R-8 School District, and last summer, I added Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado to the list.
At some point soon, it will be five books since John Hacker and I are working on another one.
The tornado is an important part of Joplin history and Hacker and I have determined that when people want to find out what really happened, not just on May 22, 2011, but in the years following, that our books will be the primary source.
A lot of effort has been put into that. At this point, two of the books, 5:41 and Silver Lining, have made a profit (though an exceedingly small one for Silver Lining) As those who followed my termination hearing and my writings in the Turner Report are aware, I lost more than four thousand dollars in an effort to promote Spirit of Hope to cover a promise I made that every student and staff member at East would receive a copy of Scars from the Tornado.
I am still paying off that money, though I was able to live up to my promise by providing free e-books of Scars, not just to staff and students, but to the entire Joplin community, (more than 1,100 free copies were given away when the e-book was published) and providing paperback copies to those who contributed stories or poems to the book.
Even if I had made millions off the books, I would not be apologizing for it. These books have not been ripoffs designed to cash in on a horrific event, but have provided the best sources available to tell people the stories of those affected by the tornado and the activities of community leaders during those fateful days.
I am proud of these books and hope fervently that they have provided something valuable to Joplin.