Thursday, March 31, 2016

First ethics legislation sent to governor

(The following was put out by several Missouri Republican legislators with each claiming it as their own capitol report.)

Making good on their promise to make substantive ethics reform a top priority, members of the General Assembly sent legislation to the Governor’s desk this week that would help improve the culture at the State Capitol. The legislation that has now received final approval from both the House and Senate would prohibit statewide elected officials and members of the General Assembly from receiving compensation as paid political consultants.

The bill, which received bipartisan support in the House and unanimous approval in the Senate, would ensure that elected officials do not receive pay for campaign strategy or fundraising work while in office. As the sponsor of the legislation told his colleagues, some elected officials have used their positions to gain personal wealth, and the bill is meant to prevent this type of conflict of interest.

The bill now awaits the signature of the Governor, who has said he supports strengthening the state’s ethics laws.

St. Charles Republican: TIFs have failed their main purpose

(From Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles)

The House passed HB1434 & 1600 to crack down on big businesses abuse of Tax Increment Financing (TIFs). TIFs permit the use of a portion of local property and sales taxes to assist funding the redevelopment of certain designated areas within your community. Areas eligible for Local TIF must contain property classified as a "Blighted", "Conservation" or an "Economic Development" area, or any combination thereof, as defined by Missouri Statutes.

In St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson & Boone counties we have county wide TIF commissions to give a regional view of these tax subsidies. This bill gives the commission more power to stop the abuse of businesses from playing one city off another in the same county to avoid paying local taxes. 

Currently if the TIF commission rejects a project then it goes back to the municipality that proposed it. The municipality can overrule the TIF commission’s recommendation by 2/3 vote.

This bill changes the recoverable cost if the TIF commission rejects a TIF project to the: Demolition of a building and clearing/grading of the land. (the cost of new buildings, property assembly, financing, ect will not be reimbursed.) 

According to the East-West Gateway report on TIF. For the past 20 years local governments in the metropolitan St. Louis region have diverted more than $5.8B in public tax dollars used to subsidize private development. St. Louis Region have created retail jobs at the rate of 1 new position at a cost of $370,000 in taxpayer subsidies. 
TIF Facts

TIF was originally intended to be used in a blighted area however TIF in the St. Louis Region has been used extensively in wealthier municipalities:

In the State of Missouri local governments use TIF more than 47 states other states. 

Abuse of eminent domain which should only be used for public use not private
Taxpayers are now the risk takers, not private enterprise

Bureaucrats and government are now micro-managing business locations

Taxpayer subsidies are now the standard in retail development

Municipalities are pitted against each other (fight over retail space).

The East-West Gateway in it’s report on TIF and other economic incentives for the

TIF’s have failed their main purpose of economic growth and job creation.

Agenda posted for Monday's Joplin City Council meeting

April 4, 2016
6:00 P.M., Council Chambers
Call To Order
Pledge of Allegiance of the United States of America
Roll Call
Proclamation Recognizing April As Fair Housing Month
Finalization Of Consent Agenda
Reports And Communications
Citizen Requests And Petitions
Public Hearings
AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-1 and including in District C-3 property as described below and located at 2411 South Joplin Avenue, 2413 South Joplin Avenue, 2423 South Joplin Avenue, and 2427 South Joplin Avenue in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-3 and including in District C-1 property as described below and located 150 feet north of the intersection of 15th Street and Ohio Avenue in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
AN ORDINANCE providing for the vacation of a public street right-of-way being approximately 180 feet of 14th Street west of Range Line Road, in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
Consent Agenda
Minutes Of The March 21, 2016 City Council Meeting
Minutes Of The March 22, 2016 Special City Council Meeting
AN ORDINANCE requesting the review of the Final Plat of THE WOODLANDS PLAT 2, located 350 feet south of the intersection of 32nd Street and John Duffy Drive in the City of Joplin, Newton County, Missouri.
Documents: CB2016-505.PDF


Documents: CB2016-506.PDF


Documents: CB2016-507.PDF
Ordinances - Emergency
AN ORDINANCE approving a purchase order to Drake-Scruggs Equipment Inc. in the amount of One Hundred and Six Thousand, Four Hundred Twenty Three and no/100 Dollars ($106,423.00) in the City of Joplin, Missouri; providing how the cost shall be made and levied, and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE approving an agreement with Jacobs Engineering in the not to exceed amount of Six Hundred Thirty Nine Thousand Nine Hundred Seventy Six Dollars, ($639,976.00) for Engineering for Design of Sidewalk, Curb & Gutter and Storm Water in the Recovery Area Projects authorizing the Director of Public Works to execute the same; and containing an emergency clause.
AN ORDINANCE authorizing a Program Services Contract for WIC Local Agency Nutrition Services, by and between the State of Missouri, Department of Health and Senior Services, and the City of Joplin, Missouri, for the City of Joplin Health Department to receive additional funds for User Acceptance Testing Training, for up to Two Thousand Dollars, no Cents, ($2,000.00); 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; and, authorizing the City Manager to execute the same by and on behalf of the City of Joplin, Missouri; and, containing an emergency clause.
Ordinances - First Reading
AN ORDINANCE amending Chapter 18, Animals, of the Joplin City Code by adding language to Sec. 18-5 Animal Abuse and Neglect, clarifying authority for addressing animals left in automobiles.
Ordinances - Second Reading And Third Reading
AN ORDINANCE accepting the bid of Allied Services, LLC d/b/a Republic Services of Galena to provide disposal services of bulky items, limbs/brush and tires at a local transfer station by Joplin residents; and dealing generally with the payment for those services
Documents: CB2016-113.PDF
Unfinished Business
New Business
Vote to go into closed session, which shall pertain to legal action, causes of action, or litigation including a public governmental body and any confidential or privileged communications between a governmental body or its representatives and its attorneys as set forth in Section 610.021(1) RSMo, as amended, 2015.  This meeting, record, and vote to be closed to the extent provided by law. The City Council shall adjourn at the end of the session.

Joplin man sentenced to 27 years for producing child porn

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

A Joplin, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for sexually abusing a 7-year-old victim to produce child pornography.

Joseph William Colvin, 26, of Joplin, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to 27 years in federal prison without parole. The court also sentenced Colvin to spend the rest of his life on supervised release following incarceration.

On Oct. 13, 2015, Colvin pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation of a child. Colvin admitted that he sexually abused a 7-year-old victim from April 20 through July 10, 2014, and recorded video of the abuse with his cell phone. He also admitted to taking two videos of the abuse, which investigators found on his cell phone.

According to court documents, Colvin was also in possession of child pornography that he downloaded from the Internet. Law enforcement officers seized Colvin’s laptop computer, an external hard drive and a cell phone, which must be forfeited to the government.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the Jasper County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Complete video- Joplin City Council candidate forum

Heated motions hearing held for accused Hailey Owens killer

Severe thunderstorm warning issued for portions of Jasper, Barton counties

(From the National Weather Service)

955 PM CDT WED MAR 30 2016








  CARTHAGE...                       STOCKTON LAKE...
  LAMAR...                          GREENFIELD...
  LOCKWOOD...                       JASPER...
  GOLDEN CITY...                    MILLER...
  EVERTON...                        CARYTOWN...
  DADEVILLE...                      LAMAR HEIGHTS...
  AVILLA...                         SOUTH GREENFIELD...
  ARCOLA...                         KENOMA...
  RED OAK...                        BOSTON...
  MAPLE GROVE...                    MEINERT...




Former curriculum director sets up shop as educational consultant

Former Joplin R-8 Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Sarah Stevens has a new line of work.

Stevens, who is serving out the rest of the 2015-2016 school year in some nondescript non-essential duty after being reassigned in November, is now an educational consultant. Her resignation from the Joplin district takes effect at the end of the year.

According to the website of her new consulting business, The Driven Learner, Stevens is offering her expertise at putting students "in the driver's seat" for their own education. She is described in this fashion:

Sarah wears many hats in the school improvement and innovation arena. Some of her proudest partnerships include working as a School Improvement Consultant with an education cooperative that serves over 135 school districts across the state of Kansas, and partnering with the Joplin School District in Joplin, Missouri to create a system of continuous improvement, through strategic planning, humble leadership, and by supporting the work of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. During her career Sarah has served students as an elementary teacher, library media specialist, teaching and learning coach, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment and taught graduate students at a local university as an adjunct professor for the Teaching and Leading Department. Sarah's passion is in system thinking and partnering with adults to create a motivating environment where students come first and learning makes an impact.”
The website indicates Stevens has two partners in this endeavor, the Greenbush Learning Center in southeast Kansas, and an old favorite of the Joplin R-8 School District- the Core Collaborative.

Stevens brought Core Collaborative to Joplin, a move that ended up costing taxpayers more than $100,000 and was visibly upset when the Board of Education, by a 4-3 vote, rejected the continuation of the consulting firm's contract.

Stevens' dealings with Core Collaborative were detailed in the November 15 Turner Report, published shortly after news of Stevens' resignation had been confirmed:

The resignation apparently brings an end to the meteoric rise of someone who had only two years of classroom experience to a position in upper administration, making $73,000 a year.

Stevens was hired by the R-8 District in 2004 and spent two years as an elementary teacher and one year as a librarian before being tabbed as a teaching/learning coach, a position that served as a springboard for those who wanted to climb the ladder in the school district.

Stevens was promoted to her current position in 2012, after serving four years as a coach. She had no background in curriculum, so the Huff Administration had to hire a "professional learning coordinator" to assist her after that lack of qualifications was cited by state auditors.

Stevens' constant pushing of outside consultant Paul Bloomberg and his Core Collaborative group brought her into the spotlight last year. Not only did Stevens work to get Core Collaborative a full-time gig in Joplin, but she also promoted the group heavily with other school districts.

The district's dealings with the Core Collaborative were approved by the Board of Education at its August 19, 2014, meeting as part of the consent agenda. As with many things the board approved as part of the consent agenda, it turned out to cost far more than what it said in the original document.

The document said "a discounted cost for the Core Collaborative to provide 12 days of training is $31,260, which includes all travel costs (airfare, hotel, rental car, and meals). We are being billed for 10 days of consultant training and are getting two days training free."

The proposal was submitted by Stevens and initialed by Huff and Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier.

The curriculum director and her colleagues were so impressed with Bloomberg and company they just had to bring him here and pull teachers out of their classrooms so he could train them.

Not only did they bring the training to Joplin, but they also ordered Common Core materials from Corwin Press, which is connected with Bloomberg and visible learning.

At the December 16 board meeting, another request came from Stevens, again initialed by Huff and Doshier, asking for another $64,680 for Bloomberg and Core Collaborative. This was on the board's consent agenda.

In the documentation for the request, Stevens explained it in this fashion:

Dr. Bloomberg's work this far has been well received and certain areas are asking for more time to collaborate with him. The work will focus on the "formative process" outlined in the professional development plan as well as Visible Learning work around self-regulated learning.

While the request stipulated that the amount will not exceed $64,680, the cost exceeded the total of that amount and the earlier $31,260, with three months to go.

With the election of Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci to the board in April, the idea of paying more than $100,000 for a consultant came under opposition and when it came time to renew the Core Collaborative contract, Stevens sent the following e-mail message to principals:

I will be taking the Core Collaborative contract to the board on Tuesday, May 26.
I am asking for a year long contract up to 30 days to include the days principals have asked for, departments have requested, and to finish helping with the bsip plans we have started and the work of self regulated learning. I will be also be including a couple of days for special ed iep work.
This is the same amount of days we used this year between three consultants with the Core Collaborative.

I would like a short blurb from you stating how the work we have embarked on this year with the core collaborative and visible learning has helped, guided, or changed the way your building is working together, performing, etc. If you feel inclined, include what you hope to gain from continuing this focus and support.

Please do not use the verbiage of Visible Learning since that technically was with Corwin, even though Paul (consultant Paul Bloomberg who heads the Core Collaborative) tied a lot of what we were doing all together to make it all fit. I will bring Visible Learning for Teachers to a different board meeting if JPDT votes to have it happen this summer. 

If you have teachers that have really taken hold of learning intentions, success criteria, feedback, impact (data) teams, etc. Please ask them to send me an email or quick video explaining. Even better would be to have the students speak (but that is short notice so I understand if that can't happen). 

I have several videos of students speaking on their learning, so if you have some great ones with the work you have been doing or want to brag on your school, now is the time!

At that meeting, Board President Jeff Koch asked Stevens if she would be able to provide the training the teachers needed if Core Collaborative was not retained.

Stevens said that while "professional development is my passion," she was "too busy" to do it.

Koch, Martucci and Debbie Fort voted against renewing the Core Collaborative contract, while Mike Landis and Lynda Banwart voted to continue with the group.

Despite the defeat, Stevens was not yet finished with her efforts to keep the expensive consultants employed in Joplin.

At the June 22 board meeting, she pleaded for the board to reconsider its vote. By this time, Landis had resigned and the Jasper County Commission appointed Gary Nodler, Sallie Beard, and Ron Gatz to fill the cacated spots of Landis, Randy Steele, and Lane Roberts.

Stevens said that teacher morale would suffer if Core Collaborative did not return. Under a new deal, the Collaborative would charge "only" $87,000 instead of $103,000.

In her reasons for wanting the board to reconsider its action, Stevens sent a proposal to the board members saying that not only would morale suffer but the district would be forced to pull teachers out of classes more often, teachers would have to take time with after-school professional development or book studies (which would have teachers getting paid rather than consultants), they might have to contract with other vendors which would cost more money and teachers would have to be sent all over the United States to get training which might not be passed on to the rest of the faculty.

The proposal was prepared by Stevens, and okayed by Huff and Doshier.

Stevens clearly thought she would have the support of the three new board members, but that did not turn out to be the case. Nodler rattled her with numerous questions about the need for the consulting firm.

When Martucci suggested that R-8 teachers could be better off providing the professional development themselves and would have more buy-in, Koch quickly agreed and Fort noted that the money that is earmarked for professional development could be spent in that fashion.

When the executive directors insisted the teachers and principals were not ready and needed Bloomberg to guide them through another year, Nodler was not buying any of it. "You don't need a consultant to hold your hand."

The vote was 4-3 with Nodler joining Koch, Martucci, and Fort.

A month later Stevens appeared with Bloomberg at a Visible Learning Conference in Texas, doing a presentation on the success the firm had in Joplin.

Even after this, Stevens was not done with Core Collaborative.

In July, after Norm Ridder replaced C. J. Huff, Stevens again pushed Core Collaborative sending out an e-mail to teachers asking them to share what they had learned from the group. Apparently, Stevens must have used those messages to bring back Bloomberg and Core Collaborative for a one-time shot, at a cost of $7,775.

At the October 27 board meeting, Ridder made it clear that there would be no more dealings with Core Collaborative. This took place right around the time Stevens was reassigned.

New Nexstar official plans to improve KSN's local content, viewer experience

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSN and operator of KODE, has hired a new local content director for its midwest stations, according to an article in AdWeek:

(Andy Miller's) new role will oversee Nexstar’s Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and North Dakota markets to focus on brand development, local content, leadership and the viewer/client experience. Nexstar says Miller will also “be responsible for executing and monitoring action plans aimed at achieving corporate and regional business objectives, growing ratings and revenue share and improving audience interaction and engagement with Nexstar’s broadcast and digital/mobile media platforms.”

“Andy brings to his new position a deep understanding of Nexstar and our approach to local news production and programming development, digital and social media integration, content monetization, strategic planning and brand positioning across multiple media platforms,” said Nexstar’s svp of Station Operations Blake Russell.

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)




BARRY                BARTON              CEDAR
DADE                 JASPER              LAWRENCE
MCDONALD             NEWTON              ST. CLAIR

Letter shows Bright Futures Joplin struggling for relevance

The struggle of Bright Futures Joplin to remain relevant is clearly spelled out in an update sent from the organization's board of directors to the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

Bright Futures has been deemphasized in recent months and seeing the way things were going, its board opted for independence, albeit with the idea of continuing a working relationship with the school district and having taxpayers continue to fund a portion of the salaries of its full-time employees.

Some of the problems that occurred in Bright Futures are noted in the letter, including confusion with the C. J. Huff creation Bright Futures USA, spreading itself too thin by becoming involved in too many programs that veered from the organization's original purpose of providing for the needs of children.

The text of the letter is printed below:

To: Joplin Schools Board of Education

Cc: Dr. Norm Ridder
Bright Futures Joplin Board of Directors

Dear Distinguished Board Members,

Recently our Board convened with the expressed task of realigning and redefining our core mission and program clarity. We have added some new members to our Board and are very excited about the path forward. The result of our work is as follows:

1. Mission Clarity.

Bright Futures Joplin exists to serve children in need with the Joplin School District. Our critical focus is providing clothing, school supplies, food, and the basic necessities for Joplin students to be successful in school. These requests come directly from front-lines school personnel through the BFJ online request system.

This fiscal year, we have met 225 students needs for clothing, shoes and other essentials, 800+ students with school supplies, and supplied over 14,000 Snack Packs. In the six years since Bright Futures Joplin was born, we have met nearly 11,000 student needs. This year, BFJ has facilitated teacher supply give-a-ways valuing $75,374.55 to support classrooms and has processed $11,644.80 in donated goods for the benefit of Joplin students.

Additionally, Bright Futures Joplin is continuing to work closely with local non-profit organizations to ensure that there is no duplication or overlap of services. We desire the most expedient response for our students from the most qualified organization. BFJ was really designed to relieve the immediate needs of Joplin students that could not be met by local non-profits. BFJ is a mechanism for triage while referrals to local agencies that can support that student/family on a more long-term basis towards real sustainable change are being arranged. The model was developed together with the non-profit community (Economic Security wrote the original grant to begin BFJ) and continues to be supported by our local non-profit partners.

2. Financial Independence.

Bright Futures Joplin will be financially independent by the end of the 2017 school year. The BFJ board is committed to raising $125,000 in the next year to support BFJ efforts and to ensure long-term viability.

We will have one paid staff position who will carry out the critical components of our work. This person will be giving 95% of his time to the direct service work of Bright Futures Joplin. His current salary will be maintained.

We would request continued collaboration with the Joplin Board of Education on aligning funds within the district to support Bright Futures Joplin (per donor intent) as we strive toward this critical goal, spending down funds within the District and growing the BFJ donor base through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

3. Program Clarity.

In addition meeting the basic needs of our students (which is the primary focus), we will continue to support Joplin Schools by being vocal advocates for education and the role of the community in Joplin Schools to support children. BFJ is committed to increasing volunteer capacity and partnerships throughout the district. BFJ will continue with the TREK and Lunch Pals initiatives to bring support to Joplin teachers and students. These programs have had a decline in volunteer participation in spite of school appreciation of these efforts and requests for more community involvement. The programs will undergo evaluation by a committee of our Board members, program volunteers, as well as school personnel, and we will report their recommendations in a later correspondence.

This year, 30 students have been assisted by TREK, and 62 students have had the critical element of a mentor in their lives via Lunch Pals. We believe realigning these programs and re-launching them will help bring additional volunteer supports, as there are hundreds more kids who need the care and investment of a supportive adult in their lives (which BFJ believes to be critical to achieving our mission and ensuring that every child has the supports he/she needs to be successful in school).
The Bright Futures Joplin Board is working to refine our mission statement and community messaging to ensure that our task is clear to all stakeholders – meeting student needs and supporting our students.

4. School, Administration, Teacher and Counselor Alignment

Feedback from every building indicates that there is a great need for additional community volunteers and resources at their buildings. In spite of the 121 human service, faith-based, and business partners meeting at building-level councils throughout the district, every school indicated a need for more engagement. In the last 5 years since the tornado, volunteer engagement has waned, and our schools are feeling it. BFJ will work to re-invigorate active and engaged partnerships at each school. We are actively seeking input from all schools to align with their needs and address any concerns they may have.

Specific services we have offered this year to support classrooms and buildings:·
Classroom supplies for 800+ children, 30 additional classroom needs met
Classroom and school business alliances (121 confirmed partnerships
Support of the Joplin Schools Volunteer Breakfast

In closing:

While the original mission of BFJ was very clear, the tornado and the funds brought in after all of the national attention on BFJ created a situation in which BFJ took on more than was originally intended simply because of the gravity of need in Joplin and the resources available. The BFJ board was passionate about making an impact and took on many initiatives and efforts that spread the team too thin, unintentionally created burdensome programs/processes that school personnel could not sustain, and created confusion in the community regarding its real purpose. All of those efforts were well-intentioned, but not sustainable – with some of them really being the responsibility of the District, not BFJ. This muddied the water and caused confusion internally regarding what was “school” and what was “Bright Futures” and unintentionally created a culture that was less than collaborative in nature internally. 

 On top of this, the creation of BFUSA (a separate entity entirely) was a response to the requests of many neighboring communities with the explicit purpose of supporting those new Bright Futures communities (not meeting the needs of students). These efforts were important and valuable, but also caused confusion locally.

The truth is that every young group of world changers has a learning curve when you’re creating something new, and certainly Bright Futures Joplin has faced those challenges. In spite of the challenges and lessons learned the hard way, the BFJ board strongly believes that the Bright Futures model was born in Joplin and has now spread to dozens of other communities – something for which Joplin should be very proud. There is great ownership of Bright Futures as “our own thing,” and there is a strong commitment among board members to stay true to the original Bright Futures model and mission. BFJ has been working hard to get “back to basics” and will continue to do so in the months/years ahead. We appreciate your ongoing support and partnership as we realign and refocus for the benefit of Joplin kids.

We look forward to many years of continued partnership –

The Bright Futures Joplin Board of Directors

Duenweg man pleads guilty to child pornography charge

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

A convicted sex offender in Duenweg, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to receiving child pornography over the Internet.

Paul L. Sipeer, 65, of Duenweg, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to receiving child pornography over the Internet. Sipeer has been in federal custody without bond since his arrest in January 2016.

Sipeer is a registered sex offender with a 1992 conviction for sexual abuse in the first degree involving the physical harm of a 7-year-old child. According to court documents, Sipeer admitted that he sexually molested at least three other children besides the victim of the crime resulting in his conviction. Sipeer also admitted that he began accessing child pornography within one year of his release from prison in 1994.

By pleading guilty today, Sipeer admitted that he received child pornography between July 1, 2012, and Jan. 26, 2016.

According to court documents, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents learned that Sipeer was conducting online money transfers between $10 and $20 several times a month during the summer of 2015 to individuals in the Philippines. Money transfers, conducted through Western Union and MoneyGram, are often used to send funds to pay for sexual performances by children in the Philippines. In prior investigations conducted by HSI, small amounts of money, typically between $5 and $100, are often sent to individuals in the Philippines. Often the senders would send additional payments for continued and/or repeat performances.

Upon further investigation, agents learned that Sipeer had been making money transfers to various individuals in the Philippines since January 2013, in amounts ranging up to $480.

Law enforcement officers contacted Sipeer at his residence on Jan. 26, 2016. Sipeer told the officers he sent money to the Philippines to pay for “sex shows.” Sipeer said he has sent approximately $1,200 to the Philippines in total. Sipeer also confessed that he had been actively downloading images depicting child pornography from the Internet. Several images of child pornography, depicting children younger than 10 years old, were located on Sipeer’s computer.

Under federal statutes, Sipeer is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 40 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force.

Three indicted in Jasper County meth conspiracy

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

Four individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday in two separate and unrelated conspiracies to distribute methamphetamine in Jasper County, Mo., and in Greene County, Mo.

USA v. Soto-Garcia, et al.

Santiago Soto-Garcia, 23, Destiny O’Brien, 20, and Michael L. Gonzalez, also known as “Chavez,” 23, were charged in a three-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. Today’s superseding indictment replaces an indictment returned by the grand jury on Aug. 25, 2015, and includes two additional charges.

According to court documents, law enforcement officers had received information that Soto-Garcia and O’Brien were multiple-pound distributors of methamphetamine. Members of the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team were conducting surveillance at a Joplin, Mo., residence when they saw a 2006 BMW driven by Soto-Garcia leaving the residence. The vehicle was stopped and officers saw two pistols on the floorboard by the feet of Gonzalez, a passenger in the rear seat. O’Brien was a passenger in the front seat.

All of the defendants were told to get out of the car. Both Soto-Garcia and O’Brien were arrested for resisting arrest after struggling with officers. A K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics in the BMW. Officers found a package that contained 501 grams of methamphetamine in O’Brien’s purse, and found approximately seven grams of methamphetamine on O’Brien.

Today’s indictment alleges that Soto-Garcia, O’Brien and Gonzalez participated in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Jasper County from Nov. 1, 2013, to Aug. 11, 2015. They are also charged together, as in the original indictment, in one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

Soto-Garcia, O’Brien and Gonzalez are also charged together in one count of aiding and abetting each other to possess firearms in furtherance of the drug-trafficking conspiracy. They allegedly possessed a Hi-Point .40-caliber firearm and a Kel-Tec .223-caliber firearm on Aug. 11, 2015.

This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eggert and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jody Larison. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team, the Joplin, Mo., Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

USA v. Nemecek

Caleb E. Nemecek, 25, of Chadwick, Mo., was charged in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo.

Today’s indictment alleges that Nemecek participated in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Greene County, Mo., and Jasper County, Mo., from Nov. 7, 2014, to Nov. 17, 2015. The indictment also charges Nemecek with two counts of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

Nemecek is also charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Nemecek allegedly possessed a Sig Sauer handgun on Nov. 7, 2014.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jody Larison. It was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department; the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol; the Greene County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department; the Joplin, Mo., Police Department; the Ozarks Drug Enforcement Team; and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Children's books, 5:41 top Amazon Joplin Tornado rankings

Two children's books published within the past year and the first book published about the Joplin Tornado top the rankings of books about the event that changed Joplin forever.

Continuing to top the listings, as it has since it was published is I Survived the Joplin Tornado by Lauren Tarshis, a children's book.

The book Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker and I wrote, 5:41: Stories from the Joplni Tornado, was in second place, with a children's book, Joplin Tornado Survival Stories by Emily O'Keefe placing third.

1. I Survived the Joplin Tornado, Lauren Tarshis 3,811
2. 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 33,361
3. Joplin Tornado Survival Stories, Emily O'Keefe 286,960
4. Life After the Storm, Debbie Fleitman 534,213
5. 32 Minutes in May, Joplin Globe 794,167
6. Joplin 5:41, Kansas City Star 930,805
7. Simple Pleasures, Kenna White 1,244,967
8. Lily: A True Story of Courage and the Joplin Tornado, Carolyn Mueller 1,399,529
9. Miracle of the Human Spirit, Mark Rohr 1,710,173
10. Tornado Warning: The Extraordinary Women of Joplin 1,885,742
11. When the Sirens Were Silent, Mike Smith 2,204,622
12. Singing Over Me, Danielle Stammer 2,267,190
13. Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, Randy Turner 2,270,695
14. Shatterproof, Katrina Hoover 2,683,497
15. Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 2,755,270
16. When the Storm Passes, Julie Jett  2,829,721
17. Using Social Media in Disaster Recovery, David Burton, Genevieve Williams, and Rebecca Williams 2,831,693
18 Hindsight: Lessons Learned from the Joplin Tornado, Zac Rantz and Stephen Kleinsmith 3,032,575
19. 5:22: Stories of Survival, Stories of Faith, Scott Hettinger 3,204,870
20. Scars from the Tornado, Randy Turner 3,607,519
21. Out of the Wind, D. Ed Hoggatt, 3,888,002
22. Joplin Tornado House of Hope, Tim Bartow 4,766,332
23. Joplin Missouri Tornado of May 22, 2011, William Coulbourne 4,766,332
24. 20th and Rangeline, Joplin, Missouri, Thomas Meisinger 5,932,293
25. Mayday in Joplin, Donald Clugston 6,719,059.

Class action lawsuit filed to halt Empire District Electric/Liberty merger

An Empire District Electric Company shareholder filed a class action lawsuit March 24 seeking to halt the proposed merger of Empire District Electric Company and Liberty Utilities.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed in the 3rd Judicial District in Shawnee County, Kansas, is Adrienne Halberstam.  Listed as defendants, in addition to Empire District Electric Company, Liberty Utilities, and Liberty's parent company, Canadian-based Algonquin Power & Utiilities Corp. are Empire CEO Bradley Beecher and members of Empire District Electric's board of directors.

The complaint says the board breached its fiduciary duties by agreeing to the merger,

In an SEC filing, Empire District Electric officials said the lawsuit has the potential of creating a roadblock for the merger:

The outcome of the lawsuit cannot be predicted with any certainty. A preliminary injunction could delay or jeopardize the completion of the merger, and an adverse judgment granting permanent injunctive relief could indefinitely enjoin completion of the merger. All of the defendants believe that the claims asserted against them in the lawsuit are without merit.

The lawsuit is not the first time Halberstam has attempted to block deals and/or mergers.

In a similar case filed in 2011, Halberstam, family members, and IBEW Local 98 Pension Fund filed a class action lawsuit in U. S. District Court for the District of Vermont, accusing the board of directors of Central Vermont Public Service Corp. of breaching is fiduciary duty by initially approving a $30.27 per share sale agreement to Fortis that would provide continued employment for the company's top officers, and ignoring a bid of $34 per share from Gaz Metro, a Canadian company.

Eventually, Gaz Metro increased its offer to $35.25 per share and Central Vermont's board of directors reconsidered and sold to the Canadian company, but had to pay a $19 million penalty to Fortis,

That case was eventually dismissed with prejudice.

Halberstam is also involved in a similar class action suit filed in 2015 claiming that executives and board members of Teco Energy in Florida breached their fiduciary duty when reaching a merger agreement with Emera US Inc.

Teco reached a settlement with Halberstam and her co-plaintiffs and was forced to reveal more information about how the merger was reached in its SEC proxy statement filings.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Martucci touts transparency, work to improve conditions for teachers, staff

The first steps have been taken toward improving teacher morale in the Joplin R-8 School District, but there is a long way to go.

"The process takes a while," R-8 board member Jennifer Martucci told KZRG earlier this week. Martucci is one of four candidates running for two three-year positions on the R-8 Board of Education.

"We were able to get teachers a step increase and they have bargaining this year, as well. That's going to make for a better workplace."

Martucci said she hopes teachers will stay. "We have some great teachers and I don't want to lose any of them. We are really working on becoming a better employer."

Martucci also spoke of the strides that have been made toward transparency, noting that parents have a voice and that the consent agenda, which in the past has included as many as two dozen items that are simply approved by the board without discussion is now regularly down to two items- with one of those being the approval of the minutes of the last meeting.

She noted that a change has been made in how the public can address the board. In the past, those who wished to speak had to sign up by 4 p.m. the day of the meeting. Now people can show up for the meeting, fill out the form and speak on matters that are on the agenda.

Chad Elliot's complete interview with Martucci can be found at this link.

Dermott to KZRG: Primary issue for Joplin R-8 is finding Ridder replacement

During an interview with KZRG this morning, Empire District Electric attorney Sharrock Dermott, a candidate for one of two three-year positions on the Joplin R-8 Board of Education, said the primary challenge facing the board is finding a replacement for Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder.

"We're fortunate to have gotten him to come in to serve as our interim superintendent.

Dermott also said the following things in response to questions from KZRG Morning News Watch hosts Chad Elliot and Sarah Novotny:

-"I'm not the person who's going to come in and micromanage the school district."

-(If the district does not receive the FEMA money it is expecting) "If that money doesn't come, we're going to be in a financial crisis, obviously. If that happens, we'll have to figure out a way to make spending cuts or raise money.

-(On teacher retention) "My understanding is when the previous superintendent was employed, my understanding is teacher morale was not very good and that's too bad. "It's on the upswing. I thank Dr. Ridder and the board for making that happen."

KZRG's interview with Sharrock Dermott can be found at this link.

R-8 Board approves strategic plan, backs community education

The basics from tonight's just-completed Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting:

Board backs community education

- The board backed the continuation of community education programs and suggested getting the word out about them. No one suggested it but perhaps it could be done with the some of the approximately $75,000 the school district paid the Storm Stanley firm over the past year for Franklin Tech advertising. If that contracted expense continues, perhaps some of that can be used to promote community education.

Board member Jennifer Martucci noted, "There is support around this table for the program." She and other board members also noted that it is a service to the community.

Efforts will be made to promote the programs, find out which ones are making money and which ones are losing money and seeing what can be done to preserve community education.

Strategic Plan approved

The board unanimously approved the second reading of the Strategic Plan for the district. "This has been accomplished at warp speed," board member Sallie Beard said, but that was not meant as a criticism. "It's solid," she added. "The speed has not compromised the work."

Board members noted that the plan was not Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder's, nor was it the board's. The document was created following input from staff, students, and community members.


As the district waits (and waits and waits) for FEMA to pay for so-called "errors and omissions," steps were taken to extend the short term loan or "certificates of participation" that were used to get through the financial crisis of the summer of 2014. The board approved the extension, which will delay paying Bank of America what it owes until FEMA money comes in and even that probably will not be enough, setting up another decision next year on how to pay off the bank.

Board candidates attending

Six of the eight candidates in next Tuesday's board election attended the meeting. In addition to Martucci, those attending were Mary Gaarder, Melissa Rodgers, Carlos Hailey, Chris Sloan, and Lori Musser.

Not attending were Joe Brown and Sharrock Dermott.

Dermott said in a recent a few weeks ago that he did not intend to attend any board meetings until after he was elected.

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

Agenda posted for tonight's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will meet 7 p.m. today at the Memorial Administration Building. A closed session will be held at 6 p.m.

Meeting Agenda

A. Call to Order

1. Roll Call

B. Pledge of Allegiance

C. Approval of Agenda - Action

D. Reports

1. Board President's Report

a. Board Committee Updates

1. Policy Committee - Info. (Lynda Banwart and Jennifer Martucci)

2. Data Analysis Committee - Info. (Jeff Koch, Jennifer Martucci and Sallie Beard)

2. Superintendent's Data Report

a. FEMA Update - Info. (Paul Barr)

b. Health and Dental Care Insurance Reports - Info. (Paul Barr)

c. Financial Statements - Info. (Paul Barr)

d. Safety Audit Update - Info. (Jason Cravens)

E. Public Comments Regarding Agenda Items *

F. Consent Agenda - Action

1. Approve Minutes - Action (Pat Waldo)

2. Personnel Recommendations - Action (Tina Smith)

G. Regular Agenda



3. Adoption of Jasper/Newton Bi-County Hazard Mitigation Plan - Action (Tina Smith)

4. Strategic Plan Second Reading - Action (Dr. Ridder)

5. Accounts Payable - Action (Paul Barr)

6. Summer School Application SY 2015/16 - Action (Jennifer Doshier)

7. Policy First Reading - Action (Jason Cravens and Tina Smith)

a. Policy IKFB: Graduation Exercises

b. Policy INC: Speakers at District Events

8. Policy Second Reading - Action (Jason Cravens and Tina Smith)

a. Policy BF: School Board Policy Process

b. Policy CB: School Superintendent

c. Policy DGA: Authorized Signatures

d. Policy DIE: Audits

9. Aquatics Timing System @ MSSU - Action (Jason Cravens)

10. Joplin High School Yearbook (JopliMO) - Action (Jason Cravens)

11. Out of State Overnight Field Trip SY 2015/16 - Action (Jason Cravens)

12. FTC Adult Trade and Technology HVAC Student Tool Sets - Action (Jason Cravens)

13. Federal E-Rate Funds for Upgraded Wireless Access Point Cabling - Action (Eric Pitcher)

14. Federal E-Rate Funds for Upgraded Wireless Networking Equipment - Action (Eric Pitcher)

15. Federal E-Rate Funds for Broadband Internet Distribution Switches - Action (Eric Pitcher)

16. Federal E-Rate Funds for Improved Broadband Internet Access Service - Action (Eric Pitcher)

H. BOE Announcements

1. BOE Discussion:Community/Adult Education Programs

I. Celebrations

J. Adjourn

Rally against SJR39 to be held at Missouri State Capitol

Rally at the Capitol

(From the Missouri ACLU)

Prodiscrimination bill SJR39 was forced through the Senate earlier this month after a record-breaking filibuster. But we have another chance to stop it in the Missouri House.

Rally with us to stop discrimination from being enshrined in Missouri's Constitution.Make your voice heard at the Missouri Capitol!

Rally at the Capitol to Stop Discrimination
Thursday, March 31 at 10 a.m.
South Lawn of the Missouri Capitol
201 W Capitol Ave., Jefferson City

RSVP to tell Missouri lawmakers to stop SJR39 and pro-discrimination bills that target our LGBT friends.

Discrimination is always wrong. Together, we can make sure this hateful and economically harmful legislation stops in the Missouri House.

Thanks for standing with us in the fight for equality.

Ed Emery: SJR 39 is not discriminatory

(From Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)

This week an NPR station in Kansas City invited me to join a radio program that included two members of the Kansas City business/tourism community and myself. The subject was the Religious Freedom (conscious protection) Resolution – Senate Joint Resolution 39, sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder and cosponsored by Sen. David Sater and myself. (SJR39 has been passed by the Senate 23-7 and is awaiting action by the Missouri House.) The radio debate was about 15 minutes long and reminded me of the conflict between the Tories and the Whigs of early American history.

The Tories, you may recall, resisted any separation from England, preferring the assurances of the King’s provision and protection to the individual liberty and economic freedom sought by the Whigs. The love of liberty prevailed, and the Declaration of Independence was composed and issued. The colonists that signed that document and those that armed themselves in support were not unaware of the economic and military measures that the King could take against them. The blockade of the port of Boston was just one of the “Intolerable Acts” that the King took in hopes of bringing the colonies back into submission.

It was clear during the NPR program that the Tories’ arguments of yesteryear are being used today. They fear another “Boston blockade” of Kansas City or any other Missouri city. They threaten economic disaster to those who would stand against the elitist oligarchy of five Supreme Court justices. The oligarchy redefined marriage and thereby overturned the expressed will of the people in thirty states. Somehow they discovered same-sex marriage in the Constitution even though the state had neither created nor sustained it. At least King George’s actions might be explained in that he reigned in the age of the divine right of kings. No one will find a divine right of the judiciary anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.

Let’s hope the Missouri House recognizes the value of religious liberty for which America’s founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and reputations (sacred honor). I believe the founders stopped there only because there was nothing further to pledge. There must have been some in that day who advised of economic disaster with the loss of King George’s favor, but the patriots’ pledge remained. For them, no price was too great for liberty. We know what Patrick Henry’s response would have been: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

If the House passes SJR39, then the matter will be put before all Missourians in the form of a ballot question. We will find out then just what price Missourians put on Liberty.

In case you are not fully informed as to the elements of SJR39, following are portions of a Capitol Report written by Senator Onder to explain and defend it:

“…The resolution asks whether voters of the state wish to protect pastors, churches, religious organizations and some individuals from being penalized by government for their sincere religious beliefs about marriage. The bill is entirely defensive in that it protects from persecution by government. In the area of private business, it protects those who offer goods or services of creative or artistic expression for a wedding ceremony, such as bakery owner Melissa Klein in Oregon who was fined $130,000 by the state and sued out of business because she refused to be commandeered into participation in a religious ceremony that violated her conscience. Cases similar to Klein's have popped up across the country. This bill is carefully targeted to protect those now vulnerable while avoiding unintended consequences. It is in the spirit of tolerance and pluralism embodied in our Bill of Rights.

The background for this amendment is the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the court ruled that couples of the same sex have a fundamental right to marry. As many observed at that time, while the decision was quite definitive on that issue of same-sex marriage, it raised many more questions. Important among those questions are the rights of those who disagree, and specifically those of religious faith.

Senate Joint Resolution 39 is a shield, not a sword. It is unlike other controversies that have occurred across the country surrounding Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) in states such as Indiana. Freedom Restoration Acts protect any and all religious beliefs and shift to government the burden of showing both a compelling state interest and that such interest is being pursued by the least restrictive means. With RFRAs, if the government fails on either front, the law is unenforceable against the claimant. So, despite what opponents will say, this is a quite different bill than those that created controversies elsewhere in the country.

Time and time again the opposition referred to the resolution as discriminatory. In making such charges, opponents basically say that they no longer believe in freedom of conscience, freedom of religion or freedom of association. They are saying to business people like Melissa Klein, either violate your conscience or the iron fist of government will come down on you. That is not tolerance in my view; that's tyranny.”