Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Court of appeals upholds city of Joplin's $1.475 million judgment against Wallace-Bajjali

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals today upheld the City of Joplin's victory in its lawsuit against Wallace-Bajjali.

A three-judge panel unanimously rejected Costa Bajjali's attempt to throw out the $1,475,000 default judgment handed down at the trial level by Jasper County Circuit Court Judge Gayle Crane.

The trial was held without the defendants present. Bajjali claimed he had never been informed about the trial and had no opportunity to defend himself.

The text of the court's opinion is printed below:


 Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, L.P. ("Wallace Bajjali") appeals from the trial court's denial of its Rule 74.05(d) motion to set aside a default judgment.

Wallace Bajjali argues the trial court erred in denying its motion to set aside the default judgment. Although framed as one point, Wallace Bajjali's argument has two prongs. 

First, Wallace Bajjali claims the trial court did not apply the correct legal standard because it did not mention Rule 74.05(d) in its judgment. 

Second, Wallace Bajjali argues the trial court did not apply the correct legal standard because "the evidence submitted to the trial court established good cause and a meritorious defense[.]" 

We disagree and affirm the trial court's judgment. 

Procedural Background 

 In 2015, the City of Joplin and the Joplin Redevelopment Corp., Inc. (collectively, "Joplin") filed a lawsuit against Wallace Bajjali, seeking relief under various legal theories based on allegations that Wallace Bajjali had stopped performance under two related contracts after receiving $1,475,000 from Joplin. 

A return of service was filed indicating that a copy of the summons and petition was delivered to Wallace Bajjali's registered agent, CT Corporation ("CT"). 

Because Wallace Bajjali had changed its address without informing CT, CT never forwarded the summons and petition to Wallace Bajjali. Nevertheless, the trial court thereafter entered a default judgment against Wallace Bajjali in the amount of $1,475,000. 

 On June 12, 2015, Wallace Bajjali filed a motion for new trial. Wallace Bajjali has, in this proceeding, filed a motion to strike Joplin's supplemental legal file and the transcript of the hearing regarding the motion for new trial. 

Wallace Bajjali argues those materials are not properly part of the record on appeal because a motion to set aside a default judgment is an independent action and the transcript and the documents in the supplemental legal file were never submitted to the trial court for consideration in connection with the motion to set aside the default judgment. 

This Court ordered the motion to strike taken with the case. Here, no live testimony was presented at the hearing regarding the motion to set aside the default judgment. However, both parties discussed various items of evidence. 

Wallace Bajjali relied on the affidavits and exhibits it submitted in support of the motion to set aside the default judgment. Joplin, in turn, suggested the trial court should consider the testimony Wallace Bajjali's managing partner gave in support of the motion for new trial and the conflicts between that testimony and the evidence submitted in support of the motion to set aside the default judgment. 

Wallace Bajjali did not object when Joplin's attorney suggested the trial court consider that evidence. Because Wallace Bajjali acquiesced in the procedure in the trial court, Wallace Bajjali is in no position to complain here. Wallace Bajjali's motion to strike is denied. 

Among other things, Wallace Bajjali claimed in the motion for new trial that service was improper because Wallace Bajjali had never actually received the summons and petition from CT. 

On August 28, 2015, the trial court entered a judgment denying Wallace Bajjali's motion for new trial ("the 2015 judgment"). The trial court found service was proper because it was made on Wallace Bajjali's registered agent. 

 On November 1, 2015, Wallace Bajjali filed a motion to set aside the default judgment under Rule 74.05(d). In the motion to set aside the default judgment, Wallace Bajjali pleaded it had good cause for failing to respond to Joplin's lawsuit because Wallace Bajjali never actually received the summons and petition from CT. 

On August 18, 2016, the trial court entered a judgment ("the 2016 judgment") denying the motion to set aside the default judgment. The 2016 judgment incorporated the 2015 judgment but made no further findings of fact or conclusions of law. Wallace Bajjali appeals. 


 In its sole point relied on, Wallace Bajjali claims the trial court "failed to apply the correct legal standard and never determined the issues of good cause and a meritorious defense under Rule 74.05(d)" because (1) the trial court did not mention Rule 74.05(d) in its judgment and (2) "the evidence submitted to the trial court established good cause and a meritorious defense to the action[.]" 

These arguments fail because they ignore the application of Rule 73.01 and our standard of review. We first address Wallace Bajjali's assertion that the trial court failed to apply the correct legal standard because the trial court did not mention Rule 4 74.05(d) in its judgment. 

Rule 74.05(d) permits a trial court to set aside a default judgment "[u]pon motion stating facts constituting a meritorious defense and for good cause shown[.]" Brungard v. Risky's Inc., 240 S.W.3d 685, 686 (Mo. banc 2007) (quoting Rule 74.05(d)). 

Additionally, "Rule 74.05 does not require the trial court to state a reason for denying a motion to set aside a default judgment." Under such circumstances, parties who want to know how the trial court resolved various issues "have the ability to request written findings of fact."  However, "[w]here neither party in a court-tried case requests findings of fact and conclusions of law under Rule 73.01(c), the trial court's stated findings and conclusions for its judgment are gratuitous only." Moreover, "[a]ll fact issues upon which no specific findings are made shall be considered as having been found in accordance with the result reached."

And as for the application of the law, '[t]he trial court is presumed to know the law.'". Nowhere in the record are we able to find a request for findings pursuant to Rule 73.01. Thus, we rely on the presumption created by Rule 73.01(c) and the applicable case law to determine how the trial court resolved issues which it did not mention in its judgment. 

The trial court denied the motion to set aside the default judgment, so, in accordance with that result, the law presumes the trial court found Wallace Bajjali failed to meet its burden. 

 We next address Wallace Bajjali's argument that the trial court failed to apply the correct legal standard because the evidence showed good cause and a meritorious defense. This argument fails. The first reason the argument fails is that it is not preserved for appellate review. A challenge that the judgment was not supported by substantial evidence is distinct from a challenge alleging that the trial court failed to apply the correct legal principles. However, "[a] point relied on should contain only one issue, and parties should not group multiple contentions about different issues together into one point relied on." 

 Here, Wallace Bajjali, by including in its point relied on the language about what the evidence showed, attempts to package a not-supported-by-the-evidence challenge within the distinct challenge that the trial court failed to apply the correct legal standard. That approach renders the point multifarious. We may, however, in our discretion, review multifarious points ex gratia. 

In doing so here, we conclude Wallace Bajjali’s argument that its evidence established good cause and a meritorious defense is without merit because it is based on a false premise that the trial court was required to believe the evidence Wallace Bajjali presented.

The trial court is the finder of fact, and this Court is merely a court of review for trial court errors. "In reviewing questions of fact, the reviewing court will defer to the trial court's assessment of the evidence if any facts relevant to an issue are contested."[A] party can contest the evidence in many ways, such as by putting forth contrary evidence, cross examining a witness, challenging the credibility of a witness, pointing out inconsistencies in evidence, or arguing the meaning of the evidence." 

"Once contested, 'a trial court is free to disbelieve any, all, or none of th[e] evidence,' and 'the appellate court's role is not to re-evaluate testimony through its own perspective.'" Here, despite Wallace Bajjali's assertions to the contrary, the evidence was contested. 

At the hearing regarding the motion to set aside the default judgment, Joplin's attorney first suggested the trial court need not believe Wallace Bajjali's evidence and then argued about the meaning of the evidence Wallace Bajjali had presented. 

Because the evidence was contested, the trial court was not required to believe any of the evidence. Under those circumstances, the fact that the trial court did not believe the evidence does not show it failed to apply the correct legal standard. Wallace Bajjali has not demonstrated the trial court failed to apply the correct legal standard. Wallace Bajjali's sole point is denied.


 The trial court's judgment is affirmed. 

Grand jury indicts Missouri man for $12 million tax fraud, voter fraud, illegal reentry into U. S.

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

A federal grand jury sitting in St. Louis, Missouri, returned a superseding indictment today charging a St. Louis resident for his role in a sophisticated stolen identity refund fraud scheme and other federal offenses, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Carrie A. Costantin for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The superseding indictment charges Kevin Kunlay Williams aka Kunlay Sodipo, a Nigerian citizen, with mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, voter fraud, illegal reentry and being a felon in possession of a firearm. According to the indictment, Williams and others stole public school employees’ IDs from a payroll company and used them to electronically file more than 2000 fraudulent federal income tax returns seeking more than $12 million in refunds. He also allegedly stole several Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs) that he used to secure bank products allowing him to print refund checks and direct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to send refunds to prepaid debit cards. The indictment alleges that Williams had refund checks issued in the names of the stolen IDs, and blank check stock and debit cards sent to his residence.

The indictment further alleges that Williams previously entered the United States from Nigeria under the name Kunlay Sodipo, but was deported in 1995. According to the indictment, in 1999, Williams illegally returned to the United States from Nigeria using the last name Williams. In 2012, Williams allegedly registered to vote in federal, state and local elections by falsely claiming that he was a U.S. citizen and is alleged to have voted in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. On the day of his arrest in February, Williams is alleged to have been illegally in possession of a firearm.

If convicted, Williams faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count of mail fraud, a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft, a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the illegal reentry, a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for each of the voter fraud counts, and a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the felon in possession of a firearm. The defendant also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and monetary penalties.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and Acting U.S. Attorney Costantin commended special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service as well as the Dothan Alabama Police Department and Alexander City Alabama Police Department, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Michael C. Boteler and Charles M. Edgar, Jr. of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting this case with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of Missouri and Middle District of Alabama.

Lawsuit claims Joplin police officer shot man four times for no reason

A lawsuit filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri claims Joplin police officer Seth Lugenbell shot Jeffrey Hill (pictured) four times without cause while responding to a call at the Oxford Apartments November 30, 2015.

The Newton County Prosecuting attorney eventually charged Hill with assaulting a law enforcement officer and driving while intoxicated. His trial is scheduled for May 22 in McDonald County Circuit Court, where it is being held on a change of venue.

The petition paints a different portrait of what happened than the official news releases issued by the Joplin Police Department.

Lugenbell and Officer Brent Davis arrived at the Oxford Apartments, talked with some people and when Davis left the building, he saw the headlights of the 2003 Nissan Sentra driven by Hill turn on in the parking lot.
Officer Davis used his flashlight to illuminate the driver of the Nissan Sentra and identified who he believed to be Plaintiff. Plaintiff then backed out of the parking spot and began to operate his vehicle heading north and subsequently east, around both apartment buildings, in an attempt to leave the apartment complex parking lot. 

Officer Davis began running northeast back through the courtyard and, while doing so, informed Officer Lugenbell that he had seen Plaintiff. Both officers ran toward the direction in which they perceived Plaintiff’s vehicle would attempt to exit the parking lot. 

As Defendant Lugenbell ran toward Plaintiff’s vehicle he drew his Glock .40 caliber firearm.

Defendant Lugenbell saw the 2003 Nissan Sentra as it was attempting to exit the parking lot and stated: “Stop right there, stop or I’ll shoot,” and immediately began unloading his firearm at the driver, Plaintiff Jeffrey Hill. 

Defendant Lugenbell fired at Plaintiff Hill through the front of Plaintiff Hill’s vehicle, then through the passenger side of the vehicle, and continuing through the back of the vehicle as it was driving away. 

Defendant Lugenbell fired a total of approximately 11 rounds at Plaintiff Hill, at least 4 of which struck Plaintiff Hill’s body causing severe and permanent injuries. 

At no time did Plaintiff Hill pose an immediate threat to any person, including but not limited to Officer Lugenbell. Plaintiff Hill did not have a weapon and never used or threatened to use deadly force. 

Plaintiff Hill never operated his vehicle in a matter deliberately intended to strike any officer or citizen nor would any reasonable person have perceived that Plaintiff Hill was intending to use his vehicle to strike any officer or citizen. 

Officer Lugenbell’s use of deadly force was objectively unreasonable at the time it was used. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to run toward the path of Plaintiff Hill’s vehicle. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to fire his gun in a public, residential, and occupied area. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to fire at a moving vehicle. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to continue firing at the side and then the back of the vehicle as it was driving away from him. 

Officer Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein constitute excessive and deadly force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Officer Lugenbell’s actions and/or inactions as alleged herein amount to a violation of Plaintiff Hill’s Fourth Amendment, and clearly established, constitutional right against unreasonable seizure when he used excessive and lethal force by unreasonably shooting to kill Plaintiff Hill. 

As a direct and proximate result of the actions of Officer Lugenbell alleged herein Plaintiff Hill suffered multiple bullet wounds to his body, including but not limited to, gunshot wounds to the upper right chest, the upper right abdomen, right forearm and right biceps. 

As a direct and proximate cause of the gunshot wounds, and while still in the field, Plaintiff Hill lost consciousness, coded, and was intubated by emergency medical responders.

Upon arrival at the emergency room, Plaintiff Hill was pulseless and apneic. Emergency physicians immediately opened Plaintiff’s left chest and performed a resuscitative thoracotomy followed by a right-sided chest tube thoracostomy. Massive blood transfusion protocol was started. A left femoral central line was placed, a right femoral arterial line was placed and a left subclavian central line was placed. 

Thereafter, Plaintiff Hill was taken to the operating room where surgeons performed an exploratory laparotomy and repair of the left lower lung with placement of a left-sided chest tube. Subsequently, Plaintiff was moved to the ICU on a ventilator, sedated and with bilateral chest tubes. 

On December 2, 2015, and while still sedated, Plaintiff Hill was returned to the operating room where an orthopedic surgeon repaired his comminuted displaced right radial shaft fracture, which was caused by a gunshot wound to his right arm. 

On December 4, 2015, Plaintiff Hill underwent a fiberoptic bronchoscopy procedure and was found to have extensive thick blood secretions bilaterally that were then aspirated. 

On December 14, 2015 Plaintiff Hill underwent procedures to place a tracheostomy tube and percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube. A few days later Plaintiff Hill was intubated. He was noted to have a nonocclusive left subclavian and axillary deep vein thrombosis and was started on blood thinner. 

As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has incurred medical expenses in excess of $279,757.00) and in an amount to be proven with more specificity at trial. 

As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Lugenbell’s action alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has suffered extreme pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss pleasure of living, and loss of generalized personal functions and abilities and will continue to experience severe pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life in the future and will require continuing, substantial and appropriate medical care resulting in the need for a life-care plan, all of said damages can be proved with reasonable certainty at trial. 

As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has lost the use of his right arm. 

As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has incurred, and will continue to incur in the future, permanent and severe pain and suffering, mental anguish, discomfort, and loss of enjoyment of life. 

Hill is asking for damages and punitive damages. Named as defendants, in addition to Lugenbell are the city of Joplin and the Joplin Police Department.

Hill is represented by Columbia attorney Matthew B. Woods and Joplin attorney Patrick Martucci.

A December 10, 2015 JPD news release noted that a Missouri Highway Patrol investigation had ruled the shooting justified:

Beginning today, December 10, 2015, Officer Seth Lugenbell and Officer Brett Davis are returned to active duty. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) investigation yielded that Officer Lugenbell engaged Hill with his firearm as a result of Hill driving directly at Officer Lugenbell. Officer Davis did not deploy his firearm.

The MSHP investigation determined that the use of force used by Officer Lugenbell was justified. The MSHP will conduct an administrative review of their investigation. There will be a delay before the compilation and availability of the MSHP report.

The internal investigation, conducted by the Joplin Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau, continues. However, preliminary results of this facet of the investigation yields no reason for the officers to remain on administrative leave and they can return to serving the community.

Hill's lawsuit was originally filed March 17 in Jasper County Circuit Court and was removed to federal court today.

Tornado watch issued for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)

350 PM CDT WED MAR 29 2017




BARRY                BARTON              BATES
BENTON               CAMDEN              CASS
CEDAR                CHRISTIAN           DADE
DALLAS               DOUGLAS             GREENE
HENRY                HICKORY             HOWELL
JACKSON              JASPER              JOHNSON
LACLEDE              LAWRENCE            MCDONALD
MILLER               MORGAN              NEWTON
OZARK                PETTIS              POLK
PULASKI              ST. CLAIR           STONE
TANEY                TEXAS               VERNON
WEBSTER              WRIGHT

Gatehouse CEO makes $2.1 million, $2.2 if he loses his job

He runs a company that is swimming in debt, has never made a dime and continues to buy up and destroy community newspapers across the United States.

How much do you pay a man like that?

In a fair and just world, Gatehouse Media CEO Kirk Davis would be standing in the unemployment line with counselors suggesting he find himself another line of work.

Instead, Davis raked in $2,104,212 in 2015 according to a proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It was Davis who pulled the trigger on the decision to order $27 million in cuts to his company, cuts which continued the process of dismantling more than 400 community newspapers across the United States, including 15 in Missouri.

The cuts resulted in the Carthage Press, long a proud daily newspaper, which had been twice weekly for the past couple of years to become a once-a-week publication.

The Neosho Daily News will no longer be printed daily next month as it goes to twice a week and the Miami News-Record has also been cut from five to two days a week.

These are just the latest in a long list of cuts, engineered by Davis, who was Gatehouse's chief operating officer before it emerged from bankruptcy under the auspices of the newly formed New Media, which is run by former Gatehouse CEO Mike Reed.

While the Gatehouse employees, many of whom have worked for their newspapers for years have been unceremoniously shown the door, receiving little in the way of severance pay, that will never happen to Davis.

The SEC filing shows that if he loses his job as a result of a change of control in the company, he will receive a pay package worth $2,204,496, including health insurance for a year.

It's a warped version of the American dream- become the worst at what you do and rise to the top. Lose your job and you do even better.

Meanwhile, community newspapers like the Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily News are left in the dust.

Indictment: Parsons woman embezzled $5 million plus from credit union

(From the Department of Justice)

A Parsons woman was indicted Tuesday on federal charges of embezzling more than $5 million from a credit union that was declared insolvent and liquidated, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said.

Nita Rae Nirschl, 64, Parsons, Kan., is charged in an 81-count indictment including 22 counts of embezzlement, 37 counts of money laundering, 18 counts of interstate transportation of stolen property and four counts of attempting to evade taxes. The indictment alleges the crimes took place while Nirschl worked for the Parsons Pittsburg Credit Union based in Parsons.

Following an audit that found the credit union was insolvent, the credit union was placed in conservatorship and ultimately liquidated in March 2014. The audit revealed that from 2010 to December 2014 Nirschl embezzled more than $5 million from the credit union. The indictment alleges she deposited money stolen from the credit union into her personal accounts. She withdrew the funds as cash from ATMs at Harrah’s North Kansas City casino, the Buffalo Run casino in Miami, Okla., the Stables casino in Miami, Okla., the Downstream casino in Quapaw, Okla., Harrah’s News Orleans casino and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe casino.

Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties:

Embezzlement by a credit union employee: Up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million on each count.

Money laundering: Up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.

Interstate transportation of stolen property: Up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.

Attempt to evade taxes: Up to five years and a fine up to $100,000.

The FBI and the Internal Revenue Service investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch is prosecuting.

Hawley: Repeal of Clean Power Plan is a victory for Missouri

(From Attorney General Josh Hawley)

Attorney General Josh Hawley today hailed the latest deregulation order from the Trump Administration as a major victory for Missouri. Trump's order, signed Tuesday, begins the repeal process for the so-called Clean Power Plan, a massive network of regulations issued by President Obama that would have driven energy prices up in Missouri by double digits. Missouri challenged the regulations in federal court as unconstitutional.

"This is a major win for the people of Missouri," Hawley said. "As we have long argued and as legal experts from across the political spectrum have recognized, these regulations are flatly unconstitutional. We fought these job-killing regulations in court and soon they will be gone. Relief is on the way for Missouri families."

Missouri was one of 27 states that challenged the Clean Power Plan in federal court. The US Supreme Court issued an injunction against the plan in February 2016.

Elevated tornado risk this afternoon, tonight for Joplin area

Hazardous Weather Outlook
National Weather Service Springfield MO
931 AM CDT Wed Mar 29 2017

St. Clair-Hickory-Camden-Pulaski-Phelps-Barton-Cedar-Polk-Dallas-
931 AM CDT Wed Mar 29 2017

This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of the Missouri
Ozarks and extreme southeast Kansas.

.DAY ONE...Today and Tonight.

Weather hazards expected...

  Elevated Tornado Risk.
  Elevated Hail Risk.
  Elevated Thunderstorm Wind Damage Risk.
  Significant Lightning Risk.


  A few thunderstorms will be possible this morning across the
  outlook area as a small band of showers and thunderstorms lifts
  northeast through the region. No severe weather is expected
  with this activity.

  By mid afternoon, strong to severe thunderstorms are expected
  to form across portions of eastern Kansas, western Missouri,
  and northern portions of Oklahoma and Arkansas. This activity
  will then affect the outlook area from mid afternoon into the
  late night hours. Large hail, potentially greater than the size
  of golf balls, wind gusts to 70 MPH, and a few tornadoes are
  all possible with this activity as it moves east through the

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Thursday through Tuesday.

  The potential for strong to severe storms will continue into
  Thursday especially across the eastern Ozarks. Large hail will
  be the primary severe weather risk Thursday.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New Joplin R-8 superintendent takes the reins Monday

The last Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting featuring Norm Ridder as the top delivered on the promise he made when he first arrived two years ago- it clocked in at 57 minutes, just shy of the hour meeting that he had hoped for, but which somehow never materialized.

When the board meets 7 p.m. April 18 for the swearing-in of three newly-elected board members, it will be new Superintendent Melinda Moss who will be the top administrator.

Moss officially becomes superintendent Monday, April 3, but Ridder told the board she will be in Joplin Wednesday attending leadership meetings.

Moss will take over the office currently being used by Ridder, who will move a couple of doors down and continue to serve the district with the transition until his contract expires June 30.

Former Washington Education Center to serve as outreach center

During a closed session tonight, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education sold the old Washington Education Center to S.O.S. (Serving on the Streets) Ministries for $1.

The bid was the only one received for the facility. It was the second time Washington had gone through the bidding process.

S.O.S. co-founder Aaron Garcia (shown with his wife and co-founder Emily Garcia) said the building will be used an outreach center, providing such services as parenting classes, mentorships, and "emergency shelters for people on the streets."

The Garcias explained how their ministry started in an article posted July 20, 2015, on the Joplin Mo Life website:

Last winter we got the idea to go out and help the homeless by handing out sack lunches and hot cocoa out of the back of our car. We would pull up into alleys around the homeless “cul-de-sac” between the Salvation Army and Watered Gardens.

After months of service we knew that God was pulling us in this direction and He told us to find a central point to meet. We thought, “What park would be the best for a central point?”

Ewert park.

We then went to all the shelters and asked them what day they don’t serve food, and all of them told us Sundays for lunch. We knew then that we would serve the homeless and impoverished on Sundays at 2 PM at Ewert Park.

Twenty came. Then 30. Then 50, 75.

Now we are seeing up to 125 people show up every week.

Gatehouse's Pittsburg Morning Sun cuts: They will make us more robust

The situation with the Pittsburg Morning Sun is not quite as dire as with other Gatehouse Media newspapers in the area, but the con job from company officials is no less robust to use one of their favorite words.

While the Carthage Press has been trimmed from six editions to five to two, and will be published once a week beginning in April and the Neosho Daily News has gone from six to five to two, the Morning Sun is just in the baby stages of the Gatehouse genocide.

Not too long, the Pittsburg newspaper published every day of the week, then it was six times a week and after the last Saturday edition of the Morning Sun hits the streets April 8, its frequency will be five times a week.

Of course, in the view of the unnamed writer of the article explaining this to Morning Sun readers, this is the best of all possible worlds.

Saturday's paper was a lousy one anyway. Excuse me, make that "less robust than it could and should be."

Six days a week was also making it hard for the workers and their families, the article explains, though it doesn't mention that the problems undoubtedly came as a result of Gatehouse continuing to cut employees until there were not enough to put out six newspapers a week without difficulty.

But the company is on "firm financial footing," the article says.

Of course, it is.

 It doesn't have to pay off its loans for a few years and it has $200 million set aside to buy even more newspapers that Gatehouse officials can cut to the bone, then cut even further, until they are virtually unrecognizable.

But no, it's a good thing for the Morning Sun.

"This is a strategic move designed to ease the burden on our hard-working team members and to allow for a more robust (get the writer a thesaurus please) weekend edition with even more of the great hyperlocal content our readers have come to demand and expect from us."

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey may be shutting down, but apparently the P. T. Barnums at Gatehouse Media think there's a sucker born every minute.

Complete video- Tonight's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting

From Jet HD

Three storm chasers, including two from SW Missouri killed in Texas car crash

 Three storm chasers, including two from Southwest Missouri,  were among three people killed today in a two-vehicle crash five miles west of Spur, Texas.

A Texas Department of Public Safety news release said that a northbound black Suburban driven by Kelley Gene Williamson, 57, Cassville, ran a stop sign and struck a westbound black Jeep driven by Corbin Lee Jaeger, 25, Peoria, Arizona.

Williamson, Jaeger, and a passenger in Williamson's vehicle, Randall Delane Yarnall, 55, Cassville, were all killed.

All three were storm chasers, according to the report. The report indicates that the weather conditions played no part in the accident.

Williamson's final footage of storm activity in Texas today is in the top accompanying video.The bottom video includes footage of people driving in an ice storm in Joplin on December 27, 2014.

Creve Coeur Democrat outlines attacks against workers, teachers in legislature

In her weekly podcast, Sen. Jill Schlupp details bills that have passed or are being considered in the state legislature that are designed to attack unions and classroom teachers.

It is a long list and that type of legislation has been about the only thing that has made its way to Gov. Eric Greitens' desk thus far.

Blunt takes Senate Democrats to task on Gorsuch nomination

In the accompanying video, Sen. Roy Blunt criticizes Senate Democrats for their treatment of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination, meaning it would take 60 votes to confirm him as the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Cynthia Davis on health care vote: A tremendous victory for those who favor limited government

(From former Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, now an internet radio talk show host)

It looks like nearly everyone is happy! Now that the Obamacare replacement bill was removed from the House agenda, both sides of the political spectrum feel rescued from a bad bill. Democrats thought it would diminish Obamacare. Republicans thought it was too much like Obamacare. This is a classic example of how "governing from the middle" can be a total flop.

The fact that no vote was officially taken means the Republicans lacked the numbers for it to pass and they didn't want to humiliate themselves. However, we can still see how the members were likely to vote because The New York Times printed a whip list for us to examine.

If the government would get out of the healthcare industry, the prices would lower themselves. The bill Paul Ryan promoted failed to incorporate the reforms necessary for healthcare costs to deflate. It retained the main driver behind the price escalation---the insurance mandates.

The quickest way to reduce the cost of healthcare is to get the government out of it. When the Congress implements ideas that reduce the cost of healthcare, the cost of the insurance will reduce naturally.

I never was able to call Obamacare "The Affordable Care Act" because it would violate my conscience to promote a lie. Anything that did so much damage to our healthcare system by driving up prices of medical insurance, cannot honestly be called "affordable". Referring to it as the "Affordable Care Act" is not just a euphemism, it's a falsehood.

Obamacare was not designed with the people in mind. It was designed with the lobbyists in mind---the lobbyists for the insurance industries and the hospital industries. Those flaws continued to exist in the Ryan bill. As a result, the newly proposed bill regurgitated more of the same old ideas repackaged under the Republican banner.

Unfortunately, some of the Democrats are acting like they won just because the Republicans are taking more time to deliberate. They should not throw it up in people's faces like this is a win. The blame for the damage done to our healthcare industry belongs at the feet of the Democratic party.

It's likely that Obamacare will implode on its own. As costs continue to increase, more healthy people will save money by getting their healthcare needs met outside the insurance model. As the insurance pool becomes top-heavy with sick people, fewer insurance choices will be available. History will blame the Democratic party for their promotion of a failed Socialistic experiment.

Whatever the Republicans pass will ultimately be owned by them. That's why those who advertise themselves to be in favor of freedom must show a clear distinction between themselves and the Democrats. Thankfully, the lack of action shows the American people that a few Republicans won't just pass a bill because their party wrote it. Those who feel badly about the defeat of this bill didn't read it either. They were misled into thinking this would solve our problems and was a full repeal of Obamacare, which it was not!

The Republicans in the Freedom Caucus deserve credit for sparing our Country of a huge mistake. Were it not for them, the rank and file Republicans would have passed this. The members of the Freedom Caucus forced the other members to look at WHAT IS IN THE BILL and took the time to read it before they were willing to pass it. They also proved that they care more about doing what is right than pleasing the leadership of their caucus.

Those of us in favor of limited government just won a tremendous victory.

State audit of prescription drug benefits through Medicaid, CHIP programs announced

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway announced she is beginning a review of the state's oversight procedures for prescription drug benefits through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

"As we continue to navigate the state's current budget crisis, we must remain vigilant to ensure tax dollars are managed wisely, and that means having safeguards in place to prevent abuse of the programs Missourians depend on," Auditor Galloway said. "My team will review the oversight procedures that exist to prevent and detect improper activities that waste taxpayer dollars and foster distrust of government."

An estimated $10 billion is expected to be spent on Medicaid in Missouri in 2017. Of that, prescription drugs account for nearly half a billion dollars per year in state and federal dollars after rebates are received from drug manufacturers.

This audit is in addition to the annual review of state compliance with federal guidelines regarding expenditures in the Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Programs, and will include a more extensive examination of prescription drug spending and oversight.

Individuals with information may contact the State Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline by calling 800-347-8597, by emailing, or by using the new online submission form at Callers may choose to remain anonymous.

Accused killer of two-year-old: I was too scared to call the hospital

They had to keep her talking.

No case affects a police officer like the death of a child and it did not take long for Carthage Police officers to realize that Emalata Hoeft did not die from natural causes.

For the next several hours after the discovery of the two-year-old's body on August 15, 2015,, the police had to skate the thin line between skilled interrogation of the suspects- the child's father Albert Steven O'Connor and O'Connor's girlfriend Tearra Olson- and violating their constitutional rights.

Officers separated the two and quickly determined that Olson had been with the child and O'Connor had not been at home. Emalata had thrown a tantrum and Olson was having a hard time dealing with it.

Olson told the officers that Emalata hit her head against a hard surface. It was that blow that killed her.

"So was she acting like she was sleeping?" Officer Steve Norman asked, following up with the question that should never have had to be asked.

"Did you guys think about taking her to the hospital?"

Apparently not.

'Did she aggravate you?" Norman asked.


The picture that interview, which was captured on Officer Norman's body camera, provides- is one of a neglected two-year-old who never had a chance.

O'Connor pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and is serving seven years in prison.

Olson's trial on second degree murder and child abuse charges is scheduled for September 5 in Jasper County Circuit Court. The key evidence comes from the questioning of Olson that day- an interview that her attorney, public defender Norman Maples, hopes will be tossed during a hearing set for May 5.

Olson was changing her story as she spoke to the officers, acknowledging that she and O'Connor had left the two-year-old alone with just a sippy cup for as much as five hours at a time while they were working because they could not afford day care.

But it wasn't just when they were working. It had only been a few hours since they decided they were in the mood to eat some Sonic food, left Emalata at home while they drove to Sonic, ordered their food, returned- and never checked in to see if the child was all right.

In his motion, Maples says that at some point the police should have given Olson her Miranda warning.

Olson was clearly already a suspect, Maples said, noting that on the body camera footage, Norman says to another officer, "She just told me that they just leave her here by herself. They left her here by herself from 9:30 'til about 2:30. At some point, when we get her back to the station, we need to do Miranda, just when it feels right, don't shut her down."

The interviews at the O'Connor home lasted two hours and 51 minutes. She was given her Miranda rights after she was taken to the police station.

At one point, Norman asked Olson to go with him into the child's room. "Show me what happened."

She started to enter the room, then turned away. "I can't!. I can't!" she said and began crying. The officers did not force her to go into the room.

An officer asked, "Did you call the hospital?"

"I was too scared."

U. S. Supreme Court declines to review death penalty for PSU coed's murderer

(From Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt)

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to review the case of Gary Kleypas leaving his capital murder conviction and death sentence intact, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.

The high court’s denial means Kleypas’ conviction and death sentence, which previously were affirmed by the Kansas Supreme Court, will stand on direct appeal. The case will next be returned to the Kansas courts for further proceedings under the Kansas death penalty statute. Although the U.S. Supreme Court’s action marks the end of Kleypas’ direct appeals, under both Kansas and federal law Kleypas has remaining options to seek further judicial review through collateral proceedings.

Kleypas was convicted in 1997 in Crawford County District Court of capital murder in connection with the 1996 murder of Pittsburg State University student Carrie Williams, 20. He was sentenced to death in 1998. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Kleypas’ conviction, but overturned his death sentence in 2001 and ordered a new sentencing hearing. In 2008, a second jury recommended a death sentence in the case. The Kansas Supreme Court upheld that death sentence in October 2016.

This is the second death penalty case to exhaust direct appeals since the Kansas Legislature reinstated the death penalty in 1994. The first was State v. John Robinson in October 2016. The Kansas Supreme Court also has affirmed the conviction and death sentence of Sidney Gleason after remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, although Gleason has an opportunity to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case for a second time.

Kleypas is one of 10 people under sentence of death in Kansas. The other death penalty cases that remain pending at various stages of direct appeals before the Kansas Supreme Court are: State v. Scott Cheever (Greenwood County); State v. Jonathan Carr (Sedgwick County); State v. Reginald Carr (Sedgwick County); State v. Justin Thurber (Cowley County); State v. Craig Kahler (Osage County); State v. Frazier Glenn Miller (Johnson County); and State v. Kyle Flack (Franklin County).

In an eleventh case, State v. Doug Belt (Sedgwick County), the defendant died in prison, but the Kansas Supreme Court in October 2016 declined to disturb the capital murder conviction and death sentence.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The death of the Neosho Daily News

All of the time I was growing up a weekday ritual was going to Gum Mercantile in the heart of downtown Newtonia every afternoon after school to await the arrival of the Neosho Daily News.

It was a ritual that was passed down from generation to generation. The older men sat around the wood stove in the back of the store, discussing politics and the weather, while the kids whose parents were at work would wait in front of the store and read through the comic books.

For years, it was a brown, four-door vehicle that appeared to have made it through both world wars that brought the paper sometime between 4 and 4:30, except on Wednesdays when it had grocery advertising inserts and arrived about a half hour to 45 minutes late.

The bundle of papers was handed to Vernie Browning, the postmaster, who put them in the boxes. I opened Box 45, removed the Daily, bought a Dr. Pepper and sat on the front sidewalk of the store reading it from cover to cover.

Though I was interested in the page one stories, my favorite parts of the paper were the sports pages, which had the last night baseball stories that you couldn't get in the morning Joplin Globe, the comics, especially Peanuts, and the Washington Merry Go Round column by investigative reporters Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson.

Great times, still as vivid in my mind as if they happened yesterday.

Gum Mercantile is just a memory, the building the only evidence of the social hub of generations past. Charles Schultz, the cartoonist who drew Peanuts, is no longer with us and the Washington Merry Go Round came to a halt long ago, the corruption continuing but with no Pearson or Anderson to bring it to light.

Next month, the Neosho Daily News, a fixture for generations in the yards and mailboxes of Newton County, will breathe its last.

The name will still exist but the definition of daily will be twisted like a pretzel so Gatehouse Media doesn't have to foot the bill to change its stationery.

If you believe Gatehouse Media's regional publisher Jamey Honeycutt, the company's decision to cut the Daily from five editions a week to two beginning next month is going to be greatest thing for Neosho since Dog N Suds opened.

"We had to determine what we do better than anyone and that was cover local news," Honeycutt said in a top-of-page-one story in Sunday's Neosho Daily News. He made it sound as if two newspapers were going to magically enable the Daily (it will still be called the Daily because it will be updated online) to increase its news output. That can't happen unless Gatehouse is willing to invest money in its product and that is something the company does not intend to do.

That's not the picture Honeycutt paints, however.

"When your print edition comes on Tuesday and the weekend, it will be a thick edition, focused exclusively on local news, sports, and advertising."

Later in that same paragraph, Honeycutt said he hopes this will make the Neosho Daily News appointment reading.

Certainly that will be true if your appointment is at a dentist's office and your only choices are the new thicker Neosho Daily News and a year-old copy of Ladies Home Journal.

The article continues, "No other news agency in the area focuses on Neosho and Newton County like the Daily News and the Daily News takes it's (sic) responsibility seriously."

No, it doesn't.

No one in the corporate offices of Gatehouse Media cares one bit about the people of Neosho or Newton County, any more than they care about the people of Carthage whose venerated newspaper is being cut to once-a-week publication, or the people of Miami, whose newspaper is also being cut to two editions per week.

Today's Daily is not the Daily that Anne and Ken Cope published and edited. It is not the Daily of Howard Bush, Harlan Stark, Bill Ball, or my old friend and baseball teammate Dean Keeling.

While good people still work at the Daily, Gatehouse Media, which continues to buy newspapers and then shred them until they are nearly non-existent, has no concept of community service, no idea of what newspapers are supposed to be.

Gatehouse banks on the idea that the community has a loyalty to its hometown newspaper, demanding that loyalty without ever showing any loyalty of its own.

Thankfully, former Daily Publisher Randy Cope is still alive, or he would be rolling in his grave.

Change orders for Early Childhood Center on tap for Joplin R-8 Board

Joplin R-8 Board of Education will meet 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Memorial Administration Building. A closed session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to discuss legal actions, real estate, personnel and employee negotiations.

The agenda for the regular session is printed below:

A. Call to Order

1. Roll Call

B. Pledge of Allegiance

C. Approval of Agenda - Action

D. Reports
1. Board President's Report

a. Celebrations - Info. (Jeff Koch)

b. BOE Policy Committee Update - Info. (L. Banwart & J. Martucci)

c. BOE Data Analysis Committee Update - Info. (J. Koch, S. Dermott & L. Musser)

d. BOE Finance, Salary, and Benefits Committee - Info. (Dr. Fort & J. Martucci)

e. BOE Safety Committee - Info. (Dr. Fort & C. Sloan)

2. Superintendent's Data Report

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

b. Financial Statements - Info. (Paul Barr)

E. Public Comments Regarding Agenda Items 

F. Consent Agenda - Action

1. Minutes - Action (Pat Waldo)

2. Personnel Recommendations - Action (Dr. Lankford)

3. Commodity Foods Processing for School Year 2017-18 - Action (Dr. Sachetta)

4. Consent Contracts - Action

a. Shelter House for Student Activity (Dr. Ridder)

b. Transportation of IEP Student - Action (Sandra Cantwell)

c. West Central Property Access Contract - Action (Dr. Sachetta)

d. Adult Education and Literacy Program Grant Application - Action (Dr. Ridder)

G. Regular Agenda

1. Accounts Payable - Action (Paul Barr)

2. Budget Adjustments - Action (Paul Barr)

3. Capital Outlay Budget 2017/18 - Action (Paul Barr)

4. Summer School Application School Year 2016/17 - Action (Dr. Gilbreth)

5. Early Childhood Center General Contractor Prime Contract Change Order - Action (Dr. Sachetta)

6. Declare Modular Classrooms at Duquesne Elementary Surplus - Action (Dr. Sachetta)

7. Plus/Delta - Info. (Dr. Ridder)

a. Plus: What did we do well

b. Delta: Opportunities for Improvement

McCaskill- Decision on health care bill was victory for common sense and morality

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

This is the good news we needed: Common sense and morality won last week when the House abandoned President Trump’s absolute disaster of a healthcare bill. His plan would’ve hiked costs for working families and older Americans and caused millions to lose health insurance – all so Republicans could cut taxes for the richest Americans.

We can breathe a sigh of relief today, but this is not over. In fact, The Washington Post put it best: "[President] Trump's next move may be even more disastrous." President Trump and Republicans will keep trying to force this plan through, no matter how many people it hurts, and we need to be ready.

I’m going to fight back against any bill that would hike costs for older Americans just to fund a tax giveaway to the wealthy, but I need to hear from you. Will you take a quick survey to share your thoughts on healthcare now, before the next debate on this?

Click here to share your thoughts on healthcare.

Hartzler bill to improve FEMA relief efforts approved by House

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

A bill introduced by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) to ensure residents receive better guidance, more accurate information, and greater certainty from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following a disaster passed in the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelmingly bipartisan support by a vote of 408-0.

“This bill requires FEMA to focus efforts on its core mission – helping people recover from disasters,” Hartzler said. “When people go through a disaster, such as floods and tornadoes, the people need to know that relief is on the way. From past disasters in Missouri, there have been repeated incidents of lost or misplaced paperwork, poor coordination between state and federal agencies, and general lack of information from FEMA officials. There are still pending cases from 2013 following the floods in my district! The people deserve better, and this bill delivers.”

Hartzler spoke on the House floor during debate of her bill. Her remarks can be seen here.

This legislation passed unanimously in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in February. Members of the committee from both sides of the aisle expressed support for this bill.

The FEMA Relief Improvement Act requires FEMA to create a plan that will provide consistent guidance and accurate information following a disaster. Specifically, it requires FEMA to create an action plan to improve field transition by:

-Providing consistent guidance to applicants on FEMA disaster funding procedures during the response to an emergency or disaster;

-Conducting appropriate record maintenance and transfer of documents to new teams during staff transitions;

-Providing accurate assistance to applicants and grantees to ease the administrative burden throughout the process of obtaining and monitoring assistance;

-Implementing operating procedures and documenting retention requirements to ensure the maintenance of appropriate records throughout the lifecycle of the disaster; and

-Identifying new technologies that further aid the disaster workforce in partnering with state, local, and tribal governments and private nonprofits in the wake of a disaster to educate, assist, and inform applicants on the status of their disaster assistance applications.

Greitens to sign tort reform bill Tuesday

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

Governor Greitens will be signing House Bill 153 on Tuesday, the latest piece of legislation to help grow Missouri's economy. The legislation will begin to clean up Missouri's broken judicial system by raising the standards for expert witnesses in the courtroom.

The Governor also added in a statement:

“We are going to do everything we can to grow more jobs with higher pay in the state of Missouri. Our court system holds us back. It allows trial lawyers to come to Missouri, pick our pockets, and hurt our businesses. It makes us less competitive than other states—at a time when we are fighting for every single job.

Tomorrow, we will take a first and important step in fixing that system, by signing legislation to raise the standard for expert witnesses in courtrooms. This bill will send a signal to the rest of the country that Missouri is open for business."

The signing will take place at a Missouri business, Midland Transports (320 Midland Drive, Jefferson City, MO 65101), at 10:30 AM on Tuesday, March 28th.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Links provided for top Turner Report/Inside Joplin posts for the week

Gatehouse Media's decision to turn the Carthage Press from a twice-weekly newspaper to a weekly and the Neosho Daily News from a five-day-a-week newspaper to publishing twice-weekly dominated this week's most viewed posts on the Turner Report taking the top two spots, while also faring well on the new Inside Carthage blog.

The most visited post on any of the blogs this week came at Inside Carthage with the revelation that Ace Mohr, who is free on bond while awaiting trial on multiple felonies including dealing cocaine and heroin, was arrested for DUI and may have his bond revoked.

The Turner Report

1. Former resident: Wake up, Carthage; we need a reliable news source

2. Drastic cuts made at Neosho Daily News, Carthage Press

3. Future in doubt for Sears store at Northpark Mall

4. Federal prosecutor wants Joplin man held without bond

5. How do we attract veteran teachers to come to the Joplin R-8 School District?

6. Joplin doctor pleads not guilty to statutory rape, sodomy charges

7. Joplin R-8 candidates deal with questions on transgender bathroom, teacher retention, and other issues

8. League City pays $217K severance to Mark Rohr

9. Forfeiture proceedings underway for nearly $600K seized from convicted Joplin businessman 

10. Ed Emery meets with vulgar, profane "I guess they call themselves transgenders"

Inside Joplin

1. Joplin Police DWI checkpoint at 7th and Illinois nets 22 arrests, 10 DWIs

2. Joplin, Galena teens in custody after car burglary spree

3. Neosho woman charged with DWI after slamming into two mailboxes

4. Carthage man arrested after holding ex-girlfriend and her brother at gunpoint

5. Plane crashes north of Thorne and County Road 220

6. Five people injured in three-car chain reaction accident on Gateway Drive

7. Crowder construction technology cabins for sale

8. Jasper County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

9. Jasper County Sheriff's Office Arrests

10. Jasper County Sheriff arrests two Joplin men for domestic assault, child abuse

Inside Carthage

1. Carthage Police arrests Ace Mohr for DUI, motion to revoke bond filed

2. Work progresses on Carthage High School multi-purpose complex

3. Carthage Police seeking information on River Street Laundry burglary, vandalism

4. Carthage man arrested after holding ex-girlfriend and her brother at gunpoint

5. Gatehouse Media cutting jobs at Carthage Press, Neosho Daily, spending $200 million to buy more papers

6. Carthage Press publisher: Once a week will make us stronger, more robust

7. Students to take over Carthage City Council, fireworks purchase also on tap

8. Carthage High School's David Ortiz signs to play soccer at NEO

9. Deadline approaching for Carthage Maple Leaf opportunities

10. Former Carthage resident: We need a reliable news source

Inside Joplin Obituaries

1. Eddie Potts

2. Christine Davis

3. Laura Gideon

4. LaVada Stephens

5. Jim Truelove

6. Charlie Tabb

7. Floyd Nichols

8. Fred Shellenberger

9. Wayne McCollum

10. Mary Riley

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gatehouse Media cuts jobs at Carthage Press, Neosho Daily, spending $200 million to buy more newspapers

At the same time that it is chopping the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and its other newspapers to mere skeletons of what they once were, Gatehouse Media is moving full speed ahead on its plan to buy as many newspapers as it can.

In a February 17 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Michael E. Reed, CEO of New Media Investment, Gatehouse's parent company, and former Gatehouse CEO, made it clear his company was ready to spend big money- $200 million- to add to its collection of hundreds of newspapers, including 15 in Missouri.

“During the quarter, we successfully closed our previously-announced acquisitions of the Columbia Daily Tribune and Rochester Business Journal, and announced and closed the acquisition of Harris Enterprises for $20.4 million. The Harris papers are a great complement to our footprint in Kansas and Iowa and have been serving their communities with quality local news and information for over a century. We were also pleased to recently announce and close our first deal for 2017, the acquisition of the publishing division of the Wooster Republican Printing Company for $21.2 million. This Ohio based group is a great strategic fit with our existing Ohio cluster. With this acquisition, we have now completed over $735 million of transactions since inception, completing eight transactions in 2016, the highest number of acquisitions we have done in any single year. With over $200 million in liquidity, New Media is well positioned to take advantage of more great acquisition opportunities at attractive valuations in 2017.

At the same time it was announcing that it was willing to spend hundreds of millions on newspapers when it has shown no ability to run the ones it already has, Gatehouse also announced it had a 
$27 million "cost reduction program" for 2017.

That "cost reduction program" includes the decision to cut the Carthage Press to one day a week, the Neosho Daily and the Miami News-Record to twice a week and the Pittsburg Morning Sun to five times a week.

It also led to the elimination of jobs including the job of Press reporter Becca Haines.

Also losing their jobs, though technically they do not work for the Press, but are legally considered to be independent contractors, those who have delivered the Press to homes all over Carthage and the surrounding area, have been told their services are no longer needed.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Billy Long jumps the gun, tells how reconciliation process will repeal Obamacare

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

I hear it all the time; "With Republicans controlling the House, Senate and White House you should be getting more done. Why can't you push the President's agenda through?" The answer is simple: the Senate has what some consider an arcane rule that must gain 60 votes for cloture. What that means is that the Senate must have 60 votes to break a filibuster in order for a bill to pass. This is why we are using reconciliation to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The reconciliation process was part of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which sets out a list of procedures that allow House and Senate committees to produce legislation that can later be passed by a simple majority in the Senate. Since being enacted, policymakers have used reconciliation for 20 budget bills. The last time it was used was in 2016 to repeal key areas of Obamacare, although the legislation was vetoed by President Obama.

The reconciliation process allows for quick and easy movement of a bill. In order to begin the process, both the House and the Senate must first pass a budget resolution that includes reconciliation instructions. This budget resolution can be passed by a simple majority in the Senate needing only 51 votes rather than the 60 votes required to break a filibuster. Once the reconciliation bill goes to the Senate it is limited to only 20 hours of debate and requires, just like the budget resolution, only a simple majority to pass.

What’s unique about the Senate’s process is the Byrd Rule, which was also part of the Budget Act. This rule blocks any provision in a reconciliation bill that does not directly impact taxes and spending. To put it simply, it means that the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) can only include policies that deal directly with budgetary items, such as spending and revenue.

This is why our approach to reforming health care includes three phases: 1) repeal and replace Obamacare through the reconciliation process; 2) remove burdensome regulations under the direction of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price which Obamacare gave the secretary of HHS the latitude to do; 3) enact additional free-market reforms that cannot be included in the reconciliation process, such as medical liability reform and allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines. The third phase will require bipartisan cooperation as it will need to meet the 60-vote threshold.

While it may be confusing to some, this is the only way to get this legislation passed, signed by the President and enacted into law. So when you hear that repealing and replacing Obamacare is being done in three phases, I hope this helps better explain why.

Carthage Police arrests Ace Mohr for DUI, motion to revoke bond filed

Ace Mohr, 23, Carthage, currently free on bond while awaiting trial on multiple felony charges, may not be on the streets for long.

Jasper County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nate Dally filed a motion Monday to revoke Mohr's bond following Mohr's March 12 arrest by the Carthage Police Department for driving under the influence of drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.

During the arrest of the Defendant by the Carthage Police Department the Defendant refused to provide a sample of his blood in accordance with Missouri Implied Consent, a test that would have allowed the court to know if the Defendant was or was not using controlled substances.

The bond revocation motion includes a listing of the felonies with which Mohr has been charged, including possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, distribution of heroin, possession of alprazolam with intent to distribute, receiving stolen property, two counts of possession of methamphetamine, possession of Dilaudid 5, and possession of methadone.

The Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office objected to Mohr's bond being reduced during a November 4 hearing, but Judge David Mouton set bond at $5,000 surety.

In the motion he filed for bond reduction, Mohr's attorney, Jonathan Pierce, said his client has been accepted into Lazarus House, a Christian-based recovery center that deals with alcohol and drug abuse, including methamphetamines.

Mohr checked into the facility, but Dally says Lazarus House has provided him with no information on whether Mohr is still receiving treatment and had not acknowledged Mohr violated any terms of the program with his March 12 arrest.

Mohr has also been arrested for armed robbery three times. On two of the occasions, both in Carthage, former Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson dropped the charges. In the third case, a reported armed robbery at 7th and Moffet in Joplin in August, no charges were ever filed.

Publisher: Don't worry about cuts, our papers will be "stronger, more robust"

For those of you who are concerned that fewer editions of the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Pittsburg Morning Sun and Miami News-Record, don't be.

Jamey Honeycutt, Gatehouse Media's regional publisher, told Fox 14 Thursday that fewer editions will enable the newspapers to offer readers a better product.

"Our communities will be better served by stronger, more robust editions filled with more local news," Honeycutt promised in a statement provided to reporter Chloe Leshner.

Honeycutt provided no details on how this would be done, considering that the fewer editions will also be accompanied by job cuts.

At Carthage, long-time reporter Becca Haines, a Carthage native, lost her job. leaving two people, Managing Editor John Hacker and Sports Editor Brennan Stebbins on the news staff.

Honeycutt is promising that daily news will continue to be covered on the newspapers' internet sites, a prospect that provides little comfort with fewer staff members to provide that news.

How do we attract veteran teachers to come to the Joplin R-8 School District?

I took advantage of the decision to allow the public to question the candidates at last night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education forum to pose a question about an issue that is important, but is rarely mentioned in discussions about problems facing the district.

Unfortunately, none of the candidates answered the question I asked, instead opting to answer one that had been addressed numerous times during the earlier portions of the forum.

Each of the candidates- Ron Brewer, Derek Gander, Deborah Gould, and Brent Jordan- quite rightly noted that teacher retention is a major issue.

The Turner Report has noted numerous times that during the final four years of the C. J. Huff Administration, the district was losing an average of 100 teachers a year, or more than 50 percent of the faculty.

The departures have continued with about 70 teachers leaving each of the last two years.

The problem has been noted, not only in this forum, but in forums the past few years.

What has not been addressed, and what I tried to address in my question, was a problem that board member Debbie Fort noted several months ago- a large percentage of those leaving have been experienced teachers. Fort pointed out that more than 50 percent of the district's teachers have five years or less of experience.

And that is a major problem, one that needs to be addressed.

In the most highly functioning school districts, the faculty consists of a mixture of people who have been teaching 20 or 30 years, ones who have been in the profession 10 to 15 years, younger veterans with five to 10 years of classroom experience and teachers with less than five years of experience.

That mixture not only provides a veteran presence in the classrooms and in the halls, but also provides a pipeline system in which a few older teachers retire or move elsewhere and can be replaced by talented young teachers, who are able to be mentored by one or more of the remaining veterans.

C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer destroyed that pipeline in the Joplin R-8 School District and no one is talking about the steps that need to be taken to fix it.

When you have a large number of inexperienced teachers coming into a school district each year, you have more teachers who are simply not ready (and some who never will be) to be in the classroom. When you have fewer vacancies, you have a better chance to hire only top-level newcomers.

I asked incoming superintendent Melinda Moss about this problem recently and she suggested it could be handled by increased professional development, in addition to mentoring.

Moss is coming from Harrison,Arkansas, a district which she told me does have that proper mixture of veterans and younger teachers.

I respectfully disagree with her if she thinks professional development alone will cure this problem.

Which brings me back to my unanswered question from the candidate forum.

What can we do to bring veteran teachers into the district?

The only way to correct the imbalance is by encouraging an influx of veteran educators. Otherwise, it will take years for Joplin to get back to where it was when Jim Simpson was superintendent.

Though my question wasn't answered, I offer the following suggestions:

1. Continue the effort to increase the salaries and benefits for teachers. Steps in that direction have already been taken by the current board and these are definitely a consideration for veteran teachers considering a change in location.

2. Continue the move toward actually including faculty in decisions rather than the top-down system employed during the Huff-Besendorfer years.

3. While those first two steps are important, you are still not going to get many veteran teachers to come to Joplin from other districts unless you put out the word that they will be welcomed. After all, if they leave another district to come here, they will be sacrificing their tenure. On the other hand, there are always good teachers looking for a challenge or looking to be a part of a district that is doing things the right way. The best way to encourage experienced teachers to come to Joplin is through word-of-mouth. If district teachers buy into what is being done here, they can spread the word to their friends from districts that are not faring as well. For the past few years, teachers have not encouraged anyone to come here and veteran teachers stayed as far away from here as possible while Huff was in charge.

4. Though I hate to propose making the advertisements for teaching positions even longer, it would not do any harm to point out that Joplin jobs are open to the best candidates, whether they are talented young teachers looking for their first positions or teachers who have already experienced success in other districts.

Obviously, any such initiative to attract veteran teachers would require extra care to make sure that Joplin does not become, to use candidate Brent Jordan's phrase "a Mecca" for veteran teachers who bounce from district to district because they do not have the skills or are lacking in one fashion or another. That means careful background checks, something which is hard to do when you are still having to fill 70 to 100 teaching vacancies each year.

The candidates were not avoiding answering my question. For the most part, it is a question that no one is asking about a problem that is just as serious as any other facing the Joplin R-8 School District.

Former resident: Wake up, Carthage, we need a reliable news source

The decision by Gatehouse Media to make the Carthage Press, a six-days-a-week newspaper just a few years ago to a once-a-week publication will have a negative effect on its readers, but it will also have a more immediate cost for long-time Press reporter Rebecca Haines, whose job has been eliminated as a result of cost-cutting measures.

Both things were addressed in a Facebook post that quickly went viral Wednesday by former Carthage resident Paul D. Wilson.

The post is reprinted below:

GateHouse Media, the owners of the Carthage Press, made more cutbacks today as it slowly swirls in tight, concentric circles, down the toilet bowl of local newspaper death. 

Today saw cutbacks in people and the number of weekly editions in Miami, Pittsburg and Neosho.
But nowhere will those cut backs be felt as badly as in Carthage. 

Today, they cut Carthage's Sweetheart; author, reporter and the girl who gave her heart and soul to the production of the Press... Rebecca Haines. She's also the person who convinced me to actually step out there and write, where she's published me more times than I can count. (Sorry, I didn't mean to make this about me, but when it's about me it holds my interest better and I find it more entertaining...)

I saw Rebecca four weeks ago when I was in town and stopped by the Press office. It was then that (Editor) John (Hacker) told me about the earlier office cutbacks, where they were told to share their admin with Neosho and split her expenses. 

I've been in business management my whole life. It was clear from our discussion, the moves they made were just another step towards the end. Postponing the inevitable.

An admin salary isn't the budget modification that was going to make them profitable. It's just one more step towards the end. 

Going from 6 to 4 to 2 to 1 paper a week spells but one outcome. And it's not growth, it's death.

People of Carthage, small town print media isn't dead. It's the only growth area in the newspaper business. What kills papers like The Press is massive corporate structure, huge overheads assigned to their operation and years of incredible mismanagement by the cluster that is GateHouse.

Carthage, it's time to take a stand. The newspaper is the heartbeat of a community. It can't be allowed to die.

It's time for people like Mark Elliff and the Chamber, city leaders, benefactors, people who love that town like I do, to step in and do something.

I don't want to step on any toes, but since it's what I do best....I've been in Carthage for the weekend twice in the last 4 weeks, securely ensconced in the Presidential Suite at Boots.

While there, I noticed brand new BIKE LANES painted all over town. You know what else I noticed? NO EFFING BIKES! 

I have no idea where the grants or money came from to make that happen, but it would have kickstarted your own paper!

Your paper can't die; GateHouse will let that happen. 


Because they DON'T CARE.

You know who does? 

Becca and John.

Carthage, take this on! Save your paper and save these two people who love your town AND your paper. It's far more important than bike lanes! You're not Portland, for God's sake, where people live on their bikes!

I'd talk to the Mayor myself, but he's a sad little man and still a little testy towards me about that whole fire chief debacle. 

The money is IN that town to make this a reality! 

Take this on yourself! 

GateHouse mismanagement, corporate costs and overhead have your paper in ICU on life support. GateHouse is flipping a coin to decide when to pull the plug.

Local businesses, get behind a NEW paper. Buy ads, subscribe, get some love behind your town having a reliable news source, written by two people who love Carthage and bleed black ink!
This can be done. The people are there that can make it happen!

Get Becca back, keep John there and pay GateHouse back by showing them what happens when an ENTIRE TOWN gets behind its paper and builds it into what it can be!

I'd say pick a date and protest this action by GateHouse IN FRONT OF THE PRESS BUILDING!
Make a show of force. I'll come down and participate! Wake up, Carthage, don't lose this jewel. You need a news source. 

Don't let this out of touch, out of town group of strangers and corporate buffoons ruin what you have!
Who's with me?