Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Three years ago this month, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud published

When I wrote about the impending publication of my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption and the Joplin Tornado three years ago this month, I provided a chapter-by-chapter breakdown and as I looked it over a few moments ago, I realized that my last chapter has a misleading title- Endgame.

The chapter features the "retirement" of former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff and the resignations of Board of Education members Mike Landis and Randy Steele.

It was definitely not an "endgame," as that was followed by the revelation that Landis had been part of a plan, worked out with the help of Huff and Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson to trigger an obscure law that allowed the Jasper County Commission to appoint three board members.

The details of Huff's severance package had not been revealed at that time either.

Nor was there any way of knowing that three major participants in the events of Silver Lining, Landis former Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian and former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts, would be in the middle of runs for public office in 2018.

And at that time, the Missouri State Auditor's office had yet to release its report on the City of Joplin, which was particularly critical of former City Councilman Mike Woolston and O'Brian, among others.

Still, for those who want to know the story behind how Joplin officials responded to the May 22, 2011 tornado, Silver Lining remains the only comprehensive investigative book on the subject that has been written.

The book is available locally at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe and The Book Guy in Joplin and Pat's Books in Carthage.

It is also available at the links below, in both paperback and e-book formats, from Amazon.

And I will have copies available at the signing 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Neosho/Newton County Library.

The following is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what is included in Silver Lining:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. The Mall High School-  Angie Besendorfer holds "dream meetings" to plan new schools for Joplin and incorporates some of the ideas into the mall high school, C. J. Huff's assistant Kim Vann arranges for the United Arab Emirates to donate $1 million worth of laptops to Joplin High School, C. J. Huff has his picture taken with kindergarten students, Ron Richard praises Huff.

12. Citizens Advisory Recovery Team- Jane Cage talks about CART, David Wallace runs for Congress and attacks bloggers, Wallace abandons Corpus Christi, Texas

13. The $62 Million Bond Issue- Besendorfer begins her dream tours of schools across the U. S.,  C. J. Huff makes his first tornado speech, Duenweg and Duquesne get the shaft as plans emerge for a giant-sized East Elementary, Lynda Banwart is placed in charge of the committee to promote the bond issue, which is spending money right and left and not telling anyone where that money came from, Huff puts the teachers to work selling the bond issue, Huff tells how he is going to get FEMA to give him anything he wants, the bond issue passes thanks to voters who will never have to pay one cent of taxes

14. The President Returns- The Huff Administration begs Obama to return for the 2012 JHS Graduation, the graduation

15. No Child Left Alive- East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson covers up the attack of a teacher (me) by a student, I write No Child Left Alive, the Huff Administration's removal of previous EMS Principal Ron Mitchell, the scripted interviews that led to Bud Sexson's hiring, Larry Masters is pushed out as Royal Heights principal

16. Wallace-Bajjali and the Tornado Mayor- Mike Woolston pushes property owners in the tornado area to sell, Councilman Ben Rosenberg discovers that people are upset with Woolston, Woolston, Charlie Kuehn, and Wallace-Bajjali become big players in the 20th and Connecticut area.

17. Fun with German Furniture- A German furniture company pays for a junket for Angie Besendorfer and others and is rewarded with single-bid contracts, C. J. Huff begins his speaking tour, Wallace, Rohr, Rob O'Brian, and Jane Cage promote the largest TIF District in the city's history,

18. Escorted from My Classroom by the Police- The Huff Administration pressures me to stop writing about politics and MSSU President Bruce Speck on the Turner Report, I contact a board member about the things that were going on in the Joplin R-8 School District, my computer is confiscated, I am "interrogated" by HR Director Tina Smith and escorted from my classroom by a police officer, I receive the charges against me. The Huff Administration takes action to make sure that I am not hired by other schools and forces me to ask for a hearing.

19- Lockdown- Bud Sexson puts East Middle School on a lockdown after someone posts a message about me on the PTO website, NEA tries to deal with C. J. Huff, Joplin High School students Laela Zaidi and Rylee Hartwell battle to save my job, I learn what Tina Smith has been up to

20. A Potential of Grooming- My hearing begins with Huff Administration members accusing me of things that were not included among the charges and had never even been hinted at.

21. The Tears of a Clown- C. J. Huff testifies against me and says that the district has hotlined me and turned my case over to the Joplin Police Department, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the U. S. Attorney's office.

22. The Setup of Kim Frencken- C. J. Huff and Bud Sexson set up a false accusation against a teacher who testified for me, my hearing ends, I am fired.

23. Carol Stark Reality- How Carol Stark became editor of the Joplin Globe, a public official is accused of arranging a $100,000 plus government job for his girlfriend,

24. Rohr on the Warpath- The conversation that led to the firing of Mark Rohr, the first unsuccessful attempt to fire him, Carol Stark and the Joplin Globe launch an attack against the council members who tried to fire Rohr, especially Bill Scearce. a city employee finds a sticky note,

25. Rosenberg Fights Back- Mike Woolston calls for an investigation of Scearce; Rosenberg leads Woolston into a trap, investigator Tom Loraine is hired, leading citizens pressure Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean to drop the investigation

26. Joplin Schools Watch- Joplin High School students Laela Zaidi and Rylee Hartwell begin an investigative blog about the Joplin R-8 School District and reveal information about C. J. Huff's speaking engagements, a "massacre" takes place at McKinley Elementary, Huff shouts at three visitors and cries for them, Debbie Fort decides to retire as Irving Elementary principal and run for school board, Jim Kimbrough's frustration with the board increases

27. Kim Frencken's Story- A nightmare school year for East teacher Kim Frencken who continues to suffer for testifying for me, including a brutal face-to-face showdown with C. J. Huff as she fights false accusations that she was providing information to the Turner Report

28. The Loraine Investigation- Highlighted by Loraine's cat-and-mouse game with Woolston

29. No Access to Children- The divide between Huff and Besendorfer grows, teachers are leaving the district in droves, a tech employee is arrested with pornographic photos of 10 Joplin High School girls on his laptop, Buildings Project manager Mike Johnson is being sued left and right,

30. Showdown with Mark Rohr- The Joplin Progress Committee is formed, Rohr reprimands Parks and Recreation Director Chris Cotton for successfully bringing a minor league baseball team to Joplin, Rohr talks about his relationship with Carol Stark, his two interviews with Tom Loraine.

31. Slumber Party- The race for Board of Education begins with a slumber party at the administration biulding, Debbie Fort raises questions about district financial problems, Jeff Koch decides to run, Besendorfer leaves, Larry Masters files a lawsuit against Besendorfer, Tina Smith receives a promotion, a board member is arrested for drunk driving,

32- Out of Control- Huff's anger toward Debbie Fort grows, Huff verbally attacks Fort (this is one year before the board meeting tirade), Fort is elected, NEA costs Jeff Koch a seat on the board.

33.- The Loraine Report- Mark Rohr fired, Bill Scearce cleared, accusations leveled against Woolston, Wallace-Bajjali, Woolston attacks the report, Rohr calls Scearce a liar, Globe, Anson Burlingame launch attacks on those who voted to fire Rohr, Globe goes to court to find out what report says about Rohr

34. Mark Rohr's Farewell- Mark Rohr condemns those who voted against him to hell, Globe fails to mention Rohr's similar problems in places where he had worked,

35. City Election- Joplin Progress Committee pours money into municipal elections, the Miranda Lewis story, the Ryan Stanley story, allegations of domestic abuse against Mark Rohr, Carol Stark buries accusations against Woolston, Wallace-Bajjali, Scearce attacks the Joplin Globe.

36. Taking the City Back- Rohr and Woolston launch a public battle to get the 10 missing pages of the Loraine Report revealed.

37. Ten Missing Pages- Carol Stark receives national praise for battling for release of complete Loraine Report, more of what the pages included

38. C. J. Huff and That Woman- Huff's anger continues to grow as Debbie Fort begins asking questions at school board meetings, Michael Brown was killed and riots begin in Ferguson (and yes, it is connected to Joplin), Fort presence restores the enthusiasm of Jim Kimbrough, Dawn Sticklen resigns, Shawn McGrew is appointed, Mike Landis says elections don't matter

39. Might-as-Well Spending and the Six-and-a-Half-Mile Ribbon- David Humphreys calls for audits of the school and city, Globe leads charge in accusing Humphreys of using political influence over state auditor, the truth about how close C. J. Huff is to Gov. Nixon and President Obama, the ribbon, the spending, C. J. Huff pushes for the high school to open on time, the district takes out massive loans to stay afloat. Huff lies about the high school inspection report, Huff warns all schools and staff members that Randy Turner is attacking them and that I may prevent them from being able to get a levy increase passed.

40. Waiting for Wallace-Bajjali- Criticism of the master developer grows both in Joplin and in Amarillo, Councilman Rosenberg is stopped by police with his poodle in his lap and the Globe turns it into a page one story months later, Scearce cancels his subscription

41. Dedicating a 21st Century School- Joe Biden reveals that 161,000, not 161 people died in the Joplin Tornado, the vice president consoles a tearful C. J. Huff, the six-and-a-half-mile ribbon is cut and then quickly forgotten and abandoned, students make out in the audience,

42. One Hundred Thousand Dollar Gym Seats- C. J. Huff applies for Commissioner of Education, the $100,000 wrong-colored gym seat debacle, Jeff Koch holds his own slumber party in 30 degree weather outside the administration building with snow spitting down as he waits to be the first on the board of education ballot,

43. The Collapse of Wallace-Bajjali

44. State Audit- Thomas Schweich wants to talk with me 48 hours before the state audit is released, but kills himself before that time. Spence Jackson reveals what Schweich wanted me to know, Spence Jackson kills himself, C. J. Huff spins the audit results, Huff misleads public by saying audit showed there was no problem with the way donations were handled after the tornado, the district borrows another $28 million,

45. An Awesome, Positive Video- Lane Roberts tells me his plans if he is elected to the school board, Joplin Progress Committee weighs in on school board race, Huff and Anne Sharp uses teachers in making Sharp campaign video, Gov. Nixon appoints Lane Roberts head of the Department of Public Safety, a campaign for Roberts begins to keep Sharp off the board,

46. C. J. Huff Makes It Personal- Huff launches a Facebook attack against board candidate Jennifer Martucci, the Globe declares Anne Sharp the winner, Koch, Martucci, Roberts elected; Roberts, who had said he would not serve, says he will serve, hours later, Roberts who had said he would not serve, then said he would serve, said once again he would not serve, Fort and Banwart oppose each other for board presidency, C. J. Huff attacks Fort during meeting, Koch elected board president

47. Endgame- Kim Frencken hands documents to board members, C. J. Huff, Randy Steele, and Mike Landis resign.



Anonymous said...

Interesting book. Maybe you should write a sequel. It could focus on all the other corruption that has continued and how our city council has continued to be duped to the point we can't pay our police officers or fire fighters.

Anonymous said...

Lane Roberts initially was overpaid by the city, didn't cooperate w/ Investigator Thomas Loraine, elected to school board but didn't serve and unable to allocate funds as public safety director.