Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Debate over minors carrying guns has implications beyond the Missouri House

By Jeff Smith

State Rep. Lane Roberts is not someone most would deem a “RINO,” or Republican In Name Only.

The three-term Joplin Republican served as the director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety and as Joplin’s police chief, having previously led police forces in cities throughout Washington and Oregon, where he served as president of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police.

(Photo- State Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, speaks on the House floor during the 2022 session- Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications)

In 2013, the Missouri Police Chiefs Association named him Chief of the Year.

I once asked Roberts if he supported “compassionate release” legislation to free elderly inmates, given their low likelihood of recidivism due to “aging out” of criminal tendencies. No way, he replied.

“Look, I’m 75 years old and trust me, you don’t want to bump into me in a dark alley,” he said. “So no, age shouldn’t be the sole determinant of whether someone is a threat.”

Which is to say: The guy’s tough as nails, and not easily caricatured as weak. If being conservative means “Backing The Blue,” it doesn’t get much bluer than him.

But perhaps, we must reckon with a new normal.

Earlier this month, the Missouri Firearms Coalition, which bills itself as a far more aggressive, “no-compromise” offshoot of the NRA, derided Roberts as a gun-grabbing RINO based on two components of a crime bill he’s sponsoring.

The organization is led by brothers — Aaron, Chris, and Ben Dorr — who many long-time gun rights activists have called “charlatans.” “The NRA is selling you out!” the organization claims. “Every single time the government has a registration of firearms, genocide happens!”

As one in-depth investigative series delving into the roots and tactics the Missouri Firearms Coalition observed, “The NRA is struggling, and there are plenty of pro-gun groups eager to fill any real or perceived power vacuum.”


The genesis of Roberts’ crime bill was a House leadership-appointed bipartisan working group charged last fall with addressing public safety challenges. The working group unanimously endorsed six reforms that they agreed would reduce crime around the state.

One section of the bill the Missouri Firearms Coalition excoriated was its requirement that ammunition sellers register with the Secretary of State. They contended that the Roberts proposal would criminalize a man who gives a box of ammo to his brother or son. In reality, it dealt with sales from unlicensed dealers.

The Missouri Firearms Coalition also attacked a second section, which sought to prevent unsupervised minors from openly carrying guns in public roadways. Some committee Republicans did not realize that current statute allows this.

“It’s not against the law, sir … for a 10-year-old kid to walk around with a — with a pistol in their pants?” asked one lawmaker during a recent House hearing, according to the Post-Dispatch’s Jack Suntrup.

Indeed it is not, Roberts acknowledged in response.

“Missouri is pretty fanatical in our defense of the Second Amendment,” he noted, “but this kind of conduct is not what the Second Amendment was meant to protect. This is about people who don’t have the life experience to make a decision about the consequences of having that gun in their possession. Why is an 8-year-old carrying a sidearm in the street?”

Committee Republicans voted to strip the above sections out of the bill.

Democratic Rep. Donna Baringer offered a floor amendment to re-insert a narrowed version of the section to prohibit unsupervised minors from carrying, on public property, handguns readily capable of discharge. The amendment, which Roberts designed to mollify his caucus’s many sportsmen and women by limiting it to armed children whose firearm is not otherwise legally allowed (those 11 or older may hunt by themselves after completing a hunter education class), failed 104-39, on a near-party line vote.

It may have been possible at some earlier juncture to carefully craft language capable of winning over enough Republicans to cobble together a majority – and there may still be a way to do so, perhaps in a Senate committee or floor sub – but given the broader political dynamics, there was no way a House Democrat offering a high-profile floor amendment on guns would prevail.

I’ve previously written about the implications of Missouri becoming a red state, most recently when I noted that U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt felt no need to even feign a traditional general election pivot towards the political middle.

Our general election non-competitiveness could, paradoxically, be the one thing that could make the state more competitive again in the coming election cycles.

That’s because the notion that Republican dominance is sacrosanct may lead the legislature to pass laws that appeal to interest groups like the Missouri Firearms Coalition that wield outsized sway in primaries, but repel the median general election voter.

In a recent survey from the University of Chicago’s respected National Opinion Research Center, nearly 80% of survey respondents endorsed banning minors’ access to handguns.

Over the weekend, a survey commissioned by Missouri Scout and conducted by the GOP polling firm Remington Research Group found 73% of respondents believe it should be illegal for an unaccompanied minor to possess a firearm on public property. Only 16% disagree.

Taking the 16% side of 73-16 issues is not an ideal way to safeguard supermajorities.

Missouri Democrats certainly have their own unpopular party planks that are disliked by solid majorities of voters. But with Republican hegemony in Jefferson City, Republican positions are more salient, since fewer Democratic positions reach the Capitol agenda.

The Missouri Firearms Coalition is rightfully feared as a force in Republican primaries.

Especially during Democratic presidential administrations, gun rights activists are often ready to mobilize at the drop of a hat. We saw this most powerfully when former Gov. Eric Greitens dared to cross them by siding with law enforcement groups who cited 2021’s Second Amendment Preservation Act as a hindrance to enforcement of federal gun laws. Within days, even Greitens – whose modus operandi was to double down instead of admitting weakness or mistakes – buckled under pressure and reversed himself after receiving blowback from the Coalition in the form of a blistering 17-minute video.

But there is recent precedent for interest group overreach.

Over the course of the last decade, despite Missouri Right to Life’s (MRL) continued grassroots strength (as demonstrated by 2022 state Senate primaries), many legislators began disregarding their urgent pleas. Once the Republican Party’s most feared interest group, MRL eventually strayed into so many disparate issues – from their rating of votes on the state Medicaid program’s Federal Reimbursement Allowance (where the MRL position could have cost the state billions of dollars annually) to the vote on a 7-1 congressional map – that legislative leaders began to dismiss their litmus tests, because they found MRL’s positions substantively extreme and/or politically damaging.

Will the Missouri Firearms Coalition encounter similar treatment if they continue to find themselves at odds with state law enforcement officer associations on issues like SAPA and this session’s crime bill? It’s too early to say.

One of the Capitol’s smartest Republicans likes to say that the difference between good policy and bad policy often comes down to a dozen difficult conversations.

That is to say: The legislature will make good policy if every key legislator in a given policy realm is willing to go back to their district and have a dozen tough conversations with constituents in the grocery store or coffee shop, most of whom they’ll be able to convince if they take a few minutes to dissect the hyperbolic arguments of interest groups thirsty for clicks, donations, and relevance.

By May, we’ll have a better sense of the legislature’s collective appetite for such conversations.

Jeff Smith is executive director of the Missouri Workforce Housing Association, which supports development of safe, affordable housing. Previously, he taught public policy at Dartmouth College and The New School, represented the city of St. Louis in the Senate, and wrote three books: Trading Places, on U.S. party alignment; Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, a memoir and argument for reform; and Ferguson in Black and White, an historical analysis of St. Louis inequality. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Washington University.

Missouri state senator proposes expanding charter schools statewide

By Annelise Hanshaw

A state Senate committee debated Tuesday whether an expansion of charter schools would benefit Missouri’s students.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, the legislation seeks to allow charter schools to open in municipalities with a population greater than 30,000 people or in a county with a charter form a government. His bill does not require a public school district’s sponsorship of the charter schools.

A charter school is a school that receives government funding but operates independently of the established state school system. Currently, state law allows charter schools to open in St. Louis and Kansas City.

(Photo- Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, engages in debate in the Missouri Senate- photo courtesy of Missouri Senate Communications).

Eigel said introducing charters to new locations would encourage accountability because parents would have more choices.

But Sen. Elaine Gannon, a De Soto Republican and former public school teacher, questioned Eigel’s conclusion.

“Do charter schools have more accountability than public schools?” she asked.“What about the charter schools that have been shut down because of, not just lost money, but because of theft?”

She didn’t pause long enough for him to answer.

“I’ve been up here for 11 years, and it’s just been slam public schools. Slam public schools. Slam public schools,” she said.

Eigel said he wanted to “empower parents with more options.”

“I’m looking at this through the lens of ‘We don’t want any competition for their government-run monopoly.’ That’s not a very efficient system,” he said.

Gannon said Eigel’s proposal would take “more money away from public education.”

“I don’t think you can tie outcomes to dollars,” Eigel said. “I don’t necessarily think that throwing more money at something leads to better outcomes.”

Conservative lobbyists and groups that advocate for public funding of private schools tesified in support of Eigel’s bill.

Cathy Jo Loy, a commissioner for the Missouri Charter Public School Commision, compared schools to providing meal options to her grandchildren and told a story about going to two fast-food restaurants.

“I think when we’re talking about choices, that we’re not necessarily disparaging the choices that are there,” she said.

Those in opposition included Mike Wood, a lobbyist for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

“If there is a charter school, it should be sponsored by the local school board so there’s accountability and an election for tax dollars spent in that school,” he said.

Sen. Doug Beck, D-Afton, estimated that over half of charter schools in the state have closed.

“[Students] go back to the public school after the charter school fails,” he said. “The public school is still there after we bleed them dry.”

Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, asked what happens to failing public schools.

“What happens when a charter school fails, and what happens when a public school fails?” he asked.

Wood said the district becomes unaccredited.

“So you tell me what’s more accountable: If a school gets shut down that’s failing kids or school stays open that’s failing kids,” Koenig said.

Lawmakers also asked Tammy Henderson, who works in community relations at the North Kansas City School District, about underperforming school districts.

She testified about watching the emergence of many high schools across the river from her district.

“What is the reasoning why we even went down the road of charter schools?” Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, asked her.

She said Kansas City public schools were unaccredited.

“How many kids have to fail, graduating not being able to read, before we do anything to figure this out?” Brattin said.

“That’s why we leave it in the areas that are struggling,” Henderson said. “Don’t apply it to all of us.”

Gannon said she agreed with Henderson’s statement.

“I don’t think charter schools are going to solve the problem,” Gannon said. “I think it comes down to the family, and how are we going to fix the family?”

The committee did not take action on the bill during its hearing Tuesday.

Forum scheduled for Webb City R-7 Board of Education candidates

(From Webb City Community Teachers Association)

The Legislative Committee of Webb City Community Teachers Association (WCCTA) is excited to host their third School Board Candidates’ Forum. The forum is scheduled to take place on Monday, March 6th at Webb City High School-Barton Auditorium starting at 7:00pm.
Mrs. Linda Uselmann, President of WCCTA and Webb City High School Social Studies teacher, would like to invite the community to join the forum Monday evening. Patrons will have an opportunity to learn the Board of Education’s role, listen to candidate introductions, and participate in a short community-led question and answer session.

Candidates on the ballot to serve as members of the Board of Education for the Webb City R-7 School District are:

Dave E. Collard
William Roderique
Jeanne M. Newby
Erin Taylor

The annual election will take place on Tuesday, April 4th, 2023 at 6:00am and close at 7:00pm.

Joplin/Webb City man indicted on drug trafficking, weapons charges

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

A Joplin and Webb City, Mo., man was indicted by a federal grand jury today for drug trafficking and illegally possessing firearms.

Milan Alexander, 42, who maintains residences in both Joplin and Webb City, was charged in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Alexander on Feb. 3, 2023.

Today’s indictment alleges that Alexander possessed fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine, all with the intent to distribute, on Feb. 2, 2023.

The indictment also charges Alexander with one count of being a felon in possession of firearms. Alexander was allegedly in possession of two Glock 9mm pistols, two Century Arms Mini Draco 7.62-caliber pistols, a Springfield Armory .45-caliber pistol, a Heckler & Koch 9mm pistol, and a Brigade multi-caliber pistol on Feb. 2, 2023.

Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Alexander has three prior felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance and two prior felony convictions for resisting arrest, as well as prior felony convictions for being a felon in possession of a firearm, aggravated fleeing from law enforcement, possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver, and possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, detectives with the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team found a total of 649 grams of fentanyl, two firearms, and a box that contained 750 rounds of 9mm ammunition and 320 rounds of 7.62 ammunition in Alexander’s Joplin residence. Detectives also found a duffel bag that contained six firearms at Alexander’s Webb City residence.

Following the execution of search warrants at both of his residences, law enforcement officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop to arrest Alexander. Alexander led officers on a high-speed pursuit until his vehicle was disabled by tire deflation devices deployed by Seneca, Mo., police officers. Alexander then fled on foot but, after an extensive search with the assistance of a police support dog, was found hiding in a shed.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron A. Beaver. It was investigated by the FBI, the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Joplin, Mo., Police Department, the Webb City, Mo., Police Department, the Newton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Seneca, Mo., Police Department, and the Jasper County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.

Former Missouri state legislator sentenced to six years for COVID-19 fraud scheme

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

A former Missouri state representative was sentenced in federal court today for a nearly $900,000 COVID-19 fraud scheme, as well as a separate $200,000 fraud scheme in which she made false claims about a fake stem cell treatment marketed through her clinics in southern Missouri, and for illegally providing prescription drugs to clients of those clinics.

“This disgraced health care professional exploited her patients, some with terminal illnesses, who came to her for medical care,” said U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore. 

“This disgraced former public official exploited her constituents as the community struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic by stealing public funds. She lied to her patients, to her community, and to federal agents. Today’s sentence holds her accountable for her fraud and deceit.”

Patricia “Tricia” Ashton Derges, 64, of Nixa, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to six years and three months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Derges to pay $500,600 in restitution to her victims.

“Derges exploited her position as an elected official and a medical professional to benefit herself financially with complete disregard, to not only her constituents, but to the oath she took as a health care professional to do no harm,” said Charles Dayoub, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Kansas City. “She not only fraudulently received nearly $300,000 in CARES Act funds, but also deceived patients by marketing fake stem cell treatment and illegally provided drugs to clients of her clinics. Her actions were a betrayal of trust, eroding the very core of our confidence in a system we rely on and damaging the public’s trust not only in our elected officials but in our health care system.”

“This official violated the trust of her constituents and her duties as an elected official, by putting personal profit before her community's health and well-being,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Her sentencing demonstrates that there are consequences for stealing taxpayer dollars and endangering public health. HHS-OIG will continue to investigate allegations of federal health care fraud and to ensure that these funds are used for their intended purposes.”

On June 28, 2022, Derges was found guilty at trial of 10 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of distributing drugs over the internet without a valid prescription, and two counts of making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent.

Derges was elected in November 2020 as a Missouri state representative in District 140 (Christian County) and served one term. Derges, who was never a physician, surrendered her assistant physician’s license on June 29, 2023. Derges formerly operated three for-profit Ozark Valley Medical Clinic locations in Springfield, Ozark, and Branson, Mo. Derges also operated the non-profit corporation Lift Up Someone Today, Inc., with a medical and dental clinic in Springfield.

COVID-19 Fraud Scheme

Derges was convicted of three counts of wire fraud related to her attempt to fraudulently receive nearly $900,000 in CARES Act funds. Derges actually was awarded $296,574 in CARES Act funds for Lift Up, although Lift Up did not provide any COVID-19 testing services to its patients. In fact, Lift Up’s medical clinic closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained closed from March to June 2020.

Derges sought CARES Act funding for COVID-19 testing that had been provided, and already paid for, at her for-profit Ozark Valley Medical Clinic. Derges requested reimbursement for $379,294 in COVID-19 testing and related expenses, and future funding in the amount of $503,350. In total, Derges applied for $882,644 from the CARES Act Relief Fund on Lift Up’s behalf.

Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020, which provided $150 billion to states, tribal governments, and units of local government. Missouri was allocated approximately $2.3 billion. Missouri allocated approximately $34 million in CARES Act funds to Greene County. To administer the CARES Act funds it received, the Greene County Commission created the CARES Act Relief Fund to “promote recovery by funding programs and services that support the needs of those impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.” An advisory council of 30 citizen volunteers was appointed to review funding requests and make funding recommendations to the Greene County Commission.

Derges claimed in her application to the Greene County CARES Act Relief Fund that Lift Up provided COVID-19 testing and she sought reimbursement for “COVID-19 eligible expenses” that Lift Up had incurred. To support her claim, Derges provided invoices totaling $296,574 from Dynamic DNA for more than 3,000 COVID-19 laboratory tests. Derges submitted the Dynamic DNA invoices as Lift Up expenditures, although they were actually for testing done at Derges’s for-profit Ozark Valley Medical Clinic.

Lift Up, a non-profit charity, and Ozark Valley Medical Clinic, a for-profit corporation, are separate legal entities. Ozark Valley Medical Center had already received payment from its clients of approximately $517,000 for these COVID-19 tests. Ozark Valley Medical Center charged clients, patients, or their patients’ employers approximately $167 per sample for its COVID-19 testing services. Derges concealed from Greene County that these COVID-19 tests had already been paid for by other payors.

In December 2020, the Greene County Commission awarded Lift Up $296,574 in CARES Act funding based upon Lift Up’s fraudulent application and the Dynamic DNA invoices Derges had submitted. Derges deposited the check into Lift Up’s bank account, then transferred the funds into Ozark Valley Medical Center’s bank account.

Derges provided several more invoices from Dynamic DNA to Greene County later in December 2020 to further support her application for Lift Up, although the invoices were actually for testing done for clients at Ozark Valley Medical Center, raising the total to $589,143 for 6,177 COVID-19 tests. Derges concealed from Greene County that Ozark Valley Medical Center already had been paid approximately $1 million by clients, patients, or their patients’ employers, for these COVID-19 tests.

Stem Cell Fraud Scheme

Derges also was convicted of seven counts of wire fraud related to a nearly $200,000 fraud scheme, which lasted from December 2018 to May 2020. Derges marketed a stem cell treatment that actually utilized amniotic fluid that did not contain any stem cells. The federal indictment charged her with defrauding four specific victims, each of whom testified during the trial.

Derges exclusively obtained amniotic fluid from the University of Utah, which she marketed under the name Regenerative Biologics. Derges advertised Ozark Valley Medical Clinic as a “Leader in … Regenerative Medicine,” including stem cells, and marketed her “stem cell” practice through seminars, media interviews, and social media. Derges made similar claims in personal consultations.

In fact, however, the amniotic fluid Derges administered to her patients did not contain mesenchymal stem cells, or any other stem cells. The amniotic fluid she obtained from the University of Utah was a sterile filtered amniotic fluid allograft (a tissue graft comprised of human amniotic membrane and amniotic fluid components derived from placental tissue). The amniotic fluid allograft was “acellular,” meaning it did not contain any cells, including stem cells.

Despite being told by the University of Utah that the University of Utah’s amniotic fluid allograft was “acellular” and did not contain mesenchymal stem cells, Derges continued to tell her patients and the public that the amniotic fluid allograft contained stem cells.

Derges administered amniotic fluid, which she falsely claimed contained stem cells, to patients who suffered from, among other things, tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Lyme disease, and urinary incontinence. In an April 11, 2020, Facebook post Derges wrote of amniotic fluid allograft: “This amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural.”

The University of Utah sold its amniotic fluid allograft to Derges for approximately $244 per milliliter and $438 for two milliliters. Derges charged her patients $950 to $1,450 per milliliter. In total, Derges’s patients paid her approximately $191,815 for amniotic fluid that did not contain stem cells.

Controlled Substances Act

Derges also was convicted of 10 counts of distributing Oxycodone and Adderall over the internet without valid prescriptions. Derges, without conducting in-person medical evaluations of the patients, wrote electronic prescriptions for Oxycodone and Adderall for patients and transmitted them to pharmacies over the internet.

Because none of the assistant physicians whom Derges employed at Ozark Valley Medical Clinic could prescribe Schedule II controlled substances, it was the standard practice of the assistant physicians to see a patient and later communicate to Derges the controlled substances they wanted her to prescribe to their patients. Derges, without conducting an in-person medical evaluation of the patients as required by federal law, wrote electronic prescriptions for the patients and transmitted the prescriptions over the internet to pharmacies.

False Statements

Derges also was convicted of two counts of making false statements to federal agents investigating this case in May 2020.

Derges told agents that the amniotic fluid allograft that she used in her practice contained mesenchymal stem cells, which she knew was false. Derges also told federal agents that she had not treated a patient for urinary incontinence with amniotic fluid allograft, which she knew was false.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Kempf and Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall D. Eggert. It was investigated by the FBI, Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, the DEA and the Missouri Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Neosho Central Elementary: Another neighborhood school bites the dust


 A meeting about the future of Central Elementary in Neosho will be held 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, but R-5 officials apparently don't think many people will attend it.

Why else schedule a meeting about the future of a school that has been attended by generations of children in a different school, the junior high school, that is not even located in the same part of town?

Central parents also received little advance notice of the meeting. The message was sent today.

Employees in the district administrative office had been aware of the upcoming changes for weeks but had been sworn to secrecy, according to district sources.

Central teachers and staff received only slightly more advance notice than parents. They were herded into the cafeteria for a mandatory meeting Friday afternoon to hear Superintendent Jim Cummins break the news. Cummins was flanked by Assistant Superintendent Nathan Manley and Director of Operations Ritchie Fretwell.

Principal Shannon Peterson was there, too, but this was above her pay grade.

Central's location will be used as an alternative school.

The elementary students who are currently attending Central or who will be in that geographical area next year will be split among Benton, Carver, South and the district's new and highly touted RISE (Reaching and Inspiring Through STEAM Education) school. (STEAM stands for Science, Tech, Engineering, Art and Math.) It's a paradise for acronym lovers.

Faculty members and staff will not be distributed among those buildings.

Reportedly, two current Central teachers will be at RISE and the principal will be moved to another position.

The other teachers are being given the option to apply for any district openings, but with no guarantees.

The same is true for secretaries, janitors and aides.

All were encouraged to hurry and get their applications in for any openings.

After all, and it bears repeating, there are no guarantees.



 Consider supporting the Turner Report/Inside Joplin/Inside Joplin Obituaries with a voluntary subscription or with a contribution at one of the PayPal buttons below or by sending your contribution to Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. A, Joplin, MO 64801.

Payment options

Bill carving some legislative records out of Missouri Sunshine Law advances in Senate

By Jason Hancock

Nearly five years after voters amended the state Constitution to require the legislature to abide by transparency laws, the Missouri Senate is advancing a bill allowing lawmakers to withhold a wide swath of records from the public.

Any record of a state lawmaker or their staff pertaining to “legislation or the legislative process” would be closed off to public scrutiny, except for those offered during a public meeting or involving a lobbyist, under legislation sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester.

The bill also closes records held by the government pertaining to a constituent, though lobbyists wouldn’t be covered under this provision.

Koenig defended the proposal at a legislative hearing earlier this month, arguing that sometimes lawmakers “need to be able to think out loud with your staff and before you get a finished product.”

But to government transparency advocates, the push represents lawmakers trying to carve themselves out of a constitutional mandate imposed on them by the voters of Missouri.

“The legislature really doesn’t like the fact that the people amended the Constitution to say that they had to provide a greater level of transparency than a lot of these legislators are comfortable with,” said David Roland, director of litigation at the libertarian nonprofit Freedom Center of Missouri. “But that’s what the people decided. And now legislators are trying to insulate themselves from oversight by the public.”

Koenig has paired down his bill considerably since it was first introduced, taking into account concerns expressed by those who felt the original version would have severely undermined the Missouri Sunshine Law — the 50-year-old accountability law designed to ensure the public has access to government records and meetings.

Gone are provisions that created a new type of exemption to the Sunshine Law for “transitory records,” which it defined as records that are not final documents or “do not have substantial administrative or operational value.” The original bill also exempted inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters from the Sunshine Law.

“I can tell you that (Sen. Koenig) has done a great job, I think, with addressing some of the concerns that were raised in committee,” Sen. Karla Eslinger, chair of the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee, said Thursday morning before Koenig’s bill was sent to the full Senate on a party-line vote.

“Now I know that as well as anybody else does, that anytime that a piece of legislation is before a committee and gets to the floor, it has more opportunity to get better,” she said, “more opportunity as it goes through the process.”

But in addition to exempting some legislative records from the Sunshine Law, the bill also changes the definition of public meeting in a method critics contend would allow governmental bodies, such as city councils and school boards, to discuss public business behind closed doors.

“It invites public governmental bodies to game the system to do an end run around transparency,” Roland said, “and could dramatically reduce not only citizens’ awareness of what’s being discussed, but citizen input into the deliberations.”

The bill also adds language to the Sunshine Law to allow government agencies to charge citizens for time spent redacting information from public records.

The change has been a priority of Gov. Mike Parson since 2021, when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled his office had been improperly redacting records, charging exorbitant fees and knowingly and purposely violating the state’s open records law.

Parson came into office in 2018 vowing to improve transparency in the governor’s office after his predecessor was routinely criticized for trying to subvert the Sunshine Law.

But despite that early pledge, Parson has had a rocky relationship with open records requirements.

The governor was reprimanded by former Attorney General Eric Schmitt in 2019 for citing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to justify redacting public records. He’s also been criticized for withholding records regarding the resignation of his cabinet members and refusing for months to turn over documents regarding his appointee to take over the attorney general’s office.

More recently, Parson’s administration has been criticized for withholding information from public records based on a broad interpretation of a donor privacy law.

Elad Gross, the attorney whose lawsuit led to the 2021 Supreme Court decision against Parson, said the language in the new version of Koenig’s legislation pertaining to charging fees for redacting information is “very confusing.”

“The law requires that the government separate open records from closed records whether or not there is a request, and this bill keeps that provision in,” Gross said. “But then it authorizes redaction fees, and excludes the cost of time needed to separate redacted materials. So if the government needs to make redactions before a requester even makes a request, which redactions are they able to charge for?”

Asked about the bill while meeting with reporters last week, Parson said his administration tries to be open and transparent.

“But the reality is,” he said, “there’s no question that the Sunshine Laws are being abused every day.”

As evidence, Parson pointed to a records request his office allegedly received asking for all communications that included the word “COVID.”

Roland called the governor’s answer “frustrating.”

“What does he mean by abuse?” Roland said. “The fact that citizens are asking for information that he would prefer they not have or that he thinks they should not have access to? To label a citizen’s request as an abuse of the Sunshine Law says far more about the politician’s perspective on transparency than it does about the quality or importance of the citizen’s request.”

Memorial services scheduled on one-year anniversaries of deaths of JPD officers

(From the Joplin Police Department)

On Wednesday, March 8th at 10:00 am the Joplin Police Department will be holding a memorial service at the Public Safety Training Facility at 5102 Swede Lane, Webb City, Missouri 64870. 

The events of March 8th, 2022 had a profound impact on the families, our officers, employees, and so many others. 

During the service, Chief Rowland and several others will speak to the sacrifices of that day, the death of Cpl Ben Cooper and the heroic acts of our officers. 

Additionally, there will be a memorial service on Saturday, March 11th at 10:00 am at the Public Safety Training Facility at 5102 Swede Lane, Webb City, Missouri 64870, to honor the sacrifice of Officer Jake Reed. 

On March 11th, 2022, in his final act of service, Officer Jake Reed gave his organs so others could live. This ceremony will honor his sacrifice and will include a Joplin City Council proclamation for “Jake Reed Day” as well as words from several speakers. Both ceremonies are open to the media and the general public. Seating and parking may be limited depending on attendance

Joplin Globe pulls Dilbert comic strip after creator's racist comments

Unless I overlooked their explanation, and that is possible, Joplin Globe editors have dropped the comic strip Dilbert without telling readers about the decision.

The decision would be in line with what newspapers are doing across the country after the comic strip's creator Scott Adams made racist comments on YouTube, including referring to Black people as "a hate group."

Newspapers that have dropped Dilbert include the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and all of the Gannett/USA Today chain, including the Springfield News-Leader.

In the place where Dilbert has been published, today's Globe has the comic strip Crabgrass.

The Globe ran an Associated Press article in today's edition that covered the controversy and quoted from newspapers that elected to no longer carry the comic strip, but there is no mention of Dilbert's absence in today's Globe or whether that absence is a permanent one.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Mike Moon offers update on Senate bills

(By Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove)

SB 133 is now ready to be Third Read.* The bill allows for expectant parent so receive a $1200 tax deduction the year in which the child is conceived.

SB 49, The S.A.F.E. act (prohibits hormone therapy and/or surgical procedures on minor children for the purpose of “changing” from male to female or vice-versa) is on the Perfection calendar.

SB 134 prohibits the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation without the parent's involvement. The bill was passed by the committee and now awaits the Pro Tem to place the bill on the calendar.

Here’s a brief interview related to the bill:


SB 135 has been combined with SB 93. Both bills are aimed at eliminating the corporate income tax. The bill is on the Perfection calendar.

SB 356, the Abolition of Abortion in Missouri Act, has been referred to committee and awaits a hearing.

SJR 19 is a constitutional amendment which recognizes that nothing in the MO constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion. The referendum was recently heard in committee. A committee vote may take place this week.


SJR 28, a constitutional amendment, would add that, in addition to the current simple majority requirement for initiative petitions and constitutional amendments, the vote represent a simple majority of state representative districts.

Jason Smith: Biden administration completely out to lunch on holding China accountable

(By Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is quickly rising as one of our nation’s top foreign adversaries. Whether it’s stealing Americans’ intellectual property, collecting large amounts of personal data on families, or sending a spy balloon to collect sensitive information on military sites in Missouri and across our nation, the CCP is doing everything it can to weaken and gain the upper hand over America.

Making matters worse, the Biden administration has been completely out to lunch when it comes to holding China accountable. 

The CCP’s actions led to one of the most bipartisan votes this Congress when House Republicans and Democrats came together to establish the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. The special committee will put focus on the economic and technological challenges posed by China. There’s no question that the additional scrutiny is warranted.

But that’s not all the new House Republican majority is doing to fight back against the CCP. I recently coauthored the Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the People’s Republic of China Act, legislation that would protect American farmers and our supply chains by banning the purchase of public or private agricultural land in the U.S. by foreign nationals who have ties to the CCP. The CCP has proven time and again that they will seek to leverage any ownership interest they can to weaken America. 

By passing this bill, Congress can ensure the CCP will never be able to turn our farms into weapons to wreak havoc on a critical part of our supply chain.

America can never be dependent on China for our food supply, our energy security, or our medical supplies. As Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of my top priorities is looking at how we can use trade and tax policy to reduce our trade deficit with China and move our strategic supply chains in these areas out of that country. 

I’ll continue calling on the Biden administration to lay out a clear plan for how our country can maintain our advantages – economically and militarily – so that our freedoms and our economic independence are never threatened by CCP aggression.

Of all of President Joe Biden’s China blunders, nothing is more alarming than his disastrous handling of the Chinese spy balloon incident. It took days for Biden to take down the balloon, and when he did, he shot it down over the Atlantic. That’s the wrong ocean. 

At that point, the balloon had already traveled across most of the central U.S. – including Missouri, which is home to Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood. The path was no accident. This alarming incident could have been prevented if Biden gave the order to shoot down the balloon when it was flying over the Pacific Ocean. 

Adding insult to injury, Biden has kept Americans in the dark over this serious national security issue. I’ll continue pushing this administration for answers and fighting to hold it accountable for putting our national security at risk.

Right now, the CCP is working overtime to strengthen its military, grow its economic influence, and force its communist ideology on democracies across the globe. Our nation cannot stand idly by as our enemies grow stronger and stronger every day. What America needs is for Biden to step up and crack down on China. In Washington, I’ll continue fighting tooth and nail to advance policies that will help ensure America has every advantage over China.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Nancy Hughes: Did you forget me?

“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:14-15 (NIV)

My heart was almost pounding out of my shirt as I silently yelled “I’m late! I’m late!” All I could think of was my five-year-old son getting off the school bus and me not being there to hug him and welcome him home! 

I was chatting with the ladies at a local church after I had spoken at their meeting when I realized that I was late getting home to meet my son as he got off the bus. I always met him at the back door – except today. The door was locked and he was alone!

I quickly put his sisters in their car seats and drove the speed limit (well, maybe a little over) to get there before the school bus did but I failed. My eyes filled with tears as I turned the corner at my home and saw my little boy sitting on the swing set, holding tightly to his lunch box as if he could somehow gain strength and courage from it.

I jumped out of the car, pulled him into my arms, and wiped the tears running down his face. He looked up at me and only said four words: “Did you forget me?” but the way he whispered them – as if he was hurt beyond belief that I would ever do such a thing – broke my heart.

“Did you forget me?” Have you ever asked God that question? You’ve been in a situation that has threatened to drown you day after day, month after month – maybe even year after year. And your heart wonders . . . just maybe this time God isn’t listening and answering when I pray. Maybe this time He doesn’t care.

Perhaps you’ve prayed for a prodigal child for years and he or she continues to run from a relationship with the Lord and with you. Or you’ve stared in shock as your doctor shares with you that the cancer is back. Maybe it seems like the harder you pray, the more distant your spouse seems to be. Or you have lost a family member suddenly. “Did you forget me, God?” you ask.

In Isaiah 49:14-15 the Lord answers that question emphatically: “I will not forget you!” He is encouraging His people who are going to be in captivity to remember that no matter what, He has not forgotten them. God knew exactly where they were and what they were facing and – for the moment – He in His wisdom was allowing the situation to happen.

God also knows exactly what is going on in our lives, no matter what we face. He hasn’t forgotten us. Simply put, He says that a mother could never forget her newborn child and her love for its life. But, even if she did forget, He – God – will never forget us, His children.

We do not always know the “why” some situations happen as they do in our lives. We pray, but the answer to what we are facing seems to be silence from God. Please know that He hears you and has not abandoned you. God has a plan for ALL things. And let me reassure you that no matter what storm you are in or crisis you are battling, our faithful Lord is at your side, He is in control and He has not forgotten you.

Father, thank you for your reassurance in your word that you will never forget me and always stay by my side. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


Have you ever felt like God has forgotten about you and what is going on in your life?

Did you feel that God didn’t care or listen when you called His name?


Journal the last five words of God’s promise in Isaiah 49:14-15

During your prayer time each day, speak this truth to the Lord: “I KNOW you have not forgotten me. Give me strength and hope for this day.”


Isaiah 49:14-15 (NIV) “But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) “. . . God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

Psalm 139: (NIV) “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

(For more of Nancy Hughes' writing, check out her blog, Encouragement from the War Room.)

Judicial system created situation that put Joplin police officers' lives at risk Friday night

How did a Burlingame, Kansas man get to the point where he allegedly fired shots at Joplin police officers this morning?

Court records indicate Adam Everett Kastler, 35, also reported as being a Joplin resident in some accounts, has a long history of criminal activity and is awaiting trial in Newton County on multiple felonies.

The felonies Kastler is accused of committing during the past two weeks, including shooting a Joplin man and forcibly stealing a vehicle and shooting at the officers during the pursuit, all occurred after a Newton County judge revoked his bond on those felonies after he violated the terms of the bond by removing a GPS tracking device. And that report came five days after he was arrested on yet another weapons charge.

The Joplin Police Department has been searching for Kastler as a suspect in a February 7 shooting at 909 S. Monroe that sent a Joplin man to the hospital, though he was reported in stable condition.

Officers found Kastler at 11:18 p.m. Friday when they tried to stop a white Chevrolet Tahoe at 2315 W. 7th Street, according to a department news release.

During the stop, Kastler forcefully stole the vehicle from the owner and fled the scene from officers. During the pursuit, Kastler fired multiple gunshots at pursuing Joplin Police Officers at multiple points in the pursuit. The pursuit entered Kansas and the suspect vehicle crashed west of Galena. Kastler was taken into custody without further incident and transferred to Kansas law enforcement officials.

The news release noted that Kastler had active felony warrants out of Newton County and a Joplin Muncipal Court warrant for failure to appear.

There's a bit more to the story.

On December 5, 2021, a Newton County deputy attempted to make a traffic stop on a black 2006 Chevrolet pickup on Greenwood Drive near Alpaca Drive in Joplin. The vehicle had expired Arkansas plates.

From the probable cause statement:

When Deputy Cabrera initiated his emergency equipment, the driver fled in the truck at a high rate of speed. Deputy Cabrera noted that the truck was driving in excess of 70 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. 

The driver hied to pass a 2001 Dodge pickup on the roadway and struck that vehicle causing it to roll. The Dodge was driven by Dustin Martin and contained four minors. Deputy Cabrera was able to take the male driver of the 2006 Chevrolet into custody at that time. 

However, immediately after handcuffing the suspect, Deputy Cabrera was drawn away to screams for help coming from an injured party in the 2001 Dodge. When Deputy Cabrera came back to attend to the handcuffed subject, that person had fled and was not located. 

A witness said they saw him jumping a fence with the handcuffs still on. Replacement cost for a pair of department issue handcuffs is $50. One of the minors, L.M. sustained injuries and was transported to a local hospital by ambulance. The full extent of L.M.'s injuries are unknown at this time. The Dodge appears to be a total loss and is valued at $10,000. 

The black 2006 Chevrolet was found to be stolen out of Joplin Police Department and was valued at $1,000. 

Inside of the truck, Deputy Cabrera located a Bersa Thunder .380 semi-automatic pistol which was found to be stolen out of Carthage Police Department. The .380 semi-automatic pistol is valued at $350.

Inside of the truck, I located a piece of paper which turned out to be the bottom section of a citation from the Burlingame, Kansas Police Department with the name Adam Kastler in the signature box. 

I searched images of Adam Kastler and compared them to Deputy Cabrera's body worn camera footage as well as footage obtained from Downstream Casino Resort and the driver of the stolen 2006 Chevrolet who escaped is unquestionably Adam Kastler. 

Kastler is a multiple time convicted felon with his first conviction being on 09-06-2006 out of Lyon County, Kansas for "Burglary of a Motor Vehicle/Aircraft."

The Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's office filed the following charges: Assault in the 2nd degree, resisting arrest, possession of firearms unlawful for certain persons, three counts of stealing, leaving the scene of an accident, escape from custody and property damage in the first degree

A warrant was issued for Kastler's arrest with a stipulation of no bond. He was arrested in early January 2022, was arraigned, pleaded not guilty and a bond reduction hearing was scheduled for January 18. Kastler represented himself at the hearing and Judge Anna Christine Rhoades lowered the bond to a $35,000 surety bond.

That still wasn't low enough to put Kastler on the streets, so another bond reduction hearing was held and the bond for Kastler, who this time was represented by an attorney, was further lowered to $10,000 surety, with conditions including the wearing of a GPS tracking device.

Three days later, Kastler posted bond.

On April 18, 2022, a Joplin Police Department officer responded to a possible larceny in progress at 3502 S. Range Line.

From the probable cause statement:

A witness stated she saw a male in an older blue Chevrolet truck attempting to steal wood from a construction site. The witness pointed out the truck to officers as it was parked directly south of the construction site. 

Adam Kastler was contacted as the sole occupant of a blue 1993 Chevrolet pickup truck at 3415 S. Texas Ave., Joplin, Newton County, Missouri. Upon contact with Kastler, I could see a bag of suspected marijuana inside the truck directly next to where Kastler was seated. 

After a probable cause search of the vehicle, two bags containing suspected marijuana, one weighing 61 grams and the other weighing 7 grams, were found. 

A loaded Taurus G2c .40 caliber handgun was also found. Kastler admitted to being a convicted felon and his criminal history shows that he was convicted of burglary (felony) in Lyon County, Kansas on 09/06/2006. 

After a felony weapons charge was filed against Kastler, a warrant was issued for his arrest with his bond on the new charge set at $50,000 surety, though online court records indicate Judge Rhoades did not believe Kastler was likely to appear for court hearings

After an April 27 fax report from Four States Electronic Monitoring and Tracking that Kastler was in violation of the requirement that he submit to 24-hour GPS monitoring, Judge Rhoades revoked his bond.

On June 6, the preliminary hearing for Kastler on his earlier felony charges was held. The judge was there, the prosecuting attorney was there, Kastler's lawyer was there, but Kastler was nowhere in sight.

No hearings have been held in Kastler's Newton County cases since June 6.

Eight months later, he allegedly shot a Joplin man and last night, according to the Joplin Police Department news release, he violently stole a vehicle, shot at JPD officers and finally, through no help from the system that allowed him to remain free, Adam Kastler is sitting in the Cherokee County, Kansas Jail.


 Consider supporting the Turner Report/Inside Joplin/Inside Joplin Obituaries with a voluntary subscription or with a contribution at one of the PayPal buttons below or by sending your contribution to Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. A, Joplin, MO 64801.

Payment options

Fayetteville board delays decision on superintendent position, brings back two more candidates for interviews

After interviewing two Missouri candidates, Webb City R-7 Superintendent Anthony Rossetti (pictured) and Branson Schools Superintendent Brad Swofford, this week for its vacant superintendent job, the Fayetteville Public Schools Board of Education opted to interview two more of their six semi-finalists.

The Springfield News-Leader reports a Springfield candidate, John Mulford, deputy superintendent of operations for Springfield Public Schools, and Jeannine Porter, chief of marketing, communications and strategic initiatives for the Irving, Texas district, will also be interviewed.


Closing of portions of Spring River Christian Village to cost 63 jobs

A WARN notice filed with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development indicates the upcoming closing of portions of Spring River Christian Village in Joplin will cause the loss of 63 jobs.

The notice, which was filed Thursday by Spring River Christian Village's parent company, Christian Horizon Living, LLC, puts April 22 as the date for the closing of those sections.

The information was posted on the department's WARN notice page, but the department has recently changed its policy and no longer posts the actual notices on the website. The Turner Report filed a Sunshine Law request for the notice Friday.

Spring River Christian Village announced it is closing its skilled nursing and long-term care sections. 

The independent living, assisted living and memory support neighborhoods will remain open, according to Spring River.

Serial drunk driver who killed Neosho man, Joplin child in 2004 petitions to have driving privileges restored

An 11 a.m. May 30 hearing is scheduled in McDonald County Circuit Court for a Noel man who wants to have limited driving privileges restored after being released from prison after serving a sentence for driving while intoxicated.

Edward Meerwald, 68, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2019 after pleading guilty to his most recent DWI.

The Joplin Police Department arrested Meerwald for drunk driving at a time when he was already awaiting trial on a separate DWI charge in McDonald County. Meerwald was also sentenced to four years on that charge in January 2020, with the sentences to run concurrently, following a plea bargain agreement.

Meerwald was the driver who was behind the wheel and driving impaired on July 30, 2004 on MO 86 when he ran off the road and killed Jessica Mann, 8, Joplin, and her grandfather, Jim Dodson, 69, Neosho.

The vehicle Meerwald was driving at a high rate of speed ran off Highway 86 and ran into the eight-year-old and her grandfather killing them.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and served time in prison.

6-year-old Jasper County Sheriff's Office K-9 dead after heart attack


(From the Jasper County Sheriff's Office)

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Office is saddened to announce that patrol K-9 Skye died suddenly on the afternoon of 02-24-23 at her residence. 

K-9 Skye and her handler, Deputy Deras, were preparing for duty when Skye suddenly collapsed. She was taken to Central Pet Care where she was pronounced deceased. A later examination revealed that she had a heart attack.

Skye, a 6-year-old bloodhound, was received by the Sheriff’s Office when she was a puppy and has been on active duty since. She was trained in article search as well as tracking lost persons or suspects.

To honor her service to our community, a “last ride” ceremony will leave from Central Pet Care in Carthage at 10:00 AM on Monday, 02-27-23 and go west out of Carthage toward the Joplin Humane Society.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Leggett & Platt announces 44 cent per share dividend for first quarter

(From Leggett & Platt)

Leggett & Platt's Board of Directors announced a dividend of $.44 per share for the first quarter, an increase of $.02 per share or 4.8% versus the first quarter of 2022. The dividend will be paid on April 14, 2023 to shareholders of record on March 15, 2023.

At an annual indicated dividend of $1.76 per share, the yield is 5.2%, based upon yesterday's closing stock price of $34.02 per share. Leggett & Platt has increased its annual dividend for 51 consecutive years and possesses one of the highest yields among the Dividend Kings.