Saturday, April 20, 2024

Carthage City Council to determine $250 an hour for impeachment attorney, full employment plan for lawyers


The good news for Carthage taxpayers is that the attorney who council members want to hire to handle the impeachment of Mayor Dan Rife is willing to work at the same fee he charged the much smaller community of Cool Valley, Missouri, when it brought impeachment charges against its mayor in 2023.

The bad news- that fee is $250 an hour.

Nice work if you can get it.

The agenda for Carthage City Council's 6:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting mentions St. Louis attorney Paul Martin's fee at $250 per hour. What it doesn't mention- does that include Martin's mileage and expenses?

The contract, which accompanies this post, indicates it does not.

And less than a week after City Council member Alan Snow told city employees and residents that tough decisions were coming on the budget, it appears the council has embarked on a full employment plan for attorneys.

The emergency ordinance authorizing the city to enter into a contract with Martin is not the only lawyer-related item on the agenda. 

The council will also discuss hiring attorneys to consult on whether City Administrator Greg Dagnan has been fired or whether the city charter really means it when it says that the firing can only be done by the council AND the mayor or whether the word AND takes on a completely different meaning when it comes to firing.

Council members indicated last week they would consult three lawyers from a list provided by the Missouri Municipal League to determine Dagnan's status. 

Whether they will ask prospective attorneys to define the word "AND" before the hiring does not appear to be included in the request for quotes.

This is what the council wants to know:

 Provide a detailed legal opinion on: 

 • The necessary legal and procedural steps for the removal of the City Administrator. 

 • Any potential legal risks or considerations the City should consider during the termination process

And if that's not enough lawyers for one meeting, the council is also scheduled to discuss the hiring of a special counsel to assist the city attorney.

Of course, when City Attorney Nate Dally's resignation takes effect at the end of the month, whoever gets hired won't be assisting anybody.

That would indicate the council will have to hire another lawyer.

Tuesday's meeting is expected to draw a huge crowd. Two meetings ago, City Council Chambers were packed with supporters of the seven council members who want to impeach the mayor and fire Dagnan. At one point during that meeting, council member Tiffany Cossey turned to the audience and asked, "Just by a show of hands or applause, how many of you think the mayor is holding the city hostage?"

The crowd roared its approval, whooping and hollering.

At the special meeting Wednesday, Cossey did not turn to the crowd for affirmation. The audience for that meeting, mostly city employees who were backing Dagnan and Rife, were looking at her as if she had demanded that Dorothy Gale turn over her little dog and had spirited it away in a basket on the back of a bicycle.

Just in case anyone thinks the removal of city officials and the hiring of lawyers are the only things on tap for the council Tuesday, nothing could be further from the truth.

The council will consider another emergency ordinance for the mayor to enter into a contract with Neutron Holdings for scooter rental and two budget resolutions- one for the acceptance of a donation from the city to the Fire Department and the other a supplemental budget amendment to the General Revenue Fund.

Oh, hold it! That budget amendment is also related to the impeachment process.

That the City hereby approves the implementation of a line-item adjustment to the Central Municipal Activities Professional Services line item in the General Revenue Fund for $25,000 to allow for legal services to provide opinions on termination procedures for City Administrator in accordance with the City Charter and City Code and to contract with Special Counsel Paul Martin regarding impeachment of Mayor Rife.

Twenty-five thousand dollars for both the impeachment and the removal of the city administrator?

Someone should tell the council how quickly $250 an hour can add up- two hundred fifty dollars here, two hundred fifty dollars there and pretty soon, you're talking about real money.



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Friday, April 19, 2024

65 years ago today, Harry Truman visits Lamar for the final time

Sixty-five years ago today, April 19, 1959, former president Harry S. Truman made his final visit to Lamar, the city where he was born May 8, 1884.

The occasion was the dedication of the Truman Birthplace as a historic site. The little home had been purchased by United Auto Workers, which restored it, put in period furniture, and gifted it to the State of Missouri. 

Truman did not arrive in a limousine protected by Secret Service agents. He drove to Lamar from Independence.

In this state photo, Truman is shown signing the guestbook. Beside his signature, he listed his occupation as "retired farmer."

Twenty-five Joplin R-8 teachers either resign, retire or are separated (which sounds painful)

During a closed session Tuesday, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education accepted a teacher resignation, the departure of 22 teachers described as "separations" and two retirements.

From the official minutes

1. Certified Separation Separate Vote 

Recommendation: The Administration recommends that the Board approve the personnel separation as presented.

The following contracted individual has submitted her resignation.

Jennifer Mock


Motion made to accept the resignation of Jennifer Mock.
Motion made by: Marda Schroeder
Motion seconded by: Donald Greenlee
Unanimously Approved

2. Certified Hire Action Item Modification

Recommendation: Remove Jennifer Mock's name from the Summer School Hire List.

Motion made to remove Jennifer Mock's name from the Summer School Hire List.
Motion made by: John Hird
Motion seconded by: Matthew Robertson
Unanimously Approved

3. Personnel Items

Classified Separations not requiring BOE Action: Steven Chartier, Madison Adcock, Chandal de la Rosa, Betty Evans, Kristi Lawson, Sadie Jensen, Kathryn Mitchell, Emily Evans, Jennifer Russow, Marian Gibby

Contract Renewal: David Rockers

Certified Hires: Hannah Young, Melissa Gurley, Courtney Pearson, Zachary Woolverton, Octavia Duncan, Ashley Abbott, Shelly Dunn, Jana Thomas Coffman, JaLisa Brand, Emily Cole, Averi McNeal, Claire Johnson, Apra Loomis Mainardi, Sydney Chapman, Shaylon Sharp, Madalyn Everitt, Samantha Jordan, Jonathan Wood, Carter Churchwell, Amanda Ford, Stacey Tracy, ReGenia Brown, Robin Yarrington

Certified Hires for Summer School: Peyton Archer, Misti Ard, Erin Bartmess, Doug Barto, Sydni Beck, Whitney Benfield, Kate Bondy, Robert Booker, Jessica Brockman, Monica Brown, Wes Brownfield, Manhattan Caldwell, Laura Campbell, Sarah Campbell, Victoria Campbell, Marcia Cannon, Tonya Cary, Amber Chandler, Adam Colin, Brock Compton, Kylie Compton, Cyndi Conway, Bradley Cox, Whitney Cummings, Kelly Davis, Lindsay DeWelt, Lucas Dickerson, Kari Dietrich, Kris Dishman, Josh Doak, Erica Doennig, Suzy Elliott, Erica Etuonu, Heidi Fenske Hodges, Kerri Fields, Madison Fowler, Reagan Fowler, Bailey Gardner, Taylor Geary, Kim Gilmore, Jordan Gossard, Lucy Hamilton, Katie Hargrove, Kelly Harmon, Chee Harris, Tylan Harris, James Hartzfeld, Holly Hasty, Wendy Henady, Tabitha Henderson, Krystal Hicks, Jessica Hilton, Bobbie Hoag, Emily Holder, Abby Holloway, Parker Howard, Nicole Hubbard, Wendee Hughes, Jessica Irvin, Katryn James, Curtis Jasper, Sarah Johnson, Michael Juergens, Tashena Karcher, Melissa Kendall, Ashley Kerr, Aaron Ketcher, Melissa Kimberling, Shelby Koeshall, Denise Krolman, Kimmy Lankford, Justin Larsen, Michael Lawrence, Alan Linden, Sarah Long, Juneau Lopez, Jamie Lorimer, Jinnifer Loum, Cassie Lowery, Erika Lutgen, Stephanie Lynch, Elli Mason, Julie McCain, Roxcee Mccully, Kate McDonald, Monica McGriff, Rhi Medley, Teresa Myers, Claire Miranda, Dallas Montierth, Kristen Moore, Darren Morgan, Shamera Moss, Sarah Nangle, Linda Norwood, Tina Olson, Mikka Osborn, Julie Pagan, Amanda Pal, Kenny Peters, Nicole Peters, Nicholas Pfiefer, Brittany Pittman, Andrew Pommert, Debra Radigan, Erica Ramm, Shandon Reed, Nick Reid Kathy Rivers, Karen Robertson, Shawna Sampson, Staci Saunders, Tracy Saunders, Jeremy Schamber, Kelli Schamber, Andrew Seavy, Kylie Shelton, Jennifer Sherrod, Brandi Shoemaker, Erin Sigars, Christina Smith, Cassie Sofia, Kim Sparks, Morgan Sprouls, Annie Stover, Lisa Terlink, Joshua Thompson, Julie Thongsavanh, Nicole Thorn, Omar Trenche, Amanda Trevino, Ashley Trotnic, Taylor Tyrrell, Marissa VanCleave, Tyler VanCleave, Christal VanGilder, Bailey Wallace, Dylan Wemer, Mary White, Terry Whitney, Jody Williams, Ashley Witt


Certified Separations: Joseph Ballard, Eric Severson, Kaitlyn S. Welch, Jamie Knutson Ali Gould, Jesse Brower, Melanie Ramos, Dallas Montierth, Kaylah Maynard, Keisha Smith, Grace Ipsen, Jacob Hewitt, Racritia Hobson, Ralph Maness, Cody Brooks, Abigail Beldon, Kadie Henderson, Leslie Williams, Shayla Blair, Kristin Carter, Ruben Galve Rivera, Melissa Carnahan

Retirements: Kevin Ogden, Melissa Moseley

Classified Hire for Summer School: Emily Adams, Stefanie Allen, Landen Atherton, Savanah Autry, David Banta, Kaitlyn Barker, Dean Beaver, William Berry, Jermaine Boykin, Kristie Brannon, Tricia Brock, Chuck Browning, Macie Buxton, Jason Cannon, Mara Carpenter, Cassandra Mueller, Shannon Caylor, Chey Divine, Crystal Clapper, Janelle Clevenger, Eric Conrow, Kim Cox, Sharon Crawford, Troy Crosswhite, Justin Denefrio, Deonna Newton, Roanna Dowell, Dora Eastin, Shadron Eckhoff, Joanna Ekhoff, Carole Ellis, John England, Andrea Fields, Tracy Fox, Brandi Gallager, Destiny Gettis, Zac Goad, Patti Graves, Sheri Harrington, David Henness, Karen Hennig, Lacey Hibbs, Elizabeth Hininger, Danissa Holt, Sam Hopper, Jordan Hughes, Aimey Hunt, Kaley Gunnett, Kayla Ledford, Kayla Lunderman, Cody Kitts, Vickie Lambert, Rebecca Lancour, Eric Lazure, Candice Long, Kindra Marlow, Page McPhail, Michelle Beckham, Evan Miranda, Chrystal Mitchell, Shelby Moore, Eloise O'Reilly, Drew Parker, Melissa Patton, Aaron Power, Zoe Purcel, Abigail Russell, Chasity Salazar, Kim Sapp, Sarah Whitten, Kassie Schwarting, Hannah Shepherd, Sherry Dillard, Kaylyn Simmons, Brian Starchman, Kelsey Stevenson, Johnda Todd, Scott Waggoner, Susan Wear, Jodi Webster, Brandon West, Madalynn Wilson, Laura Zeka, Richard Brown, Todd Brennfoerder, Katie Rodick, Ashlyn Cassel, Aurora Glaubitz, Katelyn Young, Danielle Clark, Constance Shrewsberry, Madison Waters, Alice Pippin

Stipend Hire: Ryan Burnside, James Cessna

Substitute Teacher Hire: James Madden, Kaitlyn R. Welch, Kelly Mayfield, Dana Dubry, Toni Lopresti, Sara Danner, Angel Hughes, Carter Churchwell, Madison K. Smith, Carrie Cavitt, Halie Whitehill, Olivia Moser

Joplin woman in petition to court: Please don't kill my pit bull puppies

If Nicole Letts, Joplin, wants to save the lives of her six pit bull puppies and two adult pit bulls, she's going to have to try another approach.

The Joplin woman's letter, which was filed Tuesday in Newton County Circuit Court and described in the court file as a petition, received a negative response from Judge Kevin Selby.

"Court reviews letter and takes no action as it is improperly filed," is the notation posted on the online court file, accompanied by Selby's initials, KLS.

Letts' dogs were taken by the Newton County Sheriff's Office after an April 9 biting incident, according to her letter, which is aimed at the sheriff's office and the Joplin Humane Society.

From the letter:

I am writing this letter because I would like to appeal the destruction of the six pit bulls that police took from my home with a warrant on 4/9/24.

One adult female, one adult male and four 5-month-old male puppies that we personally bottle fed since they were two days old.

I do not believe that any of my dogs deserve to be killed because although my two adult dogs were involved in an incident where someone got bit, they have been around many different people and {have been} very socialized their entire lives. Before this incident, {they have} never shown any signs of aggression.

My 5-month old puppies are absolutely innocent due to the fact they were in no way involved in the biting incident, therefore they should not have to suffer or be punished due to the adult dogs' bad behavior.

Letts said she had made changes to her property, including the addition of 200 feet of fencing, which she says would prevent the dogs from escaping into the wooded area behind her property, which they had done in the past.

Letts concluded her letter by saying, "Thank you so much for taking the time to read why I believe my dogs' lives matter."

Federal child sexual exploitation charges filed against Joplin man

A federal child sexual exploitation charge against a Joplin man was unsealed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Russell Allen Myers, 44, is currently being held in the Jasper County Jail, where he has been since his arrest in February on first degree child molestation charges.

It is not clear if the federal charges are totally based on the Jasper County charges. The probable cause affidavit is sealed. The complaint, which was filed Thursday, was originally sealed to "protect the integrity of the investigation" and to "safeguard the identities of the victims."

In the Jasper County case, the Jasper County Sheriff's Office was alerted by a cyber-tip from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, which had been made aware of a chat history that was allegedly between Myers and another person describing a claim that Myers had been sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl on a daily basis.

In the conversation, which is described in the probable cause statement, Myers allegedly told the other person that he had "sexual contact with a boy and a girl."

A sexual act was described and Myers said he had done that act with the girl.

During interviews at the Children's Center, the children described things Myers had done to them, according to the probable cause statement, with the boy describing an assault that took place on his birthday.

To the guy who called me this afternoon: The threats weren't necessary

I don't answer calls from people or numbers I don't recognize.

I'm sure you've all been through this. It's usually someone trying to sell you something, or a politician or a survey you don't want to take.

Except sometimes I forget my hard-earned lesson and I take the call.

Such was the case a few moments ago, when I answered a call from a Joplin number and the man immediately began shouting at me. He gave me his name and told me I needed to take his name off my website or he was going to call a lawyer.

At first, I didn't remember the name, but then it clicked. I knew the post he was talking about- the Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office had filed a domestic assault charge against him and I remembered the comments on the post about the man having anger issues.

Without ever lowering his voice, the man let me know the charges had been dropped and once again threatened to sic a lawyer on me. Increasing the volume, he said, "You even put my date of birth."

I thought about quietly discussing the matter with the guy, but then it occurred to me- I'm 68 years old and my life has been filled with conversations I wish I had avoided. So I hit the button and ended the call.

After that, I checked back to see what I had written, and as I expected there was nothing in it that I could get in any trouble for. Though I put DOB, the only information I gave was the year he was born, which was certainly wasn't going to cause him any problems.

I never said he committed the crime, when I referred to it, I used the word allegedly. Otherwise, I quoted directly from the probable cause statement, which, in itself, is an allegation- and it is also a public record, meaning I can print the information from it.

I checked online court records and confirmed the case was no longer there.

In the past, I have had people contact me, usually by e-mail, when a case is dropped, and ask me to remove the post. I nearly always do. If there is a reason that I need to leave the post up, I try to add an editor's note, explaining the later developments.

In other words, this guy had no reason to threaten me.

There are a lot of reasons why cases are dropped. Sometimes, a judge finds in a preliminary hearing that the probable cause threshold has not been met, the prosecuting attorney might have a change of mind, a witness may refuse to testify, or the investigators may discover they have made a mistake and the man who was arrested was innocent.

Whatever happens has nothing whatsoever to do with my right to publish what I originally published. And it also means I have every right to leave it exactly as I wrote it. The Joplin Police Department arrested the man. The probable cause statement tells why he was arrested and every bit of information I printed came from public records. That all happened, even if the charges were subsequently dropped.

I could leave it on the blog, but that's not the way I operate.

I unpublished the post, but I retain a copy just in case this man is arrested on a similar allegation in the future. 

I hope I never need to use it.

Seneca man bound over for trial for robbery that ended with Carl Junction man's murder

Paul D. Phillips was bound over for trial on robbery, armed criminal action, tampering with a motor vehicle, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful use of a firearm following a preliminary hearing Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Phillips, 36, will be arraigned in the trial court 9 a.m. May 13.

Phillips was allegedly working in concert with Scott B. Burleson, who is charged with second degree murder, armed robbery and two counts of armed criminal action in connection with the March 3 stabbing death of Seth R. Langford, 36, Carl Junction.

Phillips' alleged role in the events of March 2 was detailed in the probable cause statement:

On March 2nd, 2024 Jasper County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to an address on State Line Ave. in the County of Jasper and State ofMissouri, where a stabbing had occurred.

VI (Victim 1) was taken to the hospital where emergency surgery was conducted. While working the scene of the crime, fresh blood was located in the trailer home in the hallway that would be consistent with a stabbing. Paul was seen on video footage leaving in his silver 2006 Chevrolet Silverado truck with two other occupants including suspect #2 (Burleson).

During the investigation, Paul was identified on security footage at the incident location and named by witnesses as being there with suspect #2. It was also reported that Paul was in possession of a firearm and had pointed it at witnesses and victims. 

 On March 6, 2024 a report of a white Mercades that Paul had been suspected of driving had fled from law enforcement. lt was recovered at an address on Malang Rd. in Jasper County, MO. The vehicle was found to be stolen out of Newton County, MO, but was unoccupied. 

A firearm was found in the driver side door of the stolen Mercedes. Paul was located in a nearby residence. After Miranda rights (also known as Constitutional rights) were read, Paul admitted to being at the house when VI was stabbed multiple times ultimately causing his death a day later. 

While VI was stabbed, Paul admitted to pulling out a pistol and waving it around after victim #1 was stabbed. Suspect #2 then robbed the residence owner of $7 in cash and an ounce of marijuana. 

Paul admitted to fleeing from law enforcement in the stolen Mercedes, admitted the found pistol in the Mercedes was the one in his possession during the stabbing of VI. Paul stated that he held the pistol while suspect #2 threatened Witness 1 into giving him 1ounce of marijuana and $7 in cash. He further stated that he collected the cell phones of the involved individuals and burnt them in Oklahoma.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Missouri House narrowly sends private-school tax credit, charter expansion to governor’s desk


By Annelise Hanshaw

A massive education bill that expands a private school scholarship program and opens up Boone County to charter schools squeaked out of the Missouri House and to the governor’s desk on Thursday, winning the bare minimum number of votes needed for passage.

The 153-page bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Andrew Koenig of Manchester, is estimated to cost taxpayers $468 million when fully implemented. It passed 82-69 and heads to Gov. Mike Parson. Three Democrats joined with 79 Republicans in support of the bill, with 45 Democrats and 24 Republicans voting against.


State Rep. Phil Christofanelli, a St. Peters Republican, carried the Senate bill and sponsored the legislation in 2021 that created the tax-credit scholarships, called MOScholars.

He said during Thursday’s debate that the bill combines his interest in the MOScholars program with investment in rural schools.

“We put together a package that serves all the diverse interests in education,” Christofanelli said.

The original bill was 12 pages, but negotiations in the Senate led to the inclusion of over a hundred pages of education legislation.

“We’re all going to take a step together,” Christofanelli said Thursday. “This is the most substantive investment in public education that this state has ever seen.”

Lawmakers filed 53 amendments prior to the vote, but none were allowed by GOP leadership to offer them for consideration.

Rep. Paula Brown, a Democrat from Hazelwood, said during debate that the Senate was controlling the process.

“This is an esteemed chamber, and we’re acting like we don’t matter,” she said.

Christofanelli said the Senate had listened to concerns, and amendments were made to another bill Wednesday to smooth over issues with the larger package.

“My concern was that if I did those changes on this bill and sent it back into the Senate, it would get caught in the abyss and we would never have a law at the end,” he said.

He gathered input from key lawmakers, and delivered suggestions to the Senate. Then, Wednesday evening, the Senate introduced and passed a new version of Christofanelli’s bill on full-time virtual schools.

The House passed this second bill, with the fixes, after approving the larger education package.

Although the bill has measures to boost teacher salaries and school-district funding, Democrats had concerns. Many focused on the estimated cost.

“This is a bill that has some great, shiny things that we like in exchange for some really bad (things),” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat. “But as we’ve talked about, the real problem with this bill is the amount of money we have.”

Democrats from Boone County also spoke against the addition of charter schools in their community.

State Rep. David Tyson Smith, a Democrat from Columbia, called the bill “poison” to Boone County.

“Our schools are accredited. We don’t need this bill,” he said. “We are hanging on by a razor’s edge financially already. You bring charter schools into Boone County, which is what this bill specifically does, and it hurts us.”

As the final votes rolled in and the bill’s passage was assured, Koenig sat on the House dais, smiling as the bill he has called his top legislative priority made it across the finish line.

Challengers outraise incumbents in Missouri races for Senate, 1st Congressional District

By Rudi Keller

With one seat in Congress up for grabs, an incumbent facing a serious challenge and a former publisher and media personality taking on a long-time officeholder, this year’s federal elections in Missouri promise an interesting summer and fall.

Add to that the U.S. Senate race, where both likely fall contenders have more money already than almost every other candidate running statewide.

In the 3rd Congressional District, where Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer is not seeking re-election, and the 1st District, where Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Cori Bush is being challenged by St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, the key battle will be the Aug. 6 primary.

Both districts were drawn by lawmakers to be safe seats for the party in power.

In the 2nd Congressional District, solidly Republican rural counties were added by lawmakers to shore up the GOP’s chances to keep it. Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner and Democratic candidate Ray Hartmann, founder of the Riverfront Times, are the likely nominees for a fall match-up.

In the Senate race, Lucas Kunce, who lost a 2022 Democratic primary in the contest ultimately won by Republican Eric Schmitt, is hoping to unseat U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican hoping to secure a second term.

Campaign disclosure reports that were due Monday at the Federal Election Commission are the first indication of which contenders are ready to run full-scale campaigns. And for Hawley and Bush, their challengers managed to outraise them in the first quarter of the year. Hawley’s campaign committee took in $1.9 million between January and April, about $600,000 more than his expenses and leaving his cash on hand on March 31 to $5.4 million. Kunce’s campaign raised $2.3 million, spent $1.2 million and reported $3.3 million in the bank.

More than $1 million of the amount reported by Hawley’s campaign was a transfer from the Hawley Victory Committee, a joint fundraising PAC that raised a total of $1.5 million in the quarter.

In a news release about his fundraising, Kunce said he feels momentum behind his campaign because he has regularly raised more than Hawley over the past year.

“Since last year, we’ve built a worker-led, people-powered, record-breaking coalition to win this race and take this U.S. Senate back for everyday people in Missouri,” Kunce said in his release.

To get to the fall election, Kunce must defeat three primary opponents, including state Sen. Karla May of St. Louis, who reported raising $9,136 in the first quarter and $6,304 in the bank.

The other two primary candidates are December Harmon of Columbia and Mita Biswas of St. Louis. Harmon reported raising $344 in the quarter and had $1,969 on hand.

In the 1st District, which includes St. Louis and much of St. Louis County, Bell entered the race to unseat Bush after flirting with a bid for U.S. Senate. Bell, elected to his current post in 2018, raised $960,000 in the first quarter of the year, outpacing Bush and amassing a big lead in cash on hand.

Bush, who is seeking her third term, raised $495,000 in the quarter. She reported $215,000 in the bank, compared to $1.1 million for Bell.

Bush and Bell are both in office because of successful primary challenges to incumbents. Bell defeated long-time prosecutor Bob McCulloch in 2018, while Bush defeated U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Bush easily defeated state Sen. Steve Roberts in the 2022 primary on her way to winning a second term.

The 3rd District, which runs through all or part of 16 counties from the Lake of the Ozarks to the Mississippi River, is the only Missouri congressional seat certain to change hands this year. There is an eight candidate GOP primary, but only three of the candidates – former state Sens. Bob Onder and Kurt Schaefer and state Rep. Justin Hicks – filed disclosure reports with the FEC.

That means the other candidates have raised minimal amounts and have no report due.

On the strength of a $500,000 personal donation, Onder has a big early fundraising lead. His campaign took in $700,000 during the quarter, spent $6,677 and reported $693,000 on hand.

Schaefer raised $118,000, spent $7,063 and reported $110,765.

Hicks, a first-term lawmaker, raised about $45,000, spent $3,462 and had $41,865 remaining at the end of the quarter.

Other candidates in the Republican primary are Arnie C. AC Arn Dienoff of O’Fallon, a perennial candidate; Chad Bicknell of O’Fallon, who lost a primary to Luetkemeyer in 2018; Kyle Bone of DeSoto, who lost a 2018 primary for a Missouri House seat; Brandon Wilkinson of Fenton, who lost to Luetkemeyer in the 2020 and 2022 GOP primaries; and Bruce A. Bowman, a Jefferson City businessman.

Two Democrats, Bethany Mann of Wentzville and Andrew Daly of Fulton have also filed, as has Libertarian Jordan Rowden of Vienna.

In the 2nd District, Hartmann entered the race in mid-March and raised $23,253 by the end of the month. After spending about $3,316, he had $19,937 on hand.

Wagner, who is seeking her seventh term, raised $428,000 and had $2.8 million in the bank at the end of the quarter.

Neosho man charged with molesting 10-year-old girl, illegally possessing guns

The Newton County Prosecuting Attorney charged a Neosho man today with child molestation and three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Joseph Orba Taylor, 40, Neosho, was allegedly caught in the act of molesting a 10-year-old girl by a member of the girl's family who ordered him to leave the home.

According to the probable cause statement, Taylor had been reading to the child every night and was taking far too long to read one book. The family member walked in and saw Taylor molesting the child, the statement said.

The family member yelled at Taylor to leave.

{She} yelled at Joseph to leave, he then left in his 1990 GMC Sierra. Joseph left saying, "I will just take care of myself in a field while carrying a shotgun and two handguns.

When the Newton County Sheriff's Office located Taylor, he still had the weapons, according to the probable cause statement, and said he knew he shouldn't have them since he was a felon. 

Webb City woman sentenced to 20 years for role in kidnapping, torture that led to murder

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

A Webb City, Mo., woman was sentenced in federal court today for her role in a kidnapping conspiracy that resulted in the torture and death of the victim, and for illegally possessing a firearm.

Amy Kay Thomas, 40, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to 20 years in federal prison without parole.

On April 27, 2023, Thomas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping and to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Thomas is the fourth defendant to be sentenced in this case. James B. Gibson, also known as “Gibby,” 41, of Neosho, Mo., was sentenced on Monday, April 15, to 30 years in federal prison without parole. Russell Eugene Hurtt, also known as “Uncle,” 52, of Greenwood, Mo., was sentenced on Tuesday, April 16, to seven years in federal prison without parole. Lawrence William Vaughan, also known as “Scary Larry,” 52, of Neosho, was sentenced on Nov. 7, 2013, to 25 years in federal prison without parole.

Two co-defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing in this case. Sentencing hearings have not yet been scheduled for Freddie Lewis Tilton, also known as “Ol’ Boy,” 51, and Carla Jo Ward, 50, both of Joplin, Mo.

Thomas admitted that she participated in a conspiracy to kidnap the victim, identified as “M.H.,” (Michael Hall) in July 2020. Tilton offered Ward and Vaughan $5,000 each to locate and secure M.H. for him. Ward picked up M.H., whom she knew was being sought by Tilton, and took him to Vaughan’s residence. Vaughan texted Tilton, stating “Call me quickly handing (M.H.) to you.” Vaughan and Tilton continued communicating throughout the early morning hours of July 15, 2020. Vaughan sent a text message to Tilton that read, “He’s got 2 guns.” A few hours later, Vaughan sent a text message to Tilton that read, “OK we’ve got both his guns put up,” and “Guns are secure I’m waiting for you.”

Tilton, Thomas, and Gibson arrived at Vaughan’s residence in the early morning hours of July 15, 2020. They bound M.H.’s hands with handcuffs, and duct tape was placed around his mouth and other parts of his body. Gibson, Thomas, and others assaulted M.H. for a period of time. M.H. was cut, beaten, and shot at. Gibson burned M.H. with a blowtorch. Tilton fatally shot M.H. in the head. Thomas and others cleaned up the blood and damage created during the assault and shooting of M.H. They wrapped M.H.’s body in plastic wrap and Thomas, Tilton, and Gibson transported it to Hurtt’s property.

Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Hurtt’s property on July 28, 2020, based on information that a deceased body was located on the acreage. When officers attempted to contact the occupants of the residence, Tilton fired multiple shots from inside the residence at the officers. Tilton was apprehended.

Officers found M.H.’s body on the property. Officers searched the residence and found a Rigarmi .25-caliber pistol, an Ithaca .22-caliber rifle, a Remington .22-caliber rifle without a serial number, a Harrington and Richardson 12-gauge shotgun, a Ruger 9mm handgun, and a Taurus 9mm handgun without a serial number.

Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Thomas has two prior felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance and prior felony convictions for forgery, possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, and distribution of a controlled substance.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the FBI, the Newton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Neosho, Mo., Police Department, the Joplin, Mo., Police Department, the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team, and the Cherokee County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Stacey Tracy promoted to Joplin R-8 Director of Special Education

(From Joplin Schools)

We are proud to announce the promotion of Stacey Tracy as Joplin Schools' next Director of Special Education.

Stacey has served as the interim director since January 2024. She has previously served as the Assistant Director of Special Education and a Process Coordinator in Joplin Schools. She also worked as a Special Education Teacher and department head, Assistant Principal, and Director of Special Education at Neosho School District.

An alumna of MSSU with a Bachelor of Elementary Education and Special Education, Stacey received a Master of Science in Secondary Administration from William Woods University in 2006, and an Educational Specialist degree in Administration and Superintendency from Southwest Baptist University in 2012.

Stacey has presented both nationally and at the state level on behalf of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She has also been a presenter at the International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability & Developmental Disabilities on behalf of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Carthage Council member: Constituents say Dagnan firing, Rife impeachment 'needed to happen for quite some time'

It didn't take long after a string of Carthage city employees spoke in favor of the possibly fired City Administrator Greg Dagnan (it depends on your definition of the word "and") and Mayor Dan Rife for council member Tiffany Cossey to move full speed ahead on Rife's impeachment.

After Rife noted that a bill to approve the contract of St. Louis area attorney Paul Martin to handle his impeachment needed to go through the budget committee since it would require a budget amendment and then would need to be voted on twice by the council, Cossey had a different idea.

All the council had to do is "suspend the rules," she said, noting that it is allowed under Rosenberg's Rules of Order.

"Why not throw out all the rules?" a man shouted from the audience, apparently a victim of the phenomenon known as Cossey and effect. 

Moments later, a Carthage police officer tapped on the man's shoulder and politely let him know there were a few rules that weren't going to be suspended.

Eventually, the decision was made to have both readings of the bill at the regular council meeting Tuesday night, with Rife making a promise that "I'm not going to slow anything down."

Despite the outpouring from an audience that clearly favored Rife and Dagnan and consisted mostly of city employees, Cossey and council member Alan Snow made it clear their constituents heavily favored the actions the council took last week when it voted 7-2 to remove Dagnan and moved forward with impeachment plans.

Snow said he talked with six people who were not happy with the way the council was handling things. After pausing for dramatic effect, he added that he had spoken to 50 people who were backing the council.

Cossey hadn't talked to as many people. She said only one person opposed her actions, while 20 "said this needed to happen for quite some time."

The meeting began with the reading of a letter signed by 69 city employees. A copy of the letter can be found at the link below:

The Turner Report: Carthage employee letters back Rife, Dagnan, accuse council of personal agenda involving former parks director (

In addition to a number of city employees speaking to support Dagnan, Bill Putnam, head of Carthage Citizens United, which backed the election of the new council members who provided the votes to fire the city administrator, addressed the council to note his organization did not make its endorsements with the idea of removing anyone.

The organization's only purpose, Putnam said, was to support "qualified candidates." He promised it will do so again in 2025.

 For more information, check out these previous Turner Report posts:

The Turner Report: Carthage City Council fires City Administrator Greg Dagnan, prepares to impeach mayor (

The Turner Report: What the hell has happened to city council meetings? (Are you listening, Carthage?) (

State auditor's investigation of Carthage finds City Charter violations, but no fraud or corruption

(Correction: The post originally said Dagnan's firing violated the city charter and code. The audit report found that it did not.)

An investigative report by the Missouri state auditor's office found no problems with the way Carthage city officials handled last year's removal of the Carthage Water and Electric Board (it was subsequently reinstated), or with the way Mayor Dan Rife scuttled a proposal to buy Precious Moments property.

The report also found that the original hiring of Greg Dagnan as assistant city administrator and later as city administrator did not violate the City Charter and Code.

In its conclusion the report said, "Our review of the above complaints found no indication of fraud or corruption."

The report said that potential instances of non-compliance with city charter and city code had been found, including Dagnan's hiring, that would be reviewed if taxpayers asked for a full audit.

The complete report is included with this post.

First court appearance scheduled for Neosho elementary counselor on statutory rape charge

The first court appearance for a Neosho South Elementary counselor charged with statutory rape is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 14 in Newton County Circuit Court, according to online records.

The Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's office charged Jacob Oakes, 40, Neosho, April 10 and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He turned himself in Thursday afternoon and was freed after posting a $5,000 code bond.

Oakes, a former high school counselor and choir teacher in the R-5 School District, allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old girl in 2021 and an other occasions, including as recently as last month.

Neosho R-5 Board accepts resignations of four teachers, high school counselor, hires 20 teachers

During its meeting Monday, the Neosho R-5 Board of Education accepted the resignations of four teachers and a high school counselor and hired 20 teachers.

In addition to the four teachers who resigned, the board accepted the retirement of a grounds crew lead and resignations from a nurse and three paraprofessionals.


Effective April 4, 2024

Susan Matthews - School Counselor - Neosho High School 

Effective May 17, 2024
Whitney Wise - School Nurse - Neosho Junior High

Effective May 31, 2024 - Retire
David Allen - Grounds Crew Lead - Operations

Effective June 30, 2024
Ashlyn Mueller - ECSE Paraprofessional - Field Early Childhood Center
Hanna Lett - 1st Grade Teacher - Carver Elementary
Jessica Walton - Physical Education Teacher - Neosho High School
Katy Green - SPED Paraprofessional - Benton Elementary
Richelle Washington - SPED Paraprofessional - Neosho Junior High
Karissa Sparlin - 1st Grade Teacher - Carver Elementary
Michael Gilreath - SPED Paraprofessional - Neosho Junior High
Jacquelyn Evans - SPED Teacher - South Elementary

Harry Lineberry - Head Cross Country Coach - Neosho High School
Tony Arthur - Assistant Girls Basketball Coach - Neosho Junior High
Becca Sallee - Assistant Softball Coach - Neosho Junior High
Stephanie Stark - Archery Coach - Neosho Junior High
Jessica Walton - Head Volleyball Coach - Neosho High School
Richelle Washington - Assistant Cheer Coach - Neosho Junior High
Michael Gilreath - Assistant Baseball Coach - Neosho Junior High


Effective March 27, 2024
Riley Meyer - 4th Grade Teacher - South Elementary

Effective April 11, 2024
Scotty Tanner - Groundskeeper - Operations

Effective April 15, 2024
Mellisa Finley - Building Custodian - Operations

Effective April 22, 2024
Jennifer Harp - CNA/SPED Paraprofessional - Neosho High School

Effective August 12, 2024
Brenda Hernandez - Preschool ECSE Teacher - Field Early Childhood Center
Miranda Fletcher - 1st Grade Teacher - Carver Elementary
Jaala Scott - 6th Grade Teacher - Neosho Middle School
Elizabeth Janisch - 3rd Grade Teacher - Carver Elementary
Rodney Edwards - SPED Teacher - Neosho Middle School
Kristy Pace - 4th Grade Teacher - South Elementary
Morgan Bruno - 6th Grade Teacher - Neosho Middle School
Cody Brooks - ELA Teacher - Neosho Junior High
Clara Keplar - 1st Grade Teacher - Carver Elementary
Aaron Dunbar - Mathematics Teacher - Neosho High School
Angela Rodriguez - Kindergarten Teacher - Goodman Elementary
Brandy Morris - Science Teacher - Neosho High School
Kristin Rohrback - Science Teacher - Neosho High School
Kayla Bach - 2nd Grade Teacher - Benton Elementary

Nicole Sparkman - SPED Teacher - Neosho Junior High
Stephen McIlvaine - Science Teacher - Neosho Junior High
Nikala Scott - Kindergarten Teacher - Goodman Elementary
Whitney Dunbar - Art Teacher - Goodman Elementary

Effective August 19, 2024
Bari Pitcher - FACS Teacher - Neosho Junior High (550 hours)

Rebeccah Harris - Archery Coach - Neosho Junior High

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Jenny Spiva elected Neosho R-5 Board president

(From Neosho Schools)

At the Monday, April 15, Board of Education meeting, the April 2024 election results were accepted by the board, and Cody Crocker and Dan Haskins were sworn in for their term. 

The board also determined officers, Jenny Spiva was elected president, Dan Haskins was elected vice president, Kyle Swagerty was elected secretary, Collyn Carey was appointed as the board treasurer, Jenny Spiva was elected the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) delegate and Kyle Swagerty was elected the MSBA alternate.

A big congratulations to the newly sworn in members and to those for stepping into your newly elected roles. We thank you for your commitment to the Neosho School District. 

Additionally, for those in attendance, Teacher of the Year finalists and Backstage Pass participants were also recognized at the meeting for their achievements and participation.

Carthage R-9 appoints Jason Vance as assistant principal at Columbian and Steadley

(From the Carthage R-9 School District)

We are thrilled to share that Mr. Jason Vance has been appointed as the new Assistant Principal of Columbian Elementary and Steadley Elementary Schools, effective July 1, 2024. 

With over 15 years of experience in education, including roles as an Elementary Teacher, 7th-grade Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Elementary EL Teacher, District EL Coach, and Instructional Coach, Mr. Vance brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to his new leadership position.  

Carthage employee letters back Rife, Dagnan, accuse council of personal agenda involving former parks director

Carthage City Council members are expected to take the next steps in their efforts to impeach Mayor Dan Rife and fire City Administrator Greg Dagnan during a special meeting 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in city council chambers.

City employees appear to be strongly against those steps judging from two letters issued this week- one from the Carthage Fire Department and the other from many of the other city workers.

The Fire Department letter, signed by Fire Chief Ryan Huntley and Deputy Fire Chief Jason Martin.

"We are ready to go on the record as extremely supportive of Mayor Dan Rife and City Administrator Greg Dagnan. They have earned our trust through their genuine efforts to improve our services to this community."

The letter concluded with praise for City Attorney Nate Dally and administrative assistant Dorothy Weber, who have announced their resignations.

The other letter, the first letter to be published, was reportedly signed by 60 of 88 city employees, according to KSNF/KODE.

In it, the employees accuse the seven council members who voted to fire Dagnan at last week's meeting, Tiffany Cossey, Terri Heckmaster, Alan Snow, Derek Peterson, Dustin Edge, Tom Barlow and Jana Schramm of offering no reasons for impeaching Rife or firing Dagnan and of calling in police department employees to discuss "an active investigation."

While the letter mentions no names, it is clear the investigation that is referred to involves former parks director Mark Peterson, who is facing charges of stealing, money laundering and leaving the scene of an accident in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The personal agenda of the group appears to align with one particular family member of the newly appointed council.

That seems to refer to Mark Peterson's son, Derek Peterson, who was elected to the council earlier this month.

The city employees' letter is printed below.

“To the Members of the Carthage City Council,

We, the undersigned employees of the City of Carthage, submit this letter to express our unanimous support for our department heads, including the Mayor, City Administrator, Assistant City Administrator, and City Attorney. 

This declaration of support is presented voluntarily by each of us, without any coercion, and reflects our honest and professional opinions based on our experiences within the city administration.

After careful consideration, particularly considering discussions and presentations at the last two council meetings, we feel compelled to affirm that at no point have we observed or been part of any actions or decisions that were illegal, unethical, or contrary to the interests of the citizens of Carthage. 

Each decision and policy enactment we have witnessed has been conducted with the utmost integrity and with the best intentions for the city’s welfare. 

However, we do feel that multiple council members have recently violated the City’s ethics ordinance by contacting City staff to notify them that their job is safe “for now,” by requesting police employees to report to the council meeting to answer questions about an active police investigation, and for requesting the removal of City staff members without cause.

There have been allegations of mistrust in the Mayor, City Administrator, and City Attorney. We would like to state that our mistrust currently lies with the council members who are attempting to remove City leaders without providing any evidence of wrongdoing. 

These actions have led to many City employees being fearful of their employment if a precedent is set of removing employees without cause. To be clear, we fully support Mayor Rife, City Administrator Greg Dagnan, and City Attorney Nate Dally and have no mistrust in them as leaders and City staff members. We are not hostages of this current administration, but rather employees who enjoy working together under their leadership.

Due to this mistrust in most of the City Council, we are on the verge of losing multiple employees to other organizations. While these positions can eventually be replaced, you cannot replace the many years of knowledge, experience, and dedication that these employees have. Our organization has operated more efficiently and productively in the last two years than it ever has in recent memory. We feel that your actions will lead to a drop in employee morale, a halt of important City projects, and a decrease in efficiency and productivity.

We believe that the leadership and guidance provided by our department heads have been exemplary and in full alignment with the city’s codes and ethical standards. The allegations or implications of misconduct discussed in recent meetings do not reflect the reality of our day-to-day operations and the transparent governance we are part of.

We believe that certain council members are using their elected positions to push a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of the City employees or the citizens of Carthage. The personal agenda of the group appears to align with one particular family member of the newly appointed council. We understand that the council members pushing this agenda were elected by registered voters of the City of Carthage, but we believe that the City employees should have a voice in the matter. We work here, most of us live here, and we certainly pay taxes here.

We stand ready to continue our duties, to collaborate on all fronts, and to uphold the high standards set forth by our city’s founders and continued by the current leadership. Please accept this letter as a vote of no confidence in the seven council members who have voted to remove our Mayor, City Administrator, and City Attorney by every undersigned employee.

Thank you for considering our collective viewpoint.