Local, State or Federal, Transparency the key for ALL government

February 13, 2014
By

Kenneth Starr, Patrick Fitzgerald, Tom Loraine, two nationally known, one not so much, but all heads of outside investigations into public figures.

And all three strayed far off the path of their original charge, all three sullied reputations with insinuation and “he said/she said”, and all three in the end amounted to nothing more than public funded witch hunts.

On the night of February 4th, 2014, Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean and council members Bill Scearce, Benjamin Rosenberg, Trisha Raney, and Jack Golden found their witch (warlock?) in City Manager Mark Rohr and in a move that made them instant inductees into the petty politics Hall of Fame cobbled together a vote to summarily fire Rohr.

Why?  We don’t know.

Why don’t we know?  Because according to our esteemed Mayor, Ms. Colbert-Kean in a statement on the City of Joplin’s website: “This was a personnel matter, and we cannot comment on the termination because it is confidential,”

How quaint.

Use public funds to pay for an investigation that strays so far from its initial charge that all the Girl Scout cookies in the world wouldn’t supply enough crumbs for it to find its way back home and then deny that same public access to the report because it’s a “personnel matter”.

Move along people; move along, nothing to see here.

With all due respect to the office Ms. Mayor, I’m calling B.S.

Let’s review what we know so far.

The rate for Mr. Loraine’s hunting trip was $150 taxpayer dollars per hour with a preliminary cap set at $40,000 plus $5,000 in costs.  No final invoice is yet available so it could be higher.  40 grand here, a few more thousand there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

Private developer Charlie Kuehn, owner of Four States Homes saw his name and reputation called into question for doing what any other private citizen could also have done; Buy up property for later sale or development.  (Full disclosure:  I know Charlie personally and to see one of the principles in the Extreme Makeover Home Edition project and one who has been tireless in Joplin’s rebuilding be treated as he’s been in the Loraine report is a treatment un-deserved.  Especially by a former deputy U.S. Attorney who should know better.)

City attorney Brian Head was handed a “sticky note” in Rohr’s handwriting yet instead of return the note to Mr. Rohr, Mr. Head decided to give it to Councilman Scearce instead.  And amazingly on the night of Rohr’s firing it was Mr. Head who Scearce first proposed to step in as acting City Manager. How convenient.

Scearce, the councilman that now admits (after first denying) he knew that illegal activity was being conducted in his building but chose to just ignore it, is cleared of any ethical lapses yet councilman Woolston who abstained in public from voting on issues he felt a conflict of interest is told he should resign immediately and if he doesn’t the council should force him off?

Patrick Henry once said: “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

Words as true today as they were in his.

For whether it be local, county, state or federal, a government’s legitimacy in the eyes of its public is directly proportional to the level of transparency in which it conducts itself.

And judging from said public’s reaction so far, its eyes are squarely fixed on the feral five that fired Rohr and come this April a new level of transparency will be seen at City Hall.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the February 13, 2014 print edition of the Joplin Globe.  While my column is normally on national/international affairs an issue has arisen here in Joplin regarding a rogue element of the City Council that has gone off the rails during one of the most critical times in our rebuilding.  While this column calls out those five for unprofessional behavior, the underlying message is universal:  When government operates in secret, nothing good can come.

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One Response to Local, State or Federal, Transparency the key for ALL government

  1. Steve Roark on February 13, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Good and fair and balanced in your judgment.
    When anyone starts to question or impugn Mr. Mike Woolston. they need to catch another dog because that dog won’t hunt. Having seen some of the pettiness in Neosho I would not wish this on Joplin. Better things to do than mess with this created fiasco.
    Also, when Mike Seibert raises an alarm, you better start looking for smoke.

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