The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 29, 2013

Shake-up in Joplin Public Works Department continues with resignation of building inspector

JOPLIN, Mo. — The shake-up in Joplin’s Public Works Department continues with the resignation late Friday of Steve Cope, the city’s building inspector.

In a statement released today, Joplin officials confirmed the city will be advertising for a supervisor in the building/code enforcement area. Cope was scheduled for a personnel hearing on Friday but chose to submit his resignation instead.

Cope’s office at City Hill was dark today. Efforts to reach him for comment so far have been unsuccessful.

Joplin city officials are looking into the loss of about $150,000 in revenue from the Public Works Department. Last week, City Manager Mark Rohr confirmed that the city has been investigating shortages in the building division of that department. The shortages are related to code enforcement and building permit fees, he said.

Rohr said last week, in an email responding to Globe questions about the nature of the probe: “This amount includes unbilled items over the past 14 years of code enforcement fees valued at $110,000, and $40,000 of unbilled building permits fees.

“After the preliminary audit, it does not appear that there was any criminal activity, but to be sure, I have asked the (Joplin) Police Department to conduct a criminal investigation into this matter.”

The city also is seeking to fill the position of the director of the Public Works Department.

David Hertzberg was demoted last week from that position and will be working as the Community Development Block Grant project manager.

Assistant City Manager Sam Anselm has temporarily taken over the department as public works director.

In the statement released today, Rohr also said he has instructed Anselm to conduct a review for each division.

“As he does these reviews, I’ve asked him to make short-term changes as necessary, but to also develop recommendations that will benefit the department in the long-term,” said Rohr. “We want to be confident that the procedures in place are appropriate and address the various functions necessary to have a professional department to effectively serve our citizens, business owners and developers.”

Rohr noted that these vacancies will be filled as quickly as possible, and the services to residents should not be affected during this period.

  In a separate incident revealed last week, a man who worked as a city mechanic in the Public Works Department was charged with misdemeanor stealing from the city garage. Joplin police said a city complaint against Jeramy Jasperson, 38, had been sent to the city prosecutor in connection with the alleged theft.

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