The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

February 11, 2014

Our View: Answers needed in Rohr firing, special investigation

Questions we have plenty; it’s answers that are in short supply in regard to the firing of Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr and details included in the findings of a special investigator hired by the Joplin City Council.

Members of the council met behind closed doors for more than four hours on Feb. 4. The public was led to believe that closed-door session was held so that City Attorney Brian Head and a hired investigator, Tom Loraine, could give their legal conclusions to the council. A meeting agenda never mentioned the doors would be closed for personnel action, so the public had no idea that a large portion of the secret meeting was used to discuss details in Loraine’s report about Rohr.

In fact, because Loraine was never charged with providing details of Rohr’s management to the council, the public would have no reason to suspect that was what was going on behind closed doors.

At the end of a long night, the public report consisted of 17 pages of a 27-page report. The 10 pages about Rohr had been removed.

Also missing were all of the exhibits used by the investigator to answer questions regarding Councilman Bill Scearce’s association with a convicted bookmaker and Councilman Mike Woolston’s role in property that eventually was bought by the city’s land bank, the Joplin Redevelopment Corp., for tornado redevelopment projects. Loraine’s report addressed the Scearce questions by concluding that Scearce had committed no criminal wrongdoing. He questioned whether there were improprieties in Woolston helping contractor Charlie Kuehn buy property that was sold to the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. It also questioned fees charged by the master developer, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners.

Loraine states in the report that 51 witnesses were interviewed under oath and that “hundreds of pages of exhibits were submitted and reviewed.”

Yet the public does not have access to any of these exhibits, the very basis for the findings in this report.

Today, we expect an answer from the city of Joplin on our request for information filed Thursday under Missouri’s open records, open meetings law.

The Globe is asking for a full copy of Loraine’s report, as well as transcripts of the testimony.

We want to know what instructions were given to Loraine as to what and who were to be investigated.

We have asked for a copy of Loraine’s bill to the city for the investigation and information about what city fund will be used to pay for the costs.

We want a copy of the land assemblage contract between the JRC and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners and any payments made to Wallace Bajjali on each land transaction. Finally, we are asking for Rohr’s employment contract or terms of employment.

All of these documents, in our view, belong to the public. Without them, this special investigation has no factual basis for evaluation.

The information belongs to the public and should be placed in its hands.

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