The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 5, 2014

Our View: Paying the bill

— The Joplin City Council, in a 5-4 vote on Monday, decided again to ignore a contract that established guidelines for the investigator hired to look at three ethics questions.

That decision could cost Joplin taxpayers $37,000 on top of the $45,000 cap agreed to in the fall of 2013 when the council decided to hire Tim Loraine.

The agreement is clear: “City agrees to pay Loraine for his services rendered pursuant hereto an hourly rate of $175/hour not to exceed Forty Thousand Dollars. In addition, City agrees to pay Loraine an amount not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars for out-of-pocket expenses. In the event that Loraine finds that the cost of the investigation will exceed the amounts listed herein above, he shall first request additional authority from the Council of the City of Joplin.”

What is murky is who gave Loraine that additional authority. There is no record of it coming from the City Council.

Thanks to Councilman Gary Shaw, we may get that answer. Shaw said on Monday that he wanted Loraine to answer questions about the probe and that he strongly objected to paying more than the cap.

And before that final bill is paid, Loraine is to turn over the full report. Councilman Morris Glaze rightly pointed out that the testimony was part of the investigation and as such needs to be delivered. In our view, it was outrageous that demand wasn’t made on Feb. 4, the night Loraine presented the report to the council behind closed doors.

“It’s our document,” Glaze said of the entire report and the accompanying testimony. “I want it.”

We’re sure that the good residents of Joplin feel the same as Glaze — especially since the agreement with Loraine specifies that his findings and conclusions would be submitted to the council and “this document shall be an open record made available under the Missouri Sunshine Laws.”

Council members who on Feb. 4 voted to fire City Manager Mark Rohr also quickly approved a motion made by Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg to pay the full bill, minus some duplicate charges, require the investigator to deliver the entire file to the city and write a letter to the council answering questions about the probe. Rosenberg, Bill Scearce, Jack Golden, Trisha Raney and Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean agreed to that with their votes.

Now the residents of Joplin get their turn to respond with their votes.

Election day is April 8.

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