The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

February 17, 2014

Our View: Public’s records

— Joplin taxpayers will foot the bill for a $28,985 investigative report but are being by told by the City Council they will only get to see two-thirds of it. Even the public portion of the investigative report prepared by Tom Loraine, an Osage Beach attorney hired to look into three specific points, is now being challenged by some of the principals who provided him with testimony.

That is one of the many reasons we will continue to pursue the full text of the report and all supplemental exhibits. Without the missing pages that prompted a 5-4 vote to fire City Manager Mark Rohr on Feb. 4, there can be no public confidence in the action.

On Friday, the Globe received a portion of the documents it had requested. From them, we were able to tell the public the amount Loraine was paid and the investigative charge he was given by the council. That included:

“1. The conduct of mayor pro tem (Bill) Scearce involving lease of a building to an individual later convicted of ‘bookmaking.’ Specifically, it is the desire of the city that Loraine request the file held by the Federal Bureau of Investigations regarding Mr. Scearce’s conduct and provide a report of the same to the council.

“2. The facts and circumstances surrounding the release of information related to Mr. Scearce’s conduct, including, but not limited to, the handwritten “note” referenced by Mr. Scearce in City Manager (Mark) Rohr’s handwriting.

“3. The facts, circumstances and ethical considerations surrounding the involvement of council member (Mike) Woolston with Mr. Charlie Kuehn/Four State Homes, its subsidiaries and related entities and the city’s master developer, Wallace Bajjali, with respect to the purchase, sale or leasing of real estate for current or future development.”

What we can’t tell you is who or what prompted Loraine to add Rohr to the list. There is no documentation to back up the action taken by the council. We requested all emails from members of the Joplin City Council regarding the investigation and have been told that none exist.

Finally, our request for transcripts of interviews conducted by Loraine were denied because they were never given to the city. In a letter received, we were told: “Transcripts of the interviews conducted by Mr. Loraine are not in the possession of the city and have not been presented to the City Council and as such are not a public record.”

So are we to understand that members of the council did not review those transcripts before they took action regarding Rohr? Joplin has been plunged into a he said/he said/she said controversy. The City Council should release the public records that the residents of Joplin have every right to see. Transparency is the only way to get Joplin back on a forward path.

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