The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 23, 2013

Our View: Shakeup demands answers

The Joplin Globe

— A Joplin Public Works employee has been fired and charged with allegedly stealing supplies from the city garage.

David Hertzberg, the city’s public works director, has suddenly been demoted and will be working as the Community Development Block Grant project manager.

Assistant City Manager Sam Anselm will temporarily take over the department as public works director.

And a short email from Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr, who would not take the time away from city budget meetings to address questions, indicates “the administrative team has managed these developments in a manner to create little or no disruption within the City and for our citizens.”

But Rohr’s statement and the reaction from the city to the Globe’s questions on Monday makes us think that it’s the information and Joplin residents, who have a right to know what’s going on, that are being managed.

Hertzberg has been moved to a position that was just approved by the City Council a week ago. During that meeting, some Joplin City Council members questioned whether the position was needed. Now we are left to wonder just how long the staff changes at the Public Works Department were being discussed and when the need to create the CDBG project manager position came about.

Early in the day Monday, details about the misdemeanor charge against a city worker were not being released. Under the Missouri Open Records Law, those details are open to the public. Not until pressed would city officials provided the name of the person charged.

Two more calls finally yielded the information that the worker in the city garage was stopped by Joplin police and a case of oil and a bottle of refrigerant believed to have belonged to the city were found in his vehicle.

The city is also investigating a separate matter in the building department of the Public Works Department. Rohr said in his statement that this “separate matter” has resulted in a loss of revenue to the city. How and how much was much? The city isn’t saying.

This veil of secrecy cast over basic information that belongs to the public should be lifted.