The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 22, 2014

Probe cost tops $80,000

City attorney: Scearce wanted Rohr resolution ‘in my pocket’

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin’s mayor pro tem told City Attorney Brian Head several days before the report of a City Council-ordered investigation was to be disclosed that he wanted a resolution to fire the city manager “in my pocket” before the meeting.

That investigation was supposed to focus on two city councilmen. Head said it turned to then-City Manager Mark Rohr because special investigator Tom Loraine asked Head if he should be “looking at” Rohr. Head said he told Loraine that Loraine would have to make that decision.

The firing of Rohr, who won two national awards for leading Joplin in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, has sparked a firestorm of public controversy.

And the cost for that controversy has mounted. Billings disclosed Thursday by Head show the costs at $82,000, nearly double the cap the City Council set for costs without further authorization.

EXPLANATIONS SOUGHT

Resident Charles McGrew told the council members at a meeting Tuesday night their actions are an embarrassment to him, saying that people he knows in other cities and states are asking “What in the H are you guys doing over there?”

He said that the use of the phrase “without cause” in the firing of Rohr is a legal term “that shields the council from having to explain” its reasons for the action. He said he thought Rohr “did his job and did it well.”

Councilman Gary Shaw gave a statement at the meeting and, in it, questioned whether some on the council knew details of the investigator’s report before all of them heard it at a Feb. 4 special meeting.

Head said that he knew some details of the probe and gave Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean a “very short, limited briefing” despite council discussions that no one was to have any information from the report before it was given to the council as a whole.

The mayor could not be reached for comment on what she was told.

The mayor pro tem, Bill Scearce, was one of the councilmen who was to be investigated.

Asked what he knew, Scearce said, “I did not know what was in the report,” adding, “You could tell the report was going farther (than the two councilmen) by the people who were being interviewed.”

Asked how he knew who was interviewed, Scearce said, “By talk on the street.”

He would not explain the reasons he voted to fire Rohr, describing it only as a “necessary action.”

Scearce acknowledged asking Head to prepare the Rohr resolution, saying he also asked for several other documents, such as those for council censure and resignation, because he felt the council needed to be “prepared for all eventualities.”

Asked why he sought the documents instead of waiting on the full council to deliberate what they might want to do after hearing the report, Scearce said, “Every councilman can ask the city attorney to do any ordinance he wants. If the council doesn’t like it, the council doesn’t have to vote for it.”

 Head said he advised Scearce against drafting a resolution to fire Rohr in advance of the meeting.

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