The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 21, 2014

Investigator’s report in council probe to be disclosed Feb. 3

Scearce says he gave investigator waiver for release of FBI report

Results of a Joplin City Council investigation are to be disclosed at a Feb. 3 council meeting and could contain information from records of a local FBI probe that have long been sought by the Globe.

The investigation could contain information from an FBI report on local gambling in which Councilman Bill Scearce was mentioned.

City Attorney Brian Head said Scearce told the council Tuesday night during a closed session after the council’s regular meeting that Scearce gave a council investigator a waiver to obtain a copy of anything naming him in an FBI probe of local gambling and corruption.

“I did that with one stipulation, that The Joplin Globe not get a copy of that report,” Scearce said Tuesday night when asked to confirm if he signed a waiver for the investigator to obtain the report. “You guys (the Globe) have chosen sides in this deal, and I’m not going to help you out.”

The Globe in September 2012 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, asking for a copy of the reports from that investigation. The FBI has not yet complied with the Globe’s request.

Under the FBI’s FOIA rules, record requests for information on an individual are not released unless the person signs a waiver or has died and a death certificate is provided with the request.

Head said he had made a request for the FBI reports at the direction of the council and he was notified Monday that the request was denied because no waiver was provided.

The Globe’s request was for records of the overall investigation rather than those for a particular individual.

The question surrounding Scearce is whether he, as a sitting councilman, violated any council ethics rules in connection with the FBI probe.

A man to whom he rented an office in the 1990s, before Scearce was elected to the council, was a gambling bookmaker. The bookmaker was sentenced last year in a FBI probe that started in 2007.

After City Council member Mike Woolston in September called for the council to hire an investigator regarding that issue, Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg called for an investigation of whether Woolston used influence or knowledge he had as a former mayor and a sitting councilman for real estate transactions in connection with the tornado recovery.

Woolston told the council Tuesday night that because he is a candidate in the April 8 election, he would like the report regarding the investigation to be disclosed.

Woolston asked Head if it would be appropriate for him to make a motion that the report be presented at the next meeting in view of his candidacy and the spring election.

“The reason being is that if I’ve done something wrong in my behavior, the voters need to be aware of that,” Woolston said. “If there’s no evidence found that I have done anything wrong, then I want my name cleared.”

Head said Woolston could go ahead if he wished. Woolston made the motion, and it was approved by the council.

Councilman Morris Glaze asked if the report would be heard in closed session.

Head said the investigator, attorney Tom Loraine of Osage Beach, wants to discuss the report and his legal conclusions with the council in closed session. But, the council will then convene in open session, and the report will be disclosed to the public, Head said.

Asked after the council meeting why there would be a closed meeting on the report, Head said Loraine has “legal conclusions and legal advice to give the council” that could involve attorney-client privilege.

Asked why the information should be discussed in a closed session when all previous discussions had been public, Head said the legal conclusions would probably become obvious in the content of the report.

“You can draw whatever conclusions from the report,” he said.

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