The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 11, 2014

Joplin councilman says investigator got it wrong

Council discussed scope of probe at October meeting

A Joplin councilman said Tuesday that the special investigator hired by the council missed the mark in the probe that apparently resulted in the firing of the city manager.

Councilman Mike Seibert said his intent in authorizing the investigation was never aimed at determining whether Councilman Bill Scearce was still part of an FBI probe or had committed a crime.

“This was an ethics investigation,” Seibert said. He said in his discussions with the council regarding the nature of the probe, he intended to look into whether Scearce violated council ethics rules when he made public statements that he did not know that a man who rented an office from him in the early 1990s was a bookmaker.

Several other council members said they thought the council’s charge to the investigator was limited to three topics involving two council members.

Instead, the city manager, Mark Rohr, was fired in a 5-4 vote after a closed session Feb. 4 for as yet unspecified reasons. Council members Scearce, Benjamin Rosenberg, Jack Golden, Trisha Raney and Melodee Colbert-Kean voted to fire Rohr. The same five voted to ask for his resignation in August but ultimately backed off, instead giving him a list of objectives that were never made public.

“I wasn’t even the target of the investigation, but the manner in which the investigator conducted the investigation strayed very far from the charge,” Rohr told the Globe after his firing.

Rohr said his firing was the result of complaints by disgruntled employees or former employees.

The investigation report to the council was 27 pages, and 10 pages were said to involve complaints about Rohr. Those pages were removed from public copies of the report, with Colbert-Kean, the mayor, saying it constituted a personnel record that was exempt from disclosure under Missouri’s open records law.

Rohr was asked by the Globe last week to disclose those pages, and so far he has not. He said then that he would have to speak to an attorney about it first.

The total report including the Rohr portion is one of the records sought by the Globe in a request for the city to release records pursuant to the state open records law.

City Clerk Barbara Hogelin on Tuesday acknowledged the Globe’s request in a form letter, but she said it could take several days to several weeks to provide the records.

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