The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 26, 2014

Hearing set for Thursday on Globe lawsuit

— A hearing will be held Thursday on The Joplin Globe’s lawsuit seeking disclosure of a full copy of a report on an investigation authorized by the City Council and other documents related to the probe.

Andrew Buchanan, an attorney representing the Globe and its parent company, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., said the hearing will be on the newspaper’s request for a writ requiring the city to disclose the records.

The court has discretion to rule on the merits of the Globe’s request based on the information provided in the documents that have been filed in court or to set a full hearing for testimony and arguments, Buchanan said.

The hearing is set for 11 a.m. Thursday in the Division 3 courtroom of Jasper County Circuit Court, 601 S. Pearl Ave.

The council hired a special investigator, Tom Loraine, to look into questions regarding the conduct of Councilmen Mike Woolston and Bill Scearce. The council heard a report on the probe behind closed doors on Feb. 4. Afterward, in an open session, the council voted 5-4 to fire City Manager Mark Rohr. Nine pages of the report, all of which were said to have focused on Rohr, were not disclosed to the public.

City officials have said that part of the report is closed to the public because it is about Rohr and is a personnel record that does not have to be released under Missouri’s Open Meetings, Open Records Law.

The Globe contends that a contract between the city and Loraine states that Loraine was to issue written findings and conclusions, “and this document shall be an open record made available under the Missouri Sunshine Law.”

The Globe also contends that the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that information compiled about a public employee for the purpose of an investigation cannot be closed as a personnel record.

The Globe also will ask the court to order disclosure of any exhibits accompanying the report and to order that public access is to be allowed to the testimony taken during the investigation.

The cost

THE CITY HAS BEEN BILLED about $82,000 for the investigation by Tom Loraine. The City Council had authorized costs of up to $45,000.

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