JOPLIN, Mo. —
A Joplin City Councilman alleged Friday that City Manager Mark Rohr inappropriately leaked information to The Joplin Globe about a federal gambling and public corruption probe in which the councilman was mentioned.
Rohr countered Friday afternoon that the probe was made public more than a year ago, and that he was interviewed about it by the newspaper and that a number of other city officials were interviewed, too.
Rohr said if he wanted to get back at Scearce, he could.
“He has stated to many that he wants to be mayor. He will not be able to do so if I tell all that I know regarding these circumstances. Additionally, having a strong personality sitting in the city manager’s chair would prevent him from imposing his version of the good-old-boy network system of government that has held Joplin back in the past,” Rohr said, in a written statement he issued Friday afternoon.
Scearce on Friday morning had alleged that “Mr. Rohr is attempting to use this decades-old FBI investigation to discredit me politically following my recent statements and vote to ask for his resignation. This is a continuation of the bullying and intimidation tactics that are a part of Mr. Rohr’s management style.”
Rohr countered Friday afternoon that Scearce is attempting to deflect the brunt of Globe stories that are to be published Sunday involving city officials and a federal probe of local gambling and public corruption.
“Mr. Scearce, in his statement, goes on to claim that I am attempting to use a decades-old FBI investigation to discredit him. First of all, it is not a decades-old FBI investigation, as he would have you believe, but is much more recent. Secondly, I am not mounting any campaign against him. The local paper is working on an article that I was asked to comment on. I do believe this played a role in the recent attempt Mr. Scearce led regarding my employment with the city,” Rohr said.
Scearce read a written statement in a press conference he held at 10 a.m. Friday at City Hall. He then repeatedly declined to answer Globe questions to cite specifics of any evidence he had that the city manager had acted improperly.
Carol Stark, editor of the Globe, said, “The Joplin Globe has been seeking information and records over the course of the five-year FBI investigation.
“Some of those details are part of a story running in our Sunday paper. We have contacted a large number of city officials and department heads, including Bill Scearce and Mark Rohr.
“Readers will learn more about those conversations as well as record searches in Sunday’s paper.”
Scearce’s account of his evidence is this: “I have in my possession a note that appears to be in Mr. Rohr’s handwriting that has Carol Stark’s name on it, the name of the individual convicted of bookmaking, a reference to the FBI and includes the date of August 12,” Scearce said, in his prepared statement.
“It appears to me that Mr. Rohr had a conversation concerning these facts with Carol Stark. I believe it was improper for Mr. Rohr to discuss an FBI investigation with someone outside of law enforcement.”
Rohr said the question is how Scearce got a note off his desk.
“I have had conversations with the local paper’s editor regarding the story slated for Sunday’s paper (as I believe all of the council members have). It is my understanding the article has been in the works for some time and that a public records’ request for the FBI files regarding the investigation is approximately one year old. At one point, we played tag in returning phone calls and there may have been a note on my desk with her phone number on it. I have been known to take notes on these sheets and may have written down the name of one of Mr. Scearce’s past associates on that note. That name was already on the record (and in the paper), as the disposition of the case regarding illegal bookmaking was in the public domain, since the case had been adjudicated. The real question on this matter is how did Mr. Scearce get a note that was on my desk? The offices at City Hall are locked up when we go home at night,” Rohr said, in the statement.
Two Joplin men, Kenneth B. Lovett, 73, and William Lisle, 58, were indicted last year and eventually pleaded guilty to charges related to Internet bookmaking. Also indicted was Clyde A. Jeffries, 77, who currently lives in Las Vegas, Nev. He was indicted several months later in April 2012 and pleaded guilty. All three have been sentenced. A federal court document that appeared last year in the online case files of the men listed the address of Lovett and Lisle’s bookmaking operation as having been in a building owned by Scearce.
Scearce was asked by the Globe a year ago if he had been associated with Lovett and Lisle. He said they had rented office space from him and that he was unaware whether they were conducting bookmaking in that office. He also said he resented the Globe asking him about it.
Scearce on Friday said he did not remember being asked by the Globe about the bookmaking operation more than a year ago.
Asked Friday if he had made a presumption about the meaning of the note and asked how he obtained the note that he alleges proves Rohr leaked the information to Stark, Scearce replied, “I’m not answering any questions. They’re right here,” he said, referring to copies of his prepared statement.
Told he had made an allegation that he had not backed up with any substantial facts about how he came by the information, Scearce said, “I’m not making any other statement. Didn’t you hear me? Don’t you understand English?”