The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 5, 2014

Rohr: Joplin City Council probe ‘strayed’ from original charge

JOPLIN, Mo. — Members of the Joplin City Council said little Wednesday about the reasons behind the firing of former City Manager Mark Rohr.

Rohr, reached by telephone, said a council-ordered investigation that was intended to be about two council members went off track and was used to snare him instead on complaints from disgruntled city workers or former workers regarding personnel decisions he made.

Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean would not discuss the reasons for Rohr’s dismissal.

“This was a personnel matter, and we cannot comment on the termination because it is confidential,” Colbert-Kean was quoted as saying in the statement issued by the city.

Said Rohr: “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.”

Tom Loraine, an attorney from Osage Beach who is a former assistant U.S. attorney, was hired to conduct the investigation.

Rohr said the council’s charge to the investigator was to address questions about the relationship of Councilman Bill Scearce to a gambling bookmaker who had rented an office from him; about how Scearce obtained a memo from Rohr’s desk without his permission; and about whether Councilman Mike Woolston had engaged in improper property dealings. The probe’s report to the council did state that the investigator believed that Scearce had been cleared of any misconduct.  

“It was a surprise to me that we were going to do that because I thought the investigation was about Mr. Scearce and Mr. Woolston,” said Councilman Morris Glaze, who voted against firing Rohr. He said he did not believe the city manager was intended to be a target of the probe.

Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg, who introduced the resolution to fire Rohr, said of the action: “As you know, investigations can take an odd turn, and this one took an odd turn.”

Councilman Mike Seibert said he did not believe the investigator’s report listed anything new that the council had not previously considered. A faction of the council in August had asked Rohr to resign.

“The information that I reviewed in the closed session was similar to information we had seen before, and I didn’t see anything in that report that I didn’t know prior,” Seibert said.

Rohr is to receive severance pay of $13,206.51 each month for six month or until he becomes employed, according to City Attorney Brian Head. He said Rohr also is due some money for unused vacation and leave time, but he did not know that amount.

Rohr had been the city manager for nine years. He received a national award in 2012 as a public official of the year for leading Joplin’s tornado recovery efforts.

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