November 30, 2007

Do You Remember?

This one is for all the long time Mizzou fans. Do you remember?

Do you remember Wilder's rumbles,
Woody's wagon and Floyd's fumbles?

Did you see the Nebraska kick?
Or when Pig dropped that pick?

Did you hear Bill Wilkerson scream?
When it was fifth down, not a bad dream.

Did you ever help tear the posts down
or did you carry a piece through town.

How far have you traveled for a game?
That trip to Shreveport sure was lame.

Van Zant's injury made some say we're cursed
but I think Bob Stull's years were the worst.

Now don't think we didn't have any good ones play.
How about Winslow, Wehrli, Smith and Mel Gray?

So let's welcome aboard all the new faces
to cheer T Ruck, J-Mac and two Chases.

But there's no doubt that this December
is sweeter for those of us who still remember.

Bad cases = Bad laws

By now everyone has heard the story about Megan Meier, the 13 year old Dardenne Prairie girl who hanged herself last year. The mother of one of Megan's friends set up a fake MySpace persona as 16 year old Josh Evans, a cute teenage boy who started an online friendship with Megan. Several people had access to the account for fake Josh and at some point one or more of the posters decided to have Josh turn on Megan. While we don't know everything that was posted or who posted it there can be no doubt that the actions of the mother were stupid, inconsiderate, immature and just plain mean. However, is it criminal?

St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas is investigating the matter and is supposed to announce later today whether criminal charges will be brought. However, just in case there is no criminal law that covers this situation the politicians or falling all over each other in a rush to pass laws to cover any future cases of Internet harassment. Leading the way was Megan's hometown, Dardenne Prairie, followed quickly by Florissant, MO. With the world wide public outcry over Megan's death we can expect new laws to be enacted across the globe and if Dardenne Prairie's ordinance is any indication, these laws will be poorly thought out, poorly drafted, vague, overly broad and probably unconstitutional and unenforceable.

First, it should be noted that a city in Missouri is very limited in what it can do in regard to criminal laws. The state and federal governments can pass laws that make an action a misdemeanor or a felony but the most a city can do is enact an ordinance violation. A look at Dardenne Prairie's ordinance indicates several problems:
  • The law defines "harass" and that definition requires an action to be a "course of conduct" which is also defined. However, when you get to what constitutes Cyber-Harassment the section goes well beyond harass to include alarm, annoy, abuse, threaten, intimidate or embarrass. The only word which is defined is harass and, even more troubling, harass is the only word that requires a course of conduct. Thus, under this law, one email which may annoy or embarrass someone could be considered Cyber-Harassment. So if you are planning a surprise 50th birthday party for a friend make sure you don't send one of those old embarrassing pictures of your friend with his beer hat and big bells because in Dardenne Prairie it just might be a crime.
  • The definition of "harass" requires that the conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress or that the conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. Again, however, the rest of the terms used in the ordinance (alarm, annoy, embarrass etc) do not contain any such limitation.
  • The definition of "harass" also includes a provision which states that if a person over the age of 18 has contact with a person under the age of 18 the standard is whether a reasonable parent would fear for the well being of their minor child. Of course, traditionally harassment laws deal with unwanted contact. This provision would apply even if the recipient, for example a 17 year old girl communicating with her 18 year old boyfriend, was a voluntary participant and possibly the instigator of the communications.

Obviously, this law was drafted because of the outrage that many have towards the mother who created the fake account. However, from what I read all we know is that she created the fake Josh Evans but we don't know if she sent any of the offending messages. Therefore, this law may not even apply to the her.

However, if Josh Evans was real and was trying to end an online relationship the law may apply. If the breakup is ugly and both sides say things to hurt each other, both parties would be in violation of this law. Do we really want to criminalize bad break ups? If so why should we limit it to bad break ups over the Internet?

The Megan Meier case has stirred up a lot of emotions and with that a need to do something. However, as often is the case, bad cases like this often lead to bad laws.

November 29, 2007

Wanted: One Australian Aboriginal to Investigate Blunt Administration

In the United States the Sixth Amendment guarantees us the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. Apparently politicians are provided an additional right; the right to pick an investigator to their liking. The Missouri Republican Party recently invoked this right in regard to an investigation of the Blunt administration's handling of public records. In a press release entitled Nixon’s ‘Independent’ Panel a Sham; Fisher Self-Identified Democrat, the Republicans report that:
  • Clarence “Mel” Fisher, the head of the investigative team, is a self-identified Democrat.
  • Chief legal counsel for the investigation and former Webster County Associate Circuit Judge Daniel Max Knust has ties to Nixon campaign treasurer Craig Hosmer.

As a result of these "findings" the press release states:

"Jay Nixon’s claim that his committee is independent is a complete and utter sham because he clearly appointed loyalists whose biases have exposed the true nature of this blatantly political witch hunt,” said Paul Sloca, communications director for the Missouri Republican Party. “The people of Missouri are not only being misled by Jay Nixon but are also being asked to trust a kangaroo court that is using their hard-earned tax dollars to finance a purely political probe.”

Knust has now resigned his post and his resignation letter stated as the reason that "the Governor's staff is unhappy with my involvement..." However, Knust noted his Republican background when he wrote "my parents were devout Republicans and I have held office for 28 years as a Republican." Knust closed the letter by writing; "Thank you for having the confidence that my involvement would have been well received by the Governor's staff."

Under this logic who can investigate the Blunt administration? We have to eliminate Democrats and Republicans since, under this line of thinking, neither could be independent. We also need to eliminate those who have "ties" to anyone associated with Nixon or Blunt. However, shouldn't we also eliminate anyone that voted for or against either Nixon or Blunt? For that matter, how can we trust anyone who is going to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election?

To be safe we probably need to eliminate everyone who has "ties" to anyone who is involved with any political party. After all, don't members of the Libertarian, Green, Natural Law, Reform and Statesmanship parties have their own agendas? This does not mean we can trust those that label themselves as "independent" since these type of people often distrust both of the major political parties.

So who is left? I originally thought the Unabomber would be a good choice but because of his anti-technology stance I am worried that he may in fact be in favor of the deletion of emails. Therefore, I propose we find an Australian Aboriginal to finish this investigation. The right Aborigine could come in without any of the ties or affiliations which eliminate most of the adult population of the world yet he or she would still be able to communicate any findings of the investigation (which is why infants were not considered). If this works I suggest we extend the right to an Aborigine prosecutor to all Americans so that we can all be protected from the injustice of a "sham" investigation. Lady Justice would be proud.

November 28, 2007

Fish & Ships

The November 27, 2007 edition of Fish & Ships has been posted on the O'Fallon Watchdog. You can also find most of our older shows on the Watchdog as well. Fish & Ships is aired every Tuesday morning at approximately 9:00 AM on KFAV, 99.9.

Warning, officials in St. Peters have deemed Fish & Ships to be unsuitable for its residents. Please listen at your own risk.

Green backs, green spaces and Mai Tais

I ran across a great article in the O'Fallon Community News titled "Green backs replacing green space." The author, Joe Morice, writes about the control the developers and builders have over St. Charles County politicians and the effect this control has on the environment and our tax money. Morice writes:
  • After reading about the St. Charles Council President vacationing with TR Hughes, one can see how most of it’s happening. I’m sure TR builds nice homes, but it also shows the realities of politics,considering how much money he allegedly spent to defeat council candidates that opposed his attempt to become richer than Donald Trump. It seems that throughout this County and several others, he and others like him are an omnipresent force in the backrooms of city council chambers.

Morice goes on to write:

  • This is not to grouse about TR Hughes and the rest of the developers in particular. If it were not them, it would be others hanging around city hall looking for a hungry politician to throw money at. To get elected costs plenty. However,the greatest cost, besides political integrity, is to the taxpayers that eventually get the bill for the increased infrastructure costs involving everything from road repairs, schools and city personnel to sewage disposal and flood control.

Morice ends his column by noting the need of citizens to get involved:

  • Does this make it our fault? It does if we don’t look at local government with a wary eye and vote out the developer’s pets. That means voting in local elections. The fact that will stand glaringly clear is the badly needed campaign finance reform that’s anathema to special interests, including developers and their political pets sipping Mai Tai’s on south sea beaches. I don’t worry about developers buying landed estates for themselves. Good for them. I worry about them buying votes. Bad for us.

Well said Mr. Morice.

November 27, 2007

Quick Hits

  • The Suburban Journal did a story last week about a lawsuit filed against McBride & Sons by residents whose homes were built on a public right of way. The story reported that the right of way was vacated in 2006, however, this is in incorrect. The road has actually never been legally vacated, a point which is crucial to the story and which should bring into question O'Fallon's role in this controversy. However, up to this point neither the Journal nor the Post has covered this angle.
  • Speaking of Koch Road, I wrote to my State Representative Doug Funderburk, who co-sponsored a bill to make it easier to vacate a public road, regarding his reasons for supporting a change in the law. The bill was added on to SB 22 and appears to be another example of a law that was changed to help out one developer. My email to Funderburk was sent about two months ago and so far he seems to be following the lead of House Speaker Rod Jetton by ignoring requests for an explanation.
  • Has anyone noticed how much attention Fox News spends on these home made videos of people fighting? Under the guise of reporting, Fox plays the videos while telling its viewers about this "growing problem." This is just another example, e.g. Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith, of how the mainstream media tries to legitimize its coverage of these type of stories.
  • It appears as if Nixon's appointment of an investigative team to look into the Blunt administration's handling of emails has resulted in less coverage of the controversy. Let's hope this is because we are awaiting the results of the investigation rather than a loss of interest in the important discussion of public records, the sunshine law and open government.
  • Mizzou's rise to power in the BCS rankings has resulted in a lot of attention to the program. This is great news for the school but along with the accolades come some criticism that Mizzou is not worthy of its lofty ranking. As expected Mizzou fans are in an uproar over the criticism and the ever present "east coast bias." At least now they have to talk about us.
  • With the presidential primaries quickly approaching so are the celebrity endorsements. I have yet to meet the person who will admit they are swayed by Oprah Winfrey or Chuck Norriss' thoughts on who should run the country but apparently a lot of people care. Will someone please tell me why?
  • A story in the Post-Dispatch reports that 4 levees, at St. Louis, Chesterfield, Festus/Crystal City and Cape Girardeau , were funded by Congress to provide protection from a 500 year flood, however, a representative of the US Army Corps of Engineers says the levees don't even provide protection for a 100 year flood. The story does not indicate why the levees do not meet the 500 year level and whether federally subsidized insurance was based on the 500 year level or 100 year level. I hope these questions are answered before we throw more money into flood plain development.

O'Fallon and St. Peters: Just say no to Charter

The cities of O'Fallon and St. Peters are both discussing becoming Charter (home rule) cities. O'Fallon residents voted in April of 2006 to change from being a fourth class city under Missouri law to a third class city while St. Peters is a fourth class city. As a third or fourth class city a cities powers are specifically limited to the powers granted them under Missouri statutes, while under a charter, a city's power is broader in that it can enact laws so long as they are not in conflict with state law.

Some of the citizens behind the move to a Charter form of government are well intentioned, however, the misuse of power by both of these cities is reason enough to fight any attempt to give O'Fallon and St. Peters more power. In a story today in the Post-Dispatch, the head of the O'Fallon home rule committee, former alderman Mark Perkins stated: "The charter would be a good thing for the city, it could be crafted to fit O'Fallon's unique needs. As examples, a charter could specify whether the city has a full-time mayor and include ordinances tailored to O'Fallon's "particular development style."

When Perkins was an alderman, O'Fallon's "particular development style" included illegally annexing land, wide spread violations of O'Fallon ordinances including zoning laws, taxpayer financed infrastructure for the builders and developers, lack of enforcement of building codes and HBA drafted ordinances to name a few. All of this led to O'Fallon's uncontrolled and unregulated growth for which the taxpayers will be paying for years.

You can expect both cities to sell a Charter by telling the residents it will provide them with greater input in decision making process and that "home rule" is better than having the State tell us what we can or cannot do. The fact is a Charter will inevitably provide a city with more power than it currently has under state law. The history of both O'Fallon and St. Peters makes this a scary proposition for the residents.

More bizarre emails from St. Peters

I posted last week about the decision of St. Peters to take KFAV off the city's cable access channel because of comments made on a show I co-host with Lyn Schipper called Fish & Ships. In another post I wrote about the response I received from St. Peters councilman Dave Thomas. Yesterday I got an email from St. Peters councilman Dan Aytes. Here is my (unedited) email exchange with Mr. Aytes:

  • My name is Rick Fischer and I co-host with Lyn Schipper a weekly 15 minute show on KFAV (99.9). Our show covers a variety of topics and at times we have criticized some of the decisions made in St. Peters. I always thought that in our country we valued debate and discussion regarding the actions of our elected representatives. We have received positive feedback on some of our discussions about St. Peters and we have never received any input from the City itself.
    Therefore, I was shocked to learn that St. Peters decided to no longer use KFAV on its cable access station because of our radio show. St. Peters has decided, once again, that censorship rather than debate is the way to handle criticism. In our show we try to inform our listeners on how decisions are made in government and the possible motives of these decisions. The city's actions in censoring such discourse leads me to believe we have not been paying enough attention to what is going on in St. Peters. We will be sure to correct this mistake.

Mr. Aytes response:

  • I just returned from Houston, Texas were we spent thanksgiving with our son and granddaughters. Upon reading this one side of your responce on the air-you sounded just like one of the people who has a lawsuit against us and I believe you was set up-if you had asked for our side you would of seen this, and your story would of been different. I believe we have one of the best city administrators in the St Louis area, also a very good Council- I would not consider letting either one go. Have you been down to see what is going on with the 370 project-call us and come down, we will be happy to show you how well it is being developed-will be a lot like Earth city, with lots of lakes joining. I am a country western fan, but I agree about taking your sta-tion off the air and I:m not sure if it will ever be back on, it all depends on you. Thanks Don Aytes

I responded:

  • Thank you for the email. I did not request anyone to be fired so I assume you also did not hear the show you are criticizing. You are the second alderman who has complained about our show without hearing it. I assume you and Councilman Thomas believe I am involved with Adolphus Busch and his group from your emails. Again you are wrong. Please let me also make clear KFAV is not my station nor am I an employee of the station. You did not take "my station" off the air. Finally, I am amazed that you would ignore the issue I raised; a government body taking a radio station off the air because of the opinions (which you don't even know) expressed on a show. I would think that an elected representative of a city that wants to keep its citizens from hearing criticism of its decisions would worry more about that but it seems as if at least you and Mr. Thomas support the decision. All I can say is that I am glad you do not represent me. I prefer to live somewhere where open and honest debate is encouraged.
    I hope you will do your own checking of the facts before you email me again. And I hope someone at your city will set up a course on the First Amendment. That would be a service to your residents.

Mr. Aytes response:

  • Again I said you was set up and your answer same as said you was, Mr Burkemper is trying to get any one he can listen to him. One of the big things is the first document from the corp of engineers was a 100 yr flood wa our levey was an elevation of .002 . After the people re-typed the document now their document says .02, isn"t that a big difference,ha!Yes i"m glad you aren"t an elected official as going off half cocked is the right thing to do. This in the courts now and we expect the case to be thrown out any day now. Don

Dan Burkemper is aligned with Adolphus Busch and the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, which has been fighting St. Peters plans regarding a large scale development in the flood plain known as Lakeside 370. Lakeside 370 was discussed on our show, however, I was not on that show. Of course, since no one criticizing that show actually heard it, they would not know that. Hopefully, Councilmen Aytes and Thomas are more prepared on other issues effecting the residents of St. Peters.

November 26, 2007

Mizzou is number 1!

Lyn Schipper and I took Fish & Ships on the road for the first time Saturday to watch Mizzou's victory over Kansas. We started out at the Hooters in Independence, MO. at 11:00 and went on the air shortly after that from my van in the parking lot. We then did 10 different live remotes from Noon to 2:00 PM inside Hooters. The crowd in Hooters was about 80% Tiger fans although we did find a few Jayhawk fans in the crowd. We had a great time at Hooters and all the people there had a lot of fun.

After we finished up at Hooters we made our way to our hotel which was right across highway 70 from Arrowhead. The 3 mile trip from Hooters to our hotel took about an hour and a half as fans lined up to get into Arrowhead when the parking lots opened at 3:00 PM. After we checked in we immediately headed back into traffic to start tailgating before the game.

We had good tickets but they were right in the middle of the Kansas section although we had a buffer zone of Mizzou fans in every direction. The stadium was packed with more than 80,000 fans split evenly between the 2 schools. It was the best atmosphere of any sporting event I have attended and for the most part the fans got along. We did have a fight break out right next to us between a Mizzou fan and some Kansas students who apparently were harassing his wife. The Mizzou fan grabbed hold of the Kansas fan as all of us around there quickly broke up the fight with the help of security.

On the field the Tigers quickly took control of the game and held off a late Kansas' rally. As the Jayhawk fans cleared out the Mizzou fans stayed in their seats after the game to celebrate the victory. The final score was 36-28 and when we left Arrowhead after the game chants of M-I-Z Z-O-U could be heard everywhere. After waiting for traffic to clear we finally got back to our room at 12:45 AM. It was a great time for everyone who was lucky enough to make the trip (at least the Mizzou fans) and we left knowing the Missouri Tigers were about to become the number 1 team in all of college football. Go Tigers!

November 23, 2007

Apathy-The politician's best friend

Every day I run across something and think to myself; how did this person get elected? Politicians routinely say things which show a complete lack of disrespect for the people they represent yet they get away with it. They get away with it because they realize the vast majority of voters are not paying attention and as long as they don't cross the mainstream media's line they can say what they want. Here are a couple of recent examples:
  • A recent story in the Post-Dispatch reported on claims that the Mayor of Sunset Hills, John Hunzeker, has turned his back on those who helped get him elected. Hunzeker was elected in 2006 after Sunset Hills' mishandling of a redevelopment project. Now Hunzeker is pushing his own redevelopment project against the wishes of those who elected him. Here are a couple of Hunzeker's statements from the Post article that caught my attention:

--Hunzeker, who works in commercial real estate, said redevelopment is an important tool for cities. "Some people will always think of government as the big, bad bogeyman," he said in an interview Wednesday. "That's just the way it is."

--Hunzeker believed city leaders should not question their consultants. He said that if what consultants tell city leaders ends up being wrong, the city can then sue them.

The first statement is typical politician speak. While the candidate will promise to listen to his constituents the politician no longer needs to listen since he knows what is good for them. Find out who your politicians new friends and/or contributors are and you will have good idea of what is going to be good for you.

The second statement regarding consultants is bizarre. Of course, its your job to question the consultant. You were elected to do what is best for the residents not to blindly follow the advice of some consultant. However, in reality, Hunzeker probably found a consultant to say what he wanted them to say so Hunzeker got what he wanted at the taxpayers expense.

  • I recently posted about St. Peters decision to stop playing KFAV on its cable access channel. The reason given to management at KFAV was that St. Peters was unhappy about some commentary from the Fish & Ships show I co-host with Lyn Schipper. Before I posted a story on here I emailed the elected representatives in St. Peters regarding this decision. I received a reply from an alderman named Dave Thomas and here is some of what he said:

--My understanding is that KFAV (99.9) and your show was used to discount employees of our city. Our city does not endorse anyone who does this.

--Perhaps your funding comes from sources that continue to negatively,inappropriately, and incorrectly attack the good nature and intentions of our city, its staff, and its citizens.

--We are accountable for what we show/allow on our broadcast services.

First, the facts. Since we have been on the air we have talked about St. Peters issues for maybe 15 minutes and this was in regard to some policy decisions such as Lake Side 370 and how St. Peters treats its citizens who dare to dissent. Mr. Thomas wouldn't know this of course because apparently he doesn't know what we said. Thomas then tries to tie us to some unnamed group that is attacking every thing that is good and decent in St. Peters. A vast non partisan conspiracy? However, most disturbing is Thomas' attempt to dress up St. Peter's censorship as protection of the residents. The Ministry of the Truth is alive and well in St. Peters.

So how did these guys get elected?

Fish & Ships at the Border War

Fish & Ships and KFAV will be coming to you live tomorrow from Kansas City. We will be doing a live remote from 12:00-2:00 PM at the Hooters off of the Little Blue Parkway exit (19850 E. Valley View Pkwy., Independence, MO 64055; 816-478-8832.) We will have some shirts, hats and other Mizzou items to give away and we hope you can join us as we get ready for a Mizzou victory.

Our last show (and most of the older ones) can be found over at the O'Fallon Watchdog. We will be back on the air Tuesday and hopefully we will be talking about the Tigers win.

Did Nathan Cooper sing?

In August of 2007 Nathan Cooper plead guilty for his role in a scheme to illegally get visas for workers. Cooper is a former Republican State Representative out of Cape Girardeau and was a close ally of Matt Blunt. In fact, Cooper was linked to the Blunt administration's handling of license (fee) offices. In Missouri, fee offices are controlled by the governor and are usually awarded to those who support the winning candidate. After Blunt was elected allegations swirled around the privatization of 11 previously state-run license offices and the use by some fee offices of a third party with close connections to Blunt to manage the offices. In January of 2006 an investigation into the fee offices was assigned to Bud Cummins the US Attorney out of Little Rock, Ark. Cummins was assigned the case after Catherine Hanaway, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri recused herself.

Cooper admitted his involvement in the illegal visa scheme back in November 0f 2005 and cooperated with federal authorities in a sting involving Omega "Meg" Paulite, 36, a Philippine-born U.S. citizen. The sting took place in April of 2006, more than a year before Cooper was charged. This delay was due to the ongoing investigation of the Blunt administration's handling of the fee offices, which involved Cooper, according to assistant Federal prosecutor Jim Crowe.

Bud Cummings, who was handling the fee office investigation, cleared the Blunt administration of wrongdoing in the awarding of Missouri license office contracts. Cummins made this announcement in October of 2006, however, we learned later that Cummins was told in June of 2006 that he was to be replaced as part of several controversial resignations/firings of US Attorneys by the Bush Administration. It turns out Cummins replacement, Tim Griifin , a former aide to Karl Rove, began working in Cummins office in September of 2006. The announcement clearing Blunt was unusual and was requested by Blunt's attorneys. In a written statement Cummins explained, "In light of that unfortunate disclosure and the publicity it spawned, it is appropriate to confirm certain facts." Cummins was forced out of office in December of 2006 and he later stated he had been contacted on several occasions by an attorney for Matt Blunt during the investigation. Blunt's attorney was requesting information on the status of the investigation and whether Blunt himself was a target. Griffin resigned on May 30, 2007, less than 6 months after he took the position.

In a March 16, 2006 article which ran in the Los Angeles Times, Cummins was quoted as saying, "You have to firewall politics out of the Department of Justice. Because once it gets in, people question every decision you make. Now I keep asking myself: ’What about the Blunt deal?" After the article appeared Cummins stated he did not think that the Blunt investigation had anything to do with his firing and that the he didn't believe he said the words quoted above but that if he did it isn't what he had intended.

Going back to the case against Nathan Cooper, the women Cooper helped nab in the sting back in August of 2006, Omega Paulite, was indicted by the feds shortly after Cooper plead guilty in August of 2007. The government alleged Paulite was "a serious risk to threaten or injure a prospective witness," and "a serious risk to obstruct justice." Cooper is likely to receive a lenient sentence because of his cooperation in the sting. However, the charges against Paulite were dropped in October 0f 2007.

On September 17, 2007 a Democratic blog, Fired Up! Missouri, claimed,

Copper's younger brother (Ryan), a Springfield area resident, has apparently told interested individuals that they needn't worry about Nathan turning state's evidence against any of the political players who participated in the fee office scheme or other pay-to-play shams. His claim is that Cooper's former running buddies --such as James Harris, Jeff Roe, Garrett Lott and Andy Blunt--have assured him that he will receive a pardon in the final days of the George W. Bush administration so long as he stays mum in the meantime.
In response, Ryan Cooper, wrote a column for the Sprindfield News-Leader's "Voice of the Day." Ryan Cooper wrote that the allegations made by Fired Up! were false and that he requested the author to issue a correction and an apology to no avail. Cooper went on to write:

Had Beale bothered to talk to me, his story would have been less titillating. Yes, I believe my brother deserves a presidential pardon, as mentioned in the story. He's not a violent criminal and should be allowed to earn a living without this error of judgment ruining his future. Beale's hatred for Gov. Matt Blunt and all things Republican overshadowed any attempt to find the truth. In his effort to expose imaginary ethical lapses of Blunt officials, he had to violate every ethical rule of journalism."

Cooper penned another column on November 5, 2007 titled "Blunt's chief of staff won't keep his job." The column was in regard to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Blunt administration's handling of public records. Cooper was anything but flattering to Blunt and predicted how Blunt would try to stop this from continuing to damage Blunt's chances for re-election. Rather than paint Blunt as an innocent bystander to the controversy, Cooper's portrayal of Blunt was that of a politician who is not worried about right or wrong ( e.g. Blunt will fire his Chief of Staff, Ed Martin, over the holidays when it will get less notice.) but instead cares only about saving his own neck.

Which again brings me back to Nathan Cooper. Sentencing had originally been scheduled for October 19, 2007 but, at the request of Cooper's lawyer, was moved to October 26, 2007 and then to November 21, 2007. However, at the request of assistant federal prosecutor Jim Crowe, the sentencing has been moved again to December 10, 2007. Crowe did not give a reason for his request to delay the sentencing and a spokesperson from the US Attorney's office indicated she did not know the reason.

How does all this relate? Maybe it doesn't but there are quite a few things here that raise questions:

  • We know that some of the AGs who were fired by the Bush Administration have alleged they received pressure regarding some of their investigations which may have had political consequences. Did political considerations play a part in clearing Blunt? Could that investigation have been re opened? After all, Hanaway allowed Cooper to run for re election (he won) and continue to represent the citizens of Southeastern Missouri after he admitted his guilt in regard to obtaining illegal visas. Her assistant, Jim Crowe, claims the delay in charging Cooper (almost 2 years after he admitted guilt and over a year after his involvement in a sting operation) was because of Cummings' investigation into the handling of fee offices by the Blunt administration. however, Cummings cleared Blunt back in October of 2006, 8 months before Cooper entered his plea. If Hanaway allows a soon to be convicted felon to represent the resident of Missouri you would think the Blunt investigation had to be going somewhere. Maybe Cooper was cooperating in that investigation and Hanaway needed him to win re election. And why would they delay Cooper's sentencing for an additional 8 months after the Blunt investigation ended?

  • Cooper is supposed to get a lighter sentence because of his cooperation in a sting operation which resulted in charges being filed against Omega Paulite. However, the charges against Paulite were dropped. Could this also indicate Cooper was involved in more than one sting?

  • Cooper's brother, Ryan, initially writes a column claiming his brother deserved a presidential pardon and dismisses as imaginary the ethical lapses of Blunt officials. However, within weeks Ryan Cooper writes another column that painted a picture of Blunt as unethical. What happened? Could Ryan have been sending a message to Blunt? Or could it be that the end is near for Blunt? Or maybe Nathan just realized he won't be getting a pardon.

  • Finally, why has Cooper's sentencing been delayed by the government? If everything is rapped up and there isn't an ongoing investigation there really isn't any reason for the government to delay a sentencing. Usually a request to continue a court date is accompanied by a motion explaining the reasons the date needs to be moved but no reason was given here. Maybe the investigation regarding the illegal visas isn't finished. Or maybe Cooper is cooperating in an investigation unrelated to the visa case.

I don't have answers to these questions but my gut tells me something is up here. Shortly after the Cooper story broke, Republican blogger John Combest had a post about Cooper. Combest wrote that "Nathan is probably too loyal to snitch on all the crooks he knows. But I wish he would." Maybe Cooper followed the advice.

November 22, 2007

Welome to Terry's neighborhood

Terry Payer had an older car that he used everyday. The car didn't have all the frills of new cars but it ran fine and he wanted to keep it. One day a new neighbor moved into Terry's neighborhood named Hank Green. Hank really liked cars and he had always wanted to build a car on his own but he needed help. That's when Hank's cousin, Mac, introduced him to his mechanic, Otis Fallon.

Otis and Hank became friends right away so Otis was happy to help Hank build a new car. However, Otis had one rule; Hank had to let Mac use the new car whenever he went to visit his relatives up north. Hank said he couldn't do that because he knew Mac wanted to visits his relatives up north more often and this would leave Hank without his new car. This is where Terry got involved.

It turns out Otis was also Terry's uncle and Otis told Hank he could have Terry's car even though Otis didn't own it. Although Terry actually owned the car and paid for it, his parents' names, Charlie and Lucy, were on the title. Hank was sure Charlie would give him the car, after all he was Otis' brother, so Hank agreed to go ahead and start work on the new car. When Terry found out his dad was thinking about giving away his car he was livid. Terry reminded his dad they had an agreement that they wouldn't get rid of the car until it couldn't be driven anymore and it wasn't worth fixing. He reminded his dad that he used the car every day and that it was running fine.

Despite the agreement with his son, Charlie decided to give Terry's car to Hank. However, Charlie did make Hank sign a contract that he could not have Terry's car until the new car was completely finished so that Terry could use it if he needed a car. The contract also said Otis had to inspect the new car and agree to take care of it before Hank could take Terry's car.

Even with this agreement, Terry was mad his dad was going to give away his car so he went to his mom, Lucy, and asked her to help. Since her name was also on the title Terry knew his dad couldn't give away the car without his mom's permission. Lucy had no idea her husband had agreed to give away Terry's car so she needed some time to figure out what was going on. Besides, the new car wasn't even done yet so Terry still had his car.

Then one morning in May of 2006 Terry woke up to find his car was missing. Terry knew that Hank hadn't completed the new car and his uncle, Otis, hadn't agreed to take care of it so Terry thought it was stolen. Terry immediately called his dad who told him that Hank and Mac had just borrowed Terry's car and that he would get it back real soon. As the months went by it became clear Terry's wasn't going to get his car back. Hank had given it to Mac and Mac used the parts to build new cars. Terry found out his Uncle Otis even gave Mac permission to start building the new cars with parts from Terry's car.

About seven months after Hank and Mac stole the car they went to see Otis. The new car wasn't built properly or completed so they knew Otis wouldn't sign anything saying he would take care of the car. However, since Mac didn't want to sell his new cars with stolen parts they came up with a plan. Otis would send a letter to Charlie saying that everything Charlie had required in his contract with Hank, (i.e. the new car being completed, inspected and Otis agreeing to take care of it) was done. Otis, Hank and Mac all knew this was a lie but they had to do something to cover their tracks. When Charlie got the letter he also knew it was a lie but at least he could now use this letter to tell everyone Mac owned Terry's car, never mind that they stole the car seven months earlier.

A couple of months after Otis sent the letter to Charlie, Charlie's wife said that Charlie forged her name on the title. Lucy even said that Hank and Mac had stolen the car. When the people who bought the new cars off of Mac heard this they sued him. They say Mac never told them he built the cars with stolen parts and that they just want Mac to take the cars back.

As for Terry, it is now 18 months later and the new car he has to use still isn't completed and it's also not built properly. Because of this Otis won't take care of the problems with the car and Terry has to rely on the people who stole his car to take care of the new one. Hank is so brazen he even had the nerve to try and make Terry pay for the car. The people Terry thought were there to protect him, his dad Charlie and Uncle Otis, not only didn't protect him but they helped Hank and Mac steal his car. Of course, his mom was there for him but he wonders why he would have to go to her to protect him from his own family.

Terry has filed a police report and since no one disputes that Hank and Mac took the car when they didn't own it, this should be a simple case. Terry thinks his uncle and dad are also responsible since Uncle Otis let Hank and Mac tear apart a car they didn't own and his dad knew Uncle Otis was lying when he said the new car was done and he would take care of it. However, Terry doesn't expect anything to happen.

Hank, Mac and their friends have been stealing from Terry and his neighbors for years and the police chief and sheriff have never done a thing to stop them. Why? Well the same people who have been helping Hank and Mac steal from the neighborhood are supposed to be enforcing the law. You see Terry's dad, Charlie, is the sheriff and Uncle Otis is the police chief. Welcome to Terry's neighborhood.

November 21, 2007

Wake Up Call Headlines-2nd Edition

Headline: Fed forecasts slower growth and more out of work next year
Wake Up Call Headline: Fed forecasts slower growth and more people leaving work to spend time with their family next year

Headline: Developer falls short with panel
Wake Up: Developer falls short on campaign contributions

Headline: Foust Leads County Council To Stronger Relationships With Local Governments
Wake Up: County to join forces with local governments to help builders and developers

Headline: Two alleged burglars steal items while woman sleeps in home
Wake Up: Two alleged burglars allegedly steal alleged items while alleged woman allegedly sleeps in alleged home

Headline: Harris to give away 2 tickets to MU-KU game
Wake Up: Harris could become Wake Up Calls favorite candidate

Headline: The Definitive Compilation of Posts on Matt Blunt's Eckersley Scandal
Wake Up: Democrats smell blood

Headline: Beer will be flowing for KU-MU showdown
Wake Up Sunday Headline: KU fans hungover and angry after Mizzou victory

November 20, 2007

Mr. Nixon what about O'Fallon?

The Thin Blue Line is a term used to describe cops covering up illegal actions by other cops. Cops that abide by this rule will tell you that to "protect and serve" they need to take certain liberties with the law now and then. The "you can't handle the truth" defense.

I'm more worried about The Dark Suit Line, a term I just made up to describe politicians covering for politicians. At least some police departments have an Internal Affairs department responsible for investigating cops. We leave it to politicians to investigate other politicians, a system that isn't working. Politicians live in their own world where they pass laws they expect us to abide by yet if they violate a law it is simply a "technicality" or a "political witch hunt.'' A language which is familiar to politicians from both sides of the aisle. Therefore, it is a monumental task to even get an investigation started much less seek justice.

So when Jay Nixon announced his investigation into Matt Blunt over destroying public records an investigation against O'Fallon and other public bodies for doing the same thing does not necessary follow. I have heard suggestions that some in O'Fallon have close ties to Attorney General Jay Nixon and this is the reason O'Fallon is left alone while Blunt is investigated. Of course, others would suggest Nixon is focusing on Blunt because he is running against him or because the Governor is a Republican. I don't buy any of these theories. I believe the media coverage forced Nixon into the Blunt investigation while O'Fallon's actions have gone largely unnoticed. A politician is only willing to cross The Dark Suit Line on rare occasions. After all, someone may find some "technical" violation of the law they committed and start a "political witch hunt."

Fish & Ships Live Remote

The sponsors are lined up, the shirts are being made and the Tiger tail is on the van. The Fish & Ships live remote (no politics, just football) from Arrowhead Stadium is official. This Saturday we will be coming to you live on KFAV from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM for the Mizzou-Kansas game. We hope to have more information tomorrow on our location but with the media frenzy surrounding the Border War we may not know until we get there. So if your heading to Kansas City for the game come on by and join Lyn "the angry man" Schipper and myself for "The World's Largest Outdoor Jayhawk Roast" and cheer on Mizzou's victory.

What is St. Peters worried about?

"The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum."
Adlai E. Stevenson
"There's no free speech in this chamber"
Former St. Peters Alderman David Hayes at a public meeting in February of 2006.

The radio station which airs Fish & Ships, KFAV, has for some time been the station which plays on St. Peters cable access station. Or I should say played. I was informed today that St. Peters recently told management at KFAV that it will no longer carry KFAV on its cable channel because of Fish & Ships. For those who don't know Fish & Ships is a 15 minute show which runs on Tuesday mornings on KFAV. My co-host, Lyn Schipper, and I cover a variety of topics but try to focus on political issues, especially those involving our listening audience in St. Charles, Warren and Lincoln counties. I am very proud of the work we have done in regard to stories on O'Fallon, St. Charles County, Dardenne Prairie and, yes, St. Peters.

St. Peters is a city in which the last mayor, Shawn Brown, is in federal prison for soliciting a bribe. The mayor before him, Tom Brown, had a judgment for $1,375,000.00 entered against him for violating a citizens due process and first amendment rights while he was mayor; an amount the taxpayers of St. Peters may have to pay. Current Mayor Len Pagano made it one of his first orders of business to honor Tom Brown for his outstanding service to the city. With this type of leadership its no wonder St. Peters has become a frequent stop for government watchdogs.

Fox 2 St. Louis has a popular segment, You Paid For It, which covers wasteful spending in government. "You Paid For It" reporter Elliot Davis has made St. Peters his second home. In his last trip to St. Peters, Davis reported that the citizens were paying over $42,000.00 for health insurance for its part time aldermen. The city also pays part of the insurance premiums for retired aldermen. My understanding is that Davis will be returning to St. Peters shortly to do another story.

The truth is that Lyn and I have spent very little time on St. Peters during our show. However, we have spent quite a bit of time discussing corruption in other parts of St. Charles and in particular in O'Fallon. As part of these discussions we have pointed out the primary beneficiary to the corruption; certain favored builders and developers. And my guess is that this is who is behind St. Peters action.

Since we began our show KFAV has received anonymous threats to cancel our show and threats from certain sponsors to pull ads. Thankfully, the ownership and management at the station have stood up to these cowards. What we have never received is a complaint that our allegations are untrue, a request for a correction or any claim we have misrepresented the facts. We encourage anyone who disagrees with us to correct our errors or challenge our opinions. However, we will never give in to those who want to silence us.

Lawsuit filed by homeowners against McBride & Sons

In a story reported in the Post-Dispatch today three families have filed suit against McBride & Sons over homes they purchased from the builder. The homes were built on a public right of way; a fact the homeowners state was not disclosed by the builder. A county road (Koch Road) ran on the right of way and was illegally torn out by the builder and developer to build the houses. St. Charles County and O'Fallon were both involved in the illegal destruction of the road and O'Fallon issued building permits to McBride allowing them to build these homes on the public right of way. At a public workshop on November 8, 2007 O'Fallon attempted to cover up its role in this ongoing dispute. St. Charles County and O'Fallon have not been named in the lawsuit at this time.

November 19, 2007

Fish & Ships

On tomorrow's show ( Starts around 9:00 AM on KFAV, 99.9) we will be talking about the Megan Meier tragedy and the new polls released by the Post-Dispatch. I will have a link available later this week if you were unable to hear the show live.

We are also planning on doing a live remote from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Saturday for the Missouri-Kansas game. I will know for sure tomorrow and I will fill you in on the details. This is probably the biggest game in the history of both schools and it should be a great game, at least for Tiger fans.

How to steal a public road-The cover up

Last week I posted a story about how residents in St. Charles County woke up one morning to find out a county road (Koch Rd.) was illegally torn out by a builder (McBride & Sons) and developer (Hyland Green/Foresight). McBride then used the public right of way to build houses. The City of O'Fallon and St. Charles County were willing co-conspirators in the destruction of the road. The end result has been that some O'Fallon residents recently invested over $200,000.00 in homes which are worthless. Other residents have lost a public road and now are forced to rely on a privately maintained road which is nether complete or up to MODOT standards. Rather than provide answers to how this could happen O'Fallon has intentionally misrepresented the facts to its residents to cover up its role.

Since I posted the first story I have received a copy of an email sent by O'Fallon City Administrator Bob Lowery. Lowery's email was sent in response to an email I sent to councilman Daniel Christoff (I copied in Lowery and all elected officials) which is set out below:
Mr. Christoff:

Thank you for your reply and I appreciate you taking the time to look into
this. I'm not sure if it was simply a typo but in the case of Koch Road
building permits were issued by O'Fallon to build on a road that was not
vacated. I think a Workshop is a great idea and will allow the residents
directly effected an opportunity to get their questions answered. I am glad
to see you do not see the violation of the law which occurred here as well
as the safety issues as "petty arguing" and I hope others on the council
will support your idea of a Workshop. Thanks.


Lowery's response is set out below:



I assume the issue Fischer is raising is that we issued building permits on Koch Road ROW in violation of the law (don’t bother to ask because I have no idea what laws he’s referring to were violated….). You will note that according to him Koch was not vacated when we issued these permits, which is frankly news to me. Please prepare no more than five minutes of presentation for the workshop. I want no editorials, just state the facts. The questions are simple:

When was the preliminary plat approved and did it call for the removal of Koch Road?
Why did the city want old Koch Road removed? Do we know who from the city?
Who authorized the removal of old Koch Road?
When was it removed and by whom?
Did the city, or anyone in authority from the city, have any role in the removal of the road?
Why and when was the record plat approved for the old Koch Road ROW?
Who requested that the record plat be brought to the city council for approval?
Why were building permits issued for the old Koch Road ROW?
Under what authority were the building permits issued? Did anyone, other than those in the building department, order or direct the issuance of these permits?
What correlation, if any, is there between the old Koch Road vacation and any proposals regarding Dierh Road?
What, if any, are the proposals for Dierh Road?


Bob Lowery
City Administrator

This email is nothing more than Lowery's attempt to provide himself an alibi. Lowery's does this by claiming he had no idea that Koch Rd was not vacated when the city issued building permits.

Lowery's alibi makes no sense. Notice that the issue raised by my email is that O'Fallon issued building permits to McBride & Sons to build on Koch Rd when it was not vacated. Lowery even notes this is the issue in his reply. However, my email does not provide any support for my allegations. If my allegation that building permits were issued by the city to allow a builder to illegally construct homes on Koch Rd was, as Lowery claimed, news to him, why wouldn't he challenge my claim? Notice in his questions Lowery fails to ask the most obvious and relevant question; Was Koch Rd vacated at the time the city issued building permits?

This has to be the first question in any real attempt to get answers. Lowery was off his game on this one. The proper strategy, which he has employed in the past, was as follows:

  1. Ask whether Koch Rd was vacated when the permits were issued. When staff tells him it was not (which Lowery already knows) Lowery should then
  2. Demand answers to how this could happen followed by
  3. Act as if this is news to him and then
  4. Find a scapegoat.

Lowery simply skipped steps (1) and (2) and went directly to step (3). Every good thief knows you don't claim you didn't know know the TV in your car was stolen before you make them prove it was stolen.

Of course, Lowery's claim that this was news to him is not true. O'Fallon was provided a copy of the County ordinance no later than November of 2005 and the ordinance clearly stated Koch Rd would not be vacated until New Koch was completed and accepted by the city. The city did not even (falsely) claim these conditions were met until February of 2007; 7 months after the city issued building permits. In addition, this issue was raised by staff as far back as June of 2003. Lowery was specifically told the reasons why the City could not issue building permits in March of 2006 and I raised these issues with him in numerous emails. There has also been media and internet coverage of the allegations against O'Fallon. Finally, in a pubic meeting in which Lowery attended, the issue regarding what needed to be done to vacate Koch Rd was discussed well after O'Fallon issued the permits.

The Koch Rd. case is indicative of the ongoing efforts of public officials to help out the big money builders and developers in St. Charles County. The amount of money the builders/developers pour into local political races is astonishing but I have no doubt some public officials receive more than just campaign contributions for their loyal service. For this reason I will continue to follow up on Koch Rd. as well as the other abuses which are a way of life here.

November 17, 2007

Fish & Ships

Here is a link to Fish & Ships last show as well as some of the older shows. Thanks to the O'Fallon Watchdog for the help. The Watchdog has a lot of good material on it and it is my understanding the site will soon be updated.

The death of Megan Meier

Back in October of 2006 my oldest daughter told my wife and I that a girl she knew, Megan Meier, had killed herself. She didn't know Megan well but she knew some of Megan's friends better, including Tracy (not her real name) who lived down the street from Megan.. We talked to our daughter about the suicide but we knew little about the circumstances of this tragedy and after some time passed it was no longer a subject of conversation at our home or around town. That is until one week ago.

After a year of remaining silent Megan's parents decided to talk about the circumstances of their daughter's death. In a well written column by Steve Pokin of the Suburban Journals, the Meiers talked about their daughter's suicide. The Meier's told Pokin about a new friend, Josh, their daughter had made on MySpace, how Josh made Megan feel good about herself and how devastated Megan was when Josh ended their friendship. According to Megan's father the last message Josh left was "Everybody in O'Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you." Weeks after Megan's suicide the Meiers were told by a neighbor that there never was a "Josh" and that he had been created by Tracy's mom. Tracy's mom declined to talk to Pokin but according to a police report she admitted creating the account to find out what Megan was saying about Tracy. Apparently several people had access to the fake Josh account including the daughter of the neighbor who finally broke the news to the Meiers.

Pokin did not provide the name of Tracy's parents and this decision was explained in the following statement which appeared in the article, "The Suburban Journals have decided not to name the family out of consideration for their teenage daughter." The Journal has been criticized for its decision not to print the names, however, the story has taken on a life of its own on the internet. Not only can you find the name of Tracy and her parents but you can also find their address, phone number and the name of a business run by the mother. Megan's death has become a national story and, with that, the actions of Tracy's mom have caused a national uproar.

I cannot imagine the horrible pain Megan's death has caused the Meiers and they will no doubt continue to wonder how much of a role the immature and stupid decision to create the fake "Josh" played in her death. Meanwhile the identification of Tracy and her parents on the internet has resulted in threats and verbal attacks against Tracy's family and Tracy herself.

Here in O'Fallon it seems everyone has a connection to someone that was involved and rumors involving both families are all over town. We talked to our daughter about the column Pokin wrote which was the first time she heard the story. After hearing the story she told us that this explained why Tracy wasn't in school all week. We told her that with emotions running so high we doubt Tracy will return to school. I'm sure Tracy's parents are worried about how she will be treated by the kids at school. I'm more worried about how the adults are reacting. Let's hope everyone takes a deep breathe before this sad story results in another tragedy.

November 15, 2007

Nixon appoints special team to investigate Blunt's office

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon announced today that he appointed a special team headed by Mel Fisher, former superintendent of the Highway Patrol, to look into whether the governor’s office followed the "sunshine law" and records retention policies. The sunshine laws and the record retention laws provide for both civil and criminal sanctions. Nixon's announcement comes on the same day that Blunt announced his new email retention policy for state offices. Both moves are good news.

One would hope we could focus on the issues rather than on the politics. Certainly there is a political angle to this story but we need to separate that from the hard news. You can expect the partisans from both parties to put their "spin" on both stories. And there certainly is a political angle that needs to be covered. However, to focus just on the political fight plays right into the hands of law breaking politicians of both parties.

Blunt's change in policy on email retention is a victory for open government. You know most democrats are not going to applaud Blunt's decision but instead will attack his motives. Maybe they are right but shouldn't truly independent journalists focus on what Blunt's changes mean first?

In no way, however, should Blunt's office get a pass on their prior actions and that is why Nixon did the right thing in appointing an outside team to investigate. The investigation needs to focus on:
  • What Blunt's office actually did in regard to retaining emails and other public documents.
  • In regard to the destruction of public documents we need to know what authority Blunt's office relied on for these actions. This should include any internal policies and legal authorities.
  • Was their any internal discussion regarding these policies and, if so, the who, what, when,why and how of such debate.
  • Who actually was involved in the destruction of public records and who was aware of these actions..
  • What action if any was taken to stop this practice.
  • What records were destroyed and is there any way to retrieve them.
  • What is being done to make sure this does not happen again.

After this is done there must be consequences. This should include everyone involved whether they are the governor or one of his assistants. And let's hope the media makes this the focus of their stories and understands the difference between the actual investigation and the politics. We are not off to a good start.

The only story I could find in the Post-Dispatch had a headline of: Blunt, Nixon spar over e-mails. As the title of the article suggests, the story is mainly about politics. Couldn't they at least have reported the facts about Nixon's appointment before a column on the political dispute? As I stated in an earlier post every politician that is accused of wrongdoing immediately cries out "its all about politics." It works and because of this public corruption is rarely investigated and even more rarely prosecuted.

To avoid this I suggest a journalist treat the story as they would any other criminal investigation. Let the readers know what is being alleged, what facts are uncovered, what the law is and what legal defenses the accused may have. And just to make this clear "this is about politics" is not a legal defense. If you follow this standard your readers will be able to tell when it really is just about politics.

Blunt: State to begin system of retaining emails

Governor Matt Blunt has announced the state will begin a system of retaining emails. A story from the AP stated:

Gov. Matt Blunt is directing his administration to create a permanent e-mail retention system that he says goes beyond legal requirements.Blunt announced today that every e-mail in all of state government will be retained automatically and permanently, and will be open for public inspection, except where legal and privacy concerns apply.

This is just the first step in open and transparent government and hopefully other public bodies such as O'Fallon will follow Blunt's lead in complying with the law.

November 14, 2007

Has the Post-Dispatch quit covering St. Charles County?

Has any one else noticed that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has abandoned its coverage of St. Charles County? While the St. Charles bureau ignored real news, played favorites, lacked any semblance of journalistic ethics and mainly provided PR for its advertisers, at least we had a few stories to read. John Sonderegger's "Talk of Charleytown" column appeared 3 times a week and since he accepted a buy out the Post has not replaced him. Sonderegger would occasionally cover a council meeting and when he reported on what transpired at the meeting you could at least be confident a meeting really did occur.

Has the slowdown in the once booming housing market caused the Post to lose ad revenue in St. Charles? Has this lost revenue caused the Post to lose interest in the area? Or could the Post be in the process of a long overdue restructuring of the St. Charles bureau? Lets hope so. And if the Post does come back lets hope it brings with it a real investigative reporter. Such a reporter would would have a great opportunity to do what I thought most of journalists wanted to do; make a difference.

Wake Up Call Headlines

The Headline: Blunt's office files ethics complaint against Eckersley
Wake Up Call Headline: Missouri Supreme Court deletes ethics complaint filed by Blunt's office

Headline: O.J. Simpson to stand trial in Las Vegas
Wake Up: If the memorabilia is mine, I'll be fine

Headline: Vaz
Wake Up: Jeff Roe and the ethics of gutter politics

Headline: NFL Will Let Ricky Run Again
Wake Up: Ricky Williams says he will only play on grass (fields)

Headline: New Links Added to Turner Report
Wake Up: Turner: "It was either add his link or get a restraining order"

Headline: Nixon: Action coming in record retention case
Wake Up: Nixon: Really? I'm the Attorney General?

Headline: Wake Up Call Headlines
Wake Up: Fischer still searching for hobby

November 13, 2007

Corruption lesson 1: How to steal a public road.

On May 13, 2006 residents who used (old) Koch Road, a county road in O'Fallon, woke up to find the road destroyed. Without warning and without any legal authority a builder and developer began tearing out the road beginning on a Friday evening. Those responsible for protecting the residents, St. Charles County and O'Fallon, were willing co-conspirators. Here is how it happened:

  • June of 2003-OFallon approves an area plan for a new subdivision called Hyland Green. The subdivision includes (old) Koch Road and the area plan shows (old) Koch as being vacated with houses where the road once ran. The plan required that (old) Koch be vacated before work began but since (old) Koch was a county road O'Fallon had no authority to vacate the road.
  • May 27, 2005-A group of 12 residents filed a petition in St. Charles County asking that (old) Koch Road be vacated.
  • May of 2005-A letter was issued by O'Fallon informing the builder that building permits would not be issued until (old) Koch was vacated.
  • June 13 ,2005-38 residents filed a protest against the vacation of (old) Koch Road. This is known as a remonstrance and required a hearing before the County Council.
  • June 20, 2005-Under the direction of O'Fallon Mayor Donna Morrow, Todd Criswell, the head of Community Development, sent a letter to Steve Groeper (Hyland Green/Foresight Development, the developer) and David Jones of McBride & Sons (the builder) informing them that the city would not issue building permits on 21 lots until (old) Koch Road was officially vacated by the County. This letter was consistent with the requirements of the area plan as well common sense. The mayor and board (which included Bill Hennessy) were copied in on the letter.
  • September 20, 2005-St. Charles County sent a letter to Foresight Development informing Foresight that it could not disturb (old) Koch Road because the vacation was still pending. It should also be noted any work on (old) Koch would be a violation of the area plan and a criminal act under Missouri law which makes it a crime to obstruct a public road.
  • November 21, 2005-Mayor Morrow received a fax of the proposed ordinance of St. Charles County which would vacate (old) Koch Road once two conditions were met. The most important of these was that New Koch Road be completed, inspected, approved and accepted by O'Fallon. Once this was done the County would then file a certified copy of the ordinance with the Recorder of Deeds, officially vacating Koch Road. The acceptance of New Koch was for maintenance in that the county did not want to tear up an existing road without a publicly maintained road to replace it. Remember though that this was still only a proposed ordinance.
  • January 19, 2006-The hearing is held before the St. Charles Council on the request to vacate (old) Koch. The law requires that the road cannot be vacated unless it is "useless" (Section 228.110 RSMo). (At least that's what the law had been for years until some of our State Representatives decided to try and help the guilty parties get out of this jam.) The evidence submitted by the developer proves conclusively that (old) Koch is not useless. Prior to New Koch being built 1100 vehicles a day used (old) Koch and after New Koch was opened 850 vehicles a day used (old) Koch. These traffic counts were from the developer's own expert.
  • March 27, 2006-The County Council votes to pass bill # 2715 which provides that (old) Koch Road will be vacated once certain conditions are met (again, that New Koch Road be completed, inspected, approved and accepted by O'Fallon was one of the conditions) at which time a certified copy of the ordinance was to be filed with the Recorder of Deeds.
  • March 28, 2006-O'Fallon City Administrator Bob Lowery sends an email (copying in only 2 elected officials, Bob Patek and Mayor Morrow) stating that Lowery understood the County had voted to vacate (old) Koch Road the night before. The email was sent to Todd Criswell, O'Fallon's director of Community Development, and stated that the developer had "been calling us" about the pending approval of the plats. Lowery asked how soon the road vacation would take place and how the developer could "get back to work without any further delays on our part."
  • March 29, 2006-Criswell responded to Lowery's email and asked if there was an appeal process and if so how long did anyone have to file an appeal? Criswell then pointed out to Lowery the following issues:

    a) O'Fallon needed the formal documents from St. Charles vacating the roadway.
    b) O'Fallon needed letters or documents from all utilities vacating the existing easements.
    c) O'Fallon needed a record plat showing the vacation of the old road and showing the new residential lots over the old roadway.
    d) O'Fallon needed New Koch Road to be platted and recorded before the removal of the old road.
    e) O'Fallon needed CC&R's and escrows established for both plats.
  • April 11, 2007-Bill # 2715, which would vacate (old) Koch Road if certain conditions were met, became Ordinance 06-048 since 10 days had passed without County Executive Joe Ortwerth signing or vetoing the bill.
  • April 17, 2006-The parties opposed to the potential vacation of (old) Koch Road filed an appeal to the Circuit Court of St. Charles County challenging the County's decision.
  • May 10, 2006-Bob Lowery suspends Todd Criswell. [Criswell was later fired by Lowery and he has filed suit against Lowery and O'Fallon for firing him for (1) cooperating with federal authorities investigating allegations of corruption and (2) as a whistle blower.]
  • May 12, 2006-On a Friday work began to illegally remove (old) Koch Road. The work was continued the next day (a Saturday) so that (old) Koch Road was no longer available for public travel. Residents who called St. Charles County (as well as County Councilman Joe Brazil who was the only council member to vote against the vacation of (old) Koch) about the destruction of the road were told the work was being done for utility easements and that this was only temporary. According to O'Fallon officials the road was destroyed by Foresight and McBride.
  • August of 2006-According to Steve Bender's statements on November 8, 2007, O'Fallon issued building permits sometime in this month.
  • February 8, 2007-Keith Hazelwood appeared before the O'Fallon Council on behalf of the developer and requested the City pass bill # 5487 which approved the Road dedication and easement plat of Koch Road and Tower Place. Hazelwood requested the O'Fallon Council pass this quickly because this was the last step needed to have the county vacate (old) Koch Road. Hazelwood explained that the builder wanted to close on some houses and this could not be done until the County vacated (old) Koch Road. Hazelwood was wrong in that the County required the City to accept New Koch Road and bill # 5487 specifically stated "That the owners have agreed, that the streets and other site improvements will not be accepted by (O'Fallon) until they are built in full compliance with O'Fallon ordinances and rules pertaining thereto." The council passed the bill.
  • February 8, 2007-I emailed Bob Lowery and pointed out that the City had not accepted New Koch Road and asked Mr. Lowery to advise if I was incorrect. I then asked how the builder was allowed to build on a public road. Lowery responded but did not answer any of the questions. I again emailed Lowery and asked him why he could not answer a simple question as to whether the City had accepted New Koch. Lowery again responded without answering the question and claimed the answer would require staff research and that he did not have any direct knowledge of the information.
  • February 9, 2007-Bill # 5487 was signed by the Mayor and became Ordinance 5145.
  • February 14, 2007-Steve Bender, O'Fallon's City Engineer, wrote a letter to the County stating that "the city has accepted new Koch Rd." He also stated the New Koch had been "completed,inspected, approved, opened to traffic and accepted by the City of O'Fallon pursuant to County Ordinance No. 06-048." Bender attached a copy of Ordinance 06-048, which, again, stated that (old) Koch would not be vacated until New Koch was completed, inspected, approved and accepted by O'Fallon. Bender's letter stated that O'Fallon Ordinance 5145 was "approved by the City Council and signed by the Mayor formally accepting (New Koch Road.)" Again, 5145 does not contain any language accepting New Koch Road but does state that the streets will not be accepted until they are completed in compliance with O'Fallon Ordinances. Bender's letter to the County, however, did not include a copy of 5145.
  • February 20, 2007-Based upon the February 14, 2007 letter from Bender which incorrectly stated O'Fallon had accepted New Koch, St. Charles County formally filed Ordinance 06-048 with the recorder of deeds. This is the first time anyone could claim (old) Koch Rd was vacated. Again, however, the vacation was based on a misrepresentation by O'Fallon that it had accepted New Koch.
  • April 4, 2007-Judge Lucy Rauch issues an initial order that the County's decision to vacate Koch Road was in violation of the law.
  • April 11, 2007-In response to an email I sent, Steve Bender informed me that O'Fallon had not accepted New Koch for maintenance and would not do so for some time.
  • June 14, 2007-St. Charles County and Hyland Green, in written memos and oral argument, both tried to represent to the court that O'Fallon had accepted New Koch Road . In reliance they cited the court to Steve Bender's letter of February 14, 2007. Interestingly, neither the County nor Hyland Green attached a copy of the Ordinance Bender cited which directly refuted the claim the City had accepted New Koch. When I read to the court the actual language of O'Fallon's ordinance and Mr. Bender's email stating O'Fallon had not accepted New Koch for maintenance, Harold Ellis, from the County's counselor's office, claimed he was unaware the City had not accepted New Koch for maintenance and that it was certainly the intent of the County that New Koch be accepted for maintenance before (old) Koch was vacated.
  • June 18, 2007- Judge Lucy Rauch issued her final Judgment which set aside the County Ordinance vacating (old) Koch Rd. Judge Rauch also found that (old) Koch Rd was destroyed before it was vacated.
  • November 8, 2007-Steve Bender appeared at a workshop at O'Fallon City Hall to answer questions about the City's role in allowing the road to be illegally destroyed and in issuing building permits to allow homes to be constructed on (old) Koch. The questions were provided by Lowery and some of the statements made to the Council and resident were as follows:
  1. The City wanted (old) Koch removed because with New Koch Road it was no longer needed. My response- The City did not have the authority to give away a county road and should never have approved this plan in the beginning. It just so happens that O'Fallon's Mayor at the time, Paul Renaud, was hired by McBride & Sons, the builder, after he became mayor. Renaud was hired into an executive position although he had been a dry wall installer. In addition, the construction of a new road is not a legal reason to destroy another road. New roads are often required when a new subdivision is built because of the increased traffic. By destroying a road the public already owns the taxpayers will be forced to pay for a new road to handle the increased traffic caused by O'Fallon's rapid growth.
  2. O'Fallon authorized the removal of (old) Koch when it approved the area plan in 2003. Response- Wrong. The city does not have any authority to approve the removal of a county road.
  3. (Old) Koch Road was vacated on March 27, 2006 when the County passed Ordinance 06-048. Response-Wrong. And it wasn't vacated on April 11, 2006 when 06-048 actually became effective because 06-048 required O'Fallon to accept New Koch Road. And (old) Koch wasn't vacated on February 9, 2007 when O'Fallon ordinance 5145, approving the road dedication and easement plat of Koch Road and Tower Place, became law because this ordinance specifically stated that it was not an acceptence of New Koch Road. And (old) Koch was still not vacated when the City wrote a letter on February 14, 2007 to the County (rather than send a copy of the actual ordinance) claiming Ordinance 5145 accepted New Koch Road when the ordinance said just the opposite. And (old) Koch wasn't even vacated on Feruary 20, 2007 when the County claims (old) Koch was vacated because the County alleges it did so based on O'Fallon's letter which incorrectly states New Koch was vacated. In fact, (old) Koch was never vacated.
  4. The building permits were issued by O'Fallon in August of 2006 because (old) Koch had been vacated in March 2006. Response- Wrong. See answer above.
  5. The issuance of the building permits to build homes on a public road was done through normal procedures in the building department and no one outside the building department played a role in this. Response- So Lowery asks one of his employees a question whether this was done through normal procedures without any outside influence. Lowery had already made it clear he wanted this project to move forward "without any further delays on our part." The employee who pointed out the obvious reasons why building permits could not be issued was suspended and two days later the builder and developer began removing (old) Koch. Later on Lowery claims he had no knowledge regarding how building permits were issued. Some might believe Lowery's asked a CYA question and the employee knew he had to provide a CYA answer for Lowery but I'll let you make the call on this one.

Here is how I see it: The County, developer, builder and O'Fallon knew that County's decision to vacate (old) Koch was not legal and, therefore, likely to be overturned by a Judge. They were right. However, in preparation for this occurrence they decided to openly violate the law (not much of a risk since those responsible for enforcing the law were actively violating it themselves), build houses on (old) Koch and then argue "but Judge even if we were wrong how can you kick these poor innocent people out of their homes?" Which is exactly what they have argued. However, their attempts to pit the new homeowners (who truly are innocent victims) against the residents (who still are without a new publicly maintained road) that had to do what their own elected representatives refused to do (follow the law), has not worked. Both the homeowners and residents know who really is to blame in this and their is no animosity between them. Instead, everyone wants justice, something many of us use to believe was the function of government. How sadly ironic.