DESE and The Hijacking of HB 1490

Last Friday, I received confirmation from the Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives office that I was picked to be a participant on a work group established by HB 1490. This allows for groups of parents and educators to work together to develop standards for our schools. The language of HB 1490 is as follows, as related to the makeup of these work groups:

3. Work group members shall be selected in the following manner:
(1) Two parents of children currently enrolled in grades kindergarten through twelve shall be selected by the president pro tempore of the senate;
(2) Two parents of children currently enrolled in grades kindergarten through twelve shall be selected by the speaker of the house of representatives;
(3) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by the professional teachers’ organizations of the state;
(4) One education professional selected by a statewide association of Missouri school boards;
(5) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by a statewide coalition of school administrators;
(6) Two education professionals selected by the president pro tempore of the senate in addition to the members selected under subdivision (1) of this subsection;
(7) Two education professionals selected by the speaker of the house of representatives in addition to the members selected under subdivision (2) of this subsection;
(8) One education professional selected by the governor;
(9) One education professional selected by the lieutenant governor;
(10) One education professional selected by the commissioner of higher education;
(11) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by nationally-recognized career and technical education student organizations operating in Missouri; and
(12) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by the heads of state-approved baccalaureate-level teacher preparation programs located in Missouri.

This would be a total of 16 members for each of the designated work groups. Notice that nowhere in this language will you find a role for DESE or their designees.

When I arrived at the Capital this morning, I was energized to be a part of the process that would determine the future of our children’s education, while preserving the local control of our school districts set forth in our state Constitution. As a parent in one of the state’s smallest school districts, the opportunity to work with parents and educators to define our State’s path in education is an honor. The responsibility of being appointed to these work groups is one that I definitely felt as I walked through the halls of our State Capital.

As I told the fellow members of our work group (History and Government, K-5), this is the single most important thing I have ever done in my life. I felt a swell of pride when I made that statement, along with a rush of emotion.

It is a responsibility not just to my children, but to all children, and parents, in the state of Missouri.

When I made my way to the Truman Building to meet the members of our work group, I was ready to get about this serious work. Upon arriving, I found myself faced with a reality that was the anti-thesis of what I was expecting and completely contrary to the language in HB 1490.

I walked in to find a small group of people, considerably less than the full 16 member panel clearly defined in HB 1490. Only ten members of our group were assembled. This was the first disappointment of the day.

I was greeted by a ‘facilitator’ when I entered the conference room. This person had assumed the role of leadership over our work group and was flanked by two other representatives from the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary education. I was puzzled. DESE, according to HB 1490, was not supposed to be a participant in these work sessions. While they are open to the public (and I encourage anyone who can attend to do so), DESE is not supposed to have a role in these groups. The state legislature went to great lengths to determine who is supposed to participate in these sessions. They did not list DESE in the language above, defining the makeup of these groups.

I didn’t say anything at first. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was witnessing. Soon after I took my seat, it became abundantly clear.

I was witnessing the same assumption of authority by DESE that has become the standard in schools across Missouri. DESE’s ‘facilitator’ was lying in wait to execute a coup of the process set forth by HB 1490, perched behind her Power Point presentation like a Black Widow ready to devour any hapless fly who dissented from DESE’s darling, the Common Core Standards.

From DESE’s own website, http://www.dese.mo.gov:

The meetings are open to the public, but are not open meetings. Only members of the work groups may contribute to the discussion, again as specified in the law. However, three public hearings will be held during the development process to allow for comments from the public on the proposed standards.

When another parent and I questioned her role and participation in the group, it became immediately clear the room was stacked with DESE designees. Administrators from across the state leapt to her defense, eager and willing to give up their responsibilities under HB 1490 in order to follow DESE’s lead.

When I questioned moving forward without a full work group, I learned how determined DESE and its supporters were to thwart the entire process laid out in HB 1490. Over and over I was told that it didn’t matter that the other representatives were in attendance. The rationale that was given was that we ‘were already here’ so we should proceed with our work session.

As I pointed out, beginning any work without the full assembly of our group was problematic. Given the importance of the task we are charged with, it seemed imperative that we adhere to the process set forth by HB 1490.

Our work group is, after all, developing standards for History and Government. It seems laughable that we should disregard the legislature’s intent with HB 1490 because DESE and a few hell bent administrators say so.

These concerns also fell on deaf ears. A majority of the group that was assembled today were all too willing to ignore the fact that we were missing six members of our group. Their desire to effectively disenfranchise other members of our work group, by insisting we play ‘follow the leader’ and continue the charade was disconcerting. Those most vocal in wanting to press forward, without a full group and, as DESE themselves said, in violation of the law with the participation of a ‘facilitator’ set off several alarm bells in my head.

It made me thankful that my children aren’t in their districts.

The hit parade continued with objection after objection being voted down by a count of hands willing to continue a process that was very clearly flawed.

Finally, when the afternoon session resumed, I found that I could not, in good conscience, continue to participate in an illegitimate process. Too much is riding on what comes out of these work groups. To begin a process under the pretense that we are following the path laid out by HB 1490, would be to participate in a sham. I cannot, and will not, lend my name as validation for a process that is flawed from inception. I cannot and will not participate in the hijacking of our children’s future. To do so, gives the charade the pretense of validity and there was nothing valid, legal or legitimate about the coup I witnessed in today’s meeting.

In talking with several other parents, I made the point that our only leverage is our participation. If we, as parents and people who can read HB 1490, continue to lend our credibility to this process through our attendance, we are failing our children and become willing conspirators in a fraud.

While administrators across our state seem willing to move forward with this, I am not.

Our children’s future is far too valuable to be traded away for a DESE meal ticket.

Advertisements

The Brandon Ellingson Case: The Tip of the Iceberg

In the days since the inquest, a dedicated effort to absolve Trooper Anthony (Tony) Piercy has been evident. The narrative presented to the public and the media by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Piercy has taken on more leaks than the Lake icon, the Larry Don. What has been brought to the surface in the wake of the inquest is a veritable boatful of omissions, lies, misrepresentations and a clear and determined effort to clear Piercy of criminal charges.

This campaign, waged by local elected officials, the MSHP and Piercy, is founded on a litany of half and untruths. It has called into question not only the actions taken by Piercy on Saturday evening, May 31, but also the credibility and legitimacy of elected Lake area officials and the MSHP’s Troop F, who worked in conjunction to stack the deck in favor of Piercy.
The narrative put forth by the MSHP, reinforced by ‘evidence’ carefully selected and presented at the Coroner’s inquest, has begun to fall apart under scrutiny from both the public and the media outside of the Lake of the Ozarks area. What lies beneath the surface of this failed attempt to mislead the public is a stark, harsh truth for both residents and visitors to the Lake of the Ozarks.

The message is clear: Lake area law enforcement will not be held accountable for their actions, even if those actions result in murder. The public is not safe at the Lake of the Ozarks, not with regard to law enforcement. The lack of accountability and transparency has become the institutional norm and, as a direct result, cops of every stripe, municipal, county and state, are allowed to run roughshod at the Lake, a thuggish street gang whose colors are the gold of badges protected by the infamous ‘blue line’. The result? An arrogant, out of control, untrained, inexperienced, testosterone fueled, highly armed and predatory posse that roams the communities of the Lake of the Ozarks, looking for their next victim.

Most visitors and tourists to the Lake aren’t privy to the actions taken by these departments. Those who are unfortunate enough to learn the ugly truth about the Lake’s Gestapo, like Brandon Ellingson, can only hope they live through a traffic stop, whether on land or water. If they don’t survive the encounter, like Brandon and former Linn Creek resident Glenn David Norman, Tased to death by four Lake area cops for the crime of knocking on the wrong door, there is little hope for justice.

Instead of criminal charges in these cases, families are told to seek remedy through the civil court system. This avenue, not designed or intended to be used as the last stand for victims, is a costly one. For those who cannot afford to pursue a lengthy, protracted legal battle against these departments (funded by our own taxes), the notion of justice is unattainable. For a police force whose aggression level and intrusive practices have continued to creep forward, this is tantamount to being ‘above the law’.

A review of the case of Brandon Ellingson’s death, the negligence and reckless actions that contributed to it and the subsequent cover-up are undeniable proof of this institutionalized mindset. Cops are beyond prosecution. They don’t have to adhere to the rules as we are expected to. Instead, they have been handed a license that exempts them from being charged as criminals, regardless of the offensiveness of their behavior.
The recent case of Osage Beach police officer, Richard Calvino, speaks directly to the protection local police receive from the ‘good ol boy’ network.

Richard Calvino was charged with five felonies after his molestation of a local girl. The molestation began when the girl was 11 and continued until she was 17. He faced charges of first degree sexual abuse, sodomy, first degree deviate sexual assault, first degree sexual assault with a victim age 14-15 and second degree deviate sexual assault with a victim age 16.
This deviant predator was charged initially with statutory rape, after an investigation was conducted by none other than Highway Patrol Troop F. The investigation, conducted in 2011, resulted in Calvino initially being charged with first degree statutory rape. Statutory rape only, despite the probable cause statement issued by the Teflon Troop’s Sgt. C.W. Wirths. It described several descriptions of sexual contact between Calvino and the girl.

Richard Calvino, convicted child molesting police officer, will never see jail for his crimes.  The 'good ol boy' network at the Lake saw to that.

Richard Calvino, convicted child molesting police officer, will never see jail for his crimes. The ‘good ol boy’ network at the Lake saw to that.

In 2010, the victim had several recorded and preserved conversations with the molester. These conversations were turned over to the Teflon Troop, who interviewed Calvino near the end of 2010. The Teflon Troop, in relaying the story to local media, made sure to include Calvino’s denials and the statement: “Calvino also stated he was not the type of person to do such a thing.”

Apparently, that was good enough for his brothers in blue, as the relatively minor charge of statutory rape was the only one filed initially. The ‘blue line’ circled Calvino in a protective cocoon, despite a public statement by former Osage Beach Police Chief Dave Severson meant to assuage anger from the community. Severson assured the public that ‘Calvino would remain on suspension until the case is resolved.’ That statement, as is becoming the norm for law enforcement at the Lake, was a lie.

Calvino not only returned to work after a brief suspension, he remained working in the Osage Beach Police Department, until he entered a guilty plea less than 24 hours before his trial was scheduled to begin in Morgan County.

The plea deal was a travesty.

Richard Calvino pled guilty to two of the counts: Deviate sexual assault in the first degree with a victim aged 14-15 and deviate sexual assault in the second degree with a victim aged 16-17. This child molesting cop was given a suspended imposition of sentence, five years of supervised probation.
He did not and will not serve any jail time for his crimes.

This verdict was rendered by 26th Circuit Judge Kenneth Hayden.
This offensive, gross miscarriage of justice was agreed to by Camden County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Keedy, and it speaks to the institutional, systemic problems at the Lake of the Ozarks.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Morgan County prosecuting attorney Dustin Dunklee as reaching the plea deal in Calvino’s case. This was incorrect and has been changed to reflect Brian Keedy’s role in this case.

Vests, Lies and Videotape: The Cover-Up of Brandon Ellingson’s Murder

Featured

After the Coroner’s inquest concluded Thursday Sept. 4 in Versailles, Craig Ellingson, father of drowning victim Brandon Ellingson, called the jury’s decision a “hometown verdict”. The Morgan County jury was seated to review the death of Brandon Ellingson, a 20 year-old native of Clive, Iowa and Arizona State University student, who died while in custody of the Missouri State Water Patrol on May 31 at the popular Midwest tourist destination, the Lake of the Ozarks. The Ellingson family was disappointed in the jury’s determination that Brandon’s death by drowning while handcuffed and in custody of Missouri State Highway Patrolman Anthony Piercy was ‘accidental’.

Brandon Ellingson, native of Clive, IA and Arizona State student murdered on the Lake of the Ozarks.

Brandon Ellingson, native of Clive, IA and Arizona State student murdered on the Lake of the Ozarks.

“I still think the inquest was a joke.” Craig Ellingson said following the decision Thursday. “Basically what they were trying to do was get Piercy off the hook so he wouldn’t get any criminal charges. “

“They’re just telling one side of the story.”

Craig Ellingson, addressing reporters after jury announced  Brandon's cause of death as 'accidental'.  Craig called the verdict a 'hometown decision' and a 'joke'.

Craig Ellingson, addressing reporters after jury announced Brandon’s cause of death as ‘accidental’. Craig called the verdict a ‘hometown decision’ and a ‘joke’.

On May 31st, a Saturday, Brandon was with friends at the Lake of the Ozarks. According to a June article from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Brandon and his buddies were planning on doing what thousands of Midwestern college kids do each summer at the Lake of the Ozarks.

‘It was supposed to be one of those epic weekends college kids have: good times, old friends, the water and the beach.

The Thursday before he died, Ellingson, 20, retweeted a message from a friend:

“This weekend is gonna feel like something out of Entourage.”
The “Entourage” referenced was an HBO series about a celebrity and his childhood friends. Ellingson didn’t need a celebrity to draw a crowd. He was the kind of young man who could command an entourage all of his own. His buddies called him “Swells”.‘

The Lake of the Ozarks has been a destination for tourists since it was formed after the completion of Bagnell Dam. It has traditionally been a place for Midwesterners to vacation and was built on a reputation of friendliness and a laid-back atmosphere. For many second home owners, like the Ellingsons, this was part of the attraction of the Lake.

In recent years however, the Lake of the Ozarks has become a magnet for police officers of multiple agencies, causing many local residents to question what many believe is an over-saturation of police. Concerns over the escalating police presence at the Lake of the Ozarks have been the subject of repeated comments from Lake residents, who see this overwhelming law enforcement presence as a threat to tourism. The Osage Beach PD, Lake Ozark PD, Camdenton PD, Camden County Sheriff Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Water Patrol have converged on the Lake in growing numbers, becoming a very real threat to the economic health of the area.

The merger of the Water Patrol and Highway Patrol in 2011 led to Piercy's being in a boat on Memorial Day weekend.

The merger of the Water Patrol and Highway Patrol in 2011 led to Piercy’s being in a boat on Memorial Day weekend.

Nor is it simply the sheer numbers of law enforcement officers that concern residents. The increasingly hostile attitude of these agencies, the predatory practices that have become the established norm and the for-profit private probation companies that have sprung up in their wake have created a real blight on the Lake of the Ozarks landscape.

Compounding these issues is the lack of trust the community has in these agencies. The lack of transparency and accountability has created a very real mistrust between the community and these departments. Simply put, these law enforcement agencies have continued to act with impunity and without fear of retribution or consequences. The refusal to prosecute illegal behavior by these ‘officers of the law’ has served to place them above the law.

This prompted a recent protest in Camden County to ‘Shine The Light on Dwight’, a reference to the dozens of cases of police brutality, inaction and selective targeting. Local residents of the Lake of the Ozarks have seen a transformation of local law enforcement in recent years that has abandoned the ‘protect and serve’ motto.

This problem is not exclusive to local departments. As the case of Brandon Ellingson continues to illustrate, the codification of reckless, criminal behavior by law enforcement goes all the way to the top in Missouri, as Governor Jay Nixon’s office has played a predominant role in the cover-up that followed the death of this young man.

There is a desire on the part of elected officials to absolve themselves from responsibility for this downward spiral of law enforcement agencies across the state. Nixon himself merged the Highway and Water Patrols, creating the conditions for what would later be described by Water Patrol veteran officer Sgt. Randy Henry as a ‘perfect storm’. Combining these agencies and the decision to have road officers work our waterways is directly responsible for Brandon’s death.

This provides some context for the cover-up that has ensued after the avoidable death of Brandon Ellingson, but it only tells part of the story. The actions taken by Anthony Piercy, both on May 31st and beyond, speak to a larger problem that is endemic in these agencies: The belief that officers are above the law has led to them acting more and more like the criminals they are supposed to apprehend. The case of Brandon Ellingson could easily be compared to the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Police across our state have the mentality they are judge, jury and executioner. This institutional failure is not the exception, it is the rule and unless citizens reassert their control over these departments, it will only get worse.

Tomorrow, your child could be a victim of these conditions. Certainly the Ellingson family did not expect that their son, at the Lake of the Ozarks for vacation, would wind up dead, a victim of police out of control, their actions protected by a system rife with corruption.

As Craig Ellingson said, regarding the family’s decision to sell their Lake home:

“It’s the atmosphere with the lake patrol. I didn’t think it was a safe atmosphere to be in.”

“Anyone who has kids down there needs to be careful.” He said. “I wouldn’t let my dog go out in a boat down there.”

IMPROBABLE CAUSE

At approximately five on that Saturday afternoon, Missouri State Trooper Anthony Piercy took Brandon into custody on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. As reported by the Waynesville Daily Guide, and their Gatehouse partner the Lake Sun, Piercy claimed that a beer can fly off the boat near the lake front establishment, Coconuts. This observation led him to approach the boat Brandon and his friends were on.

Piercy’s claim of simply being in the area and observing the beer can fall off the boat, is the first of many lies in the case of Brandon Ellingson. As Laura Bauer of the Kansas City Star reported, Piercy’s actions that day, before he came into contact with Ellingson, had already caused concern and prompted phone calls to his superiors, 911 and an area state representative. The predatory behavior he had displayed on Saturday, May 31 sounds very much like he was stalking prey.

From the Kansas City Star:

‘Piercy told Johnson (Sgt. Jeff Johnson, investigator for MSHP Troop F) that he was just passing by Coconuts Caribbean Beach Bar & Grill on May 31. As he was idling through that area, Piercy said he noticed Ellingson’s boat.

That contradicts what the owner of Coconuts told The Star last month. Owner Timothy Vogel said Piercy had been spotted outside Coconuts for several hours that day. Because he thought the trooper was “harassing” his customers, Vogel called Piercy’s commander to complain, as well as 911 and an area state representative.

Vogel told the newspaper he even spoke to Piercy and asked him why he was sitting out there all day. The owner said Piercy told him that he was responding to complaints.‘

This would appear to be the beginning of Piercy’s trail of lies. He was obviously not ‘just passing by’ Coconuts. Instead, he appeared to be loitering like a dime store thug, waiting for his next victim. When the boat Brandon and his friends were on left Coconuts, they were clearly targeted by Piercy.

Piercy made the following claim, reported by the Kansas City Star:

‘Piercy told Johnson he noticed Ellingson’s boat had no visible registration numbers. He idled toward the boat to investigate. He said he eventually saw a Bud Light can tossed from the boat’s passenger side.

“I saw it hit the water, but I wasn’t for sure which one threw it,” Piercy told Johnson. “Or I guess that would be the left side of the boat that it came out of.”’

This claim by Piercy is one that immediately raises eyebrows, particularly when one considers the calls made by the owner of Coconuts. The excuse of not having visible registration numbers leading to ‘eventually’ seeing a beer can come from the boat very clearly indicates that Piercy had targeted the boat and was looking for an excuse to stop them.

In fact, Brandon was onboard a boat that was a USCG documented vessel. These boats, with names displayed on the back along with ports of call, are not required to have registration numbers. They instead have color-coded stickers on the front of each side of a boat. They function much like license plate stickers on a vehicle. This calls into question the legality of the stop in the first place. Piercy’s claim of a beer can going over the side, when paired with the other lies he has told, is not reliable.

According to Piercy’s interview with Sgt. Johnson, he performed field sobriety tests on Brandon, cuffed him and put a Type 3 jacket on him after arresting him for suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

In relaying this to Johnson, Piercy said that he “put the life jacket around his shoulders” but “didn’t zip it because of his shoulders, but I secured it around him tight, clasped the three straps and buckled him, or I guess tightened them on him.”

From the KC Star’s Laura Bauer:

‘ The friends watching the arrest from Ellingson’s boat, however, have said Piercy took a prebuckled Type III vest and tugged it over Ellingson’s head, getting it only partially down his torso. They said Ellingson’s chin touched the top buckle as Piercy sped away toward the zone office for a breath test. ‘

Brandon Ellingson with Tony Piercy.

Brandon Ellingson with Tony Piercy.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Brandon’s grandmother repeated the observations of the other occupants of the boat:

‘“The other boys with him said they put on a life jacket but didn’t secure it,” Gloria Ellingson said. “They handcuffed him and then put the life jacket on.”’

These witnesses, who were on the boat at the time Brandon was taken into custody, stand in complete contradiction to the story presented by Piercy. Investigators conducted separate taped interviews with these witnesses. While these were given to the jury to consider during deliberations, their accounts were not presented to the jury paneled during the Coroner’s inquest.

Piercy told Sgt. Johnson during two interviews, conducted June 2 and 5, the following, as reported by the KC Star:

‘Piercy told Johnson he was in a hurry because one of Ellingson’s friends had jumped in the water during a sobriety field test and swum toward his boat to give Ellingson a card with personal rights. Piercy said he wanted to “wrap it up, get out of there,” before anything escalated.’

Water Patrol veteran Sgt. Randy Henry was interviewed on June 19 by MSHP Troop F investigators Stacks and Harris about a phone call he had with Piercy the evening of the drowning. Henry offered insight as to the events that followed Brandon’s being arrested.

When Henry asked Piercy about the use of the Type 3 jacket, Piercy indicated that he was in a ‘hurry’. The reason Piercy gave for his rush: One of the boat’s passengers had jumped into the water and was swimming approximately 15-20 feet from the Donzi. The young man was giving Brandon advice regarding his rights. Piercy confirmed the swimmer was not acting in a threatening manner.

As Henry recalled, Piercy indicated that the swimmer had ‘gotten under’ Piercy’s skin and that he wanted to ‘get out of there’.

Piercy’s comments to Henry that evening make no mention of Myles Goertz approaching his boat to hand Brandon a card, as Piercy would claim later in talking to investigator Johnson.

This is yet another lie, told by Piercy.

Sgt. Henry asked Piercy during their phone call if he had given sobriety tests to the passengers in Brandon’s boat. Piercy said that he had not given any sobriety tests and that he instead asked the passengers if anyone was sober. The swimmer, Myles Goertz, said he was sober. That was enough for Piercy, who then sped away, by his own account, at approximately 30-35 MPH.

Jurors at the inquest were unable to review camera footage of the stop Piercy conducted.

The onboard cameras the Water Patrol’s Donzi was equipped with were conveniently not operational during that Saturday shift. The SD card was pulled from the cameras prior to Piercy taking the helm of the boat, according to the Highway Patrol. This left jurors with a singular narrative, provided to them by Jones, Grellner and the Highway Patrol.

“Basically, what they were trying to do was get Piercy off the hook so he wouldn’t get any criminal charges.” Craig Ellingson said later.

Piercy, when testifying at the inquest, stated that he gave Brandon ‘several sobriety tests’ before taking him into custody. Piercy also stated that he administered a portable breath test or Breathalyzer that indicated Ellingson was ‘well above the legal limit’.

Another lie told by Piercy in an attempt to avoid charges.

According to multiple reports from witnesses and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Piercy never administered a Breathalyzer. In fact, the MSHP stated and media reported, that Brandon was taken into custody and handcuffed on the water in order to transport him to a Water Patrol station to perform the Breathalyzer test.

From the KC Star:

‘That testimony conflicted with what friends of Ellingson who were on his boat told investigators in separate taped interviews. They said the trooper conducted only an eye test. ‘

An ‘eye test’, performed on a boat in the water, is the least reliable of field tests.

These eyewitness accounts were confirmed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Spokesperson Sgt. Paul Reinsch. Reinsch, in several statements that were reported in media across the country, confirmed the boat Brandon was aboard was stopped for a violation that resulted in his arrest for SUSPICION of boating while intoxicated.

From the Lake Sun:

‘Ellingson had not been given an official breathalyzer. Those are done once the arresting officer and the subject are on land. ‘

‘Ellingson was placed under arrest on suspicion of Boating While Intoxicated on May 31 following a routine stop for an unknown violation. Ellingson was handcuffed behind his back, placed on a Water Division boat and was being taken to the shore when the incident occurred.‘

From the Des Moines Register:

‘The trooper was transporting him to a station to take a breath-alcohol test.’

From the St Louis Post-Dispatch:

‘The Missouri Highway Patrol said Brandon Ellingson went overboard while being transported from the lake about 5:20 p.m. Saturday after being arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated.‘

‘HIGHEST DEGREE OF CARE’

A holiday weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks means lots of boat traffic and choppy water. This was certainly true on the evening of Saturday May 31. Weekends at during the summer season at the Lake, thousands of boats hit the water. This led to rough water conditions, a fact that is not in dispute. Navigating the Lake during a weekend requires concentration and care, as the number of boats far exceeds the traffic on other weekends.

It also calls for reduced speed, something clearly defined by Missouri State Statute.

306.125. 1. Every person shall operate a motorboat, vessel or watercraft in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care.

Piercy did not exercise the ‘highest level of care’ while operating the Donzi with Brandon aboard. GPS data confirmed his speed was between 39.1 and 43.7 MPH at the time Brandon went overboard.

Despite this, Cpl. David Echternacht listed the speed of the Donzi at the time of the incident as 10 MPH.

Sgt. Henry, during his taped interview with MSHP investigators, discussed this fact. Henry said that GPS information was made available to the on-scene officers that evening and that the boat was travelling in excess of 43 MPH. The responding officers, according to Henry, talked extensively about the excessive speed Piercy was driving. Water conditions that Saturday afternoon were choppy and rough, described as a ‘washing machine’ and ‘toilet bowl’ by Henry.

During Henry’s interview, he asked Stacks and Harris if they wanted him to elaborate more on the speed of the boat and they said ‘no’. According to Stacks, he didn’t want to get into ‘policy issues’.

Additionally, witnesses told investigators that Piercy’s speed exceeded 32 MPH just before Brandon was thrown overboard, although those witnesses were not asked to testify at the inquest. Larry Moreau and his family were on the lake that fateful evening.

From Laura Bauer and the Kansas City Star:

‘The Moreaus were out for a boat ride on that last afternoon in May, traveling south down the Gravois Arm, when the patrol boat came up beside them before passing.

The couple’s son pointed at the patrol boat. “All three of us stared at them when they went by,” Moreau said.

As the two boats approached the Playin Hooky Water Taxi and Charter, the patrol boat was so close to the Moreaus’ boat that “I could have tossed a rock in their boat,” Larry Moreau said.

The incident is like a movie for Paulette Moreau and her husband, she said. “A movie we’ve seen a hundred times in our head since it happened.

“If people could visually see what we saw, they would be outraged.”

The Moreaus have a house at the lake and dock their boat at the marina near H. Toad’s Bar and Grill. The patrol has a zone office in the complex around the restaurant, and Piercy was taking Ellingson there for a Breathalyzer and paperwork for an arrest for boating while intoxicated.

Because the Moreaus dock near the zone office, they often see troopers. They didn’t think the man in the boat with the trooper that day was a suspect because he wasn’t sitting in front of the console, on a lower seat, where suspects often are placed.

Moreau said he figured the man next to the trooper was a cameraman documenting the start of the boating season.‘

This is consistent with Sgt. Henry’s observations onboard the Donzi, immediately following Brandon’s drowning. During Henry’s securing the Donzi shortly after he arrived on the scene, he saw that the two bolster seats in the Donzi were in the ‘up’ position. This allows pilot and passenger to stand up and lean, rather than sit, in the adjustable seats.

Sgt. Henry’s statement, regarding the position of the seats on the boat, is a critical piece of the puzzle. One of the foundations of the manufactured narrative offered at the inquest is the assertion that Brandon was seated in the Donzi, then stood up and stepped to the right of the boat.

Piercy, not surprisingly, again appears to have lied to both investigators and the jury at the Coroner’s inquest. There, Piercy testified that Brandon was seated.

From the Kansas City Star:

‘Piercy told jurors that as he was transporting Brandon Ellingson to a zone office, the Iowa man was seated next to him.’

On Sept. 10, The Kansas City Star reported the following from Piercy’s interview with MSHP investigator Sgt Jeff Johnson, when discussing the events that caused Brandon to go overboard:

“The first wave hits the boat as we were sitting down, and we roll over the wave and go down into the … bottom.”
“Trough,” Johnson interjected.
“Yeah, I don’t know the nautical term, but we go down to the bottom of the wave and the second wave is about ready to hit the boat.
“At this time, Mr. Ellingson stands up out of the seat beside me …”

From the Lake Sun, Sept. 4:

Piercy was near Mill Creek Cove when he ran into some larger wakes. While trying to maneuver through the wakes, he noticed Ellingson was standing up. Up until then, Ellingson had been sitting next to Piercy, their shoulders touching.

Piercy described the events for the jury at the inquest. From the Kansas City Star, Sept. 4:

‘After the first wave, he said he saw that Ellingson was standing next to him.

“I went to turn my head to say, ‘Sit down,’” he told jurors. “Before I got the words out, he went out of the boat.”

He said once Ellingson stood, he saw him turn toward the water and step toward the right side of the boat.’

The MSHP’s online report, filed by Echternacht, says that Brandon stepped to the starboard side of the vessel and ‘fell or jumped overboard’. This step, and speculation about Brandon’s intention, became the basis of the alibi the MSHP has attempted to provide for Piercy’s actions.

Sgt. Henry, during his interview, recalled Piercy’s statement the evening of the incident. At that time, Piercy told Henry that Brandon was leaning against the seat and had “his feet on the floor and butt up against the seat.”

From the KC Star Sept. 10 article:

‘The patrol has said, and Piercy told jurors at the inquest, that Ellingson was sitting in the seat next to the trooper before he stood, took a step toward the right side of the boat and entered the water.’

When asked about the reason Brandon went overboard at the inquest, the MSHP’s Eric Stacks said: “At this point, I think we’re still inconclusive.”

Inconclusive?

On July 5th, Stacks participated in a re-creation of Piercy’s run that was included in the final investigative report. In that re-enactment, Stacks is seated on the bolster seat where Brandon would have been during the high speed run. He visibly rocks in the seat and uses his hands to brace himself as the boat hurtled across the Lake. This was a luxury Brandon was not afforded on May 31. A review of the video shows how precarious it would be for any handcuffed individual to remain steady and secure at this high rate of speed. For the re-creation, the investigators did not exceed 40 MPH. Again, as stated, GPS data clearly shows the speed of the boat at nearly 44 MPH at the time Brandon was ejected.

From the Kansas City Star, Sept. 10:

‘Piercy said he reached for Ellingson, but “I was unsuccessful in getting a hand on him.”
Johnson asked, “Did he jump over? Or did he fall over?”
Piercy: “I don’t know. I’ve, believe me, played this scenario through my mind a million times, and I don’t know. All I know is he’s beside me, and then he’s not.”’

Piercy told Henry, during that phone call the evening of the 31st, that he saw Brandon’s feet go over the side of the boat. He gave no indication that he grabbed Brandon before or as he was pitched out of the Donzi.

That evening however, while talking on the phone with his supervisor, a conversation captured by the camera’s on Cpl. Echternacht’s boat, Piercy made another change to his story.

“He turns his back to me, and I don’t know if he started to stand up or what, but he just went right over the side. And I grabbed his foot, temporarily, but he just pulled out of my hands ……”

During that same call, Piercy made the following statement:

“Well, I don’t know if it was the wake and his intoxication or if he fucking did it on purpose. Because he made that statement, he was being real nice and cooperative, wasn’t like we were fighting or arguing, and he goes, ‘So am I going to jail?’ and I said we’re just gonna run over to do a breath test, and then I said, “Hey, just hang on a sec,” and I slowed the boat down to almost next to nothing to roll through those waves, I mean I probably wasn’t even doing 10 miles an hour, and then he just went over the edge. And I don’t, I can’t say 100 percent for sure whether he did it on purpose or if it was just the wake.”

No one but Piercy saw Brandon go overboard.

STACKING THE DECK

From the Kansas City Star and Laura Bauer, Sept 8:

“The investigation has proven to be just as sickening as witnessing the event,” Larry Moreau wrote in one comment section. In a phone interview with The Star, he said the patrol has shown “a lack of bringing forth the truth.”

The patrol sent an investigator to interview the Moreaus separately and on different days. Larry Moreau said he and his wife told the investigator how Trooper Anthony Piercy had sped past them and how they saw Piercy and Ellingson seemingly chatting in the patrol boat. Seconds later, they saw Piercy’s boat stop ahead of them. Ellingson was in the water, keeping his head above the surface, and his life vest was floating away. ‘

The Moreaus told the patrol investigator that once Piercy had maneuvered his boat next to Ellingson, the trooper showed no urgency in helping the man in the water, didn’t turn on his red lights and didn’t motion for them to assist. The family eventually left the area thinking the trooper had everything under control.

They had no idea that, beneath the water’s surface, Ellingson’s hands were cuffed behind his back. They did not know that the young man would soon slip to the bottom of the lake.

“We’ve been reading this stuff for months,” Larry Moreau, of Hartsburg, Mo., told The Star. “When the officer went back to work (days after the drowning), I bit my tongue. … I tried to stay neutral. I didn’t get terribly involved in this.

“But I thought, ‘If they come out and try to say this guy was the hero and did everything he could, I’m going to start talking.’”

The couple have spoken to a lawyer for Ellingson’s estate and family in Clive, Iowa. On Saturday, Larry Moreau explained some of their concerns to that attorney, Matt Boles. Among them:

• The Highway Patrol’s boating accident report gives Piercy’s estimated speed as 10 mph. Larry Moreau said he was operating his boat at 32 mph when Piercy passed him. (Moreau said he was keeping an eye on his speed because he had recently done mechanical work on the boat.)
• Records from the patrol boat’s GPS system, which The Star has obtained, say Piercy was “traveling at between 39.1 and 43.7 miles per hour just before this incident occurred.” The boat’s speed was not provided in the courtroom during the inquest.
• The trooper who interviewed Larry Moreau days after the drowning told the mid-Missouri man he would probably be subpoenaed at some point to explain what he saw. But Moreau wasn’t called for the inquest, and when he read a Highway Patrol report about his account, which he saw for the first time over the weekend, key parts of his information were not included.
• A tearful Piercy told jurors at the inquest that he had worked himself to exhaustion trying to save Ellingson. Another witness who came upon the scene after the Moreaus said the trooper did everything he could. But Larry Moreau said that during the 60 to 90 seconds that his family observed Piercy, the trooper was close enough to touch Ellingson at least twice and didn’t jump in the water to help keep him afloat.
• Piercy jumped in later, after the Moreaus had moved on, and after a failed attempt to use a pole with a hook to try to grab Ellingson.

“To tell you the truth, I really thought, my hopes were, that someone would hear our testimony and come back and say: ‘What did you see? Tell me what happened,’” Larry Moreau said.’

The Moreaus were not called to testify during the inquest. Their account was buried, along with any other evidence that didn’t support the assertion that Brandon’s death was an unfortunate accident. This prompted the Moreaus to go public with their story.

In the days immediately following Brandon’s death, Jim Bascue emerged to tell a tale that was sympathetic to Piercy, portraying the 18 year veteran of the Patrol as a victim himself, instead of the perpetrator of this avoidable tragedy. The water taxi captain inserted himself into the story with his account of watching Brandon drown. He relayed his story to Regina Zilbermints of the Des Moines Register:

‘”At first I didn’t know what (the Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper) was doing,” Bascue said. The boat “slowed down pretty quick. I saw somebody in a life jacket to the side. The boat was turning to get into position to help. I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

“I got closer and realized (the trooper) was trying to help the guy, get him out of the water. I saw the life jacket and person separate in the water.”

Bascue said he threw a life ring to Ellingson, but Ellingson couldn’t reach it. Each time Ellingson disappeared underwater, he seemed to sink a little deeper, Bascue said.

The trooper, who was operating the boat from which Ellingson jumped or fell, jumped into the water to try and rescue Ellingson, Bascue said. The trooper, however, lost his grip on the Clive man and then couldn’t find him again, Bascue said.

“I got the life ring, and my main concern then was the officer. He was totally exhausted by this point.”

Bascue, who owns Playin Hooky Water Taxi and Charters, came around a bend in the lake while captaining a Bar Hop Cruise just after Ellingson fell or jumped into the water.

Bascue said he tried to position his boat and help but was unsuccessful.

“The guy slipped out of (the trooper’s) hands. There was not a chance of trying to get him then,” Bascue said. “It was very quick. The whole thing lasted three or four minutes. It seemed like it happened fast.”‘

Bascue was also interviewed by the Lake Sun. His account focused on Piercy as the unfortunate victim.

‘Jim Bascue was headed back from Coconuts from the Saturday Bar Hop Cruise he runs as a charter service. He said the lake was busy, which is typical for that time of the day on the main channel. Bascue operates Playin Hooky charter and taxi service. More often than not, around 5 p.m. is a busy time on the water. Seeing a Highway Patrol boat is normal but as the officer slowed down and started to turn around in the main channel, Bascue said it quickly caught his attention.

“We left around 5 p.m. to head back to Camden on the Lake. While approaching the 4 mile marker on the Gravois Arm, I saw a water patrol boat stopping just ahead of us in the middle of the channel and turning around,” Bascue said. “At first I wasn’t sure what was going on then I noticed a person wearing a life jacket in the water. The officer was trying to help. As I approached I tried to position my boat where I could assist, and block traffic and the wakes from passing boats. While I was positioning my boat, I saw the life jacket had come off the young man. I threw out our life ring and throw rope but there was no attempt to reach it.”

The life ring and throw rope landed somewhere between 4 to 6 feet away from the victim as he struggled in the water.

Bascue said he saw him go under a couple of times. The passengers on his boat were yelling at Ellingson, telling him to grab on. At that point, Bascue said he didn’t know if the young man was handcuffed or not.

In the meantime, Bascue said the officer attempted to reach Ellingson with a pole. When his attempts failed and Ellingson went back under, the officer jumped into the water. The officer managed to pull Ellingson up but in the struggle, the officer couldn’t hold on to get them both to safety.

By that point, Bascue said the officer was showing signs of exhaustion. He was able to grab on to the side of Bascue’s boat. With the officer hanging on, Bascue pulled closer to the officer’s Donzi. A passenger on Bascue’s boat jumped onto the Highway Patrol boat to hold on to the charter boat while Bascue got on the Donzi to help the officer get back on board.

“The officer did everything he could to save the young man including putting his own life in danger by jumping into the water, but he just not able to hold on to him. I just don’t know what else the officer could have done,” Bascue said. “From the time I saw the Water Patrol boat stopping until it was all over, only a couple of minutes had passed. Things like this happen very quickly.”‘

Bascue, predictably, was allowed to testify at the inquest, ahead of Trooper Piercy.

During the phone call Piercy made that evening to his supervisor, courtesy of The Kansas City Star:

“I’m banged up a little bit, but I’m all right,” Piercy said at 6:30 p.m. May 31. “I don’t know if I’m sore from treading water with the bastard, but I just feel spent. … I thought I had run a marathon.”

Piercy made two phone calls that evening in the wake of Brandon’s death. One was to his supervisor. This transcript is from the Kansas City Star and reveals Piercy’s own concerns over his actions that afternoon, actions that resulted in Brandon Ellingson’s drowning:

Trooper Anthony Piercy called his supervisor at 6:28 p.m. May 31, about an hour after Brandon Ellingson drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks. Piercy placed the call from the boat of Cpl. David Echternacht.

A microphone picked up Piercy’s side of the conversation. At points early on, it is difficult to make out what he is saying because Echternacht also is talking.

Note: Some of the language may be offensive to some listeners.

***

Hey, sorry I missed your call. My phone was on my boat.

Listens

I’m banged up a little bit but I’m all right. I don’t know if I’m sore from treading water with the bastard but I just feel spent. God damn, I thought I had run a marathon.

Listens

Yeah, I arrested him. I arrested him for BWI and I had him, I had him in a life jacket and handcuffed behind his back. We’re going, we’re about Mill Creek and he, he was real cooperative, but he was extremely, extremely drunk. We’re talking 2-oh plus. And he goes, “So what’s going on? Am I going to jail?” And I said, “Well. it’s a little ……

And I said, hang on, there’s a big wave coming ….. I had him in the seat beside me, and he just kind of turned his back, so I told him ….. He turns his back to me, and I don’t know if he started to stand up or what, but he just went right over the side. And I grabbed his foot, temporarily, but he just pulled out of my hands ……

He’s floated up because he’s in the life jacket, and then all of a sudden the life jacket comes off and I said ‘Hold on,’ and I tried to throw a boat hook to him and there was a party barge behind me and they threw a regular life …, like a ring, inner tube, out to him, on a rope, a floatable, and when he came out of the life jacket, he went under water, and I saw him go under, so I dove off the boat in after him and I, I went under, I don’t know how – but the guy on the boat said, ‘You were, I thought we’d lost you, too. You were under a long time.’ And, I don’t, I thought I got a hold of him temporarily, but I lost him, I just couldn’t keep a hold of him. And, and that was it. And then it was – I mean, I couldn’t get a hold of him again.

Listens

Well, I’m with Echternacht on his boat. The party barge that was behind me, ….. is on it getting statements …. I don’t know. One of the girls. And Stacey and Richardson and I think Plumley and Sanders are dragging…. We called ISD …. and they have a tracker where they can track your boat by, where they can track cars and boats like to the second, they’re trying to get an exact GPS. We’ve got dive team on the way back to help with recovery. And we got a mark and they’re, at this point they’re just dragging and getting statements.

Listens

Well, I don’t know if it was the wake and his intoxication or if he fucking did it on purpose. Because he made that statement, he was being real nice and cooperative, wasn’t like we were fighting or arguing, and he goes, ‘So am I going to jail?’ and I said we’re just gonna run over to do a breath test, and then I said, “Hey, just hang on a sec,” and I slowed the boat down to almost next to nothing to roll through those waves, I mean I probably wasn’t even doing 10 miles an hour, and then he just went over the edge. And I don’t, I can’t say 100 percent for sure whether he did it on purpose or if it was just the wake.

Listens

No, there wasn’t an SD card in the camera. I had the camera on, but I checked it when I saw I had a BWI, and it was flashing and I thought “Well oh?, crap.” But there’s no SD card in it. The camera’s on, but there’s no damn card in it.” So I don’t know if it records without it.

Listens

So, I’ve —

Listens

I’m all right. I don’t know if I’m just spent from swimming or if it’s anxiety or if I’ve or what. But God damn I mean I, I thought somebody has beat the shit out of me, I really do.

Listens

Well, I’m sorry. I probably did a bunch of things wrong there, but –.
Listens

Yeah.

Listens

No, not really. We’re out in the middle of the Gravois. I don’t think there’s anything you can do. We got, the kid’s from Iowa and he had a group of guys with him and they went back to Coconuts. I told him that they could pick him up at the Toad and I’ve been kind of watching for the boat. They haven’t came through. ’Cause, we’re going to have to do some sort of next of kin. I don’t even know if the kid has a lake house down there.

Listens

All right, well, sorry. I guess, so, keep me posted on if I’m still going to be employed or what’s going on. So, I’ll probably have —

Listens

All right, well, all right, I’ll let you go. Sorry I missed your call. All right. Bye.

The second call made by Piercy that evening was to Sgt. Randy Henry, a seasoned veteran of the Water Patrol. Henry, who had responded to the incident, spoke with Piercy shortly after arriving on the scene.

The online incident report on the drowning lists Sgt. Randy Henry as one of the officers who worked the case immediately following Brandon’s death. Henry was interviewed by Stacks and Chris Harris on June 19 at the Osage Beach Police station. During this taped interview, Henry relayed key details about the circumstances of Brandon’s death given him by Piercy.

These details were not presented at the Coroner’s inquest.

One of the key factors that alarmed Henry, a member of the Water Patrol before Governor Nixon merged the departments, was the choice of life jacket. Henry told investigators that it was not the norm to use the Type 3 vest on suspects. Henry also acknowledged that another officer had told him it was put on Brandon after he was handcuffed. The use of the Type 3 life jacket on a handcuffed suspect obviously disturbed the Water Patrol veteran.

As Henry told investigators, during his examination of Piercy’s boat, a Type 1 vest was hanging on a hook where sobriety tests are performed on the Donzi. That vest was still hanging on its hook and would have been near Brandon’s knee, had he been given a sobriety test. The Type 3 vest, along with the Type 5 fanny pack inflatable worn by Piercy, were the boat and both were wet. Henry did not check the boat’s onboard cameras during his quick observation. He turned off the lights and secured the boat.

Henry also said that GPS information was made available to the on-scene officers that evening and that the boat was travelling in excess of 43 MPH. The responding officers, according to Henry, talked extensively about the excessive speed Piercy was driving. Water conditions that Saturday afternoon were choppy and rough, described as a ‘washing machine’ and ‘toilet bowl’ by Henry.

Stacks and Harris were asked by Henry if they wanted him to elaborate more on the speed of the boat and they said ‘no’. According to Stacks, he didn’t want to get into ‘policy issues’.

Henry then told the investigators that he talked to Piercy by phone that evening. During this phone call, several critical admissions were made by Piercy that point directly to negligence.

When Henry asked Piercy about the use of the Type 3 jacket, Piercy indicated that he was in a ‘hurry’. The reason Piercy gave for his rush: One of the boat’s passengers had jumped into the water and was swimming approximately 15-20 feet from the Donzi. The young man was giving Brandon advice regarding his rights. Piercy confirmed the swimmer was not acting in a threatening manner.

As Henry recalled, Piercy indicated that the swimmer had ‘gotten under’ Piercy’s skin and that he wanted to ‘get out of there’.

Henry then asked Piercy if he had given sobriety tests to the passengers in Brandon’s boat. Piercy said that he had not given any sobriety tests and that he instead asked the passengers if anyone was sober. The swimmer said he was sober. That was enough for Piercy, who then sped away, by his own account, at approximately 30-35 MPH.

Henry asked Piercy if Brandon was sitting or standing. Piercy answered that he was ‘leaning’.

During Henry’s observation of the Donzi shortly after he arrived on the scene, he saw that the two bolster seats in the Donzi were in the ‘up’ position. This allows pilot and passenger to stand up and lean, rather than sit, in the adjustable seats.

Then, according to Piercy, he hit rough water wakes. Travelling at reckless speed, the boat pitched and Brandon was ejected from the boat. When Brandon hit the water, Piercy turned the boat hard enough to kill its engines. It is unknown how long it took Piercy to restart the engines, but finally he did.

Piercy then piloted the boat toward Brandon’s position, where he was fighting for his life, the improperly fastened life vest had already separated from the young man and he was struggling to remain afloat. To make matters worse, Piercy miscalculated and his boat shot past Brandon’s position in the water. The boat drifted past Brandon. Piercy then grabbed a pole with a hook on it and attempted to snag Brandon.

It wasn’t until a woman on another boat, a water taxi, screamed at the Piercy to jump in after Brandon that he shed his gun belt and dove in the water.

In relaying these events to Sgt. Henry shortly after Brandon’s death, Piercy made an astonishing admission: He had no idea how his own personal floatation device, the Type 5 ‘fanny pack’ he was wearing while on the water.

Piercy said that he was able to grab hold of Brandon while under the water. The Trooper said Brandon was struggling, a likely reaction to the fear of drowning while handcuffed. In a stunning statement, he told Henry that he had expected his fanny pack device to automatically deploy a floatation device. Sgt. Henry was stunned. Henry told Piercy that evening on the phone that Type 5 devices have a ripcord that must be pulled in order to deploy the life saving measures. Piercy, Henry told investigators, had no idea the fanny pack even had a ripcord.

Sgt. Henry went to the zone office in Morgan County the following Wednesday. There, he saw Piercy typing and the two men talked about the incident. Henry, in the recorded statement he gave investigators Stacks and Harris, said that there was something bothersome about statements Piercy made during that exchange.

According to Henry, Piercy had told him that he ‘wished he had pulled the ripcord’ and that he ‘couldn’t find’ the cord on the fanny pack he was wearing that day.

Henry told investigators that this discrepancy in Piercy’s statement bothered him. From their phone conversation immediately following Brandon’s death, it was clear Piercy didn’t even know the Type 5 device had a ripcord. This immediately raised a flag for the Water Patrol veteran officer.

Henry told Stacks and Harris that the change in story concerned him. Piercy’s change in story was not the only reason Henry was not the only reason for alarm. He cited Piercy’s use of the wrong lifejacket, the way it had been put on Brandon and the speed with which Piercy was operating the boat.

As Henry said at approximately the 31:00 mark of his interview with Stacks and Harris: “Just that the whole chain of events, umm, with, with….(long pause) Just the whole chain of events from the get-go. As far as not getting the proper life jacket put on…the wrong lifejacket, not putting it on right, getting out of there without it and the speed…Then once all that happened it just kind of snowballed.”

“I mean, it’s just the perfect storm…It just gets worse and worse and worse.”

Stacks seemed to minimize these concerns. He said, “We’ve gathered information after information after information gathering statements from everybody and the information you told us, short of that phone call you got from Tony and the items that you discussed. I mean, the facts are known. The facts are there. We know the speeds. We know this, we know that.”

“But again, I want to caution not getting into policy issues and knowing the rights from the wrongs and all that stuff. That’s gonna come up. A different bunch of guys are going to have to make that decision. I don’t want to get all that going right now. We just want facts from the case as they are and if you think that there is something we’ve not found or not been told…”

Henry responded by telling Stacks that he assumed the investigators would want to hear about all of this during the interview, instead of hearing it on the stand later “while I’m under oath.” Henry said that since he talked with Piercy shortly after Brandon’s death that his statement probably should be on record somewhere.

Curiously, Harris then asked Henry about his conversation with Cpl. Echternacht. Harris wanted to know if there was any discussion about the vest that evening. Henry said he couldn’t remember, but stated, “we (the officers on the scene) talked about it quite a bit.”

“We were all just like, this is just surreal.”

Henry said that there were comments among the officers wondering why Piercy took some of the actions he did.

Harris then interrupted Henry and asked if there was anyone else on scene with questions about the Type 3 vest.

“I’m sure we did.” Henry said. “We all kind of talked.” He said they were all talking about the speed of the boat and the lifejackets. “All that, yes.”

Capitan Kindle was shown the lifejackets by Henry and explained why Type 3 jackets were not used by officers trained as Water Patrol, particularly with handcuffed suspects.

“I would never put a Type 3 on someone who was handcuffed.” Henry said.

Henry said that that, along with the speed Piercy was travelling at, were the main issues in Brandon’s death.

“That’s all known,” Stacks responded, “They will determine all of that.”

Henry said, “I’ll be the first to admit, because I did bring it up. I brought it up and said ‘Guys, they’re going to want full transparency on this thing. We need to ask ourselves, did he use the highest degree of care here?’ ”

Henry continued, “Missouri Statute 306.125…”

Stacks then abruptly ended the interview.

“Turn that off. Turn that off. Just turn it off.” He ordered Harris, referring to the recording device.

‘THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF CARE’

The reason Stacks had Harris turn the recorder off at this point is clear. Failure to provide ‘the highest degree of care’, as set forth in State Statute, is a crime.

Piercy’s speed, confirmed by GPS data, is a clear indication that he was breaking the law while transporting Brandon. That crime, and the consequences for it, was something Stacks didn’t want as part of his report. The motivation for this, as we look at the applicable statutes, is clear. Piercy is definitively guilty of involuntary manslaughter, despite the claims of the ‘special prosecutor’ assigned to the inquest.

From a statement by Osage County prosecutor Amanda Grellner, four days after the inquest, announcing there would be no criminal charges sought against Piercy:

“I do not believe that it meets the legal definition of reckless,” she said. “Criminal recklessness is different than negligence. Do I believe there was negligence here? There’s no way to not find negligence, but it doesn’t reach to criminal recklessness.”

“It’s not for me to determine civilly how negligent he was and how liable they are.”

Grellner is correct. It isn’t up to her. Missouri State Statutes, as referenced by Sgt. Henry before his interview was terminated, is clear on the subject.

The Statute Henry referenced says, in part:

306.125. 1. Every person shall operate a motorboat, vessel or watercraft in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care.

2. No person shall operate a motorboat, vessel or watercraft at any time from a half-hour after sunset until an hour before sunrise the following day at a speed exceeding thirty miles per hour.

The penalty for violating 306.125 is clear.

306.210. Any person who violates any of the provisions of sections 306.015 to 306.060 and 306.090 to 306.150 for which no other penalty is provided is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

This means that Piercy was guilty of a crime before Brandon even went over the side of the Donzi.

Missouri Statute 562.016 goes on to state:

562.016. 1. Except as provided in section 562.026, a person is not guilty of an offense unless he acts with a culpable mental state, that is, unless he acts purposely or knowingly or recklessly or with criminal negligence, as the statute defining the offense may require with respect to the conduct, the result thereof or the attendant circumstances which constitute the material elements of the crime.

2. A person “acts purposely”, or with purpose, with respect to his conduct or to a result thereof when it is his conscious object to engage in that conduct or to cause that result.

3. A person “acts knowingly”, or with knowledge,

(1) With respect to his conduct or to attendant circumstances when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that those circumstances exist; or

(2) With respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is practically certain to cause that result.

4. A person “acts recklessly” or is reckless when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or that a result will follow, and such disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation.

5. A person “acts with criminal negligence” or is criminally negligent when he fails to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or a result will follow, and such failure constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation.

(L. 1977 S.B. 60)
Effective 1-1-79

Involuntary manslaughter, as set forth by MO Statute 565.024:

565.024. 1. A person commits the crime of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree if he or she:

(1) Recklessly causes the death of another person; or

(2) While in an intoxicated condition operates a motor vehicle or vessel in this state and, when so operating, acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person; or

(3) While in an intoxicated condition operates a motor vehicle or vessel in this state, and, when so operating, acts with criminal negligence to:

(a) Cause the death of any person not a passenger in the vehicle or vessel operated by the defendant, including the death of an individual that results from the defendant’s vehicle leaving a highway, as defined by section 301.010, or the highway’s right-of-way; or vessel leaving the water; or

(b) Cause the death of two or more persons; or

(c) Cause the death of any person while he or she has a blood alcohol content of at least eighteen-hundredths of one percent by weight of alcohol in such person’s blood; or

(4) Operates a motor vehicle in violation of subsection 2 of section 304.022, and when so operating, acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person authorized to operate an emergency vehicle, as defined in section 304.022, while such person is in the performance of official duties;

(5) Operates a vessel in violation of subsections 1 and 2 of section 306.132, and when so operating acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person authorized to operate an emergency watercraft, as defined in section 306.132, while such person is in the performance of official duties.

2. Involuntary manslaughter in the first degree under subdivision (1) or (2) of subsection 1 of this section is a class C felony. Involuntary manslaughter in the first degree under subdivision (3) of subsection 1 of this section is a class B felony. A second or subsequent violation of subdivision (3) of subsection 1 of this section is a class A felony. For any violation of subdivision (3) of subsection 1 of this section, the minimum prison term which the defendant must serve shall be eighty-five percent of his or her sentence. Any violation of subdivisions (4) and (5) of subsection 1 of this section is a class B felony.

3. A person commits the crime of involuntary manslaughter in the second degree if he acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person.

4. Involuntary manslaughter in the second degree is a class D felony.

(L. 1983 S.B. 276, A.L. 1984 S.B. 448 ? A, A.L. 1986 H.B. 1596, A.L. 1999 S.B. 328, et al., A.L. 2005 H.B. 972 merged with S.B. 37, et al., A.L. 2005 1st Ex. Sess. H.B. 2, A.L. 2006 S.B. 872, et al., A.L. 2008 H.B. 1715)

Missouri Statute 590.195:

590.195. 1. A person commits a class B misdemeanor if, in violation of this chapter, such person knowingly:

(1) Holds a commission as a peace officer without a peace officer license valid for such commission; or

(2) Grants or continues the commission of a peace officer not validly licensed for such commission.

2. Any person who purposely violates any other provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

3. Any law enforcement agency that commissions a peace officer in violation of this chapter or that is otherwise in violation of any provision of this chapter shall not be eligible to receive state or federal funds that would otherwise be paid to it for the purpose of training and licensing peace officers or for any other law enforcement, safety, or criminal justice purpose.
(L. 2001 H.B. 80)

MO State Statute 590.080 states with regard to peace officers:

590.080. 1. The director shall have cause to discipline any peace officer licensee who:

(1) Is unable to perform the functions of a peace officer with reasonable competency or reasonable safety as a result of a mental condition, including alcohol or substance abuse;

(2) Has committed any criminal offense, whether or not a criminal charge has been filed;

(3) Has committed any act while on active duty or under color of law that involves moral turpitude or a reckless disregard for the safety of the public or any person;

(4) Has caused a material fact to be misrepresented for the purpose of obtaining or retaining a peace officer commission or any license issued pursuant to this chapter;

(5) Has violated a condition of any order of probation lawfully issued by the director; or

(6) Has violated a provision of this chapter or a rule promulgated pursuant to this chapter.

2. When the director has knowledge of cause to discipline a peace officer license pursuant to this section, the director may cause a complaint to be filed with the administrative hearing commission, which shall conduct a hearing to determine whether the director has cause for discipline, and which shall issue findings of fact and conclusions of law on the matter. The administrative hearing commission shall not consider the relative severity of the cause for discipline or any rehabilitation of the licensee or otherwise impinge upon the discretion of the director to determine appropriate discipline when cause exists pursuant to this section.

3. Upon a finding by the administrative hearing commission that cause to discipline exists, the director shall, within thirty days, hold a hearing to determine the form of discipline to be imposed and thereafter shall probate, suspend, or permanently revoke the license at issue. If the licensee fails to appear at the director’s hearing, this shall constitute a waiver of the right to such hearing.

4. Notice of any hearing pursuant to this chapter or section may be made by certified mail to the licensee’s address of record pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection 3 of section 590.130*. Proof of refusal of the licensee to accept delivery or the inability of postal authorities to deliver such certified mail shall be evidence that required notice has been given. Notice may be given by publication.

5. Nothing contained in this section shall prevent a licensee from informally disposing of a cause for discipline with the consent of the director by voluntarily surrendering a license or by voluntarily submitting to discipline.

6. The provisions of chapter 621 and any amendments thereto, except those provisions or amendments that are in conflict with this chapter, shall apply to and govern the proceedings of the administrative hearing commission and pursuant to this section the rights and duties of the parties involved.

(L. 2001 H.B. 80)
*Section 590.130 was repealed by H.B. 80, 2001.

‘CONFLICT OF INTEREST’

Piercy’s account of these events was the only one Morgan County Coroner MB Jones and Osage County Prosecutor Amanda Grellener presented to the jury. Despite multiple eyewitnesses that dispute Piercy’s description of events, and the many discrepancies in his account, the coroner and the ‘special prosecutor’ ignored them to focus singularly on Piercy’s story.

Morgan County Coroner MB Jones, first appointed to office by Governor Jay Nixon in 2009, reportedly requested the inquest because of his own admitted conflict of interest. Jones knows Trooper Piercy personally, as does Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Dustin Dunklee. Amanda Grellner, Osage County Prosecutor, was appointed as an ‘outside’ ‘special prosecutor’. Grellner however, was not unbiased, as illustrated by her own comments.

Grellner said: “I was happy to assist the coroner in order to present the witnesses and evidence he wished to the jury.”

MB Jones, appointed to Coroner position in 2009 by Governor Jay Nixon.

MB Jones, appointed to Coroner position in 2009 by Governor Jay Nixon.

This statement made by Grellner reeks of exactly what the inquest was supposed to remedy: a clear conflict of interest. Instead, it begins to illustrate the painstaking steps that appear to have been taken by Jones, Grellner and the Missouri Highway Patrol to ensure no criminal charges will be pursued against Piercy.

This crafted narrative began with details that supported Piercy. Those details included results from the autopsy conducted after Brandon’s death and the final report of the investigation conducted by the Missouri Highway Patrol Troop F.

Jones told the jury that Brandon’s blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit for operating a boat, and that he had traces of cocaine in his system. Depending on where the blood sample was taken from, these results could be skewed after death. Fermentation and other factors can be known to alter these results by up to %.200. It is unknown if Jones, a Versailles veterinarian and goat farmer, compensated for this.

From the KC Star’s Laura Bauer, September 4, after the inquest:

‘Highway Patrol Cpl. Eric Stacks, the lead investigator in the case, read his investigative summary to the jurors. He said the report included information about how fast Piercy’s boat was going that day, but he did not say what the speed was.

The patrol’s initial online report said Ellingson stood, stepped to the right side of the boat “and fell or jumped overboard.”

“At this point, I think we’re still inconclusive” about how Ellingson left the boat, Stacks said.

No one besides Piercy saw Ellingson leave the boat.‘

The one-sided narrative presented at the Morgan County Coroner’s inquest was constructed and presented like a defense attorney’s strategy, instead of the inquiry into the facts surrounding Brandon Ellingson’s death.

The findings that were presented to the jury by Jones, Grellner and other witnesses from the Missouri Highway Patrol were biased with extreme prejudice to protect Trooper Piercy and the Patrol from criminal charges.

MSHP Troop F Cpl. Eric Stacks chose not to tell the inquest jury several key details that emerged as a result of the investigation, including Sgt. Henry’s observations. He omitted them, it would seem, in an effort to protect Piercy from what was obvious criminal negligence.

An indictment of Piercy goes much higher up than the action of one reckless Trooper. It would be an indictment also of decisions made by Governor Jay Nixon, who in 2011 merged the Water Patrol with the Highway Patrol. At the time, it was billed as a ‘cost-cutting’ measure that would save the state money. Some of those savings were later invested in a $5.2 million dollar plane for the governor.
The political maneuvering that was on display during the inquest, called a “joke” by Craig Ellingson, speaks directly to the desire to see Brandon Ellingson’s death go away quietly. The appointment of Grellner, who has a long history of questionable decisions as prosecutor, speaks to this, as does the presentation directed by Jones, who in addition to being a Nixon appointee is also involved with search and rescue, giving him a close relationship with law enforcement. Morgan County Sheriff Jim Petty, formerly of the MSHP, selected the jurors at the inquest. Three of whom, it was reported by witnesses at the inquest, also had personal relationships with Piercy.

The ‘fix’ was in.

Now, it is up to the citizens of both Missouri, Iowa and Arizona to ensure that there is an accounting of the actions of Piercy that fateful May evening. #JusticeforBrandonEllingson, a Facebook group started in the wake of this senseless tragedy, has pledged that they will not rest until transparency and accountability are applied to this case.

Piercy’s actions were clearly negligent and that negligence was criminal. It resulted in the death of a young man with a promising future. He must immediately be terminated from his service to the Highway Patrol and must resign from the Versailles school board. A man who has shown so little regard for the lives of young people shouldn’t be allowed to serve in any capacity where children must abide by his decisions. HIs decision making ability and his trustworthiness are clearly in doubt.

Anthony Piercy should go to jail for his actions on May 31.

He can only hope that the officer taking him into custody has more concern for his welfare than he showed Brandon Ellingson.

To sign the petition for #justiceforbrandonellingson, please click the link below. Your voice matters and can help bring justice for his family.

www.justiceforbrandonellingson.org

Preserving Local Control of Chilhowee’s School

Earlier this week, Jared Coulter stopped by the house to see Jackie and I. He dropped in because Jared wants to serve on our school board. He had turned in his letter for consideration by Chilhowee R-4’s Board of Education and wanted to make sure that, as he put it, we ‘wouldn’t be campaigning against each other’.

Jared knew that I had done a fair amount of reporting on school districts, education and politics. He had thought that I might have an interest in filling the vacancy left by the recent resignation of Brandon Kerksieck.

After listening to Jared talk about the school district and his devotion to it, I was convinced I was looking at the right man for the job.

While Jared talked about our school and this community, earnest enthusiasm beamed from him. He has supported our kids in countless hours of service and support and is genuinely proud to call himself a member of our community and his children, Indians. The most important criteria for anyone wanting to serve on a school board is one Jared has in spades: trust.

I trust Jared Coulter to make decisions based on what is best for our children, our school and our community because these things matter to him.

In a day and age when local control of Missouri school districts is evaporating, Chilhowee is a treasure. Having school board members who understand the value of our district is critical to preserving it. I trust Jared with that responsibility and, hopefully, the board will agree with me and vote for his appointment.

Currently, in larger school districts around the state, attendance policies like this one are being put in place:

ATTENDANCE:
LEBANON R-III SCHOOL ATTENDANCE PROCEDURES
The Lebanon R-3 School District believes that regular attendance in the classroom is conducive to learning and that frequent absences of pupils from regular classes disrupt the continuity of the instructional process. The district believes that through daily attendance:
• Continuity of learning leads to improved student achievement;
• Regular school attendance that includes active and regular classroom participation leads to improved student achievement.
• A level of responsibility will develop and prepare students for adulthood and the workforce for the 21st century.
Class participation is a factor in determining student achievement. Students cannot learn if they are not present. Poor attendance may limit accomplishments and reinforce a habit, which will handicap the individual in future education or employment.
Attendance and punctuality are extremely important. Employers are interested in hiring persons with excellent work habits and attendance records; therefore, we make it our goal in the Lebanon R-3 School District to emphasize the importance of these
characteristics to our students.
Therefore, in accordance with the laws of the state of Missouri, the Lebanon R-3 School District requires the regular attendance each day that school is in session of all school age children.

Parents will to the best of their ability:
• Encourage their student to arrive on time and attend school every day.
• Instill the importance of education.
• Inform the school as soon as possible of an address or phone number change.
• Make every effort to schedule appointments for students when school is not in session (it is understood this is not always possible, but should be attempted).
• Notify school with every absence, tardy, or early withdrawal. Written notification should be turned into the student’s school office before the bell rings the next present day. (medical notes, etc)
• Absences caused by personal illness or injury, illness within the family which necessitates that a student be absent, and perhaps other extenuating circumstances, need to be communicated to the student’s school.
• Illnesses that would justify an absence from school includes, but is not limited to fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or a diagnosed staph infection.
• All vacation time should be taken while school is not in session. The school district provides a calendar each spring prior to the next school year to help families plan vacations around the days school will be in session.

All excuses will be reviewed throughout the student’s school year. Legitimate excuses do exist, but should not be abused. Being allowed 12 days of absences should be sufficient to account for normal illness, family situations, etc. Students who exceed this amount of absences could constitute further review by an outside agency such as the school social worker, the Children’s Division, Juvenile Office, or the Prosecuting Attorney.

Taken directly from page 22 of the Lebanon student handbook, not Mein Kampf, believe it or not. It’s easy to get confused, because this attendance policy sounds an awful lot like the Reich to me.

It becomes even more frightening, when you look at the Camdenton school district’s hiring of a DFS liason for its school district. This new position is now set to target ‘truancy’ by students as they deem fit.

The attendance policy crackdown that is taking place in these larger school districts will be trickling down to our own. DESE has tied student attendance to school accreditation so tightly that all schools across the state will be forced to follow this overreaching, nightmarish model. The threat of state and federal funding is a very real one for school districts and is designed to force them to comply to new policies and procedures.

It doesn’t get any more personal for us as parents and as people. We must preserve the local control of our school district. It is truly the heart of our community. Candidates willing to serve, such as Jared, are worthy of our support.

He loves our town and our kids. We truly couldn’t ask for anything more.

‘A Trip Down Memory Lane’

It is nearly fair time in Chilhowee. For small rural Missouri communities, those lucky enough to still put on a fair, it has been a time of friends and family, of seeing old faces and telling new stories. A fair represents the traditions each town is founded on and reminds us we have a heritage worth preserving.

The 67th Annual Chilhowee Community Fair will be held this August 28th-30th. This year’s theme is ‘A Walk Down Memory Lane’ and, for our family, it couldn’t be more appropriately named. Jackie and I know most of the people who make up this community.

We grew up here. This was our home town.

Across the state and across our country, small towns exactly like ours are facing a new reality. They are under increasing pressure with a fall in property values, and as a result, tax revenue. Rural farming communities have been among the hardest hit by the changes in our economy during the past five decades. These communities are literal outposts, out of the way places forgotten by the super-highway of the 21st Century economy. As a result, towns like Chilhowee have struggled to survive. With a lack of opportunities for real, sustainable employment, generations of Chilhowee families and their children pulled up stakes, put the wheel back on the wagon and headed for greener pastures elsewhere. That exodus has been a leading contributor to the Chilhowee condition and a vacuum was left in its wake.

Two years ago, Jackie and I visited Chilhowee on Fair Weekend. For me, it had been the first time I had visited Chilhowee in nearly twenty years. Although Jackie, to her credit, tried to prepare me, I was stunned by what I saw.

In the amount of time it takes to cook a frozen pizza in the oven, a person can cruise every block of Chilhowee. You don’t even have to speed to do it. It is a small town, a spot in the road, although Chilhowee was once projected to be the seat of Johnson County due to the thriving economy and population the community enjoyed from coal mining and the railroad’s prominence.

What I found, upon returning, was a town that was an anemic ghost of itself. Chilhowee had taken on the appearance of a meth addict.

Rotted houses disgraced the streets like crooked, abscessed teeth. Vacant lots were jungles. Other properties looked like the offspring of junkyards and landfills. Once well-kept, beautiful historical homes have been transformed into creepy places kids cross the street to avoid. Store fronts and businesses have been abandoned. Their vacant eyes stare out behind dusty cataracts. Others had the lunatic leer of madness, with motley assortments of fixtures, chairs and junk peering out onto Walnut. Chilhowee had become more Norman Bates than Norman Rockwell.

Still, there were positive signs of life in the community. The park has been maintained and expanded. Now, it boasts planting gardens, although it looks like they could use a hand from someone with a green thumb.

City Hall now has a place of its own, instead of meeting at the Community building. It serves a dual function as a public library, where almost two hundred community members are patrons.

The school building, which has long served as the center of things in Chilhowee, has good facilities that reflect the care they have received over the years. The gym has never looked better, a part of the continuing legacy of our little Indian tribe.

A community investment, of energy, time and love have preserved and improved the gym and that effort is reflected in the shiny floors and murals and on the banners hanging on the wall. There is no reason that feeling of pride can’t grow from that fertile ground to the town that surrounds it.

Pride was at the center of Mayor Jack Campbell’s recent election bid. Jack stated that he was tired of feeling ashamed of saying he was from Chilhowee. That was a sentiment that many Chilhowee residents appeared to share, as Jack won his bid.

There have been positive steps. The town has fewer eyesores than before and more lawns have been mowed. The reality of running a small town like Chilhowee is that there are never enough funds to go around. Attempting to find a way to compel some people in town to comply with requests to clean up their property is never easy. It is like having to tell a co-worker that they need to apply deodorant. It is uncomfortable and can be unpleasant. Still, it is a job that needs to be done in town. The evidence of that is staring at each and every one of us.

The decision to move to Chilhowee was a conscious one by Jackie and I. We wanted our children to grow up with small town values, the ones that have served all of us so well. We wanted them to go to a small school, where teachers, coaches and administrators share those same values. We wanted them to know the sense of community we did when we were growing up. When we put pen to paper and calculated peace of mind and quality of life, no other destination made sense for us.

Certainly there are inconveniences with small town life. You can no longer drive down to the station and get gas. You can’t enjoy early morning coffee with the farmers or sit down and grab a bite of lunch with friends at a café. There is no longer a locally owned bank, barber shop or beauty salon. There isn’t a local garage to service your vehicle. There isn’t a bar in which to laugh or rant and rave in.

What is sorely missing from the Chilhowee skyline however, isn’t a Casey’s sign. What is truly in short supply in town, based on visual evidence, is pride.

Most families who lived in town when we were kids had enough pride to keep their yards mowed. They had enough pride to put their garbage out for collection instead of chucking it in or at a collection of overflowing barrels. They cared enough about what their neighbors thought to take junk to a dump, instead of turning their yard into one. Not so long ago the homes on Pennsylvania, Walnut, Missouri and Ohio were cared for, even if in varying degrees. Abandoned houses or derelict buildings were removed and although the process was never fast enough, it was steady. The town’s business district provided Chilhowee with a communication hub and no one wanted to run afoul of any small town’s gossip network. Peer pressure and pride were the only tools needed to keep our town from looking like a pig pen. Now, without a central area for the community to gather in daily, that sense of accountability and responsibility has dwindled.

It doesn’t mean the pillars of the community aren’t still standing. The churches in town remain gathering places and the Chilhowee Store sees its fair share of traffic. School functions and athletic events draw us together.
So does the Chilhowee Community Fair.

While it is also a shadow of its former self, the fair has always brought out the best of what it means to live in Chilhowee. It is people getting together, enjoying one another’s company, showing off jelly recipes and tomatoes, pumpkins and pies, catching up with old friends. It is the very fabric of who we are and where we come from. The heart of this town and the community that surrounds it is worth preserving. ‘A Trip Down Memory Lane’ is a journey we all should take. There is no reason Chilhowee’s glory days should be distant red taillights fading into the distance down Highway 2.

There has been some progress in cleaning up properties in town, but there is still much to do. We would all like to feel a restoration of pride in the town we call home. Our traditions and values are worth defending, they are worth fighting for.

While the town may not have its best Sunday dress on during the fair, Jack and the city council are genuinely trying to at least cover her ripped fishnets. Maybe, with a little magic and a bit of help, we can all keep the carriage from turning into a pumpkin.

Chilhowee R-4 school district requires high school students to perform a specified number of community service hours before graduating. Asking the students to donate their time to help clean up the town, and accepting volunteers from the community to help with that same effort could go a long way toward achieving the Mayor’s goal. Almost certainly, when presented the opportunity to help the clean-up effort, donations of equipment like lawn mowers and weed eaters would follow. One sustained effort, on the part of the people who live in this town, could go a long way in addressing some of the town’s most glaring cosmetic problems: overgrown yards.

We don’t have to check with a lawyer to make sure we can bill an absent owner for the work. We can just do it. Because it’s almost fair time and because some of our neighbors would genuinely appreciate, and genuinely need, the help. We can just do it because it is the right thing to do. We can do it because we have pride in our neighborhoods and our streets. We can do it because it needs to be done and that’s who we are.

That, like the fair, is a Chilhowee tradition worth preserving.

We grew up here, after all. This has always been our home town.

Jackie’s family tree connects to almost every corner of Chilhowee. While my family wasn’t originally from here, my grandfather preached in the Baptist Church here. The existing auditorium was built during his time serving here. My other grandfather literally built that church, doing most of the work on it’s interior that you see today. My sister was married there. My grandmother’s funeral was there.

Our town is worth preserving, it is worth maintaining and it is worth the effort necessary to effect real change because our way of life is one worth defending, even if it means a few hours of hauling someone else’s trash, trimming sidewalks so our kids can walk to and from school and pruning a tree on a vacant lot.

Our kids are going to grow up here, after all. This is going to be their home town.

Rowland Todd: Shadowy Gatekeeper Seeks Re-Election

Featured

In the past several months, a barrage of formal complaints have been made against both the Camden County Commission and Camden County Clerk Rowland Todd for repeated violations of Chapter 610 of the Missouri State Statutes, commonly known as the Sunshine Law. Local business owner Theresa Townsend has filed many of these, although she has not been alone in these complaints. Second District Commissioner Cliff Luber has made his own formal complaint to the office of the Attorney General, as have other citizens of Camden County. While there has yet to be any action taken by Casey Lawrence, Sunshine Law Coordinator of state Attorney General Chris Koster, she has issued letters indicating that her investigations of these complaints have revealed wrongdoing on the part of local government officials. In fact, of Theresa Townsend’s first seven complaints, all were found to be credible, despite claims made by the outgoing Presiding Commissioner to the contrary. A pattern of illegal behavior has been revealed through these complaints and the subsequent investigations into the Commission and the actions of Camden County Clerk Rowland Todd.

On casual review, the written minutes provided by Todd are lazy, incomplete and, in some cases, completely inaccurate. This manipulation of the official record is illustrated time and again.

This is to say nothing of his efforts to skirt the Sunshine Law.

As of this writing, it has been 95 days since a Sunshine request was made for former Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken’s email records. That request, made by Theresa Townsend, was first made in the middle of May. In what appears to be political gamesmanship, Todd completely disregarded MO State Statute. Sunshine Law requires that any request for records be answered in three days. It does not stipulate that requested records be made available in three days, only that an answer to the request be penned in that time frame. In this case, that means that Todd had only to write an email response, indicating that the request for records had been forwarded to the correct department(s) and that the data was being collected and prepared for taxpayer review.

Todd waited a full 17 days to respond to this request.

This was not the first time that Todd has acted outside the law in regard to record reviews. Earlier this year, when another request was made to review billing from county attorney Charles McElyea, Todd illegally halted citizens from examining these records. After initially allowing this record review, Todd then stopped it, after receiving a phone call from McElyea himself. According to accounts, Todd claimed McElyea threatened a lawsuit against the county if this review was allowed to proceed.

This is a crime, as outlined clearly by Missouri State Statutes.

Rowland Todd has repeatedly and without apology, abused the public trust. He has acted not as the keeper of records, but instead as a gatekeeper between the taxpayers and the truth. Todd has consistently blocked and stymied attempts by Camden County citizens to conduct lawful and legal reviews of government records. He has acted in collusion with government officials who seem to have something to hide from the public who pays them.
Rowland Todd is up for re-election in November of this year. If his bid is successful, the citizens of Camden County can expect that he will continue to create illegal roadblocks to keep taxpayers in the dark. Todd has become the gatekeeper for those who choose to abuse the trust bestowed to those elected to office. Instead of being the gateway to transparency in government, Todd has instead proven himself to be the gatekeeper, actively working to conceal the actions of those collecting taxpayer dollars in shadows.

Todd has clearly demonstrated, through his own actions, a willingness to put special interests and personal agendas before his duty to the citizens of Camden County.

Franken, Todd Conspire to Illegally Remove Email Records

Featured

After several weeks and hurdles, Camden County Clerk Rowland Todd finally produced emails for Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken. The emails were received on Friday, July 25. This was 74 days after the original request for these records was submitted by Theresa Townsend, local business owner and resident of Camden County for more than twenty years. The emails were requested as a result of Theresa’s investigation into what she considers to be punitive and selective enforcement of Planning and Zoning, the Camden County Sheriff’s Department and Franken.
What was uncovered after reviewing the records and the redaction process is blatantly illegal. It harkens back to a similar scandal to emerge from the Governor’s mansion in 2007. Former Governor Matt Blunt engaged in the same practices that have been uncovered in the preliminary review of these records, provided by the Camden County Clerk’s office. On their surface, they point to behavior by the current Presiding Commissioner and County Clerk that is criminal and in direct violation of state statutes, adding yet another chapter in Camden County’s resume as the ‘Dirtiest County in America’.

Franken

HISTORY

The Sunshine request to the Camden County Clerk, Rowland Todd, has been a source of contention for weeks. The request, made by local business owner and resident Theresa Townsend on June 17th, was for all emails sent and received by current Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken for the past year. Below is a copy of that email request.

Terri Townsend
Jun 17

to me, rowland_todd
Since you seem to be laboring under bad legal advice concerning public records, I am amending my last request …. I would like to review ONLY Mr. Frankens e-mails for the past year. Please let me know when this can be done.

That request went unanswered by Camden County Clerk Rowland Todd, in violation of state statute, Chapter 610. On June 20, Ms. Townsend sent a follow up email. In that email she included the Missouri Revised Statute, Chapter 610.023. She also indicated that the ongoing refusal to respond to the request in the legally allotted time frame would result in yet another in a series of formal complaints made to the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

Terri Townsend
Jun 20

to me, rowland_todd, casey.lawrence
Mr. Todd, On Tuesday, June 17, 2014 I requested to view ONLY Mr. Frankens e-mail rather than those of all three commissioners. I asked when this would be possible. You have not responded to me.
Since the State Attorney General will only refer you to the statute you are violating rather than STOP these continued, blatant, deliberate violations, I will save her the time and valuable taxpayer money by doing that now.
May I present to you, obviously for the FIRST TIME, the portion of Chapter 610 of the rsMO:

Missouri Revised Statutes
Chapter 610
Governmental Bodies and Records
Section 610.023

August 28, 2013

Records of governmental bodies to be in care of custodian, duties–records may be copied but not removed, exception, procedure–denial of access, procedure.

610.023. 1. Each public governmental body is to appoint a custodian who is to be responsible for the maintenance of that body’s records. The identity and location of a public governmental body’s custodian is to be made available upon request.

2. Each public governmental body shall make available for inspection and copying by the public of that body’s public records. No person shall remove original public records from the office of a public governmental body or its custodian without written permission of the designated custodian. No public governmental body shall, after August 28, 1998, grant to any person or entity, whether by contract, license or otherwise, the exclusive right to access and disseminate any public record unless the granting of such right is necessary to facilitate coordination with, or uniformity among, industry regulators having similar authority.

3. Each request for access to a public record shall be acted upon as soon as possible, but in no event later than the end of the third business day following the date the request is received by the custodian of records of a public governmental body. If records are requested in a certain format, the public body shall provide the records in the requested format, if such format is available. If access to the public record is not granted immediately, the custodian shall give a detailed explanation of the cause for further delay and the place and earliest time and date that the record will be available for inspection. This period for document production may exceed three days for reasonable cause.

4. If a request for access is denied, the custodian shall provide, upon request, a written statement of the grounds for such denial. Such statement shall cite the specific provision of law under which access is denied and shall be furnished to the requester no later than the end of the third business day following the date that the request for the statement is received.
(L. 1987 S.B. 2, A.L. 1998 H.B. 1095, A.L. 2004 S.B. 1020, et al.)

Please be advised there will be ANOTHER formal complaint filed regarding this matter.

Theresa Townsend

June 23rd, an email exchange between Ms. Townsend and Rowland Todd addressed her request for these emails. Ms. Townsend sent Todd the following email:

Mr. Todd, on 6/17/14 I requested to view Mr. Frankens e-mails for the period of June 1, 2013 through the present. You have failed to acknowledge this request as well as the follow-up request sent 6/20/14. I will be in your office tomorrow 6/24/14 at 11:30 a.m. to view these records. Please see that they are available.
Theresa L. Townsend

Todd responded and the following exchange ensued.

From: Rowland_Todd@camdenmo.org
To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
Subject: RE: Public Records Request
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2014 16:19:15 +0000

Mrs. Townsend, This request is a revision of your original request for all three Commissioner’s e-mails. The estimate for the revised request is $250, but this is an estimate and you will be responsible for the actual charges for your request. The $250 will be required to be paid in advance. The IT Department will pull records until your initial payment of $250 has been exhausted for labor charges. At this time you will be made aware that your initial deposit has been exhausted and you will be allowed to make a decision as to whether or not we continue processing your request, or you may choose to view the documents that have been prepared to that point. If you have us continue to process your request you will have to pay the full balance of the actual cost of the request before you will be allowed to view any records. Nothing has been made available to you because you were disputing the charges. We usually do not require advance payments but have never received a request that was going to involve the amount of time that your request will involve. As has been explained to you, this office receives all Sunshine requests, however the appropriate department then fulfills that request. This request requires pulling records from the county server and cannot simply be scrolled through and viewed on the server. There are records that we are not allowed to disclose and they must be filtered in advance. This process has been reviewed by Casey in the Attorney General’s Office.
THANK YOU ROWLAND TODD

From: Terri Townsend [mailto:gidgetsgadgets@msn.com]
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2014 3:22 PM

To: Rowland Todd; americanspring2011@gmail.com; casey.lawrence@ago.mo.gov
Subject: RE: Public Records Request

Mr. Todd’ I would believe that when you are charging such an outrageous and, I believe, illegal fee that is in no way reflective of the cost actually involved that you would be able to tell me WHEN this WILL be available. You cannot say it is up to another department and just eave it open-ended … perhaps I should be corresponding with the IT Dept., who I am SURE did NOT come up with the hours that YOU did!! WHEN will June, 2013 e-mails be ready? When will the next months be ready?? Etc. You are not given carte blance to ignore requests for public information when you pass it off to another department. And may I ask WHY IT cannot just put words or phrases into a filter?? If this is Microsoft software as stated by Mr. Franken, this is ALL possible within MINUTES!!!

From: Rowland_Todd@camdenmo.org
To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
Subject: RE: Public Records Request
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2014 21:02:56 +0000

Mrs. Townsend, as I have tried to explain many times, I do not set the price or the length of time to fulfill a Sunshine request for another officeholder or department! The elected official over that department does that! The IT Department falls under the Commission Office as has been explained before. Our job is SIMPLY to accept the request! I cannot answer questions about pulling information off of the server any more than he (the IT employee) could answer questions about voter registration. As a matter of fact – the hours are what the IT Department estimated! We have forwarded this request to the appropriate department. Any further correspondence needs to be addressed to the Commission.
Theresa responded:
Mr. Todd, Even though I find the fees you quoted of $250 to be unreasonable AND illegal, I will be in tomorrow with this amount. Please have these documents prepared for my review

From: Rowland_Todd@camdenmo.org
To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
Subject: RE: Public Records Request
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2014 17:15:31 +0000

Mrs. Townsend, As per e-mail sent today, the conditions will stand and at this time there will be nothing available at 11:30 tomorrow (6/24/14) to view. But as always you are welcome in the County Clerk’s Office.

Thank You
Rowland Todd

On June 24th, Theresa Townsend spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting of the Camden County Commission. The audio recording of the commission meeting reflects her ongoing concerns, including the handling of Sunshine requests. Below is a transcript of her comments from that meeting.

“I received an email from Rowland Todd yesterday that disturbed me greatly. It said that the fee schedule was the result of a commission decision, that he received those fees from this commission, and I’m wondering when this was discussed? Because in reviewing the past three years of audio and typed minutes, there is no record of fees being discussed by this commission with regard to my records request.

So that tells me, either Rowland Todd lied….again….or that this commission held an illegal meeting in which decisions were made and forwarded to Rowland Todd, or that someone acted alone in giving Rowland Todd this information.

And so again, I’m going to ask, when is this commission going to take its job seriously, investigate the documented allegations I have made with regard to planning and zoning, with regard to Rowland Todd, with regard to Charles McElyea and with regard to your illegal meetings, meetings without notice and meetings without minutes.
Anyone care to respond to that?“

No response was forthcoming from the commission. Instead, they moved on to other business, including over $44,000 in unpaid impact fees at the Old Kinderhoook development. These impact fees, unpaid for months at that time, stood in direct contrast to Theresa Townsend having been charged twice for a permit for an addition to her business, Gidgets’ Gadgets, located on South Highway 5.

Charles McElyea, the attorney for Camden County, clearly had a conflict of interest that case, as he also represented Old Kinderhook. This was one of many facts brought to light by Second District Commissioner Cliff Luber as part of the June 24 meeting.

During this same meeting of the Camden County Commission, at approximately the 23:00 minute mark of the audio recording for June 24, Ms. Townsend’s Sunshine request was discussed at length. It was broached by Second District Commissioner Cliff Luber.

Commissioner Luber addressed the vague timeline offered by Rowland Todd for filling the Sunshine request in the email exchange with Theresa Townsend. Mr. Luber offered his own experience in requesting emails be pulled by the county IT department, referencing a request he himself made for emails from the account of former P&Z administrator Don Hathaway.

According to Luber, it took approximately 45 minutes to an hour for the county’s IT department to fill his request. This was at odds with statements made by Todd to Townsend via email.

Todd indicated that the request made by Townsend, would take eight hours for the IT department to compile. In fact, the eight hours referenced by Todd was for only one month of Franken’s emails. This email exchange, between Theresa Townsend and Todd, occurring on May 12th, May 29th and May 30th, speaks directly to the resistance of the County Clerk in filling ANY request for Franken’s emails.

Terri Townsend
May 12

to rowland_todd, me

Rowland, I would like to know how much I can expect to pay for copies of all emails out of Kris Frankens office for June, 2013. I would like to know, in advance, how many pages I would receive and how many hours it would take your IT Department to gather this information.
You may reply by email. Thank-you
Theresa L. Townsend

To this request, Rowland Todd had the following reply. This reply came a full 17 days after the request was made, in violation of Sunshine Law:

From: Rowland_Todd@camdenmo.org
To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
Subject: RE: Public Records Request
Date: Thu, 29 May 2014 20:09:18 +0000

$30.59 PER HOUR, $0.10 PER COPY WITH TWO COPIES PER PAGE . MRS. TOWNSEND ESTIMATED TIME EIGHT HOURS AND THOUSAND PAGES TIMES TWO THANK YOU ROWLAND TODD

Todd, acting as gatekeeper, clearly over-inflated the time necessary to perform the compiling of the email file. Additionally, he attempted to charge an illegal fee to Ms. Townsend. He indicates that there will be a doubling of fees for Ms. Townsend’s request. This is on par with Planning and Zoning charging Ms. Townsend double for a building permit she was told she didn’t need in the first place.

Theresa immediately challenged this attempt to impose an illegal fee.

Terri Townsend
May 30

to Rowland, me

Mr. Todd,
I confess to being confused by ” x 2″ … what does this mean and why would you charge me twice? Also, I question why it would take someone in IT (ESPECIALLY someone worth $30.59 an hour!!) EIGHT hours to hit “PRINT” for e-mails from a specific time frame?? Can you perhaps explain this to me??

Todd replied:

From: Rowland_Todd@camdenmo.org
To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
Subject: RE: Public Records Request
Date: Fri, 30 May 2014 17:50:13 +0000

The reason for charging twice one copy goes to you and one copy goes into the file for our record , it’s not just hitting a print button for the emails, they will have to be gone through, make sure there’s no legal confidential information in them

Terri Townsend
May 30

to Rowland, me

Rowland, You cannot expect ME to pay for YOUR copies, surely!!! Also, anything that should be redacted is your JOB and is already being paid for … THAT is NOT research 🙂 Please adjust your billing to meet state statutes and give me the LEGAL amount I can be expected to pay for a month of Kris Frankens e-mails.

As was first reported on American Spring and Guerrilla Radio, the Missouri Attorney General’s office offered case law that substantiates Theresa’s position. This case law was provided to her by Casey Lawrence, the Attorney General’s Sunshine Law Coordinator. It has not been overturned on appeal and the judgment states that a citizen cannot be charged for redactions that are supposed to be occurring already as the normal course of duties of elected officials.

This was the first of many roadblocks and obstacles that were placed between the public and the emails of the current Presiding Commissioner, courtesy Rowland Todd.

As Cliff Luber pointed out in the audio from the June 24th meeting of the Camden County Commission, there had been no discussion or consultation on the fees as a commission body. If there were any such discussions, Commissioner Luber did not take part in them.

In fact, Commissioner Luber spoke with Keith in the county’s IT department that confirmed that it would only take the same 45 minutes to compile Franken’s emails for an entire year. This is clearly not what Rowland Todd was attempting to tell Theresa Townsend. He was pursuing punitive fees that had been arrived at arbitrarily.

Commissioner Luber also indicated, that as a result of his conversation with IT, he was assured that, even if an email had been deleted off of Franken’s computer, it would still be accessible on the county’s server. There was essentially no chance that any emails could be lost. This is not exclusive to Franken. It would presumably apply to every county employee with an email address, including Sheriff Dwight Franklin.

On June 28th, Theresa made a request for three emails, exchanged between her and Sheriff Franklin. This request was also sent to Todd and, predictably, it was also met with a questionable response.

From Theresa:

Mr. Todd,

I would like copies of all correspondence between my attorney, Gail Troutwine, myself and Planning & Zoning for the year 2007, with respect to the postings that were made upon my place of business. I would like copies of ALL notes, documents, e-mails, etc. pertaining to that year. It would have started June, 2007.

Also, I request copies of ALL e-mails to the Sheriffs’ Dept. (There ARE no replies) from myself and/or Gidgets’ Gadgets from 2007 to the present. There are THREE of them.

Please advise me of the cost and when I can expect to come pick them up.

Theresa L. Townsend

Todd’s response to this new request:

From: Rowland_Todd@camdenmo.org
To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
Subject: RE: Public Records Request
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2014 17:48:00 +0000

MRS. TOWSEND, BOTH REQUEST HAS BEEN RECEIVE HEARD FROM I.T .DEPT. NOTHING FOUND ON SHERIFF’S DEPT. E MAILS PER YOUR REQUEST THANKYOU ROWLAND TODD

At this point, Theresa sent a copy of the exchange to Casey Lawrence of the Attorney General’s office:

Terri Townsend
Jun 30

to casey.lawrence, Rowland, me

Mr. Todd, as I am in possession of the original copies that were sent, I find this to be totally untrue … those e-mails ARE on your system and they are NOT removable without a trace and failure to produce them WILL result in me filing a suit 🙂

As mentioned before, this appears to contradict what the IT department relayed to Commissioner Luber with regards to county email accounts. Also, it begs the obvious question:

If Todd lied about the eight hours required for IT to pull this data, might he also be inventing the story that the IT department tried, but was unable to recover the Sheriff’s emails?

To this point, Commissioner Luber also addressed a potential conflict in the Clerk’s office with relation to handling Franken’s emails. He brought up the role of the redactor and the need for the process to be above board. Commissioner Luber addressed Todd, advising the Clerk that he was in possession of an email that caused “concerns”. This allusion to a potential bias or conflict on the part of an employee in the Clerk’s office led Todd to make the statement that he didn’t want his department to handle the redactions at all. Commissioner Luber indicated that he would share the email in question, indicating bias, with Todd.

Todd, in response, said that he agreed with the Commissioner. He outlined his department’s procedure regarding Sunshine requests, which was to forward all requests to the appropriate departments to be filled. In this case, the redaction process, it was agreed, would fall to the Commission itself.

Franken, at this point said that he ‘didn’t care who did it’, regarding the redactions.

Commissioner Luber volunteered to do the redactions. He offered to do them on Saturdays.

Franken then brought up the issue of the deposit he and Todd were requiring Ms. Townsend to make in order to begin the process of collection and redaction of these emails. Despite case law provided by the Attorney General’s Sunshine Law Coordinator, proving any redaction fees to be illegal, Franken boldly stated that the need for the deposit came directly from the lawyer, hired earlier in the month to defend these illegal actions. In Franken’s own words:

“ We aren’t going to allow political phishing for free.”

Franken went on to state that there were approximately 6,000 emails. Commissioner Luber indicated there were 6200 emails making up the dates covered in Ms. Townsend’s request. After considering Commissioner Luber’s offer, Franken then replied:

“I’m ok with that.”

The issue of the $250 deposit, cited by Todd, reinforced by Franken, came up again. Franken, when speaking about the deposit, seemed to have direct knowledge of the emails exchanged between Todd and Ms. Townsend. Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner Luber indicated that the matter of a deposit was not a topic of discussion with the commission as a body.

The meeting was adjourned at that point, with the agreement that Commissioner Luber would handle the redactions as part of the record.

On July 10th, a full 59 days after the Sunshine request for Franken’s emails had been made, Theresa Townsend again appeared before the Camden County Commission. She was the second item on the agenda for discussion.

She was the first taxpayer in recent memory to be taken out of a commission meeting by a CCSD officer.

The meeting of July 10 began with a point of contention regarding the approval of the previous week’s meeting minutes. Commissioner Luber refused to accept the meeting minutes as written by the Clerk’s office. His reasoning for that was the inclusion of a letter read in the July 7 meeting of the Camden County Commission. The letter was reproduced in its entirety, at the request of Kim Krostue, the letter’s author and Bill Pragman, the only two registered officers for Krostue’s PAC. Krostue did not read his own statement into the record. Instead, it was suggested that he was afraid to read his own blasphemy. Pragman read it for him. The letter, as has been proven to be the case with other ‘allegations’ made by the PAC, was patently false on many of its points. As a result of this litany of lies, Commissioner Luber refused to accept any minutes that contained the prepared statement. Luber called the remarks “disgraceful” and indicated that he would not approve the minutes until the statement was removed.

There was no public comment made during the July 10 meeting. After tabling a bid for property, the commission moved to Theresa Townsend.

Theresa Townsend began by asking, yet again, for a response to the sixteen questions she sent to the commission. She stated, and minutes from the Camden Commission confirm, that no actions have been taken to investigate the documentation she has provided to her allegations regarding how Planning and Zoning were used punitively against her business. That documentation can be found on Citizens for a Better Camden County’s Facebook page and by clicking here.

Ms. Townsend went on to mention the efforts of the PAC and Kim Krostue to impugn her character and question her credibility during the June 11 meeting of the Camden County Commission during public comment . Ms. Townsend was on the agenda for June 11, despite Franken’s attempt to have her omitted.

During this meeting, Ms. Townsend went on to discuss the $250 deposit she was quoted by Rowland Todd. The redaction fees she had been quoted seemed ludicrous, in light of the fact that Franken sent Krostue emails containing personnel matters and information. This is a fact substantiated by Krostue’s own admission, as confirmed on the June 24 recording.

She questioned the doubling of her permit fees, considering that Franken himself had unilaterally waived fees in other cases.

Ms. Townsend also addressed the formal complaints she has made to the Missouri Attorney General’s office. She has filed more than a dozen formal complaints with Casey Lawrence, the AG’s Sunshine Law Coordinator. The first seven of these formal complaints have been investigated and, in each case, the illegal behavior of the commission has been proven. Letters from Ms. Lawrence confirm this fact, despite claims of Franken to the contrary.

On June 25th, in the Camden County Reporter, Franken is quoted as saying the formal complaints were ‘dismissed’. This is a blatant falsehood and a continuation of Franken’s casual relationship with the truth. The Lake Sun, instead of investigating themselves, simply reprinted Franken’s assurances of “Nope! Nothing wrong here!”

This seems to also be contradicted by the hiring of an attorney, at a rate of $150/hour, to defend the county against the stream of formal complaints that have been made by Theresa, other citizens and Commissioner Cliff Luber himself.

Theresa continued, calling Franken’s claims of dismissal an “outright lie”.

She also spoke about the way in which Planning and Zoning was allowed to extort money from her, despite her repeated efforts and actions to be considered ‘compliant’. She questioned the perversion of law that appears to be the norm in Camden County government.

Ms. Townsend was composed throughout her remarks. She asked the commission for justification for the doubling of her permit fees, a request she has been making repeatedly since October 21 of 2013. Franken has refused to discuss any of Ms. Townsend’s documentation, including his own email admission that the Planning and Zoning department was responsible for the mistake that resulted in a doubling of her fees.

After Ms. Townsend asked the commission for discussion on her remarks, Franken asked if she was done speaking. She stated she was not finished and that she had been placed on the agenda for that very reason: discussion and resolution.

Commissioner Luber, when he was asked for comment on the doubling of her fees, answered Ms. Townsend.

He stated that fees being waived and lowered without a vote at the sole discretion of Franken and fees not being collected is an ongoing problem in Camden County and that Ms. Townsend’s fees “should be waived”.

He went on to make the point that “extreme preference” has been extended to certain people and organizations, and that Planning and Zoning had not been fairly administered throughout the county.

Theresa offered that Franken, through his email to her, indicated the problem was in how her property was designated through GIS mapping. That was untrue, as she cited that this was the second time Planning and Zoning had failed to correctly designate her property as a business. The very reason former P&Z administrator Don Hathaway claimed, falsely, that Gidgets’ Gadgets was ‘non-compliant’ was because it was zoned, incorrectly, as a residence.

She went on to describe the great lengths Planning and Zoning went to in order to extort money from her. She described a ‘requirement’, also invented by Hathaway, to change the driveway into her store. Finally, MODoT intervened, telling Hathaway that the drive was fine with them and they had no reason to request any changes.
Franken still sat in silence. Theresa went on to read a prepared statement that again cited extortion and additional collusion to impede her access to information. When Theresa went to the office of Circuit Clerk Jo McElwee to obtain evidence related to her case, she was provided a form with an invented statute that granted the Judge, in this case Aaron Koeppen, the ability to either approve or deny her request for records. This is not something that is at the Judge’s discretion. She also cited the efforts of Todd’s office in putting up a procession of “road blocks” with regards to Sunshine requests. She wrapped up her statement by wondering if her status as a Native American woman was the reason for such obvious and blatant discrimination.

After she read her statement, she then asked the commission: When are you going to do your jobs?

Once again, she asked Franken for discussion. He said, falsely, that she was not up for discussion and that he would only make comments after she agreed not to speak. Theresa reiterated that being placed on the agenda means that the county has business to discuss.

Franken began banging his gavel loudly, attempting to silence Ms. Townsend. He then issued the threat:

“One more time and you are gone.”

At that point, Lt. Helms of the CCSD, on the scene at Franken’s request, approached Theresa and told her she had to leave.

“What rules am I violating?” she asked.

“Doesn’t matter.” Was Helms’ response. “I’ve been ordered by the Presiding Commissioner”
When Ms. Townsend continued to press for the reason for her being made to leave the meeting, Helms very clearly threatens her.

“We can do this nice and easy or I can….escort you.”

It was at that point that Commissioner Luber, presumably to protect Ms. Townsend from an assault, encouraged her to leave.

“Am I breaking the law?” she asked.

“Yes.” Replied Helms.

“What law am I breaking?”

“Ma’am, you’re about to find out, ‘cause you are about to go to the hoosegow…”

It was at that point that Theresa claimed, correctly, that her civil rights were being violated. In fact, in using the CCSD as his own private Gestapo, not once, but twice, against Ms. Townsend, Franken violated the agreement he signed below.

March 23

While Theresa could still be heard in the background, outside the meeting, asking for some sort of reason for the involvement of the police, Franken decided to make three comments in response.

First, he said he wanted to record to reflect that he was not a member of a PAC and that it ‘didn’t belong to him’. Second, he stated that Theresa had started an illegal building addition on her property. Third, he stated that she was not the only person to have their fees doubled.

Franken then directed Becky Farris, of the Clerk’s office, that ‘I think those are the three main points that need to be shown on the record’. In the background, Theresa can still be heard asking what law was broken. The inability of Helms’ to provide her an answer is also evident.

Commissioner Luber then spoke about the Theresa Townsend situation.

He began by talking about a request he had made of the Clerk’s office. His request was for all of the meeting minutes from 2012. He requested these to review how business had been conducted before taking office. While he said the clerk staff was always good about providing him information when he requested it, he pointed toward a relationship between Todd’s office and Franken that was “disturbing”.

The email below, sent by Kris Franken to Joyce Miller, editor of the Lake Sun, was generated after the clerk’s office notified Franken of Commissioner Luber’s request for the minutes for 2012.

Joyce:

I am heading out to meetings this afternoon, but I will give you an overview. Essentially, Teresa wants all three Commissioner’s emails from June of 2013 to June of 2014. We cannot give her emails that have items that fall under 610.021, or more specifically to do with legal issues or personnel issues. All of these emails will have to be gone through by hand, and these items will have to be redacted. I know that just for me, that time period contains over 2500 individual emails, some with large attachments. To print all of these out just for me could easily be over 7500 pages. We have estimated (conservatively I might add) the time frame at 35 hours to prepare the documents at an average wage of $20 per hour, not counting the $0.10 per page cost. As per the Attorney General’s office, we are requiring a deposit to begin the work. Using our estimate, we are requiring $700.00 to begin the work, which will probably fall well short of the actual cost of the request. Teresa does not want to pay for the request or make the deposit. I think that it is only right that we get the deposit so we don’t waste an entire week’s worth of county employee’s time for a request that she may or may not pay for and pick up. Since this request, she has decided that she wants print outs of all of the minutes from 2012, which are available for free on the website, and Commissioner Luber is printing these off for her so she does not have to pay for them. If you need more information regarding this, my cell is 216-1145. I am willing to try this route again if we can maintain some mutual respect.

Thanks,

Kris

The claims made by Franken in this email are completely false. Theresa Townsend never asked for the 2012 minutes. She is well versed, as should be obvious by now, in how to find the minutes online.

Luber went on to say that he ‘should be able to request something without the clerk’s office notifying Franken’. The allegations Franken made against Commissioner Luber in the email to Miller were, according to the Second District Commissioner, “false allegations made against me again”.

He also cited an email exchange in 2013 between Franken and Spree Hilliard, also of the Lake Sun. The exchange was in regard to the addition of a public comment policy.

From: Hilliard, Spree [shilliard@lakemediaonline.com ]
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:49 PM
To: Kris Franken
Subject: Lake Sun article

Kris,
I have some questions about the public comment portion of the Camden County commission meetings. Why was this instated? What is the background of this? Is this opportunity open everyday to residents or only on meeting days when there is official business to vote on? Is there a time limit on public comment? Does the person speaking have to live within Camden County? What do you think the public comment portion will add to the meetings? Why add this now?

Anything else you would like to add?

I am working on a story. Please get back to me as soon as you can. I called and left a message with a secretary just a few minutes ago, but figured I’d try emailing you.

Thank you,
Spree Hilliard
Lake Sun

On Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 2:40 PM, Kris Franken <kris_franken@camdenmo.org > wrote:

Spree:

This was something that I was asked about by a group of citizens, and I did not have a good reason why we did not provide time for public comment other than it had never been done before, and it was not statutorily required. The Camden County Commission has always had an open door policy with regard to meeting with citizens at any time and about any issue. This formal period will only be on the days that we actually conduct business meetings, but as it has always been, citizens can come in any time to voice their concerns to the Commission. We are going to hold comment to 3 minutes unless there is additional questions from the Commission to the person making their comments. Anyone is welcome to make comments so long as it is done respectfully and within the reasonable confines of standard meeting procedures. People come in very regularly to visit with the Commission, and the only difference that I can see with the comments being made during the meeting is that the comments will be on the official record of the county, where the casual meetings with citizens that we currently have, while still just as important to us, are not a part of the official record. I know that this is something that has been abused in other parts of the state and in some instances it has been discontinued, but I think it is worthwhile to give it a try as long as comments and demeanor remain respectful.

Thanks,

Kris Franken

This email was sent to Hillard before public comment had even been mentioned to Commissioners Luber and Thomas, according to Luber. He had no idea who the citizens were requesting the public comment implementation, although they were later identified as members and contributors to Krostue’s PAC.

He also addressed the fees relating to Theresa’s Sunshine request for Franken’s emails. He asked how the fee was determined, other than by an attorney who works for the County. The terms of the related fees and deposits for Theresa’s request had never been discussed by the commission as a body. There was no consultation or conversation. There was never a vote.

He also mentioned the ongoing stream of complaints to the AG’s office. Commissioner Luber said that the commission had never been provided any of the letters from Casey Lawrence regarding the seven findings of wrongdoing by the commission. Franken had not shared those with Commissioners Luber or Thomas.

Again, Commissioner Luber referenced the relationship between the Clerk’s office and Franken and stated that he had no faith that the clerk’s office could redact properly in an unbiased fashion.

He also questioned information that was provided to Bill Pragman of the PAC. According to the email below, Franken worked to compile information for Pragman at his request, but there was no fee associated with this extra work. This, Luber stated, indicated a discrepancy when compared to Theresa’s request.

From: Kris Franken
To: Bill & Karen Pragman
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 3:12 PM
Subject: RE: Statistics

Bill:
 
I have you information…it was a little more work than I expected, but it was informative for myself as well.  A couple of considerations when viewing this data, especially with regards to the business and sales tax numbers.  I can only count the businesses that remit sales tax to Camden County.  If a business does not remit sales tax, like a manufacturer, or a feed store for farm use, or many other uses, they are still businesses but we have no way to count them…and they do not generate sales tax directly from their operation, but we get the sales tax generated by the economic activity from the salaries and jobs they provide.  Many of these types of businesses are located outside of the P&Z boundary.  These are actual numbers from our reports that I have compiled and I would say that the margin of error is a maximum of 3%.  Also, there are a lot of businesses out there that pay their sales tax at their point of purchase and only add labor, so they do not remit and show up on this report as a reporting business.  Business and sales tax numbers are from March, 2013.  On the real estate taxes, it is real estate only, no personal property, and it is for all taxing entities…state, county, fire, ambulance, etc.  If you have any further questions, let me know.  Here is the info:
 
Total number of parcels in Camden County = 65,536
Total amount of property tax paid by this group = $53,092,845.00
 
Total number of parcels in the P&Z District = 60,707
Total amount of property tax paid by this group = $47,817,873
 
Total number of full time residents in Camden County = 44,002
Total number of full time residents in P&Z District = 30,801
 
Total number of RETAIL businesses in Camden County reporting sales tax = 722
Total amount of sales tax collected by this group = $607,813.30
 
Total number of RETAIL businesses in P&Z District reporting sales tax = 711
Total amount of sales tax collected by this group = $606,445.30
 
There you go.  Have a great weekend.
 
Kris Franken

With regard to the doubling of Ms. Townsend’s permit fees, Commissioner Luber asked Franken about a BOA hearing fee, dated 2/11/13. The fees for this were waived unilaterally by Franken.

Even when confronted with this evidence, Franken claimed: “No it was not.”

Franken then attempted to feign shock and outrage, when presented with this proof, some of which was uncovered during the redaction process. It was at that point that Franken’s pathological affliction seems to have taken over. He attempted to rewrite history and claim that he never gave Commissioner Luber ‘permission’ to do redactions on his emails. This, of course, is contradicted by the official record of the June 24 meeting of the commission, as detailed above.

Franken claimed that, after the meeting, he changed his mind. He claimed also that he informed Commissioner Luber of this change of heart. Spree Hilliard, in attendance, backed up her buddy Kris, claiming that she heard Franken say that Cliff couldn’t review his emails. Unfortunately, three other witnesses, including Commissioner Luber, never heard any such statement.

Luber went on to say that because of Franken’s own actions, he was having difficulty in deciding what should or should not be redacted. He cited emails that Franken sent to Kim Krostue, a private citizen, regarding personnel issues.

“What am I supposed to redact when you’ve given a personnel email to a private citizen who supports you?” asked Luber.

Hilliard at that point asked for a copy of the full recording of the meeting and copies of the emails mentioned by Commissioner Luber between Franken and the Lake Sun.

“If the Lake Sun’s going to be mentioned, we should know about it.” Spree said, her naivety on full display.

Franken then, obviously shaken, declared the meeting adjourned.

On July 25th, 74 days after Theresa Townsend made a Sunshine request for one year of Franken’s emails, she received the following email from Clerk Rowland Todd.

To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
From: Rowland_Todd@camdenmo.org
Mrs. Townsend, your sunshine request for Commissioner Franken’s emails is finished. For your convenience we put them on the disc that you can take with you, there is a total of 6,074 emails. On June 24 you made a down payment of $250 I had one staff handle this at a rate of $11.77 per hour it took her 16 hours which comes out to $188.32 leaves a refund of $61.68. This can be picked up here in the office Thank you Rowland Todd 1 Court Circle N.W. Camdenton, Mo. 650203) 317-3890 (573) 317-3890 Fax: (573) 346-8445

This email has several important admissions in it. First, according to Todd, there were a total of 6,074 emails. Additionally, he admits that the redaction was performed by a female staff member in his office. This is in direct conflict with the official county record, in which it was decided that Commissioner Luber would handle redactions. In fact, Commissioner Luber had indicated that his redaction was nearly complete several days earlier, as evidenced by audio recording.

Instead, Becky Farris went to the IT department and requested the same emails. She said it was because they had received a call from the Casey Lawrence and the AG’s office. According to Todd’s office, they were told by the AG’s office that they were to do the redactions in question, not Commissioner Luber.

Commissioner Luber, seeking conformation of this directive, called the Missouri Attorney General’s office. They indicated they made no such call to Todd’s office.

On Friday afternoon, the disk containing the emails ‘redacted’ by Todd’s office was picked up and the remainder of the deposit was refunded, per the email from Todd to Ms. Townsend.

After receiving the disk provided by Todd’s office, several discrepancies immediately became apparent, seeming to provide validation of Commissioner Luber’s stated reservations about the redactions being done in the Clerk’s office.

First, according to Rowland Todd, there should have been 6,074 email records included on the disk. This was not the case. Only 5,137 records were provided. According to accounts given by Franken (6,000 records), Commissioner Luber (6,200 records) and Todd (6,047 records) there are, at minimum 937 missing emails. These emails appear to have been completely omitted from the disk provided for review.

What can only be characterized in Commissioner Luber’s word, ‘disturbing’, there appears to be a very deliberate pattern regarding the omission of these 937 emails. Also, as predicted by Commissioner Luber when he voiced his concerns regarding the Clerk’s office handling the redactions, emails that should not have been redacted clearly have been.

In taking a tally of outgoing emails authored by Franken, a noticeable problem exists. This year, in the month of May, Franken sent 85 emails. In June of this year (not a full month based on the Sunshine request), there were 101 outgoing emails. It is important to note that these two months are by far the most reasonable, with regard to volume, than the preceding months.

The disk provided by Todd’s office shows that in the months before May of this year, Franken’s outgoing emails have been severely redacted. A monthly tally breaks down as follows:

July 2013 5
August 2013 7
September 2013 8
October 2013 1
November 2013 5
December 2013 5
January 2014 1
February 2014 2
March 2014 2
April 2014 0

The inclusion of the handful of emails that WERE provided indicate that any outgoing emails should still be on the Camden County’s server and was not a technical or user error. Had outgoing emails been in a separate folder and were not uploaded to the disk, there would be zero records for the months above. Instead, what is presented appears to be a fraction of the emails Franken sent during those months. Nor were all of these emails regarding legal or personnel issues. In fact, an email sent by Franken to Theresa Townsend on December 5, 2013 is missing. There could be no reasonable justification for this email to have been redacted, as it is a response to Theresa’s ongoing issues with Planning and Zoning.

From: kris_franken@camdenmo.org
To: gidgetsgadgets@msn.com
CC: dhathaway@camdenmo.org
Subject: RE: P&Z ongoing issues
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2013 17:47:18 +0000

Teresa:

I apologize, once again, for the incorrect record keeping in Planning and Zoning regarding your property. We have gone through a series of software updates on our GIS system and sometimes data does not transfer from system to system as we would like. We will do our best to make sure that the zoning map issue does not occur again.

I understand from your email that there are things that you do not like about the rules in Planning and Zoning and would like to encourage you to be a part of the process whenever we have public hearings to take input on proposed changes.

I am not aware of any “selective enforcement” in Planning and Zoning as you have alluded to, but some of that perception may be from variances that were requested and granted to certain applicants by the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Adjustments. As far as incorporated municipal boundaries are concerned, Camden County Planning and Zoning laws do not apply within the city limits of any city or village located within the borders of Camden County.

Finally, you allude to an “illegal meeting”. We have had no illegal meetings. The commission never voted on any action regarding your property. The job of the Planning and Zoning Administrator is to uphold and enforce the laws of Camden County. The action of that enforcement does not, and should not, require authorization of the County Commission. Any “meeting” that you would be referring to would simply be a staff update where the Commission was being made aware of the cases currently being acted upon in Planning and Zoning. These updates help to keep us properly informed should we need to answer questions on case statuses that we may encounter either from the applicant or a concerned citizen.

I appreciate your concerns with Planning and Zoning and will work to improve the program.

Sincerely,

Kris Franken
Presiding Commissioner Camden County

This email does not appear in the records provided by the clerk’s office. It is one of the missing 937 emails. There can be no reasonable argument made to have redacted this email and it stands as undeniable proof of the collusion between Franken and Todd to thwart Sunshine Law.

This illegal action has exposed the county to unknown liabilities. It is in violation of a decision reached during a meeting of the Camden County Commission and clearly violates both Chapters 109 and 610 of Missouri State Statutes. The omission of these records are criminal, plain and simple, as illustrated in 2007, when former Governor Matt Blunt and his staff ignored state statutes in concealing their emails from the public. It represents a violation of the public trust and the oaths of office taken by both Franken and Todd.

Together, they decided that the decision of the commission could be discarded, in order to conceal Franken’s emails. This decision came without a discussion or vote by the commission body. The decision to have someone other than Commissioner Luber do the redactions is a violation of Sunshine Law itself.

Theresa Townsend, who first found this glaring and sloppy discrepancy, sent the following email to Rowland Todd, in order to clarify who made this decision.

RE: EMAILS REQUEST
Terri Townsend 7/25/14
To: Rowland Todd
Also, what do you mean you had one staff do it?? It was decided in a Commissioner meeting that Mr. Luber was going to do the redaction. Can you please tell me when this was changed, when you were notified of the change and WHO notified you of this change??? There has never been another Commissioner meeting where this was discussed or decided after June 24, 2014. Thank-you

Also, the following email was sent by Theresa Townsend to Casey Lawrence of the Attorney General’s office on Monday morning, July 28, 2014.

Casey Lawrence:
On Friday July 25, 2014 I was notified by Rowland Todd that my records request of June 17, 2014 had FINALLY been completed and rather than allowing me to VIEW the records as requested, they were placed on a disc for me to pick up. (Here is copy of request: Public Records Terri Townsend 6/17/14 To: americanspring2011@gmail.com, rowland_todd@camdenmo.org gidgetsgadgets@msn.com Since you seem to be laboring under bad legal advice concerning public records, I am amending my last request …. I would like to review ONLY Mr. Frankens e-mails for the past year. Please let me know when this can be done. ) On June 24, 2014 it was agreed that Commissioner Luber would redact these e-mails at no cost. On July 11, 2014 when I sent a follow up to Mr. Todd, he responded that Mr. Luber had the e-mails and was redacting them. (Here is link to audio of June 24, 2014 Commissioner meeting: http://www.camdenmo.org/min2012/June%2024,%202014.mp3 ) In Mr. Todds e-mail of July 25, 2014 he states ” I had one staff handle this at a rate of $11.77 per hour it took her 16 hours which comes out to $188.32″. Since there have been no commissioner meetings since July 10, 2014 I am wondering WHO told Mr. Todd to have a staff member redact these e-mails, HOW was Mr. Todd notified to do this and WHEN?? Also, according to RSmo 109.280 these records should have already been marked as confidential and separated from “regular” public records which means there should be NO charge for redaction. It should have already been done as I have maintained from the beginning of this request. (Here is 109.280: Agency heads may determine nature and form of records–confidential records to be so treated. 109.280. Nothing in sections 109.200 to 109.310 shall be construed to divest agency heads of the authority to determine the nature and form of the records required in the administration of their several departments, or to compel the removal of records deemed necessary by them in the performance of their statutory duties. Any records made confidential by law shall be so treated in the state or local records center and archives.) Also, on June 24, 2014 I was charged $250.00 AFTER it had been determined that Mr. Luber was redacting the e-mails … what was I being charged for??? THAT $250.00 was for the IT Dept. to redact at a rate of $30.59 an hour as you are well aware from previous correspondence. It took over a MONTH for me to be allowed to VIEW e-mails!!! RSmo 109.80 states: Public records open to inspection–refusal to permit inspection, penalty. 109.180. Except as otherwise provided by law, all state, county and municipal records kept pursuant to statute or ordinance shall at all reasonable times be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of Missouri, and those in charge of the records shall not refuse the privilege to any citizen. Any official who violates the provisions of this section shall be subject to removal or impeachment and in addition shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, or by confinement in the county jail not exceeding ninety days, or by both the fine and the confinement. (L. 1961 p. 548 § 1) CROSS REFERENCE: Tax returns and records of department of revenue, confidentiality, 32.057, 92.338, 94.540, 94.620 I hardly think that this request has met this requirement ….. Moving on. I would like your office to subpeona Mr. Lubers computer immediately as there are 837 missing e-mails. In Mr. Todds e-mail he states “For your convenience we put them on the disc that you can take with you, there is a total of 6,074 emails.” In the June 24, 2014 meeting they claim 6200….. HOWEVER, there are a total of 5,237 on the disc provided to me. All but EIGHT of Mr. Frankens out-going e-mails for the period of June 2013 through May 2014 are NOT on this disc, including the one he sent to me on December 5, 2013 which would NOT have met redaction criteria. I would have a hard time believing that ALL of Mr. Frankens outgoing e-mail for ELEVEN MONTHS would have been “closed” records. Since all other incoming e-mails are here, I would believe that the out going e-mails SHOULD be on the county server or have been deliberately removed/destroyed. I am asking that your office conduct a thorough investigation of these allegations and the record keeping system and the methods used by Camden County as these are public records that are now missing, destroyed or being illegally kept from me, even after I paid the illegal fee! I would mention that I shouldn’t pay for redaction under law, but, also because the person who did the redaction was inept, to say the least. There are SEVERAL e-mails with TWO separate attorneys that SHOULD have been redacted and were not. To conclude, I would like to point out the following as you seem to have missed it in your previous dealings with the Camden County Commissioners and my formal complaints: Liberal construction of law to be public policy. 610.011. 1. It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy. Your office is charged with seeing that these laws are followed!!! You have FAILED miserably in this task over the course of the past three months. It has led to this brazen crime being committed against me. For the last time, I ask that you do the job you are being paid to do and bring these lawbreakers to justice and see that they are penalized for the willful arrogance with which they continue to break these laws. Any further inability on your part to do the job your are charged to do will result in a freedom of information request being filed for all correspondence between your office & Camden County regarding my formal complaints and you will be named as a co-conspirator in these these crimes in the suit I will file.

The entire file of Franken’s emails will be made available to the public on Monday, July 28, 2014. For more on this story as it continues to develop, tune in today at noon on Guerrilla Radio.

Editor’s Note: Because some email programs track and count emails in different ways, there is a working assumption that the total number of records could vary slightly depending on the program used to view them. This does not however, explain the vast discrepancy between emails included after Franken was made aware of the Sunshine request and those months preceding. The difference is certainly worthy of a thorough investigation by the office of the Attorney General.