Camdenton, Missouri School Board Elections About Local Control

School board races across the state have added importance this election year. A growing coalition of parents believe that the elections held this year are the most important in recent memory. For these parents and tax payers, the future of our school districts are at stake. A transformation of education is underway, led by a consortium of unelected ‘officials’ and lobbyists, school attorneys and special interest groups. For this reason, the elections of 2014 have taken on added significance. These elections are about the most personal form of government and local control, accountability and responsibility.

The Camdenton R-3 school district board of education has three seats up for election on April 8. This year’s elections are taking place under the long shadow cast by last campaign season. It showcased, in a snapshot, the brutal reality of politics and power in Camden County. This year’s elections, thus far, are taking an entirely different course. The goal however, remains painfully clear. Ensure the status quo.

Recently, the Lake Sun asked candidates for Camdenton school board their qualifications and asked a couple of questions. The responses to the first of those questions are noteworthy, as it deals with a fundamental change to the way the public is ‘allowed’ to interact with board members.

From the Lake Sun:
Do you think the current school board policy regarding public participation allows for sufficient opportunity for the public’s voice to be heard? Do you support the current policy or if elected would you seek to make changes to the policy?

This policy represents a fundamental shift of the tax paying public’s ‘role’ in school affairs. It plainly seeks to use a questionable interpretation of law to stifle public input to the board, requiring an approval process that filters communications meant for the board through both school administration and school attorneys. This, to many parents, represents another step in a silent coup, preformed under the assumption of authority neither the administration, nor the school attorneys, have. A concerted effort has been made to reinforce the false logic that our representatives should somehow be ‘protected’ from hearing from the public and parents they serve.

Part of the new public comment policy, as recommended during an August visit from an MSBA lawyer, appears below. Camdenton adopted a policy that restricts the public from having open discussions with the board about their concerns, if those requests aren’t ‘approved’ by administration and attorneys.

7. Only items from the posted agenda may be discussed. If an individual seeks to address an issue that is scheduled to be discussed by the Board in closed session, the Board may require the person to hold his or her comments until closed session.

8. The Board may vote to suspend or amend these rules in extraordinary circumstances. The Board may impose additional rules as it deems necessary and reserves the right to alter the above rules depending on the circumstances. The Board reserves the right to cancel, reschedule or delay the public comment period at any time or delay comment on a particular topic. The Board may refuse to hear comments on a particular topic if advised to do so by legal counsel.

The candidates answered the question from the Lake Sun regarding this public comment policy, as follows:

Selynn Barbour:

Yes, I believe the recently-updated school board policy facilitates engaged communications with our students, parents and patrons. We truly want to hear from our public. It’s their school. We recently enhanced this school board policy with an email address so our patrons can access all board members at exactly the same time from our school district’s web site. We have received emails, returned replies and heard positive responses from the public because of this additional and convenient use of technology. This is in addition to the options of writing us letters as well as speaking during every public portion of our school board meetings.

Yes, I support this policy. We will be monitoring its progress. We also will continue to be cognizant of new technology as it emerges to communicate with the public exemplifying transparency and participation.

I invite you to peruse our website, http://www.camdentonschools.org. There you will easily find exciting student highlights and important information. Please click the “school board” tab to learn and/or leave any questions, concerns or comments. We are here to work together for our awesome LAKER NATION!

Courtney Hulett:

First of all, I believe that communication between the public and a public school is essential to the vitality of the school and community. I believe that transparent, open lines of dialogue can aide in the direction of the district and prevent disruptions that hinder progress at all levels. Awareness of situations as they arise is key to correcting them and will strengthen the district as a whole. E-mail has proven to be an efficient method to communicate.

Second, I do believe that concerns should be filtered through proper channels. There are many issues that are most appropriately handled by the teachers and administrators who work closely with the students. This will allow everyone, including the board of education, to most efficiently perform their duties in a timely manner. It also allows continued focus on delivering the best possible education and work environments for our district, which is our goal.

Lastly, if an issue warrants board attention, best practice is inherently to give all parties preparation time. This allows improved communication and input, which will expedite resolutions so that we remain focused on our goals.

Joe Ridgeway:

After reviewing Board Policy “BDDH-Public Participation at Board Meetings” and attending several Board meetings it is evident to me that the Board is allowing a public comment time during the meeting. As outlined in the policy the public comment period is only designated for items that are on the agenda for that month. However, the policy also states that any member of the public may request an item to be placed on the agenda for discussion as long as it is received seven days prior to the meeting. Certain items regarding personnel, student issues and legal matters may need to be addressed in closed session.

Perhaps better communication to the public with regards to this policy and the procedures to be heard at a Board meeting whether it is during the public comment portion of the meeting or getting an item placed on the agenda for public discussion.

Not knowing what the public wants changed I would have to support the current procedures in the policy manual, many school districts in the state do not allow a public comment time in their School Board meetings, this is a local decision.

Jackie Schulte:

I do support this policy. Our policy allows the community to request topics of concern to be placed on the agenda which allows the patrons AND the district to prepare for an educated discussion. I believe this 7-day policy supports a professional and cooperative environment. Board members are responsible for protecting our staff and students; allowing anyone to speak on impulse could open the district to possible legal repercussions. This past year the board unanimously voted to introduce a board email address. This line of communication provides patrons an avenue to contact us with any issues and concerns while allowing us to continue focus on the goals and progress of students and staff.

Four of the five candidates for Camdenton school board, as indicated by the answers given above, are in favor of this public comment policy. The lone dissenter from the ‘company line’, candidate Mindi Sales.

Mindi Sales:

I do not support the current policy on public comment. I attended the board meeting last fall where the MSBA came in and spoke to the board when recommending that they limit public comment to those items approved to be on the agenda. I was disappointed when the board, including 2 of my incumbent challengers, voted to approve that policy. When the question was asked of the attorney who was trying to convince the board to alter policy to put heavy limits on allowing the public to speak to the board, if there had been instances where a board had ever been sued as a result of public comment. She answered, “no, but it could”. Thus, the policy was changed. I do not think that is fair to the community that we are serving. I believe that the board is elected to be the voice of the people. I do NOT think we should limit their opportunity to be heard. Might a meeting go on for a long time if we have lots of comments? It might! But when else does the public have an opportunity to speak to the entire board?

To understand the context of Mindi’s dissatisfaction regarding the board’s recent decision to adopt this policy, her own recent experiences in attempting to address the board offers insight. In the summer of 2013, Mindi attempted to find out why former Camdenton Middle School Principal Sean Kirksey was suspended. Finding a disparity between DESE’s outline for responsibility and Kirksey’s suspension, Mindi sought answers from the school board regarding his suspension. It was during this time that a lawyer from the unelected Missouri School Board Association spoke during a meeting of the school board.

Her experience is reprinted below, taken from her campaign’s Facebook page, Mindi Sales for Camdenton School Board.

My experience with the public comment policy started when I wanted to address the board concerning Sean Kirksey. I thought that as a tax payer and a citizen of the district, the board would want to hear from me since they were, in theory, representing me. So, I emailed Dr. Hadfield and called Chris McElyea to discuss my options. I was told that I could NOT talk to the board about employees. I thought that was wrong! If I wanted to come and read a letter about a teacher that went above and beyond, they would let me do that, but I couldn’t say that I thought Sean went above and beyond? My real question was WHY???

So, Dr. Hadfield had someone from the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) to come in to talk about public comment. I was at that meeting. Her main point was that we MIGHT be sued if we allowed public comment about a staff member. Now, this has NEVER happened, but since it MIGHT, we should shut off all public comment unless the person wanting to speak follows some very controlled rules?!?

Here is the thing about speaking in front of the board: You have all 7 members there and everyone will hear the same words. If you go meet each individual, sometimes different things are said to different people, therefore causing a bigger problem in my opinion. When you are on a Board of Education making sometimes tough decisions, it is not always going to be happy and fun. But, we need to have ALL the input to make a good decision, and that includes the input from the people!!

THIS IS THE MAIN POINT I WANT YOU TO HEAR: In order for you to talk about an issue to the board, your issue MUST be on the agenda. In order to be on the agenda, you have to ask at least 7 days in advance and get approval. The board does not have to allow your agenda item on the agenda. WHY is someone allowed to dictate what the people can say to their own board?!?!?

Here is how that policy did not apply when I was wanting to talk about Sean. The Board was already making the decision concerning Sean. What good would it do to go talk to anyone other than the Board? Why didn’t they want my input? Why wouldn’t they want to hear from someone who had nothing but great experiences with an employee whose fate they were deciding?

Do I believe that there should be procedures in place for complaints? Of course! The Board cannot deal with every issue that is brought up in every building every day. I understand that. But, I do feel the board has a responsibility to listen to the people. I do not think they should hide behind a policy in hopes of trying to avoid an issue. Sometimes the board might have to listen to something that might be a bit uncomfortable. For example, I was at a meeting once when someone wrote a letter that was talking about Laura Martin in a disapproving manner. Laura sat and listened to the entire letter. No one stopped this person from saying what she had to say about Laura. If we are going to allow some not so warm and fuzzy comments to be made, why can’t we comment positively about someone?!?!

Being on the board is not always going to be easy, nor is it always going to be fun. Sometimes it might be down right uncomfortable. But, we have been elected to do the will of the PEOPLE. Shouldn’t the board be willing to HEAR the people?

I think it is important that the voters know where everyone stands on these types of issues. After all, the board is representing YOU!

Mindi’s experience raises some very real concerns with the adoption of this kind of restrictive policy. It allows for administration and lawyers to dictate what the public can and cannot relate to the board. When taken beyond Mindi’s example, the framework created by this policy change is one that is anything but transparent, despite the claims made above by Selynn Barbour. It is designed to conceal. It is designed to silence questions.

This policy change was initiated by Barbour, who made the motion to approve this new language regarding public comment. Her motion was seconded by Jackie Schulte.

In the traditional fashion of Washington politicians, the school board, after adopting this stifling policy, announced that the board of education members would be ‘allowed’ to have email addresses through the school. These email addresses, according to the false narrative presented by Barbour, would make it easier for the concerns of tax payers and parents to reach board members.

Barbour stated: “We truly want to hear from our public. It’s their school. We recently enhanced this school board policy with an email address so our patrons can access all board members at exactly the same time from our school district’s web site. We have received emails, returned replies and heard positive responses from the public because of this additional and convenient use of technology. This is in addition to the options of writing us letters as well as speaking during every public portion of our school board meetings.”

The email “enhancement” comes with familiar policy language.

On January 14, 2014, in an article in the Lake Sun announcing the email policy, Assistant Superintendent Roma France announced the implementation of Camdenton’s email accounts for board members.

France made the following statement:

“Protocol would be for the Board president and/or superintendent to respond to the patron on behalf of the district.” She went on to say, “If several questions come in on the same topic, then the item may be placed on the next board agenda.”

The Lake Sun described the email procedures, as laid out for them by France:

” Then, she told the board that emails would go to a mail distribution group, board@camdentonschools.org, which would be sent to each board member along with the superintendent or a designee. ”

And that: ” In most cases, the superintendent or administration will be the one to respond. ”

The guidelines adopted for the district’s email policy contain restrictions that mirror, in practical application, those inserted into the inappropriately named ‘public comment policy’. The guidelines offered the Lake Sun by Camdenton’s administration, read as follows:

1. If you are providing Board members an e-mail address, all Board members by policy must sign the Authorized User Permit that staff and students must sign and Board member must agree to the same terms as staff and students.

This first policy restriction would allow, presumably, for the unfettered monitoring of emails between themselves and their constituents. It creates an environment worthy of the NSA in the Camdenton school district. It would allow complete access to all board member’s accounts, without cause, without warrant. Camdenton’s version of Big Brother, it can reasonably be assumed, is manned by school administration and the districts lawyers, the firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole.

Also from the Camdenton administration’s ‘guidelines’:

4. When information is sent via the generic Board@camdentonschools.org, the protocol is for the superintendent or Board president to respond on behalf of the district and to cc the Board the response so that the Board knows the patron has been corresponded with and what was said. If a Board member disagrees with the response or has questions, he or she is encouraged to immediately notify the superintendent and the Board president of that fact.

The last sentence in this ‘guideline’ is one that gives us pause, particularly when we consider the access and latitude granted the administration and its lawyers in regard to the distribution of emails in the first place. This assumption of authority, of determining which emails reach the board, is reemphasized throughout these ‘rules’ created by administration and their attorneys.

Number five of these ‘guidelines’ ensures that, even a board member can be denied the ability to add a topic or concern to the agenda.

5. Any Board member may ask that a subject is added to the Board’s agenda at the next meeting for discussion. The Board as a whole will ultimately vote when approving the agenda to determine if the issue will be discussed.

The last sentence of ‘rule’ #5 is particularly offending:

However, Board members are free to direct questions or concerns to the superintendent or Board president.

Number six in the list of guidelines:

6. A Board member who is not the Board president may correspond individually with a patron, but is required to indicate that the opinions expressed are his or her own and not the Board’s. A Board member is prohibited from using a district-provided e-mail address contrary to district policy or law or to violate district policy or law.

The key words and phrases in ‘rule’ number six are distressing. “Board member”, “prohibited”, “contrary to district policy” and “violate district policy”. These are words that place control of our school, not in the hands of our elected representatives, but into those of administration and attorneys. Many of these policies were crafted, approved and suggested by the attorneys for our school district and district administration. They are not rules of law, nor are should they be.

Rules nine and ten completes the usurping of power from the citizens in the Camdenton school district. They clearly illustrate the ongoing efforts to eliminate ‘local control’ over our school districts.

9. The superintendent or Board president in their discretion may not respond to messages from the same sender that are repetitive, or messages that are threatening or that use profane language.

10. The superintendent or Board president will not directly respond to messages involving litigation, potential or pending litigation, or a situation on appeal pursuant to district policies or the law.

In addition, the superintendent or Board president may not respond to messages if advised by the district’s attorney not to do so. However, the superintendent or Board president will acknowledge receipt of the message and notify the sender of the rules.

These policies, designed to remove, control and suffocate the input of parents and tax payers, are the opposite of Barbour’s claims.

“Yes, I believe the recently-updated school board policy facilitates engaged communications with our students, parents and patrons. We truly want to hear from our public. It’s their school. We recently enhanced this school board policy with an email address so our patrons can access all board members at exactly the same time from our school district’s web site.

Yes, I support this policy. We will be monitoring its progress. We also will continue to be cognizant of new technology as it emerges to communicate with the public exemplifying transparency and participation.”

She also invited the public to “peruse” the school web site. Perhaps Ms. Barbour should have perused a dictionary for both the correct definition of transparency. To her credit however, Ms. Barbour didn’t dive under her desk like partner-in-crime, Jackie Schulte. Ms. Schulte used the question regarding the public comment policy shift to beat the drums of fear mongering. This fear mongering is based on the flawed legal interpretation that, somehow, the school board could be held liable for what a citizen says to them. This laughable notion is parroted by Schulte.

“Board members are responsible for protecting our staff and students; allowing anyone to speak on impulse could open the district to possible legal repercussions.”

It should come as no surprise that both Barbour and Schulte embrace these restrictions. They have a history of misleading the public regarding school business. Nor have they been alone in this endeavor. The desire to mislead the public, engage in character assassination and restrict public comment and input appears to have a clear motive.

The Camdenton school district is a $45 million dollar a year business. How that money is distributed, to whom and why, are questions that some board members simply do not want asked. For example, Selynn Barbour would presumably prefer the public didn’t know that she must recuse herself from all votes to approve payments to the district’s architects. Why must she recuse herself?

Because she is related to members of the firm.

School board president Chris McElyea has the same complication, when issuing payments to his father’s title company.

Nor are these policies, and the motives behind them, only being questioned by Mindi Sales. As was previously mentioned, during the August meeting of the Camdenton school board, a presentation was given by an unelected attorney speaking on behalf of the MSBA. This presentation offered the basis for legal fear mongering echoed in Schulte’s statement.

The lawyer’s presentation wasn’t the only one heard by the board that evening. Another presentation was made in reference to the public comment policy and its motivations and application. Chris Michaelree spoke about these issues during the time allowed him during public comment. His presentation appears below, in full.

“Board Policy BDDB states that a patron desiring to be included on the agenda shall make a request to the superintendent. The board can limit the number and speaking times of a spokesperson, it does not however include a provision for the board or superintendent to deny the request. The use of the word request does not imply that a request can be denied, it is the same term used in the first paragraph of this policy that a board member may request an item be added to the agenda, or as in a sunshine request, it is a term used for courtesy. Therefore, any patron who has made a request under this policy and has had their request denied has been a victim of a violation of board policy by the superintendent or the president of the school board.

Board Policy BDDH has most of the same terminology but does add a few provision. It states that the request can be denied if the proper grievance policy procedure has not been followed. But it also states that the item will be appropriately placed on the agenda. In a lot of cases the grievance policy does not cover what patrons wish to discuss with the board since it might not be something in which they had direct involvement. For example, if I wanted to discuss actions of a school employee, with whom my child nor I have direct contact, but I feel their actions were right or wrong, there is no grievance procedure for me to follow and therefore if I make a request to be added to the agenda and my request is denied the superintendent or president of the school board is violating board policy again. In fact if any request is denied for any reason other then you need to follow the grievance policy before this can be added to the agenda, it is a violation of board policy. Even if the school’s attorney recommends that they deny the request it is still a violation of board policy. It is very sad that the school administration justifies breaking board policy because there attorney recommended it. When administration breaks board policy some sort of consequence should be imposed on administration.

Two options are being presented to the board tonight, one that allows public comment and one that will remove public comments from future board meetings. If the board ultimately decided to not allow public comments, it just shows how secretive you want to be about school operations. It also shows how much you don’t care about the opinions of the community.

When I received my letter saying that I was added to the agenda, Hadfield also included several restrictions on what I am and am not allowed to talk about even though board policy on agenda items does not put a restriction on what I am allowed to discuss, not to mention the fact the it violates my 1st amendment right of freedom of speech. I was however invited to closed session where the restriction would not apply. I believe that the community has the right to know some of the things going on at the school. I can understand why Hadfield would try to add these restrictions. I would not want my dirty laundry publicized, but the truth of the matter is, until all of what is going on in the school comes out it is never going to change. My father often asks me why I am doing this when I talk to him about what is going on or ask him his opinion since he sits on a board. My response is always the same, there is a problem in the school and it is the administration and it needs to change, and if I don’t try then it might never change.

If an employee were to violate board policy, severe consequences would follow, and maybe even the loss of their job. But why is it when an administrator or board member violates board policy nothing happens. The board policy is the board’s rule book and should be strictly adhered to, because what’s the point of having policy or even a school board if administration and board members can violate policies at there choosing without consequences.

A while ago I requested that a teacher and I be allowed to go before the school board to discuss a teacher and provide evidence that an administrator was lying to the board. Hadfield denied my request. Consequently the board only heard from the administrator and the teacher did not have her contract renewed. Later I talked with Hadfield and he verbally admitted that yes the request should have been granted, but it is all over with and done so it does not matter now. Why is Hadfield’s violation of board policy ignored when it had the power to cost an employee their job.

The administration does not care about right or wrong, only how it will effect their agenda, be it good or bad. A teacher was placed on administrative leave because they were accused of testing a student without the parent’s consent. The teacher stated that the process coordinator instructed to test the student, since the teacher was not present at the meeting. Only two school employees were at the meeting, the case manager, and the process coordinator. The case manager wrote a letter testifying that the parents were asked and did give consent, the process coordinator must not have filled out their paperwork correctly. And of course nothing was ever done. The teacher remained on administrative leave and did not have a contract renewed. My impression of administration was” who cares we are going to do what we want no matter what kind of facts you present”.

Another teacher was called into administration and shown a list of unsigned charges and given a choice to resign before the charges were signed. The teacher chose to fight it. The charges were never signed, instead administration moved the teacher out of the class room to a position where they basically sat around all day at a desk and did noting, in hopes that the teacher would resign. The teacher did not resign and is now back teaching again.

A parent had a child with special needs, and they felt that the needs of the child were not being meet so they filed due process against the school. The school administration said and I quote “If they do not accept our offer we will file a frivolous lawsuit against them.” Hadfield was the superintendent. All this parent wanted was what was best for the child

Yet another teacher had a spray bottle full of an alum solution in the class room. The school’s story is that the teacher did not use it on a student instead the student got the spray bottle off the desk and sprayed it in his own mouth. Lucky for this teacher she was friends with an administrator, this teacher is still teaching.

There is a real problem with administration in this school. Teachers are afraid. I actually talked to a teacher today and asked if they were excited about tomorrow. There response was I am going in kicking and screaming, I would rather stay home, but I will go in, do what I need to get done and leave. Is this really how we want our teachers to feel? That they have a deadly fear of the school administration.

A comment was made in the paper a while back, that the school board was the reason that they did not get very many applications to fill some important jobs in the district, I would argue that it is the way the administration behaves as to why people are steering clear of applying for positions in this school.

I looked into the baseball field construction project a bit. I notified the board that I felt that an employee of the school broke the state law. I was told by Nancy that I was not an accountant or attorney. I also informed the board that they violated their own policy by not having the audit finalized. I did not get a reason about the audit. My feeling is that some board members felt,” so what if we violated our own policy, nothing can be done to us about it”. Why is administration and the school board trying so hard to cover up what happened. I feel that it goes much deeper then what I have found so far. “

Mr. Michaelree’s concerns are not without merit. He took the results of his research into the district’s behavior to the Camdenton Police Department. The Department, citing a conflict of interest due to their relationship with the school, stated that they could not investigate further. They also indicated that Mr. Michaelree’s research should be taken to Jefferson City, as there is cause, in their opinion, to pursue the investigation further.

Nor are financial questions the only questions being raised this election season. An investigation into Sean Kirksey’s case revealed a bully system that has been institutionalized in Camdenton. Questions raised by the suspension of Sean Kirksey uncovered a tense, oppressive work environment and the many good teachers left in its wake. These former teachers and administrators in the Camdenton school district described a climate of hostility and fear.

These stories were reinforced when, earlier this school year, after less than three months in the Camdenton school district, a first grade teacher with more than a decade’s experience felt she needed a lawyer to tender her letter of resignation. She feared further repercussions from administration. She was frightened for her ability to teach in another district, should the bullying that led to her resignation extend beyond Laker Nation to her search for another position.

The bully system that has been constructed in the Camdenton is not restricted to the staff and teachers of the district. It has been extended to parents who ask the types of questions raised by Mindi Sales, Chris Michalree and Sean Kirksey. These parents have been targeted in the most insidious of ways, through other examples of questionable legal interpretation. Our school district has been used to file flimsy lawsuits of retribution against families in our district.

These frivolous, spiteful suits have served to fatten the pockets of district attorneys Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. For the firm, an assault against parental rights is a windfall in payments from a district like Camdenton. Or Lebanon. Or Marshfield. Or Richland. The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole represent more than three hundred school districts across the state of Missouri. Their deep affiliations with the MSBA and other organizations have ensured their silent coup, this assumption of authority, has been exported across our state with the veracity of a virus. So too, are the firm’s practices.

The Devil's Advocates

The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole represents over 300 school districts in the state of Missouri.

Across the state, the law firm that has assumed the authority to monitor Camdenton board member emails and endorses the flawed legal argument that is being used to silence parents and tax payers, has left a litter box full of questionable actions in districts across the state. In southeast Missouri, the law firm filed a cease and desist letter against a parent for asking questions. In Lebanon, they have claimed legal authority to rewrite court ordered parental custody agreements. In Camdenton, they have cost thousands of dollars in legal fees regarding questionable personnel decisions and in filing a lawsuit against a family who home schooled their children under unsubstantiated claims of abuse and educational neglect.

It is understandable, why the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole, has assumed authority and control over what can be said to our school board representatives.

Seylnn Barbour made the motion to give the firm this power. Jackie Schulte seconded it. Board members Williams, McElyea and Masterson all agreed to limit your complaints about this loss of local control and representative government. They have codified, with their votes, the transformation of our own school district. Why would they be in favor of limiting your right to voice your displeasure?

If the public were allowed to ask questions, we might not stop.

The transformation of education across the state of Missouri is underway. Stories like those from Hickman Mills, a district whose board has so blatantly abused their positions, remind us that Camdenton is not a mirage. It is not occurring in a vacuum. The people of the Camdenton school district, and districts across the state, have the opportunity to wrest control away from the authors of this scheme to steal local control out from under our noses.

We have the opportunity to ask these questions. We have the right to demand answers.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the tactics being employed by those in support of this oppression are different than those displayed during the past election. Instead of actively mudslinging, attacking and blatantly making false claims against those who question the district’s course, tactics are being employed in this election that remind of the policies detailed above.

As reported by American Spring, KRMS ownership has refused to allow any candidates for Camdenton school board to advertize on their station. This represents the inability and unwillingness of local media to cover the school without bias. Instead, it indicates a clear bias, in favor of the status quo.

For long time residents of the Camdenton school district, this is only the most recent example in a pattern of bad behavior. It was this same assumption of authority that led to the district being sued in Missouri Supreme Court by the Lagares family in the 1990’s.

That case, Lagares v. Camdenton school district, revolved around the same blind assertion, same assumption of authority by the school district and its administration, the board of education and the district’s legal counsel.

In that case, as with the ‘policies’ referenced above, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the school district had no authority to overrule the Missouri Constitution in making ‘policies’ such as those referenced above. To enact these ‘policies’ themselves is to violate state statutes, our state and United States Constitutions.

That case, Lagares v. Camdenton school district, was more than an educational case. It was fought to preserve the rights of parents and citizens from this exact kind of government overreach by any political subdivision of the state.

While everyone is arguing the merits of these ‘policies’, the simplest of facts is left ignored by those who would prefer to keep us in the dark:

The adoption of these overreaching ‘policies’ is illegal to begin with. Enacting these ‘policies’? Also illegal.

The school board is an administrative body. They cannot assume the powers not granted them by the Missouri State Constitution. They cannot, in other words, assume the role of the legislative and create law. They are simply to follow the laws laid out by the state legislature.

This legal precedent was set in Lagares v. Camdenton. The Camdenton school district was already found guilty of this exact sort of overreach. The Missouri Supreme Court said so. The Lagares ruling stands as a legal precedent that has been cited in dozens of cases around the country.

The establishment, the ‘status quo’ crowd knows this fact well. Hence their illegal actions to attempt to silence questioning their authority. It is Fascism 101. Thwart the Constitution, assume authority you do not have, silence anyone who questions this ‘authority’.

From Lagares v. Camdenton:

The District argues, however, that §§162.670 and 162.675 do not establish the state’s standard for determining the sufficiency of special educational services. The District argues that, instead, the legislature delegated the power to establish such a standard to the state board of education. To support this claim, the District cites subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) of §162.685, which provide:

The state board of education shall adopt, after at least one public hearing has been held by the commissioner of education on each subsection of this section and upon his recommendation and, after consulting with recognized authorities in the field:

(1)Standards to be used throughout the state of Missouri in determining whether children shall be defined under sections 162.670 to 162.995 as “handicapped children” or “severely handicapped children”, together with regulations implementing these standards;

(2)Regulations governing evaluation and reevaluation of handicapped and severely handicapped children prior to and during assignment in a special educational program; provided, however, each child assigned to a special educational program shall be fully reevaluated on a regular basis;

(3)Standards for approval of all special education programs established under the provisions of sections 162.670 to 162.995 including, but not limited to, the qualifications of professional personnel employed in such programs and the standards to be used in determining the assignment of each child requiring special educational services to the program which best suits the needs of the child[.]

These statutory provisions empower the state board of education to promulgate (1) regulations concerning the standard for identifying handicapped children under the definitions contained in §§162.670 to 162.995; (2) regulations governing the evaluation and reevaluation of handicapped children before and during assignment in a special education program; and (3) standards for approving all special education programs established under §§162.670 to 162.995, including the qualifications of personnel and the standards for determining the assignment of the children to particular programs. None of the regulations the state board of education is empowered to adopt, however, concern the standard to be used in evaluating the sufficiency of the special educational services provided to a particular handicapped child.

Moreover, an administrative agency’s authority is limited to that granted by statute, and any regulation promulgated must be within the authority of statute. Pen-Yan Inv., Inc. v. Boyd Kansas City, Inc., 952 S.W.2d 299, 303-04 (Mo.App.1997). Indeed, in §162.685(1) and (3), the legislature states that the standards and regulations authorized by those subdivisions are to be made pursuant to §§162.670 to 162.995. Thus, contrary to the District’s assertion, §162.685(1), (2), and (3) do not empower the state board of education to promulgate regulations and standards that conflict with or modify the maximizing standard set forth in §§162.670 and 162.675. – See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/mo-court-of-appeals/1337465.html#sthash.u0ek4NKy.dpuf

It is the last paragraph of this ruling that is most important. Here, the Court is quite clear. The school district is not empowered to create these ‘policies’. Period. End of story.

Federal case law is equally clear on this matter.

While federal cases interpreting Missouri law are persuasive, they “are not binding on this court interpreting our own state statute.” See Wentz v. Indus. Automation, 847 S.W.2d 877, 880 n. 2 (Mo.App.1992). Unlike the Eighth Circuit in Gill, this court finds that the legislature’s intent to hold Missouri special educational services to a higher standard than the IDEA’s minimum “educationally benefit” standard is apparent from the plain language of the “maximize the capabilities” language used in §§162.670 and 162.675. “The legislature is presumed to have intended what the law states directly.” Metro Auto Auction v. Dir. of Revenue, 707 S.W.2d 397, 404 (Mo. banc 1986).

Because Missouri’s higher standard is incorporated into the definition of a free appropriate public education under 20 U.S.C. §1401(a)(18), the panel erred in not determining whether the special educational services provided to Dennis were sufficient to meet his needs and maximize his capabilities. Since the panel incorrectly used only the federal minimum standard to determine that the District provided Dennis Lagares a free appropriate public education, this court does not need to address the sufficiency of the evidence to support that determination. Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court affirming the panel’s decision is reversed, and the cause is remanded. – See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/mo-court-of-appeals/1337465.html#sthash.u0ek4NKy.dpuf

In Lagares v. Camdenton, the civil rights of parents and citizens were on the line. While the case dealt with education, if one were to simply substitute the word ‘education’ with ‘Sunshine Law’ or ‘Due Process’, the ruling is still relevant. It is about government overreach.

Or, to put it in lay terms, as a dear and wise friend explained to me, it is the parable of the elephant and the mosquito. Everyone is focused on the elephant, or the policy and its gross overreaches. In the meantime, it is the mosquito, the nagging, persistent assertions of authority that are eating our body politic alive.

It is the mosquito, in the form of ‘policies’, that is conspiring to steal the rights we have already paid for in blood and sacrifice. It is the mosquito that has led the Camdenton school district and the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole to be named as Defendants in a Federal law suit.

Currently, the Camdenton school district is stating that they can break the law and write policy. This is the position espoused by four of the five candidates for school board.

The bully system represented by these illegal, fascist actions is both ruthless and relentless. In part, because of this ruling, the Lagares family has been targeted by both the Camdenton and Lebanon school districts and their law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. The Lagares family’s unbelievable, gut-wrenching story can be found here.

It is the perfect illustration of exactly how much truly is on the line this election season. It is an opportunity for the community to demand an end to government overreach.

Tonight, at the Osage Hills Church in Osage Beach, the public will have an opportunity to hear from these candidates for Camdenton school board. This forum is sponsored by the Camden County Republican Club and begins at 6:30 PM.

Stay tuned to http://www.americanspring2011.com, Guerrilla Radio with American Spring Facebook page and @AmericanSpring on Twitter for the latest updates on this and other stories.

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The Wake of Laker Nation

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School is back in session in the Camdenton School District. Children once again fill the halls, their chatter echoing off cinder and brick, bright and cheerful. Their enthusiasm hasn’t yet been dampened by the promise of homework, tests and term papers. In the district’s middle school however, the mood is slightly more somber. It is marked by the noted absences of two administrators, Principal Sean Kirksey and Assistant Principal Joel Carey.

Sean Kirksey’s suspension for testing ‘irregularities’ has been a cause the community and students of the district have rallied around. His hearing, resulting from a DESE investigation into MAP test scheduling irregularities and breaches of security, is scheduled for Wednesday, August 28 at 9:00 am.

Mr. Kirksey’s hearing was originally scheduled for Friday, August 16. Tim Hadfield, District Superintendent and Tom Mickes, attorney for the school district, postponed the hearing, indicating there would be additional charges leveled against Mr. Kirksey.

In light of Hadfield’s attempt to include additional allegations against Mr. Kirksey, unrelated to the DESE incident, the school board hired a seperate attorney, Mr. Mike McDorman of McDorman, Ellsworth and Hardwick, LLC. The board met in executive session with Mr. McDorman to discuss the case of Mr. Kirksey and Hadfield’s handling of it on the afternoon of Friday, August 16.

The school board called for a deadline to resolve Mr. Kirksey’s case. This led to the rescheduling of Mr. Kirksey’s hearing for the morning of Monday, August 26. Despite attempts by Hadfield and Mickes to delay it further, the hearing has now also been scheduled for Wednesday, August 28. Tom Mickes, attorney for the administration, sought a longer extension that would continue to leave Sean Kirksey, his family and the students and staff of Camdenton Middle School stuck in limbo.

The case of middle school assistant principal Joel Carey is equally puzzling and has been shrouded in mystery. No formal announcement has been made by the school district as to the reason for his suspension. Mr. Carey’s suspension came soon after Mr. Kirksey’s, leaving many in the community scratching their heads and wondering what is going on in the district.

No charges have officially been presented to Mr. Carey as justification for his suspension. He, his wife and their four children have joined the Kirkseys in the land of uncertainty. Mr. Carey has also joined Mr. Kirksey in hiring an attorney.

These suspensions, and other decisions made by Superintendent Hadfield, have created a wildfire of controversy throughout the Camdenton school district and the Lake of the Ozarks area. The cases of Mr. Kirksey and Mr. Carey are the latest examples in a ritualistic, disturbing pattern of abuse that has tarnished the district’s reputation as a desirable place to work. This was evidenced earlier this year, when it was reported that Camdenton had less than half the applicants of neighboring district, School of the Osage, for a similar job opening.

A Culture of Oppression

The staff of the Camdenton school district do not have the protection of an organized teachers’ union, nor are they locally organized. While they have some protections through the MNEA and MSTA, teachers and administrators work under limited contracts. Teachers are awarded tenured status after renewals of these contracts. Tenured status offers little protection however, against an institutionalized bully system.

The scrutiny brought on by the case of Sean Kirksey has uncovered a culture of systematic oppression in the Camdenton school district. This culture, cultivated by Hadfield, has sewn seeds of fear and loathing throughout the district. Staff members, teachers and administrators have been taught by example, to keep their heads down and their mouths shut, lest they suffer the consequences. Those consequences, in the cases of former principal Kathy Eygabroad and Jan Michaelree, former speech and language pathologist, are severe indeed.

Their stories, like those of Mr. Kirksey and Mr. Carey, speak volumes about the inner workings of the district. The recent behavior of school Safety Officer Wynne Stephens, speaks volumes about how far and how deep Hadfield’s cancer has spread within it.

The culture of oppression in the Camdenton school district is protected and promoted by the district’s legal counsel. Tom Mickes, the attorney for the district, profits from this culture. He racks up legal fees while Hadfield feeds his firing fetish. The tax payers of the district are picking up the tab for his indulgences. It is an arrangement that seems to suit both Hadfield and Mickes well.

For the staff and teachers of the district however, it is a far different situation. They work in an environment where it has been clearly demonstrated that an educator may be fired at anytime, for valid reasons or not. Allegations and charges, threats and resignations, have become hallmarks of the district. These extra-ordinary pressures, in concert with the demands of high-stress, high-stakes testing, have combined to create an unhealthy atmosphere for our children. Hadfield, with his oppressive, bullying style, is leading us down a treacherous path that will eventually do more damage to our district’s accreditation than anything Sean Kirksey has been accused of.

32 Days

“I am not certain why I was targeted or what I did
to make the administration want me out.”

Jan Michaelree is a former employee of the Camdenton school district. Her work as a Speech and Language Pathologist earned her a nomination for Teacher of the Year in the district in 2010.

On April 27th, 2012, she had been forced by the administration to resign.

In a recent interview on Guerrilla Radio with American Spring, Ms. Michaelree spoke candidly about her experience in the district as a member of the Special Education department.

” I am not certain why I was targeted or what I did to make the administration want me out. I speculate that it was because I advocated for the students’ needs even if it meant disagreeing with administration. I spoke out and acted on what I believed to be ethically, morally, legally, and professionally right. I stood against decreasing IEP minutes just because they were transitioning to a building where there was fewer staff to meet their needs, for ELL students to get the same consideration for intervention as all others, for students who did not meet criteria for special education to still have specific and targeted interventions to address their specific weakness and for individualizing education instead of generating cookie cutter services. I did not believe in the statement, “Not all kids deserve Cadillac services.” Because the truth is…yes they do. Camdenton is a Cadillac school.”

“I was nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2010. I had more productivity (meaning evaluations, collaborations, IEP’s etc.) and dismissals due to goals met than any of the other SLP’s in the district. My students made more functional change in the classroom than documented by other SLP’s. For the first three years I was employed at Camdenton, my evaluations were exemplary with glowing narratives about teamwork, being an asset to the building and the district, and embracing the school mission and vision. I do not say all this to give myself kudos. I say it to illustrate that I did not think I had to worry about losing my job.”

Ms. Michaelree went on to describe the events that led to her resignation from the district. After being denied a promotion to process coordinator because she was “too valuable” in her role as an SLP, she was instructed to train the process coordinator they did hire, along with two new special education teachers.

The following year, she was bullied out of the district.

“The year 2011-2012 began without incident. I had my first evaluation in October which read that I met expectations (that is the highest mark a teacher can get) in all areas with a narrative about me being a team player, an asset to the building and the district, and embracing the district mission and vision. On January 25th, I had my second evaluation and again received “met expectations” in all areas except one item on which “recommended growth” was checked. This was the 1st time I ever scored anything other than “met expectations”. ”

In her interview on Guerrilla Radio, Jan went on to describe the reason for the item marked “recommended growth”. Her daughter was causing them to be a few minutes tardy for school during a period that school year. Upon receiving this evaluation, Jan fully accepted responsibility for improving the situation and addressed it immediately. Tardiness was not an ongoing issue.

“On February 10th, I had another evaluation but unbeknownst to me the Assistant Director of Interventions was present (she has since resigned from Camdenton). She had a Professional Improvement Plan prepared which listed several paperwork errors I had allegedly made. I was told to fix the paperwork and call all the parents explaining the mistakes and requesting signatures that I had done so.”

“As I went through the allegedly errant paperwork many of the files did not show the mistake that had been documented.”

Jan took her questions to her supervisor, the process coordinator. The process coordinator is the person responsible for proofreading all paperwork. The process coordinator confirmed Jan’s position. He couldn’t see the alleged errors either. According to Jan, the process coordinator went to administration for guidance. He was told Jan’s situation was an administrative matter and to stay out of it. Jan then requested another meeting with administrators for clarification on her alleged errors.

Her building principal and building assistant principal said they could not help her, as they didn’t know anything about Special Education paperwork. As a result, they called on more senior administrators.

Jan presented the paperwork to them and showed them that the errors that were alleged did not exist. To that, Ms. Michaelree was told the “errors” existed when they were doing file review and they accused her of falsifying records. As Jan indicated, she would have to be “super talented to change all those files in two days.”

Still, Jan Michaelree went forward with addressing the alleged, mostly imaginary “errors” and went through the humiliating process of contacting parents and telling them that she had made mistakes regarding their children’s paperwork. She completed this task within thirty days. School policy allows for these corrections to be made within ninety days.

On March 8th, Jan had another meeting with administration. They were joined by Kristy Kindwall, the district’s former Director of Interventions. Kindwall took the lead for the administration.

Kindwall dismissed Jan’s work on the alleged “errors” and instead took a different angle of attack. Kindwall accused her of not seeing students that were assigned to her caseload. In this meeting, the administration added these accusations to her improvement plan without documenting that she had successfully addressed the previous set of fictitious “errors”.

“On March 16th, I had yet another evaluation accusing me of more errors. So I worked relentlessly to rectify these allegations even though I had pages of documentation of how my students were not missing services and how I was called upon to attend meetings, collaborate with teachers, juggle schedule changes due to assessments, etc. and how my paperwork was not in error and always submitted to my process coordinator for review.”

On the March 27th meeting of the school board, the renewal of contracts for professional teachers was on the closed session agenda. At this meeting, the board discussed Jan Michaelree’s case at length with Kristy Kindwall. A vote was taken to table a decision on Jan’s contract until the next board meeting.

That meeting of the board was on April 9th. Jan Michaelree requested that she be added to the agenda of this board meeting, to present evidence in her own defense and dispute the allegations made against her by Director Kindwall. Jan’s request was submitted in writing more than seven days before the board meeting, per public school board policy.

This request, in what has become a pattern for Hadfield, was denied. Hadfield made the decision that the school board would not be allowed to see or hear Jan’s evidence. The school board, elected representatives of our community, were denied hearing any proof that would refute Kindwall’s baseless allegations. The community was denied the opportunity to hear the circumstances surrounding Jan Michaelree’s case.

Jan was forced into silence while Kristy Kindwall, under the supervision of ringleader Hadfield, was allowed to butcher her reputation. Ms. Michaelree was effectively gagged and bound while Kindwall gutted the former teacher of the year nominee in front of the school board with groundless allegations. These tactics, employed by Kindwall and supervised by Hadfield, were successful.

The board voted 1-to-6 against the renewal of her contract.

The next day, Jan was approached by Human Resources administrator Jim Rich. He presented Jan with an offer she couldn’t refuse. Rich said that the board had extended a compromise, aimed at keeping her silent and protecting the district from legal exposure. She was told that if she would submit a letter of resignation, the board would accept it, instead of the board accepting responsibility for voting not to renew her contract.

Jan agreed, wanting to continue her career in education. She submitted the letter.

At an early morning board meeting on April 27th at 7:00 am, her resignation was accepted by the school board.

This however, was not enough.

Later that day, April 27th, Jan was summoned into a meeting where she was accused of testing a child without parental consent. This allegation is a violation of the law.

Jan was handed a letter saying that she was being put on administrative leave. She was escorted out of the building by her principal, as though she were a criminal.

All of this, after she had been successfully bullied to resign from the district, on the day her letter of resignation was accepted by the school board in an unusually timed meeting.

Jan looked into the last allegation that resulted in her being forced to leave the school grounds. She was not present at the meeting where parental consent was acquired. She was with her students at that time, as instructed by the administration earlier that year. She asked her supervisor, who has responsibility for ensuring paperwork is complete and accurate, previous to testing the student, if consent was obtained. He had been present at that meeting with the child’s parents. He confirmed it had been obtained.

A clerical error, made by the process coordinator, was responsible for the parental consent box not getting checked appropriately. The process coordinator filled out the paperwork incorrectly and failed to check that consent for language testing had been granted. The process coordinator and case manager were the only staff members present at the meeting with the parents. The case manager confirmed that consent for language testing was acquired and wrote a letter to the school board stating so.

Jan received her first evaluation containing “recommended growth” for tardiness on February 10. The school board voted against the renewal of her contract on March 27. It took 32 working days to destroy her professional reputation under Hadfield’s leadership.

An Avalanche of Allegations

When allegations of test scheduling irregularities and security breaches were leveled against Sean Kirksey, it prompted one concerned parent, Ms. Mindi Sales, to investigate. Her research into MAP testing rules and guidelines produced more questions than answers regarding Mr. Kirksey’s suspension.

The facts surrounding oversight of testing are crystal clear.

From Mindi Sales’ research:
‘ According to the Spring 2013 DESE Test Coordinator’s Manual which is put out by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, it states on page 11 under the title “Test Coordinators’ Roles” number 7: “Maintain the district’s testing schedule and be prepared to provide it to DESE upon request. If the testing schedule changed in any way, the DTC is responsible for updating this information.” ‘

She went on to explain: “Each district has a Test Coordinator, which is the Assistant Superintendent in our case. She is the one in charge of the MAP testing for our district. Then each building has a Building Coordinator, which at the middle school was a counselor.”

The DESE district coordinator for the middle school was assistant principal Roma France. The responsibility for the testing schedule for the school district ultimately falls to her. If Sean Kirksey made alterations of the schedule, including dividing a Language Arts test over a two-day period instead of administering it in one day, those alterations would need to be approved by Ms. French, per her DESE responsibilities.

If Mr. Kirksey made these changes, Ms. France’s duties as district test coordinator, responsible for testing oversight, should have required her to inform the principal that such changes were violation of testing guidelines. If the school went ahead with an altered schedule, it would have been due to Ms. France’s failure to meet her responsibilities as a trained DESE coordinator.

In the aftermath of these allegations, Ms. France was tasked to investigate the mishandling of the schedule she was ultimately responsible for. Her investigation, upon which DESE’s review was based, did not point to a failure on the part of the building coordinator or herself. Instead, the finger of blame was pointed at Sean Kirksey.

DESE, in their review of this questionable investigation, ruled that the irregularities would not impact the district’s accreditation in any way. These minor violations were not found to have a significant effect for the district. The effects for Sean Kirksey however, are far more severe.

The administration’s campaign to fire Sean Kirksey is a clear case of over-prosecution. Hadfield has elected to doll out fifty dollars worth of punishment for a fifty cent ‘crime’. This, along with her research into DESE testing guidelines and responsibilities, prompted Mindi to write a formal request to add the case of Mr. Kirksey to the Agenda for the school board meeting of August 12.

She, like Jan Michaelree before her, submitted this written request to Hadfield more than seven days in advance of the meeting, per school board policy.

She, like Jan Michaelree before her, found her request denied by Hadfield.

Hadfield, on advice from Mickes, stated that personnel matters ‘should not’ be discussed in front of the public. It was their goal that the board not hear public concerns about Sean Kirksey’s suspension and pending hearing. Together, Hadfield and Mickes constructed a thin legal rationale to justify silencing the very public who pays the district’s bills. Their desire to avoid public scrutiny is troublesome, particularly when this ‘legal cover’ is selectively applied.

While hiding behind the argument that personnel issues shouldn’t be discussed with the public in order to protect the district from risk, Hadfield has repeatedly violated Mickes’ advice. Through the Lake Sun, Hadfield has leaked details of personnel matters designed to sway public opinion in favor of his administration. It would seem that, in Hadfield’s regime, he alone decides when and how Mickes’ legal advice is applied.

Hadfield unilaterally denied Mr. Kirksey’s request to have his hearing open to the public. It was Hadfield’s position, formulated with Mickes, that Mr. Kirksey should be denied the right to a public hearing. The legal justification Mickes offered for wanting to conduct the hearing in closed session was one predicated on the idea that to having Mr. Kirksey’s hearing open would somehow legally expose the district to harm. This, of course, is the same legal opinion that prevented the matter of Mr. Kirksey being added to the August 12 meeting of the school board.

This is the position one takes when they have engaged in wrongdoing and feel they have something to hide. It is not one consistent with how a school should operate.

Hadfield and Mickes have been instrumental in wanting to postpone Mr. Kirksey’s case. Their determination to terminate Sean Kirksey seems not to be confined to the questionable DESE allegations. They have repeatedly indicated their desire to add additional charges against the middle school principal.

The school board and their attorney have instructed Hadfield and Mickes that there will be no further delays in the case of Mr. Kirksey. His hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, August 28 at 9:00 am.

Improbable Cause

American Spring has learned, from sources close to the situation, details surrounding the suspension of Middle School assistant principal Joel Carey. They point to a deeper level of collusion between the office of attorney Tom Mickes and Hadfield. Tax dollars are exchanged to protect an abusive administration while it routinely engages in systematic bullying and harassment. This behavior has corrupted the moral foundations of our district. The parasitical relationship, between a sadistic administrator with a history of bullying and the district’s attorney, is on full display in the case of Joel Carey.

Joel Carey was officially suspended shortly after Sean Kirksey. His suspension was the result of an investigation conducted by an “independent contractor” chosen by Mickes’ law office.

The investigation into assistant principal Joel Carey, according to the report, was prompted by Camdenton School District human resources principal, Jim Rich.

According to the report, shared exclusively with American Spring, Jim Rich lodged a complaint against Mr. Carey. Rich, in the last year of his contract before taking retirement, stated that a third party had told him Mr. Carey had said something negative about him. The report also states that Rich was afraid to go to the middle school to ask Mr. Carey about this heresay.

The result was a phone call to Mickes’ office from the administration. The law firm recommended an independent contractor to look into Rich’s complaint. The investigator, according to his own findings, could find absolutely no evidence of the claims made against Mr. Carey by Jim Rich. The investigation vindicated Carey.

The false allegation became the improbable cause used as an excuse for the district to conduct an investigation into Joel Carey’s behavior as assistant principal. The investigator, working at Mickes’ behest, pursued a line of questioning that appeared destined to end in the murky waters of ‘sexual harassment’.

Sources close to the investigation confirmed that some of the questions posed during the investigation seemed to lead potential witnesses down a pre-determined path. It was this line of questioning, completely irrelevant to the implausible cause used to begin the investigation, that led to Carey’s suspension.

The investigation into Joel Carey uncovers the horrible truth about our district under this current administration.

It was initiated as a direct result of gossip, by the district’s human resources principal. The allegations made by Rich, which began the investigation, were found to be, according to the investigator, unsubstantiated. The investigator, referred by Mickes’, said the accusations that were levied against Mr. Carey by Jim Rich were not true. He could find no evidence to support Rich’s assertions.

The harassment of Joel Carey did not stop there. An investigation that yields no charges will not produce billable hours. For reasons that are not clear, the scope of the inquiry was expanded, resulting in allegations of ‘sexual harassment’. Ironically, the investigation did not end in concrete charges. According to the report, the new allegations were “more likely than not”, true. This hardly sounds like proof of wrongdoing, particularly when the context of the investigation is considered. It would appear that, continuing in the persecution of Joel Carey would instead expose the district to a wrongful termination lawsuit.

It is important to note that this investigation has yet to yield any charges in the case of Joel Carey. He has not been presented formal charges of any kind as of this writing. Joel Carey, his wife and their four children are suffering under huge strain, caught in the same unbearable limbo as the Kirksey family. The Camdenton school district has produced a different sort of alumni, as they join the Michaelrees and Eygabroads, all victims of a morally corrupt system that is becoming institutionalized in the district.

As previously mentioned, Mr. Carey has hired a lawyer. This will ensure more billable hours for Mickes, while he and Hadfield seek to use the results of this questionable investigation to, presumably, add more charges against Sean Kirksey.

If they are allowed to create the perception that Carey is a predator and Kirksey knew of this behavior and covered it up, it is suddenly a lot more plausible to fire both. Never mind that the investigations in both cases are highly questionable.

Follow The Money

There is a decided, dedicated effort to spin fact from fantasy, to manufacture a justification the public will endorse for the firing of two more educators from groundless allegations. The enablers of Hadfield’s bully system collect thousands in tax payer dollars. Evidence of the profit motive is found in the bills that were approved for payment by the school board on August 12th. At that meeting, the board saw in black and white, proof of the financial impact of protecting the bully system. The district paid Mickes’ law firm more than $25,000 for the previous month and his work on the persecutions of Kirksey and Carey. Mickes’ profits directly from Hadfield’s sadistic streak. The more allegations Hadfield and his administration invent, the more money is diverted from education to Mickes’ firm.

Tom Mickes knows how to turn a buck at the tax payers expense. He has built a cottage industry in Missouri education. He has a long history in representing school districts in the Show Me State, but his influence over education doesn’t end there. Mickes has had his talons in several different political and educational pies during his career.

Mickes was asked to resign from the firm he previous worked with due to his financial stake in a company that sold textbooks and manuals to the same school districts the firm represented. The firm he founded in the wake of this conflict of interest scandal represents several lake area school districts, including Camdenton, Eldon and School of the Osage. Mickes also represented the Camdenton school district in a suit brought by the ACLU.

During a board meeting addressing the district’s decision to settle that case, Mickes was famously heard to say that the $25,000 the district had to pay as a settlement ‘could have been a lot worse’. He stated that his legal fees would have been much higher, had it not been for the Alliance Defense Fund. The ADF is closely aligned with organizations such as Focus on the Family and Eagle Forum. They aided Mickes during this legal fight.

During an examination of Eagle Forum last year by American Spring, it was revealed that at a conference sponsored by Phyllis Schlafly, several far-right tactics were discussed by various speakers, headlined by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Other attendee included former Rep. Todd Akin and current MO-4 Rep. Vigilant Vicky Hartzler.

At that conference, a philosophy was promoted that seems to have some relevance to the lawsuit with the ACLU. “Picking insignificant legal fights” with the goal of shifting the bar further to the right was the subject of one of the event’s featured speakers.

Mickes, when discussing the settlement with the ACLU, broke into several political diatribes. These rarely had anything to do with the lawsuit directly, they instead were meant to instill the notion that he was a good conservative fighting the good fight against the ‘evil’ ACLU. He overplayed his hand however, when he chose to state, loudly and clearly in front of the gathered crowd:

“Here in Camdenton we practice the King James Version of the Constitution.”

By his actions, it would appear that Mickes’ pocket version of the Constitution is an Old Testament translation. It is long on punishment and sinfully short on mercy. It is about the whip, damnation and subjugation. It has nothing to do with decency, morality or understanding.

That statement does not instill confidence throughout the district in Mickes’ ability as a lawyer. After all, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the documents upon which our laws are founded. If the lawyer who is depositing thousands of our dollars each month to ‘represent our interests’ doesn’t even have a basic understanding of the separation of church and state, how effective can he be at real litigation?

Mickes has shown a history of relying on bully tactics to terrorize staff members into resigning without a fuss. This is a man whose legal shadow is long and deep. This unelected educational equivalent of an ambulance chaser has given himself nearly complete autonomy in personnel decision made around the Lake of the Ozarks and the state of Missouri. He has, in his role as lawyer, set himself up as judge, jury and executioner. Mickes, like Hadfield, appears to have a taste for the axe. In Mickes’ case however, he gets paid each time it falls across another accused teacher or administrator’s neck.

In his capacity as counsel for the Eldon school district, Mickes recently made headlines in the case of coach Jimmy Lincoln. Lincoln was represented by Mike McDorman, the same attorney the Camdenton board hired as their representative in the case of Sean Kirksey. This sound decision by the school board likely didn’t sit well with Mickes. In his position as legal counsel for many districts across the state, Mickes isn’t used to being challenged within district’s he is paid to represent. In our own Camdenton school district, the facts point to Mickes as an attorney who has far too much power over personnel matters.

During the same school board meeting in which the school board approved Mickes legal bills, another conspirator received an installment of tax dollars for their continued cooperation in creating an illusion around Camdenton’s school district. Joyce Miller, a bully of the same feather as Hadfield, and the Lake Sun collected their monthly installment for their contributions in misleading the public about the truth hidden in the wake of Laker Nation.

The Lake Sun continues to promote whatever storyline Hadfield provides, without concerning itself with matters of fact or context. When challenged about the clear bias shown in their pieces, their editorial staff cries a familiar refrain: “no one will talk to us”.

The reason for that should, by now, be obvious. The Lake Sun, under its current publisher and editorial direction, has engaged in a willful attempt to manipulate public perception in favor of the bully system. This was on full display during the last school board election cycle, as the paper printed a barrage of editorials and articles seeking to condemn board members who stood against the standard operating procedures of the bully system.

As was discovered in the American Spring investigation into the paper’s coverage of Brian Henry’s resignation proves, the editorial staff of the Lake Sun knowingly misled the public by omitting important context regarding the resignation of the former assistant superintendent. Instead, as a direct result of this decision, Henry’s resignation was allowed to become the rallying cry against those board members who stood in opposition of these tactics.

This was not the only false narrative promoted by the Lake Sun during that election cycle. Another of these focused on the aforementioned Kristy Kindwall.

Kindwall, whose contract came up for review earlier this year, received a renewal from the board, 4-3. The three dissenting votes were cast by the school board members targeted by Hadfield and the Lake Sun. These same board members voted against offering an extension of Henry’s existing contract. The votes of board members Jim Bescansez, Laura Martin and John Beckett against the renewal of Kindwall’s contract were used by the Lake Sun to continue a campaign of misinformation.

The tabloid characterized these votes as “micro-managing” and “playing politics”. These three board members were promoted as obstructionists and extremists bent on undoing the order and sanctity of our school district. John Tucker, Gatehouse publisher, led the charge with a series of hack-job editorials designed to maintain the ‘status quo’.

Context was omitted in the Lake Sun’s coverage of Kristy Kindwall’s resignation. Kindwall received her contract extension, after all. What was not reported was that Kindwall made the decision to leave the school district well before the Lake Sun’s propaganda piece on her resignation.

The last of her children had graduated from the district, she was newly divorced and was offered much more money to take a job in a different district. She elected to take a position for more money in the Saint Louis metropolitan area.

The Lake Sun knowingly tied their manipulations of Kindwall’s resignation to the false narrative they first presented with Brian Henry’s resignation. They glued their misrepresentations to their assumptions with bile and venom, failing to provide the smallest grain of truth and context to their readership.

What also went unsaid in the Lake Sun coverage of Kindwall’s resignation was that the only school board members who had personal and professional experience with Kristy Kindwall, voted against her contract renewal.

Board members Laura Martin and John Beckett both have special needs children in the school district. In their roles as parents, Ms. Martin and Mr. Beckett had real world, practical experience in dealing with Kindwall. This personal exposure to her management style and tactics gave them a unique perspective that informed their votes against her contract renewal. Mr. B. had previously worked with Kindwall during his time as a teacher in the district. This experience certainly weighed in his decision to not renew her contract.

The case of Jan Michaelree shows that Kindwall, like Jim Rich and Brian Henry, before his resignation, was one of Hadfield’s ‘McCoys’, a co-conspirator in perpetuating a bully system that punishes those who go against the regime. The collusion between the Lake Sun and Hadfield serves to conceal these actions from the public. They have worked in concert to create a web of half-truths and manipulations to hide the actions of an administration clearly out of control.

Unfortunately for the public, it was revealed on Friday morning that the Lake Sun is not alone in attempting to manipulate the truth in order to suit Hadfield’s needs. KRMS radio allowed Hadfield to do a public relations appearance, providing him a platform to proclaim how this year is off to the “best start” in his tenure. Manny Haley did not challenge Hadfield on this assertion. He did not ask, or was not allowed to ask, questions about the cases of Kirksey and Casey. Instead, Hadfield was given a soapbox from which he spewed a load of candy-coated crap.

He stepped up and proudly and boldly declared, “Nope! Nothing’s wrong here!” If you listened between the lines however, you might have heard:

“Pay no attention to what’s behind that curtain!”.

A Spreading Moral Cancer

The environment created by school administration, the school’s lawyer and local media outlets has become the perfect incubator for the spread of a moral cancer that is rotting the body politic of our community. Together, they have schemed to keep the public blind to a bully system that has become institutionalized in the most personal level of local government, our school system.

This incubator of oppression has hatched district safety officer Wynne Stephens. Stephens serves double duty in Camdenton, serving on the city police department as well as in his capacity as resource officer for the school district. On two separate occasions, Stephens has acted in a way described by concerned parent and founder of the Facebook page ‘Mr. Sean Kirksey for Camdenton Middle School Principal’ Mindi Sales as bordering on ‘harassment’.

The first incident surrounded her intentions to give away free T shirts in support of Kirksey’s cause. Stephens was responsible not only for rudely demanding that Mindi leave the parking lot, but he failed to disclose alleged ‘threats’ that were phoned in and directed toward Ms. Sales. This decision, when coupled with the fact that the anonymous caller followed Mindi and her children to a new location, first cast Stephens motivations in a disturbing light.

A second incident of harassment, this time at the middle school orientation, confirms that Stephens is a willing participant in Hadfield’s bully system. He made Ms. Sales physically uncomfortable while she attended orientation. He invaded her space and sought to intimidate her.

Mindi Sales is a mother. Her daughter, a student at Camdenton Middle School, was with her. Stephens’ harassment and his attempts to intimidate her led Mindi to meet with Camdenton Police Chief Wright the following day. There, she expressed her concerns to the Chief.

To date, no official comment has been issued by the Chief’s office regarding American Spring inquiries regarding Stephens’ behavior and the anonymous threats that were made against Mindi Sales. It is expected that Chief Wright will choose the route we are all too familiar with. We assume there will be no comments forthcoming on potential wrong-doing by officers under her command.

The desire of local government officials and employees to keep their dealings hidden away from public scrutiny is born from a very real fear. If the public is informed, if we are told the truth, we may refuse to be governed by those unscrupulous, uncouth, immoral and unethical betrayers of our trust. It is necessary to have consent in order to govern. Those determined to keep us in the dark, those who seek to silence us, are not seeking our consent. They would rather ask for forgiveness for continued and repeated violations of their office rather than ask for permission from the people they pretend to serve.

They have embarked on a desperate campaign to keep their actions hidden from public view. They have scurried like cockroaches exposed to the light, attempting to silence those who would demand real accountability of school administration instead of a succession of show trials based on trumped up, manufactured allegations. As cases continue to pour from the wounds Hadfield and Mickes have inflicted on our school district and money continues to hemorrhage from our district’s coffers, public outrage and awareness has spread.

A United Front

The scandalous suspensions in Camdenton Middle School have brought the Laker Nation together in a way that was wholly unforseen. A patchwork coalition of concerned citizens from all walks of life and background have rallied around the case of Sean Kirksey. There is a common understanding that it is much more than the fate of one administrator that is on the line this week during the hearing of Mr. Sean Kirksey. In many ways, the outcome of Sean Kirksey’s hearing will become a clear commentary on what type of community Camdenton and the Lake of the Ozarks is.

For those who have supported Kirksey’s rights, his hearing is an opportunity for the board to function as they are supposed to. The members of the Camdenton school board represent our community. They, in that capacity, will have the final say in the case of Mr. Sean Kirksey. They have the opportunity to stand up in front of the community they serve and make a stand. The members of the board can stand up to Hadfield, Mickes and the bully system they have instituted and say “not in our school”. They have the opportunity to send a message, loud and clear, that Camdenton is better than that. They have the ability and responsibility to cast a vote that will restore morality and compassion in our school district. They have the ability and responsibility to cast votes that will improve our children’s environment.

They have the opportunity to serve our community and restore common sense, transparency and legitimacy to a process that has been severely abused by Hadfield in the past.

They have the power to tell Tim Hadfield, we don’t trust your leadership because we can’t trust you.

They have the responsibility to answer to our community if they choose instead to endorse Hadfield’s brand of cancer.

We will be here, all of us, to make sure you do.

Editor’s note: Thursday night, on a special edition of Guerrilla Radio with American Spring Prime Time, at 8pm, we will be joined by Kathy Eygabroad, who will add her experiences in the district to the growing list of casualties left in the wake of Laker Nation. Hope you will join us. It is sure to be informative.

Hadfield and the ‘McCoys’

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Despite rhetoric from Camdenton School Board president, Chris McElyea, the District is following through with a determined effort to silence public input on the allegations that led to Camdenton Middle School principal, Sean Kirksey being suspended, pending a disciplinary hearing. Hadfield and the board want to decide the fate of the Mr. Kirksey, the 2004 Missouri State Assistant Principal of the Year award winner, in secrecy, behind closed doors. They wish to avoid public discussion of the matters related to Mr. Kirksey’s suspension and the minor infractions reported by DESE. They have gone so far as to ask the opinion of the District’s lawyer, Tom Mickes, to provide ‘legal cover’, no matter how flimsy, to justify the ”need” for secrecy. Those on the Board and in school administration are incredibly determined to keep their actions in Mr. Kirksey’s case secret. They would prefer that there be no record of their actions for the public to scrutinize. They would prefer to be able to manipulate the story and issue only their ”official version” of what happens behind closed doors. Washington-style politics have wormed their way into the school district. The recent actions, or rather, inactions, of some current board members shows that they are willing to promote fallacious stories in order to further their own ends. This same inaction and lack of leadership by the Board has allowed Hadfield to decree that the public should have no say in decisions he makes.

Chris McElyea has listened to the pleas of the public in the case of Mr. Kirksey. He is content to shrug his shoulders and give us an ”aww shucks” while refusing to address the public’s very basic right to comment on cheating allegations. He would duck and cover behind technicalities and legal opinions while dodging his responsibility as an elected official to open the hearing to the public. Chris McElyea has chosen to discard the District’s own school board policy. In much the same way as Washington has dismissed the Constitution, McElyea seems content to ignore the policy’s own suggested remedy in handling personnel hearings.

The policy states the hearing shall be open to the public.

This section applies to tenured teachers, not administrators like Mr. Kirksey. The School Board Policy would suggest however, that the hearing process can be applied to administrators, in lieu of other avenues. Certainly, Mr. Kirksey, under whose leadership has led to teachers in the Camdenton Middle School being awarded Teacher of the Year, would deserve this same consideration, especially since he is asking for a public hearing. It is a reasonable request from a man with nothing to hide. He would prefer the public have access to the facts and merits surrounding any disciplinary action taken against him. As an educator, his entire career rests on the actions that will be taken by the Board. Termination because of ‘testing irregularities’ will make it difficult for him to continue his career as a principal. The livelihood of his family is at stake. If the man wants a public hearing to clear his name, he should have it. Those willing to speak publicly have nothing to hide. Those who would rather operate in secret and behind closed doors create the perception that they do.

Their silence earlier this year in the case of Dr. Henry’s resignation from the District is precisely why Mr. Kirksey’s hearing must be open. Unfortunately, we cannot trust most of them to deliver truth to the parents they serve. As witnessed earlier this year, they are content to remain silent while the media reports fallacy as fiction. The fiction, the false narrative, served their political will, after all. It became the basis of a smear campaign against three then-board members. Four current board members, those who weren’t targets of this public relations siege, were also board members at that time.Of them, not a single board member came out to state the facts regarding Dr. Henry’s resignation. They did not countermand the Lake Sun’s false report that his contract was not renewed. They simply sat quietly, shrugging their shoulders, giving us the ”aww shucks” routine, while the truth was manipulated. This manipulation led to the character attacks on the members of the board who stood in opposition to closed doors and hush-hush deals, such as the one that has a maintenance supervisor at the school making more than two teacher’s salaries each year. These same board members also sat by while a coat of white-wash was placed over this same maintenance supervisor’s role in construction bids and cost overruns that resulted in a transfer of a million dollars to the general fund from the teacher’s insurance account. Nancy Masterson went so far as to indicate if the transfer were a true manipulation of funds, would it go unnoticed for so long?

The answer, Ms. Masterson, is yes.

The ‘fix’ was in when the District decided to hire a maintenance supervisor at approximately $70,000 a year in salary. The ‘fix’ was in when companies affiliated with Mr. Dickeman were then awarded contracts for construction on our school. The ‘fix’ was most certainly in when construction costs from these companies ran over budget approximately $1.5 million dollars.

Chris McElyea, Selynne Barbour, Jackie Schulte, along with Ms. Masterson, all endorsed this, in whole or part, with their silence on the matter when the local paper used those allegations as a means with which to construct yet another false narrative. This time, the target of their ire was the local website LakeWatchdog.blogspot.com. Another “aww shucks” routine and political two-step from these four board members clearly indicates a willingness on their part to mislead the public as to the goings-on in the District. They again sat back in silence while the propaganda machine did its work.

These board members have, at the very least, acted irresponsibility, particularly as related to budget oversight. This is particularly concerning for the Lake of the Ozarks community, as Vice President of the Board Nancy Masterson has also had oversight of other construction projects in her capacity on the Ha Ha Tonka park board. In that role, she oversaw construction by our very own current Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken.

These board members have also acted dishonestly, by remaining silent as fiction was peddled as fact in the local tabloid, the Lake Sun. Their silence was an endorsement of the paper’s blatant misrepresentations of fact. Selynne Barbour, who is a regular contributor to both the Lake Sun and LO Profile magazine, certainly could have phoned Joyce Miller and ask that she print a retraction. She chose not to.

Instead, the paper ran a series of pieces that viciously attacked the board members and those who supported them. The editorial bias, highlighted by Gatehouse publisher John Tucker’s editorials, ensured the re-election of Nancy Masterson and election of Mr. Williams. It served to marginalize the board members who were actually serving the community by asking questions about the District’s dealings, as well as investigating the ties and strings associated with Federal programs such as the Race to the Top grant and Common Core standard implementation.

Tucker’s decision to use his paper as a propaganda factory is one that is as simple as this: It is a business decision. The local political establishment are tightly linked to their advertisers. One of their largest is Lake Regional Hospital. One look at past and present board member reveals a who’s who in our business community that serves to outline a greater architecture of business interests using government to advance their own ends. Tucker chose to sell his paper’s credibility as a news organization in exchange for the higher profits of tabloid journalism. This decision, while despicable, can at least be explained by the profit motive. The board members have no such justification.

Now, they would seek to play their ”aww shucks” routine to the public while scheming to continue this disgusting bully system, in silence and behind closed doors. They have systematically applied these tactics to those who don’t go along with the program, as the case of Jan Michaelree clearly demonstrates. They are now using these techniques to tarnish, and potentially end, Sean Kirksey’s career as a principal.

Sean Kirksey graduated from Camdenton High School in 1989. He graduated from SBU with an education degree and earned his masters at Missouri State University. In 2004, as an Assistant Principal, he earned the Missouri State Assistant Principal of the Year award. Sean Kirksey has served us in a fine capacity as CMS principal. He has the respect and admiration of parents, students and teachers alike. That respect should be given him. He should be able to avail himself of the right to have his hearing public, in order to defend his good name.

Our board needs to show some respect, not just for Mr. Kirksey, but for the public they serve and the community members who would like to see Sean Kirksey remain as principal of our middle school. Common sense should prevail in this case, not pettiness.

Those who have stood in support of Sean Kirksey have had threats leveled against them. The pattern of behavior, the standard operating procedure, is clear. We see who endorse it. They would seek to silence any discussion about Sean Kirksey’s situation. They seek to keep the doors on Mr. Kirksey’s hearing closed, in order to continue the cycle of career and reputation violence. They would like to keep this dirty little secret out of the public view.

This is nothing new for our local politicians, in every capacity. Elected officials throughout our county are seeking to hide their dirty little secrets. They are conspiring to hide the growing level of corruption that has infected our systems like a cancer. The tabloid press has refused to report on Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken’s software scandal. They have refused to investigate Franken’s role in the county’s expenditure of $53,000 for software that did not meet the standards of the contract.

Franken also would prefer to do business behind closed doors.

Recently, in an email to Stacy Shore regarding a missing audio file of the July 23rd Commission meeting, Franken complained about using recording devices. He said, “as far as non-agenda meetings are concerned, people who come in to speak informally with the commission do so in confidence to try to get preliminary information on a project or a problem that they are having. I, nor they, believe that those informal meetings should be recorded.”

While we all appreciate Franken’s opinion, the Missouri state statute regarding meetings of the commission, even ‘informal’ ones, are subject to Sunshine Law. The reason for this is obvious, as the software scandal and TIGER Five grant discussions, in which a large sum of tax dollars was considered to subsidize private profits, should be part of the public record. The public has a right to know what’s being done on our dime, like it or not, little Lord Franken.

Franken wasn’t done there. He had more to say, in a deceitful, arrogant tone:

” In fact, since a certain individual has demanded that all commission meetings be recorded regardless of their content of importance, I have had several businesses that are considering coming in to the area or increasing their presence in the area reuse to meet at the courthouse and I have had to go out to meet with them so they were certain they had control of the environment that the meeting was held in. ”

Control of the environment the meeting was held in? Sound familiar?

A business wanting to expand in Camden County shouldn’t be afraid to have its dealings with our county commission public. If they are reputable and have good intentions, they have nothing to fear from the taxpayers of this county hearing their proposals. It is our money, not theirs, after all.

Franken went on to say that openness and transparency ” …sends a poor message to businesses about Camden County”.

If that is truly the case, we can have no better representative to sell us out than Kris Franken.

We are tired of watching those of you who would abuse the positions of responsibility we have given you. We are sick of you lying to us. We are tired of being bullied. All of us.

August 12th at 5:30, the community has its first opportunity to speak out against this type of behavior. We have the opportunity to shout it down and say ”no more”.

The question is: Will we?

Where in the World Is Joyce Miller?

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Last year, Gatehouse Media implemented a paywall system for many of their small newspapers across Missouri and the country. This led to changes in the website of the Lake Sun, a Gatehouse outlet serving the Lake of the Ozarks’ communities. The Lake Sun has been the area’s undisputed leader in print media for the Lake for years. Before last years changes to their website, the paper enjoyed thriving, lively conversations in the comment sections on articles. Changes to the site have made it difficult to access articles on mobile devices and have restricted comment and conversation to articles selected by the editorial staff. Additionally, Facebook is linked to the comment section, and requires a user profile to post. Facebook, one of the most popular social media brands, has been cooperative with the NSA in data mining US citizens. These factors, along with the paywall which restricts access to online content, have muted conversations on articles from the online community and were the subject of conversation between American Spring and the Lake Sun last year.

Thursday however, the Lake Sun comment board saw a rare amount of traffic after the Lake Sun posted an article titled ‘Lake Ozark could be the setting for a reality show’. This piece referenced a story, first reported on by Manny Haley of KRMS Radio on Tuesday. The Lake Ozark Police Department have received an offer from a California production company to shoot a reality show centered around the LOPD. The city’s attorney and police chief are drafting an agreement that would ”be beneficial to the LOPD and the city of Lake Ozark”. This article from Dan Field sparked a rare firestorm of debate on Facebook. Many comments, critical of the LOPD and their ability to show the community in a good light, were voiced from across the lake area. These comments ranged, in part, from videos of the LOPD in action to recounts of personal experiences with the department. The examples offered from the community shows a side the department and the city would prefer to keep off-camera. These stories were reinforced by Lake Ozark city attorney Roger Gibbons.

“What if the material shows how people come here on vacation and party only to be arrested and placed on probation?” Gibbons, who authored the infamous ‘free speech ordinance’ which the Board of Aldermen passed in an apparent violation of state statute, has reason for hesitation. Video links found during a youtube search of ”lake ozark police” offer a look into what a reality show based around the LOPD might show the public about an area based around tourism. “Frankly, I do not see how the city or its police department benefits”, Gibbons said.

The Lake Sun’s article is underpinned by Lake Ozark’s failure to retain the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Meet and Greet event. In recent weeks, that event announced a move to Laurie as political failure ensured no action would be taken to lift the city’s open container ordinance. The comments on the Lake Sun’s article reflected a deep frustration within the Lake of the Ozarks community.

As the editor of American Spring and host of Guerrilla Radio, I commented on the article as well, inviting further conversation about this and other issues involving Lake Ozark government. One of my comments, suggested listening to Guerrilla Radio, which was discussing the article on air.

The Lake Sun, within moments of its posting, deleted that comment.

This is the most recent in a string of questionable editorial decisions.

On June 27, American Spring ran ‘Franken’s Software Scandal’. That article clearly outlined a political kickback scandal orchestrated by Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken. The controversy surrounded a contract awarded to HCPS Software for accounting and payroll programs. In late 2011, as reported by the Lake Sun, Franken appeared to violate state statutes to ensure Timothy Otten and HCPS received this contract. Otten was a friend of Franken’s campaign during the election of 2010. Less than two years later, the county had to terminate the contract, as the software programs provided by HCPS were ineffective and failed to meet the specifications of the contract. This scam cost the taxpayers of Camden County $53,000.

On July 5, the Lake Sun ran Franken’s attempts to explain away HCPS’ failure to deliver a working product. Through manipulation and political double-speak, Franken attempted to minimize the situation. Joyce Miller, editor-in-chief of the Lake Sun, gave Franken the stage. Inexplicably, she did not challenge Franken’s white wash of the scheme. This came as a surprise and may indicate an about-face from Miller, whose exceptional reporting in October of 2011 first uncovered this scandal.

Under Miller’s leadership, the Lake Sun has had a contentious history with the embattled Presiding Commissioner. The Lake Sun has been critical of actions taken by Franken during his time in office. They have given insightful, thorough reporting of questionable dealings and decisions made by the politician. These have included Franken’s attempts to cover up wrongdoing by former campaign contributor Tony Beabout and the scandal that ensued regarding Beabout’s termination. The Lake Sun brought us Franken’s threat to sue then-reporter Deanna Wheeler for recording discussions related to audit results, even though all conversations involving a quorum of the Commission is subject to Sunshine Law. The paper has questioned Franken’s attempts to keep records surrounding county tax sales hidden from public scrutiny and recounted the way with which he drug his feet regarding those records. The Lake Sun has helped map out Franken’s term of treacherous behavior with their honest and frank reporting during the past two years. Recently however, this seems to have changed.

Over the past two weeks, a consortium of individuals have been laying the groundwork for an argument in favor of Article 600. The Lake Sun has documented these attempts in detail. The details they have chosen to bring to light offers a look at the usual suspects in Lake of the Ozarks politics and their attempts to justify the need for enforcement of Planning and Zoning through a series of complaints, using ‘nuisance’ claims. The Lake Sun has reported on the campaign of these same individuals to publicly chastise Commissioner Cliff Luber for bringing attention to Planning and Zoning issues and concerns, the termination of the HCPS contract, the TIGER Five grant and other questionable decisions made by our county government. Through their reporting, the Lake Sun has provided a rogue’s gallery for public scrutiny. The paper has shown the efforts of the Camden County Republican Club, the Village of Four Seasons Property Owners Association and the Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge Corporation to influence policy in Camden County. They have also cited a telling May 10 audio recording of the Camden County Commission in which Franken calls the appointment of a lake area business owner to the Planning and Zoning board as a ”covert attempt to crash the system from the inside”.

The questions the Lake Sun haven’t asked: What system is it that might crash from the appointment of a board member who is well-educated on the effect of P&Z on citizen’s rights? What threat does that represent? To whom? Why is Franken so eager to label those who would speak out in opposition to Article 600 “extremists”? Where is the audio recording for the meeting of the Commission in which they discuss the TIGER Five grant and the use of county funds to subsidize private profits?

What did we wind up with after giving one of Franken’s buddies $53,000?

Where in the world are you, Joyce Miller?

The Lake Sun has prided itself on its local political coverage. As well they should. Historically, they have been an outlet that has been dedicated to uncovering government malfeasance. They have broken stories such as the Macks Creek speed trap and have shown the ability to stand up to politicians who would abuse their office. More than at any other time in our nation’s history, we need you to do your job. The media are the unspoken check and balance in a democracy. Their willingness to report truth in the face of power protects the interest of the people. When they willfully choose to obfuscate truth and promote instead, a public relations spiel, it leaves us vulnerable to those who would act unethically and recklessly while serving in offices we the people, own.

It is not the job of media to manipulate conversation around issues. It is the responsibility of our media to tell the truth. We do not want them to look the other way. We expect more, we deserve more.

We demand more.

We the people can influence the conversation and challenge the narrative. Monday morning, Kris Franken will appear on the Morning Magazine with Manny Haley. Call in. Join the conversation. Demand answers.

*Editor’s Note: American Spring sent an email to Joyce Miller, asking if she intended to do a follow up piece on the software scandal. She did not respond.

Money in politics? The sky is the limit in Mo.

https://bigstory.ap.org/article/money-politics-sky-limit-mo

A Letter to American Spring from Eric Dundon on ‘The Paywall Argument’

Below is letter from Eric Dundon, content manager at the Lake Sun Leader.  It is in response to ‘The Paywall Argument’.  In it, Mr. Dundon provides us information regarding the new web platform.  With his permission, it is reprinted here.

You will also find the follow up and ongoing correspondence below.  It is regarding the decision of the Lake Sun Leader to publish ‘The Paywall Argument’, or not.

If you would like to see ‘The Paywall Argument’ appear in the Lake Sun, please let Eric Dundon and Joyce Miller know. (joyce.miller@lakesunonline.com, eric.dundon@lakesunonline.com).

This post will be updated as this decision is considered.  Leave a comment here as well, if you would like to see ‘The Paywall Argument’ run in the Lake Sun.

Thanks for your support.

Paul

On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 1:35 PM, Eric Dundon <eric.dundon@lakesunonline.com> wrote:
Hi Mr. Ellison,

I thought I’d send you a quick note regarding your latest blog post (I had too many thoughts to tweet them all).
Firstly, thank you for that post. What many people do not realize is that for many of the changes the Lake Sun is experiencing, those decisions are made over our heads. We’re not crazy about our new website now, but it’s what we’ve got and we’re trying our best to make it work.
As for our paywall system, we are working with Gatehouse to get aspects of it changed. We recognize that we have a different readership than many of Gatehouse’s other publications throughout the country, and we want more access to our readers. We know that a robust and engaged citizenry will drive up our numbers, and we’re not convinced that the current paywall system facilitates that.
Some of the changes we’re working towards include:
-Unrestricted access to obituaries, sports, entertainment, opinions and crime
-For other content, we want to increase the number of free views from 15 to 20 before the paywall kicks in.
I watched Joyce file the request for the changes. She filed a request Sept. 19 (the day after the new website launched) and again Sept. 24.
Her words today were, “Come hell or high water, it’ll change.” But, as you mentioned in your blog, at the end of the day, the Lake Sun is a business.
On a personal note, thank you for your kind words on my work. The design house concept is frustrating to me and there will no doubt be challenges and things I don’t like, but I’m trying to remain open-minded about the whole thing.
We know that you don’t always agree with how we handle certain things, but we appreciate your criticism nonetheless.

Thanks,

Eric Dundon
Lake Sun editorial content manager
On Oct 2, 2012, at 9:09 PM, Paul Ellison wrote:

Eric,

Thanks for your email.  I can’t help but be reminded of a somewhat similar conversation with Deanna earlier this year.  In it, I told her that my criticisms are a reflection of your value, the Lake Sun’s value, to us.  As community members, we have an expectation of truth when possible, honesty when not.  We expect you to ask real questions, hard questions.  We have high expectations.

The lofty standards we expect met served as motivation for many who enter the field of journalism. We expect integrity.  We expect truth.  We expect you to inform us, to investigate.

When that baseline criteria is subject, as they now are, to advertisers and corporate ownership, we all suffer.

I understand full well that you and the other members of the Lake Sun staff are only doing your jobs.  You keep us well informed of local issues.  The Lake Sun and the work you do are the lifeline we rely on.  We all know that the public is starting to tune out.  While much of that has to do with cable and national network ‘news organizations’ and non-stop talk of all things political, it eventually comes home.

We hold our newspapers in high regard because you live here with us.  You pay the same price at the pump or for a gallon of milk.  You are vanguards of the public trust.  We need you now.  We don’t just need you to cover the Camden County Commissioner race.  While that is important, it is also worth a few extra column inches to report on stories that bring a little perspective, a little understanding, to the fore.  The people need that.  When they hear it, they respond.

The Lake Sun is not my enemy.  It is a never-ending well of hope.

With your permission, I would like to post your kind letter on my blog.  It is informative regarding the new site.

Thanks again for all you do.
Paul

Oh, and I did send a copy of The Paywall Argument as a letter to the editor.  I hope to see it soon.

On Oct 3, 2012, at 12:45 PM, Eric Dundon wrote:

You may print my email to you on your blog.

I went ahead and pulled your post on the paywall argument from your blog to put in the opinion page for Thursday’s paper. In future, if you have something you’d like printed, send it to me at this address. I know in the past you’ve sent some letters to Amy Wilson, but she deals primarily with the Westside Star, so it’s most effective to send it to me.

Eric Dundon

On Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 4:30 PM, Eric Dundon <eric.dundon@lakesunonline.com> wrote:
Another follow up. I spoke with Joyce about your latest letter regarding the paywall. She said you bring up many valid points. However, she’s also nervous about publishing a letter than does heavily criticize our parent company. She told she would think about it and sleep on it and have an answer for me tomorrow.
In short, your letter will not be  in Thursday’s paper. I’ll let you know if we proceed with it tomorrow or Tuesday (Monday is a postal holiday).
Thanks,
Eric
My reply: Wed Night
Eric,

I appreciate being kept in the loop.  I understand Joyce’s hesitation.  It isn’t always easy to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, it underlines the effects of corporate ownership on the editorial process in our own newspapers.  As I said before, we are all just doing our jobs.  I can appreciate Joyce’s consideration about running the piece.  We all know the truth, we all know it should be told.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for ownership.  I didn’t create the issue.  Neither did you.  Neither did she.  Yet the responsibility for containment, from Gatehouse’s perspective, falls to Joyce.

To adequately explain your sudden move to a paywall without the context of Gatehouse’s debt and profit motive, is impossible.  Attempts to do so are hollow and disingenuous.  The truth is, this decision to make the move to a pay-per-content site wasn’t yours.  It was theirs.  It was driven by the bottom line.

I understand Joyce’s dilemma.  It isn’t easy to stand up and do the right thing.  It isn’t easy, in an environment that is growing more and more hostile toward the media, to have the courage to print truth.  It takes fortitude to do your jobs.  It takes character to print criticism.  It takes strength to stand behind that decision.

I believe that she, as Editor of the Lake Sun Leader, will make the right decision.  I have faith that she will allow the community to understand the paper’s decision to move to a paywall.

Again, I thank you for keeping me informed.

Thanks,
Paul