Nixa School District expands drug screens to parking people

Posted April 22, 2008 by DonnaO
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The Nixa School Board recently expanded the district’s drug screening policy to include students seeking on-campus parking permits for the 2008-2009 school year.

 According to information from Nixa’s Zac Rantz, spokesperson for the district, the option to expand the random drug screens has always been on the table.

He also said that Nixa began the drug screenings of athletes and those involved in some extra-curricular activities.

The present cost of the screens is $13 per student and is taken out of the student’s athletic fee; it is a four-panel screen that marks opiate and marijuana use through urine sample.

Opiates include the narcotic alkaloids found in opium—such as morphine and codeine, hydrocodone; marijuana is of course, pot.

Next year the test will screen for other kinds of drugs, but Rantz didn’t know exactly what drugs. And, as far as he knows the school district does not screen for meth or alcohol.

* Updated: Rantz said today, April 25, that the test does screen for meth. Alcohol doesn’t stay in the blood long enough to be identified in urine samples, but brethalyzers are used when a student is suspected of alcohol consumption.

The school district has been doing the random drug screens, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional as long as they are random, for about six years.

The random screens are conducted about six to 10 times a year and affect about 18-20 students each time, Rantz said.

How many positive screens has the hunt turned up since its inception six years ago? Not one, Rantz said.

“As far as I know there havd been no positives up to this point,” he said.

Nixon sues Christian County Commissioners to enforce Sunshine Law

Posted January 18, 2008 by DonnaO
Categories: News

 Attorney General Jay Nixon  released the news today—Jan. 18— that his office finally acted on complaints sent to him by county  resident Ernest O’Gaffney. What follows is the news release from the AG’s office:
“Attorney General Jay Nixon today filed a lawsuit against the three members of the Christian County Commission, alleging the commissioners violated the Missouri Sunshine Law when they appointed John Housley as county counselor.

The lawsuit alleges Presiding Commissioner John Grubaugh and commissioners Tom Huff and Bill Barnett violated the Sunshine Law by:

• Convening a meeting without public notice at which the appointment took place;
• Failing to keep any minutes of such meeting;
• Failing to conduct such meeting in a manner so as to be open to the public;
• Failing to record the vote to appoint Housley to the position of county counselor; and
• Conducting such meeting as a closed meeting without an affirmative vote to do so, and without prior public notice of its intent to do so.

“The Sunshine Law is quite clear that, with few exceptions, public business needs to be conducted in the open, with appropriate prior notice,” Nixon said. “The record shows that was not the case here, and these officials need to be held accountable.”

The lawsuit asks the Christian County Circuit Court to enter a judgment finding that the commissioners committed knowing and purposeful violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law; permanently enjoin the commissioners from further violations of the Sunshine Law; and assess civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each knowing violation, and up to $5,000 for each purposeful violation of the Sunshine Law.”

The Attorney General office also has two criminal complaints pending—one stemming from a forgery charge relating to the Housley appointment and the other from gravel diverted from the county’s Common 1 Road District to a parking lot at the Chadwick School.

It isn’t easy being mean, but in some cases it’s smart

Posted January 10, 2008 by DonnaO
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Last year, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, less people lost their lives on Missouri highways than the year before. But this year isn’t off to a good start. It’s Jan. 10 and southwest Missouri is almost averaging one a day so far. The four Springfield youths killed in Greene County, a teacher killed south of Chadwick in Christian County, a motorcyclist killed at the James River Power Plant and two deaths last night in Douglas County as a result of running from the police.

Life’s a risk but car accidents take more young lives than anything else. And while parents can’t police their teenagers 24-7, they can take a stand, make the rules and follow through.
That’s exactly what one of the best, smartest and self-described “meanest” moms recently did.

From the Associated Press:

“DES MOINES, Iowa – Jane Hambleton has dubbed herself the “meanest mom on the planet.” After finding alcohol in her son’s car, she decided to sell the car and share her 19-year-old’s misdeed with everyone — by placing an ad in the local newspaper.
The ad reads: “OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don’t love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.”
Hambleton has heard from people besides interested buyers since recently placing the ad in The Des Moines Register.
The 48-year-old from Fort Dodge says she has fielded more than 70 telephone calls from emergency room technicians, nurses, school counselors and even a Georgia man who wanted to congratulate her.
“The ad cost a fortune, but you know what? I’m telling people what happened here,” Hambleton says. “I’m not just gonna put the car for resale when there’s nothing wrong with it, except the driver made a dumb decision.
“It’s overwhelming the number of calls I’ve gotten from people saying ‘Thank you, it’s nice to see a responsible parent.’ So far there are no calls from anyone saying, ‘You’re really strict. You’re real overboard, lady.’”
The only critic is her son, who Hambleton says is “very, very unhappy” with the ad and claims the alcohol was left by a passenger.
Hambleton believes her son but has decided mercy isn’t the best policy in this case. She says she set two rules when she bought the car at Thanksgiving: No booze, and always keep it locked.
The car has been sold, but Hambleton says she will continue the ad for another week — just for the feedback.”

Missouri gets an glowing “F” on Sunshine compliance

Posted December 6, 2007 by DonnaO
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Jean Maneke, the Missouri Press Association’s legal counsel, writes in the December issue of Missouri Press News that the state fails miserably when it comes to appealing denials of sunshine requests. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has tried to appeal a a denial. The failing grade comes from a survey of all states and is available

Not only does the survey indicate that there’s no alternative than a clogged court system available to the public, but that if and when an appeal is ever successful, the penalty is simply a civil one.

“That’s a sad commentary on the status of our state’s open meetings law, ins’t it?” she opines. Sad indeed.

Vincent—not e-mail but junk mail

Posted November 27, 2007 by DonnaO
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Gov. Matt Blunt recently tapped Missouri Department of Revenue head, Trish Vincent, as his chief of staff, after letting Ed Martin go in “…you’re doing a heckuva of a job, Brownie…” style.
The e-mail debacle aside, Vincent is the one who brought you more junk mail—slick fliers with your vehicle renewal notices beginning last year. It’s the story the Headliner published Sept. 20, 2006.
Under Vincent’s leadership the DOR launched the private-public partnership with Imagitas, Inc., a subsidiary of Pitney Bowes, to print motor vehicle renewal forms at no cost to the state in exchange for the right to advertise to millions of people in Missouri.
It was all done to save money—about a half million in 2006 out of a $86-million budget, she said.
But the move did not go unnoticed by some astute consumers, resenting the state selling their addresses to the direct-marketing firm and thereby violating the federal Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act. Missouri is one of a number of states participating in a class-action suit against Pitney-Bowes.
A quick Google of Imagitas found this news story from 2006.
“Pitney Bowes has changed course radically in trying to defend one of its companies, Imagitas. Imagitas, facing a national class action suit for violation of driver’s privacy rights in six states, has now withdrawn a motion for summary judgment that claimed they had not violated the law. They have announced that, instead, they will file a motion for a multi-district litigation (MDL) to handle the violations of the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). A violation of the DPPA invokes a penalty of $2500 per incident.
“We estimate that Pitney Bowes has affected about 22 million people by this violation,” said Norwood “Woody” Wilner of the Jacksonville-based trial firm Spohrer Wilner, and lead attorney in the class action suit against Imagitas. Wilner’s comments were made during a meeting of lead plaintiff lawyers from the six states where the Pitney Bowes Company did business. Imagitas targeted drivers in six states: Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, New York and Minnesota with commercial solicitations in envelopes containing vehicle registration.
Wilner, who lead the first successful tobacco litigation, says the arrogance of a company to ignore privacy laws reminds him the early days of tobacco litigation. “Despite explicit Federal Law, we have a company who is trying to work the system. This is unacceptable in the age of privacy,” said Wilner. “The DPPA was created to protect drivers from privacy invasion. Pitney Bowes has reversed course after their lawyers worked with the court to set a hearing date in February.”
Wilner, a native of Miami Beach, Florida, became internationally famous for his successful campaign against the tobacco industry. Mr. Wilner and his team won the groundbreaking case, Carter v. Brown and Williamson, which resulted in the first verdict against the tobacco industry to be affirmed on appeal, involving both the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.”
Since that time, Missouri has come on board.
A news report from the Boston Business Journal titled: “Pitney Bowes’ unit faces suit over junk mail info” had this to say in part:
“ ‘It’s a real win-win for the state of Missouri,” said Maura Browning, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Revenue.
Aside from the lawsuits, Browning said the only complaints the state has received came from some insurance agents who were miffed when they saw ads for State Farm insurance included with the auto registration information.”
One of those “miffed” insurance agents was Ozark’s Teresa Christensen.
“I was rather insulted by it,” the Shelter Insurance agent said. “This is a taxpayer supported entity of the government. It looked like the state was endorsing that particular company and some people will take it that way.”
And, in spite of what the DOR and Imagitas say, the states involved in this scheme are selling residents’ personal information to a direct marketing firm for profit and getting a cut of the action.

Gadfly and the Sunshine gang

Posted November 16, 2007 by DonnaO
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It was a refreshing discussion at Evangel University Nov. 15 when the Gadfly joined members of the Springfield media and James Klahr, from the AG’s office, to discuss the practical applications of the Sunshine Law. David Burton with the University of Missouri Extension Office and the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists deserve praise for providing the opportunity to learn about the law, discuss its importance and to air frustrations over its flaws.

Klahr gave an overview of the state’s open records law that is often misunderstood, under utilized and sometimes plainly and purposefully ignored. Tony Messenger, editorial page editor for the Springfield News-Leader, expounded on his e-mail odyssey with the governor’s office that will surely set straight any misconceptions that e-mail communications among government officials are off limits to the public. And Ron Davis, senior producer with KSPR,  shared his many, many years of experience in digging for and reporting on news in southwest Missouri. He drove home the point that journalists must turn the page to find the story.

The three local panelists are glaring examples of what’s needed to hold government accountable and what is all too often missing. While Christian County resident (Gadfly) Ernie O’Gaffney takes hit after hit by the status quo in this county, he is evidence that one person can make a difference. The public is better served when people like him take a stand.
But his experience is also evidence that the Sunshine Law is not easily enforced and when the public, which includes the media, run up against cranky public officials, often the only recourse is to sue. His litigation languishes still—since March—with the AG’s office. That makes it easy for officials to break the law and watch while nothing ever happens.

But what was more important about last night’s seminar is that the room was full of student journalists who may have heard for the first time how important it is to hold government accountable. Davis made it clear that journalists cannot expected to be liked by the folks they cover and that it isn’t in anyone’s interest to sidle up and drink at the trough of government gruel—PR.

Without oversight, which is the main job of the press, even the best of intentions can go haywire.
Secondly, there were a number of local residents there who are struggling to hold their officials accountable and needed the pep talk to assure them they’re on the right side of tracks.

Three important points came from the discussion:
• The Sunshine Law is for everyone, not just the media
• The Sunshine Law needs teeth to discourage noncompliance
• And, as Davis put it, public officials are people like you and me. Most want to do a good job and are willing to comply with that and all the other laws; they should be respected for their public service. Scrutiny simply helps them attain that nobility.

Ozark football, parade suggestion for congestion

Posted November 14, 2007 by DonnaO
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Ozark will be all agog Saturday, Nov. 17, with the annual Christmas Parade at 6 p.m. just following the 1:30 p.m. football game between the Tigers, 8-4 and Lee Summit West, 12-0.

The winner of that game will play for the Class 4 high school championship in the Edward Jones Dome at St. Louis at 3:15 p.m. Nov. 23 against either Parkway Central, 11-1 or Vaschon 9-2—both teams are from the St. Louis area. According to information from the Ozark High School, the school counted 4,000 paid receipts for the quarter-final game Monday night. There were cars parked everywhere–some where cars shouldn’t be parked at all.

This semi-final game will draw as many or more and rest assured, unless it is Ozark leading by four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, no one will exit the field early. The Tigers recently proved twice what baseball legend Yogi Bera always knew: “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”

The traffic situation may be one for the record books when you couple the game with the Christmas Parade that draws visitors to Ozark early in the afternoon. But no one really needs to be anywhere else Saturday afternoon anyway. Paraders will stage behind the former Fasco plant; the location was changed from the junior high school parking lot to accommodate the sporting event.

Should the Tigers make the kill, half the town will evaporate six days later to watch the championship game in St. Louis .  We wish it so.