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Archive for December, 2012

(Jefferson City) (AP) – The executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission is leaving to join the secretary of state’s office.

Secretary of State-elect Jason Kander announced the appointment Thursday of Julie Allen as director of elections and information technology.

Allen has been the Ethics Commission’s executive director since 2008. She previously worked in the administration of former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt.

Kander, a Democrat, takes office Jan. 14. He was elected secretary of state in November to succeed Robin Carnahan, who did not seek re-election.

Kander has also announced the appointments of Andrew Hartnett as commissioner of securities and John Scott as director of policy and government affairs.

Both have been working for Attorney General Chris Koster – Hartnett as chief of staff and Scott as a special assistant to the attorney general.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Gov. Jay Nixon has named the retired president of Lincoln University to the board that oversees the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Nixon announced the appointment of Carolyn Mahoney to the nine-member Coordinating Board for Higher Education on Thursday. If confirmed by the state Senate, she will serve until June 2018.

Mahoney was president of Lincoln University, a public institution in Jefferson City, from 2005 until her retirement this summer.

She holds a doctorate in mathematics from Ohio State University and has also been an administrator at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina.

(Willow Springs) – With the announcement of Jo Ann Emerson resigning in February, a committee of 100 Republican chairs will be appointing Emerson’s successor. Wendell Bailey of Willow Springs announced earlier this month that he will be running for the position, and told Ozark Radio News about his plan should he be appointed:


Bailey detailed why his experience would make him a great choice:


With the announcement that Wendell Bailey will be seeking the appointment, we will have more next week with him on where he stands on a number of issues.

(Mountain Home) – What do you do with the Christmas tree when you’re done with the holidays? Officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers urge people with natural trees to donate them for fish cover on Bull Shoals or Norfork Lakes.

Many local anglers use these discarded Christmas trees to sink to provided improved fish habitat.

People who wish to donate their tress can take them to any Corps of Engineers boat ramp of Norfork or Bull Shoals Lakes and deposit them to the side, being careful not to block the ramp and parking areas. The trees will then be available for anyone interested in using them to provided shelter for fish, and serve as attractors for recreational fishing. Anyone wanting to use the tree is welcome to pick them up to sink as fish covers. Any unclaimed trees will be sunk by Corps of Engineers personnel at a later date.

Officials stress that all trees must be real, and must be free of ornaments and tinsel to prevent harm to fish.

If you have any questions regarding the program, contact Natural Resource Specialist Ty Fowler by calling 870-425-2700 ext. 1433.

(St. Louis) (AP) – Fontella Bass, a St. Louis-born soul singer who hit the top of the R&B charts with “Rescue Me” in 1965, has died. She was 72.

Bass died Wednesday night at a St. Louis hospice of complications from a heart attack suffered three weeks ago, her daughter, Neuka Mitchell, said. Bass had also suffered a series of strokes over the past seven years.

“She was an outgoing person,” Mitchell said of her mother. “She had a very big personality. Any room she entered she just lit the room up, whether she was on stage or just going out to eat.”

Bass was born into a family with deep musical roots. Her mother was gospel singer Martha Bass, one of the Clara Ward Singers. Her younger brother, David Peaston, had a string of R&B hits in the 1980s and 1990s. Peaston died in February at age 54.

Bass’ began performing at a young age, singing in her church’s choir at age 6. She was surrounded by music, often traveling on national tours with her mother and her gospel group.

Her interest turned from gospel to R&B when she was a teenager and she began her professional career at the Showboat Club in north St. Louis at age 17. She eventually auditioned for Chess Records and landed a recording contract, first as a duet artist. Her duet with Bobby McClure, “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing,” reached No. 5 on the R&B charts and No. 33 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1965.

She co-wrote and later that year recorded “Rescue Me,” reaching No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart. Bass’s powerful voice bore a striking resemblance to that of Aretha Franklin, who is often misidentified as the singer of that chart-topping hit.

Bass had a few other modest hits but by her own accounts developed a reputation as a troublemaker because she demanded more artistic control, and more money for her songs. She haggled over royalty rights to “Rescue Me” for years before reaching a settlement in the late 1980s, Mitchell said. She sued American Express over the use of “Rescue Me” in a commercial, settling for an undisclosed amount in 1993.

“Rescue Me” has been covered by many top artists, including Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Melissa Manchester and Pat Benatar. Franklin eventually sang a form of it too – as “Deliver Me” in a Pizza Hut TV ad in 1991.

Bass lived briefly in Europe before returning to St. Louis in the early 1970s, where she and husband Lester Bowie raised their family. She recorded occasionally, including a 1995 gospel album, “No Ways Tired,” that earned a Grammy nomination.

Bass was inducted into the St. Louis Hall of Fame in 2000.

Funeral arrangements for Bass were incomplete. She is survived by four children. Bowie died in 1999.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Nearly two dozen years after Monroe Gunter retired from a long career at a Missouri power company, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer often caused by exposure to asbestos.

Gunter sued his former employer, claiming its negligence subjected him to asbestos particles that eventually led to his illness. He died before a jury ruled against him. Yet Gunter’s lawsuit is cited by business groups as an example of how Missouri’s workers’ compensation system has gone awry and is again in need of reform in order to improve the state’s economy.

When the Missouri Legislature convenes Jan. 9, Republicans plan to use their new supermajorities to try to prohibit lawsuits such as the one Gunter filed. Their goal is to force claims for occupational diseases to go through the workers’ compensation system, an administrative proceeding where the maximum amount of money awarded to harmed workers could be significantly less than through a successful jury verdict.

A similar bill was vetoed this past year by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. He said at the time that it would be wrong to eliminate the right to sue for workers who suffer from deadly work-related diseases, such as a mesothelioma.

But the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry contends Missouri now is the only state in which the workers’ compensation system is not the exclusive means of resolving claims about occupational diseases.

“If that is true, I think that’s disastrous to our economic job creation model,” said House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

Incoming Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, also has pledged that changes to the workers’ compensation system will top the agenda for 2013.

Republicans have long claimed that businesses needed greater protection against the uncertain costs of sometimes questionable claims about workplace injuries. In 2005, Republican Gov. Matt Blunt signed a law making it more difficult for people to win workers’ compensation cases by requiring them to prove that work was the “prevailing factor” for an injury instead of merely a “substantial factor.” The 2005 law also required a strict application of its provisions instead of one “liberally construed with a view to the public welfare” as had been the case in the past.

That resulted in some apparently unanticipated consequences when courts began interpreting the 2005 law.

In April 2010, St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker allowed two separate lawsuits to go forward against businesses from people seeking money for their allegedly work-related mesothelioma. Dierker cited the requirement to strictly construe the law while noting that the narrowed definition of an accident in the 2005 law meant that claims over occupational diseases no longer had to go through the workers’ compensation system.

Similarly, the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled in September 2011 that Gunter could go forward with his lawsuit against KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Co. The appeals court said his ailment did not arise from an “accident” as defined under the 2005 law and so wasn’t subject to the provision making the workers’ compensation system his exclusive remedy.

Gunter died a few weeks before the appeals court decision. His lawsuit nonetheless went to trial in Cass County, but Gunter lost in May 2012, said his attorney Steven Crick. That verdict now is on appeal.

Crick said cases such as Gunter’s belong in circuit court, because the workers’ compensation system would have provided only minimal compensation. Mesothelioma is a quickly progressing disease, so Gunter would not have had much time to draw workers’ compensation benefits before his death, Crick said. Because Gunter’s wife had died previously and his two children are adults, Gunter had no dependents who could have received his workers’ compensation benefits after he died, Crick added. But his heirs could have received damages through the court system.

“Mesothelioma is an awful, gruesome illness, and I would not wish that on my worst enemy,” Crick said. He added: “Being able to bring a claim for such a horrendous injury – and being able to bring it in court – was a fair and just thing.”

The fact that Gunter did not win his lawsuit is seldom mentioned by business lobbyists and lawmakers who cite the need to prohibit such lawsuits. They instead point to the potential for businesses to get hit with huge verdicts, or the uncertainty created for companies that could rack up large legal bills defending themselves against occupational disease claims in court. When legal uncertainty exists, business owners are less likely to spend money expanding their facilities or workforce.

If the workers’ compensation system is not the sole means of settling claims over occupational diseases, it “subjects Missouri employers to this question of when are they done with litigation?” said Rich AuBuchon, a lobbyist and general counsel for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

“That was the whole point of workers’ compensation,” AuBuchon added. “So there wouldn’t be years of litigation hanging over an employer’s head and, at the same time, the employee would have the certainty of getting a specific amount of money.”

(Little Rock) (AP) – Gov. Mike Beebe has issued a statewide disaster declaration after a Christmas Day winter storm dumped snow and ice throughout the state and knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers.

The governor issued the declaration Wednesday afternoon as tens of thousands of people remained without electricity.

The governor says the declaration helps the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management work as efficiently as possible with other state agencies. By declaring a disaster, Beebe suspended provisions of state laws regarding procedures for the State Office of Purchasing, the Arkansas Building Authority, the State Office of Personnel Management and other agencies and departments as they work with ADEM.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday appointed Alan Freeman, a veteran executive of health care systems, to be the director of the Department of Social Services for the governor’s second term.

Freeman is the president and CEO of Grace Hill Health Centers, which operates five health care centers and a community health program in St. Louis, and is also president of the board of directors for the St. Louis Integrated Health Network. Previously, he was the executive director for the nonprofit community health center Missouri Highlands Health Care that provides primary and preventative health care in Butler, Carter, Iron, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon and Wayne counties. He also was the CEO for Cass Medical Center in Harrisonville and held senior leadership posts at two other hospitals.

In addition, Freeman has served as the board president for the Missouri Primary Care Association and served on the governing board of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission. In all, the governor’s office said Freeman has spent more than 20 years working in health care administration.

The Department of Social Services oversees the Medicaid health care program for the poor, the juvenile justice system, foster care and adoption services and public aid programs.

Brian Kinkade, who has been the acting department director, is to return to his previous job as deputy director.

Freeman lives in Ellington in southern Missouri and has a master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in health services management from Webster University.

(Yellville) – Effective, January 1, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office will follow suit with many others jails in the state of Arkansas and establish a postcard only policy for jail inmates.

Marion County Sheriff Roger Vickers says that inmates will only be allowed to send and receive US Postal Service-approved postcards. The receipt and mailing of envelopes to and from relatives and friends, or any other personal mailings, will no longer be permitted. Family or friends are allowed to bring inmates USPS approved postcards and stamps for communication purposes.

The postcard policy is being implemented as a faster and safer way to take the necessary security precautions in order to decrease the risk of contraband coming into the jail. Sheriff Vickers says that it also saves the county money on supplying postage and envelopes to indigent inmates, which the county is legally obligated to.

There will be an exception for “legal mail”, which is to and from the courts, attorneys, officers of the court, and government agencies. For this exception, envelopes and papers will be allowed. These envelopes must be clearly marked and identified as “legal mail” and must be addressed appropriately.

(Houston) – The executive director of the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce has resigned after serving in the position for less than a year.

Velena Ingram stepped down from her position on December 20. Ingram was hired in late April and began her duties May 5.

Ingram, a 1998 Houston High School graduate, worked previously with Regions Bank in Rolla. She was hired as the chamber’s executive director after Sharon Horbyk resigned following a two-year stint to pursue another employment opportunity.