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(Omaha) – Larry Johnson, a 32-year veteran of the National Park Service, has been selected as the new superintendent of Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Previously, Johnson was the superintendent of Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota, and since January, 2015, has been on a detail assignment to the Riverways as Acting Superintendent. He begins his new assignment in mid-June.

Johnson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor Recreation Resource Management from Iowa State University, and completed Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Executive Education Program, the NPS New Superintendent Academy, and the National Parks Institute. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, he began his NPS career at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site as a Supervisory Park Ranger. He has also worked as a District Ranger at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Yellowstone National Park, and Voyageurs National Park where he earned the Midwest Region’s Harry Yount Award for excellence in rangering.

(Van Buren) – A resident of Ellsinore was killed Wednesday after a one-vehicle accident near Van Buren.

The accident happened just after 6:30 PM on County Road 127, about four miles west of Van Buren, when the westbound sedan driven by 27-year-old Aaron Freeman ran off-road and overturned, partially ejecting a passenger, 51-year-old James Crouch. Crouch was pronounced dead at the scene.

A second passenger suffered minor injuries and sought his own medical treatment.

The death marks fatality number 8 for Troop G of the Highway Patrol for this year, compared to 7 at this time last year.

Pictured left to right: Students Chad Bunch, Sarah Heath and Elaine Simmons; Kimball, Hathcock, and SCCC Instructor Christy Chambers. (provided)

Pictured left to right: Students Chad Bunch, Sarah Heath and Elaine Simmons; Kimball, Hathcock, and SCCC Instructor Christy Chambers. (provided)

(West Plains) – Ozarks Medical Center’s surgical services department recently upgraded their laparoscopic equipment and donated their used equipment to the South Central Career Center’s nursing program.

OMC officials say the equipment is being used in the Principles and Practices for Surgical Technology class at SCCC.

The SCCC is now accepting applications for the fall semester. You can visit www.scccwp.edu for more information.

(West Plains) – West Plains City Clerk Mallory Hawkins says that nuisance officer Tracy Morris has some advice to pass along concerning cleaning up your property and burning brush:

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To alert the West Plains Fire Department of a burn that you plan on conducting, call 417-256-2424.

Echols (Baxter County Sheriff's Office)

Jonathan Echols (Baxter County Sheriff’s Office)

(Mountain Home) – A rural Mountain Home man is accused of possessing drugs and counterfeit cash.

28-year-old Jonathan Echols was arrested on Tuesday, May 26 after a sheriff’s deputy checked on Echols, who was inside an out-of-state vehicle that pulled up to a home on Baxter County Road 29. Police say Echols had a suspended driver license and a misdemeanor arrest warrant, and was arrested by the deputy.

When Echols was placed under arrest, the deputy reportedly found that Echols was in possession of a bag of methamphetamine and $820 in cash, which he reportedly told the deputy was counterfeit.

Echols was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, felony forgery, and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license and contempt of court. At report time, Echols was held on $20,000 bond. Sheriff John Montgomery says an investigation into the counterfeit currency is continuing and additional charges may be filed.

(West Plains) – The Pumpkin Center Fire Department will be holding a fish fry this coming Saturday.

The event will take place at 4 PM at the Pumpkin Center Fire Department, 1898 Route 14, West Plains, and includes a pie auction. Donations are needed for the pie auction.

The cost to attend the all-you-can-eat event is by donation, with proceeds going towards the department’s building fund.

If you have any questions, call chief Boone at 417-293-8715 or assistant chief Collins at 417-255-0933.

Chancellor Dr. Drew Bennett (MSU-West Plains photo)

MSU-West Plains Chancellor Dr. Drew Bennett (MSU-West Plains photo)

(West Plains) – A former female employee of Missouri State University-West Plains has filed a gender discrimination suit against the school system and the chancellor of the West Plains campus.

The suit, which was filed in Howell County Circuit Court on Tuesday, May 26, also contains battery charges against MSU-West Plains Chancellor Dr. Drew Bennett. The charges were filed by attorneys representing former employee Amanda Niemotka.

The suit alleges that during an event that Niemotka helped coordinate on April 25, 2014, Bennett grabbed her in an “aggressive and bullying” manner and “berated her” because he was unhappy about some aspect of the event. After the confrontation, the suit states Niemotka, who at the time was the Development Events Coordinator at MSU-West Plains, was uncomfortable around Bennett and was unable to perform her job at the college due to anxiety and fear of further confrontations with the chancellor.

The suit also alleges that Bennett made sexually suggestive comments toward Niemotka on an unspecified date.

According to the suit, Niemotka made a formal complaint on April 28, 2014 to the Missouri State University campus in Springfield about her treatment, and that a number of witnesses to the event were questioned about the incident, including Chancellor Bennett. The suit says that after being told a few days later that disciplinary action was taken against Bennett, she was informed he would be allowed to continue as chancellor of the West Plains campus. Niemotka alleges that she continued to have anxiety problems and other issues that affected her job performance until she was fired on on October 10, 2014, after a four week leave of absence.

According to the suit, Niemotka filled a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights on October 14, 2014. The group issued their Notice of Right to Sue on April 20, 2015.

The suit alleges that the college knew about similar instances concerning Dr. Bennett in the past, and that the Missouri State University system failed to take appropriate action to stop future abuses. The suit seeks a trial by jury and unspecified damages relating to “past and future lost income, compensatory damages, prejudgement interest, and attorney’s fees”.

Rachael Dockery, legal counsel with Missouri State University, told Ozark Radio News on Wednesday afternoon that they do not have a comment on the case at this time, however, she did state that the school has a “strong, clear policy against discrimination,” and the school will be following established school policies to conduct an internal investigation into the matter.

(St. Joseph) (AP) – Officials from the Missouri State Auditor’s office say the St. Joseph school district has made significant progress since receiving a highly critical audit in February.

St. Joseph school board members and staff met with auditor officials Tuesday to discuss progress made in 17 areas of concern noted when the district was given a “poor” rating in February. Among other things, auditors found the district handed out at least $25 million in unapproved stipends to administrators in the previous eight years.

Darrell Moore, at attorney for the auditor’s office, says a few of the recommendations have already been implemented and most of the others are already in progress.

The St. Joseph News-Press reports auditor officials also went over some key areas that needed improvements, such as salary compensation and purchases.

by Summer Ballentine, AP

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2013 file photo, Rep. John Diehl Jr., R-Town and Country, calls for an end to debate during a special session at the Missouri State Capital in Jefferson City, Mo. Missouri House Speaker Diehl said, Thursday, May 14, 2015, that he is resigning from the Legislature after acknowledging that he exchanged sexually charged text messages with a Capitol intern. Diehl said he is resigning both from his House speaker’s position and from his elected job as a Republican representative from suburban St. Louis. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2013 file photo, Rep. John Diehl Jr., R-Town and Country, calls for an end to debate during a special session at the Missouri State Capital in Jefferson City, Mo. Missouri House Speaker Diehl said, Thursday, May 14, 2015, that he is resigning from the Legislature after acknowledging that he exchanged sexually charged text messages with a Capitol intern. Diehl said he is resigning both from his House speaker’s position and from his elected job as a Republican representative from suburban St. Louis. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A team has been formed to review the Missouri House’s intern policy in an effort to address a recent scandal when the former speaker resigned after admitting to exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a Capitol intern, Republican Speaker Todd Richardson said Wednesday.

Richardson, of Poplar Bluff, said he’s asked a working group conduct a “robust review” of current policy. The legislative intern handbook details how to report sexual or other forms of harassment and how those complaints are expected to be investigated. Texting or other forms of association with employees and lawmakers is not addressed.

The review comes amid increased national scrutiny of Missouri Capitol internship programs. Former House Speaker John Diehl, a Republican from Town and Country, resigned the last day of session May 15 after apologizing for texting with a 19-year-old intern.

Richardson, who was elected by the House to replace Diehl, said strengthening the current intern policy would be one of his top priorities after session ended.

Democratic and Republican House members, the House clerk’s staff, legislative researchers and others are involved in the review, Richardson said. They have not yet met, but Richardson said he’s tasked them with comparing Missouri’s code of conduct with other states’ policies. He also asked the group to reach out to Missouri universities with internship programs at the Capitol for feedback, and Richardson said he’s spoken with officials from the University of Missouri and Missouri State University.

“It’s a priority to have a policy in place long before the universities start their selection process, which is going to start in the fall,” Richardson said, “so everybody has some confidence in the policy.”

Republican Rep. Kevin Engler of Farmington said he hopes to compile as part of the group recommended changes to present to GOP House members during a private meeting scheduled for the end of July.

Additions to the handbook might include communication and “interpersonal” guidelines, he said.

“The vast majority of interns had have had a great experience,” Engler said. The aim is to “make sure that continues.”

by Marie French, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has pushed back the deadline to craft a comprehensive statewide energy plan by a few months, easing the concerns of one Republican lawmaker who said the Legislature needed to have more input.

“He recognizes now that we have to have input, that we’re an important voice that needs to be heard for a good plan,” Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia, said Tuesday.

Miller introduced a measure this session that would have required any state energy plan to gain legislative approval before it could be implemented. Miller said he won’t be pushing that measure next year after Nixon on Friday extended the deadline for the plan from May 31 to October 15.

“Allowing the Division of Energy more time to gather input from Missourians and engage in thoughtful discussions with stakeholders, legislators and other interested parties will result in the development of a stronger State Energy Plan,” Nixon said in a statement.

The governor appointed a group including consumers, businesses, utilities, energy companies, academics, local governments and environmentalists when he issued an executive order last year directing the division to craft a state energy plan.

The Division of Energy has held public meetings and working groups to provide input on the plan, which Nixon wants to evaluate existing energy resources and develop strategies to address future needs – including electric generation from coal, natural gas and renewable sources; storage and distribution; and energy security and pricing.

Nixon said the plan will help guide the state in meeting future energy needs and encouraging economic development related to energy. Miller agrees that the state needs a plan to help attract businesses because site locators often ask to see one to “make sure we’re not just flying by the seat of our pants, because that’s scary for an industry coming in.”