by Jim Salter, AP
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Ferguson city leaders project a $2.5 million budget shortfall during the current fiscal year and a similar shortage in fiscal 2016, largely due to the unrest and fallout after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the town’s mayor said Thursday.
Mayor James Knowles III said several businesses damaged or destroyed in the riots have not returned, so sales tax revenue is about $400,000 less than budgeted. The city voluntarily agreed to reduce the amount of money collected through the municipal court. Beyond that, police were issuing few tickets in the months after the shooting because they were too busy dealing with protests, Knowles said. As a result, municipal court revenue for the current fiscal year is expected to be $1.2 million – about half of what was projected.
Knowles said layoffs or significant cuts are unlikely because the city had some $8 million accumulated from fiscal management over the last decade, which will be used to help meet the shortfall. He said city leaders, currently working on the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, will look at ways to save money such as not filling some job vacancies.
“We’ll have to tighten our belts significantly,” Knowles said.
Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The shooting resulted in protests, some violent, that lasted for weeks, spurring a national “Black Lives Matter” movement. When a grand jury in November declined to prosecute Wilson, unrest escalated again, with several businesses looted or burned.
The U.S. Department of Justice also declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned from the police force in November. But in a separate report in March, the Justice Department found evidence of racial profiling among police and a profit-driven municipal court system.
City leaders are meeting with the Justice Department as they seek an agreement for changes to the way Ferguson’s municipal government operates.
Knowles said it is unclear how long negotiations with the Justice Department will take. The legal cost and other costs associated with the negotiations are expected to reach $500,000.
Despite the financial hardship, Knowles is optimistic.
Some businesses that left have been replaced. A condominium and commercial development is about to get started. Plans call for redevelopment of West Florissant Avenue — the site of many protests – which should bring in new businesses.
“If that’s the way we’re going to continue, not only is the worst behind us but great days are ahead,” Knowles said.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – St. Peters Rep. Robert Cornejo has entered what could be a crowded race for Missouri House majority leader.
Cornejo told The Associated Press on Thursday he’s running for the position, which became vacant after former House Speaker John Diehl resigned last week.
Diehl acknowledged exchanging sexually suggestive messages with an intern.
Cornejo says he’s dedicated to helping other House Republicans raise campaign money. He says he’s shown leadership through work on a bill to address issues with local courts.
Columbia Rep. Caleb Rowden and Assistant Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot of Lee’s Summit also are running for the majority leader post.
The majority leader determines if, when and how long House members debate bills. It’s considered a stepping stone to speaker, the House’s top position.
(Little Rock) (AP) – A Texas-based company is asking Arkansas’ highest court to require the state to return more than $1.3 million in taxes it collected on sand that was used in natural gas drilling.
Attorneys for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and Weatherford Artificial Lift Systems Inc. in Texas appeared before the state Supreme Court Thursday over a Pulaski County judge’s ruling that the state improperly charged taxes on the sand. DFA is appealing the judge’s ruling that sand qualifies as equipment, meaning taxes can’t be collected.
Lawmakers last year approved changing state law to exempt from sales taxes sand that is used in natural gas drilling. The case pending before the high court is focusing on whether the sand was already exempt before that legislation was approved.
(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld a man’s driving while intoxicated conviction, saying his argument that a blood sample was taken illegally was an “absurd” interpretation of state law.
In an opinion released Thursday, the court affirmed the DWI conviction of Ernie Charles Metzner.
Metzner’s appeal argued that a circuit court judge was wrong not to suppress a blood-alcohol test taken after the Benton County Sheriff’s office obtained a search warrant to take a blood sample from him. Metzner argued that Arkansas’ implied-consent law prohibits a search warrant in order to obtain a chemical test of the blood.
The court said it would not interpret the law “as to reach an absurd conclusion” that would afford DWI suspects more protection than other criminal defendants.
(Little Rock) (AP) – Federal prosecutors say a former Arkansas treasurer convicted of steering state investments to a broker who gave her cash should be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison.
In court papers filed Monday, they argue that a lesser sentence could send the message that public officials are above the law.
Prosecutors said that the sentence backed by former Treasurer Martha Shoffner’s attorneys in her bribery and extortion conviction was too lenient. Shoffner’s attorneys say she should get 12 to 18 months, with half in home detention.
Shoffner, a Democrat, was convicted last year of accepting $36,000 from a bond broker in exchange for steering state investments to his firm. She resigned in 2013, days after the FBI said she accepted cash in a pie box at her Newport home.
(Springfield) (AP) – Springfield police say they found a man and woman dead inside their home after a standoff that lasted about an hour.
Lt. Eric Reece says police were called to the home Wednesday evening by a girl who said her mother had been shot. The girl said she and her two younger siblings had escaped to a neighbor’s home.
Springfield police attempted to reach someone inside the home for about an hour before entering and finding a man and woman dead. They were identified Thursday as 38-year-old Paul J. Dawson and 33-year-old Robin L. Cameron, both of Springfield. Cox said they were an unmarried couple. Cameron was the mother of all three children.
She says police have not ruled on a cause of death but were not seeking suspects.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – A former southwest Missouri sheriff pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to embezzlement and using his position to promote a fraudulent investment scheme.
Under the terms of the plea deal, 53-year-old Joey Kyle will serve a year of imprisonment and must forfeit $71,640. The Christian County commission accepted Kyle’s resignation just an hour before the plea hearing began and appointed the coroner to handle the sheriff’s duties until an interim sheriff is selected, according to a written statement. Kyle, who was honored in 2011 as the Missouri Deputy Sheriffs Association’s Sheriff of the Year, was first elected to the post in 2008.
Kyle’s lead attorney, Burton H. Shostak, didn’t immediately return a phone or email message from The Associated Press.
Kyle said through the plea that he knowingly submitted about 20 fraudulent invoices or purchase orders for about $50,000 in goods and services that were never provided to the county.
Kyle also admitted to using his position to promote a businessperson who misled investors about the amount of capital he had raised and how quickly products could be brought to market. The plea agreement said the businessperson used a “substantial amount” of the investment proceeds for personal expenses and to repay unhappy past investors.
The businessman paid Kyle about $21,000 for his service as a promotor, mostly by funneling the money through a law enforcement training business Kyle operated, the agreement said. In pleading guilty to money laundering, Kyle admitted that “at the very least, he deliberately closed his eyes” to the fraud, which “should have been obvious to him.”
(West Plains) – The main stage line-up for this year’s Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival in downtown West Plains, has been announced.
Headlining acts this year include two first-time performers, the Quebe Sisters Band, who will perform at 8 PM Friday, June 19; and Dr. Ralph Stanley and family and friends will perform Saturday, June 20 at 8 PM. Other acts scheduled during the two-day festival include The Ozark Highballers, Shortleaf, the Emily Dowden Band, the Colbert Brothers, Stringfield, and others.
The two-day annual event in downtown West Plains, celebrates Ozarks music and culture. Admission to all festival events is free.
The Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival, which looks to preserve and celebrate Ozark culture and music, is the signature event for West Plains. 2015 Festival partners include the West Plains Council on the Arts, the City of West Plains, the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center, West Plains Civic Center, Charles and Pam Drago, and Missouri State University-West Plains. Partial funding for this event was provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
For more information on the festival,visit www.oldtimemusic.org.
Other acts and their performance times on the main stage include:
THE RIVER GIRLS OF THE RHODES FAMILY (Friday noon – 1 p.m
EMILY DOWDEN BAND (Friday 1-2 p.m.)
MATT MEACHAM AND FRIENDS (Friday 2-3 p.m.)
ROE FAMILY SINGERS (Friday 3-4 p.m. and Saturday 4-5 p.m.)
THE OZARK HIGHBALLERS (Friday 4-5 p.m. and Saturday 5-6 p.m.)
SHORTLEAF (Friday 4-6 p.m.)
RHODES FAMILY REUNION (Friday 6-7 p.m.)
COLBERT BROTHERS (Saturday noon-1 p.m.)
STRINGFIELD (Saturday 1-2 p.m
CAROLYN DEMENT (Saturday 2-3 p.m
~SOUTHWYNNS~ (Saturday 3-4 p.m.)
SNORTY HORSE (Saturday 6-7 p.m.)
(West Plains) – The next prequalification for the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry will be from 4-5:45 PM Wednesday, June 3, at the West Plains Public Library Community Room, 750 W. Broadway.
Those eligible to apply for this assistance include area families with children ages birth through 18 who live within Howell County. Students enrolled at Missouri State University-West Plains and the South Central Career Center also are eligible, provided they meet income guidelines. Missouri State students must present their student identification cards in person, as well as a current class schedule; they may not send them with a family member. Families will receive only one voucher per family.
Those who apply should bring a photo ID, proof of income, proof of Howell County residency, names and ages of children, and a telephone number. Proof of Howell County residency does not apply to Missouri State-West Plains or South Central Career Center students. Other restrictions apply.
For more information about the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry project, or if you are interested in volunteering or donating contact officials at the American Red Cross office in West Plains at 417-257-0018.
(Willow Springs) – A total of 13 citations and 20 warnings were issued in conjunction with a hazardous moving violation enforcement operation conducted in Shannon County on May 16.
Troopers also arrested one person for driving while intoxicated and one person for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. Other totals include seven speeding citations, three seat belt citations, one citation for not having a driver’s license, and one non-moving violation citation.
Troop G commanding officer Captain Mark Inman says these types of operations are done to make area roadways a safer place for Missouri motorists.
Highway Patrol statistics state that approximately 63 percent of fatality crash victims in Missouri who are required to be restrained are not at the time of the traffic crash. The Patrol urges motorists to protect themselves and their passengers by making sure everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained in a seat belt or child restraint.