Joplin city official says investigator's report is inaccurate - KOAM TV 7

Joplin city official says investigator's report is inaccurate


Updated February 21, 2014:  A Joplin city official held a media conference Friday morning to discuss the findings of a recent investigation.

A private investigator was hired by the city to look into alleged misconduct by councilmen Mike Woolston and Bill Scearce.

Woolston is demanding that investigator turn over some evidence.

Councilman Woolston reiterated his belief that the investigator's report is inaccurate. He even went so far as to say the report is useless.

Woolston is requesting from the investigator a transcription of interviews that took place by the investigator. The reason for this, Woolston says, is the investigator made false assumptions based on interviews.

Woolston says the investigator eluded to him unethically receiving paybacks from land sold, land that was going to be developed by the city's master redeveloper, Wallace Bajalli.

Woolston says he did nothing illegal or unethical.

Woolston says though the investigation was needed for the people of Joplin, hiring the investigator Tom Loraine was a mistake.

Earlier this week councilman Gary Shaw also said the investigator's report is flawed.

Councilman Woolston today admitted a lot of people have lost confidence in the City of Joplin.

Updated February 5, 2014: The findings of an investigation surrounding Joplin Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scerace and Councilman Mike Woolston were reveled Tuesday night.  

The city hired a private investigator to look into any wrong doings by the two elected officials. 

"There have been a lot of things written about me that are not so nice," said Scerace. 

Scearce was cleared of any wrong doing or breach of ethical standards, according to the investigation. 

Investigators determined Scerace was the owner of a property leased to the operator of a bookmaking operation. 

"They [FBI]came in and interviewed me about my relationship with him. I was very open and honest with the FBI. They found that I had done no wrong the FBI report has since been sealed," said Scerace. 

However the investigation did reveal Councilman and Real Estate agent Mike Woolston should divest his interest or resign from city council. 

Investigators said Woolston's knowledge on the council, and his interest in buying land in proposed development sites are in conflict. 

"Well certainly this is not the outcome I had expected I think the report is horribly faulted," said Woolston.  

The report says Woolston's actions were unethical, and calls into question his relationship with master developer Wallace Bijjali and owner and operator of the Four States Homes Charles Kuhen. 

"Kuhen paid my commission I was representing him, again I thought there was some likely hood that those properties would be put into something like the 353 and eventually be developed. But I have had no representation of the Wallace Bajjali firm and that was made clear to the investigator." 


Updated November 11, 2013: Joplin City Council Monday night approved an agreement between the city and the special investigator who will look into possible ethics violations involving Councilman Mike Woolston and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce.

Both were abstained from voting. The board voted 7-0 in favor.  The investigator is Tom Loraine out of Osage Beach, Missouri.

Updated October 8, 2013 at 11:30 AM CST:  A second Joplin city councilman is now included in an FBI investigation.

Councilman Mike Woolston joins the spotlight already shining on Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce and City Manager Mark Rohr.

It started with a dispute between Scearce and Rohr, which resulted in the city council hiring a private investigator to look into the matter.

Scearce claims Rohr leaked records involving the investigation into a gambling bookie who had at one time rented a home from Scearce.

On Monday night the council discussed the matter publicly.

It was also decided to include Councilman Mike Woolston into the investigation on a separate matter concerning land deal profits after the Joplin tornado.

We'll hear from Woolston tonight on KOAM News at 5.


Posted October 7, 2013 at 8:55 PM CST:  Monday evening was the first formal encounter for two Joplin city officials at the center of an FBI gambling investigation.

The battle between Mayor Pro Tem Bill Scearce and City Manager Mark Rohr has resulted in the city council hiring a private investigator to look into the matter. Scearce claims Rohr leaked records involving the investigation, but tonight the two had to face each other...and the council for the first time since the decision was made.

"Based on the council's direction, we need to finish and decide what the scope of the investigation will be." Joplin City Attorney Brian Head tells us about the first step the council needs to take before a private investigator is hired.

"At present we're going to be looking for someone to do that investigation. I'm not sure at this point who it will be. My goal would be to provide the council with options with some options of costs and so forth by the next council meeting." Head says.

On September 26th  all nine members of the council, including Scearce, voted unanimously to hire an outside professional investigator  to obtain and check a report on an FBI gambling investigation. The council wants to request FBI records linked to Scearce -- Records he says Rohr leaked to the Joplin Globe newspaper.

Head says he has dealt with a similar private investigation in the past...but ultimately, the fate lies the hands of the city.

"They do have an ethics code. They are in charge of policing the ethics of their members. Once the charge is made and if something is in fact proven, then they would have to determine if it was sufficient enough to require any type of council action." he says.

During Monday's city council session, members did vote to include councilman Mike Woolston into the investigation. More details regarding the cost of the investigation will be discussed at the next city council meeting.
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