January 26, 2015

Missouri honors Sir Winston Church on the 50th anniversary of his death

Sir Winston Churchill has been honored at Westminster College in Fulton on the 50th anniversary of his death Saturday.

Governor Jay Nixon (Photo Courtesy of Dak Dillon)

Governor Jay Nixon (Photo Courtesy of Dak Dillon)

The service to honor the life, work, and achievements of Churchill was attended by Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys, great-grandson, Duncan Sandys, and the British Ambassador to the United States Sir Peter Westmacott.  Governor Jay Nixon was also on hand to give the opening remarks at the remembrance service held in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.

Governor Nixon said feelings of admiration and affection for Churchill were shared by fellow Missourian Harry S. Truman.

“Both were plain-spoken men whose leadership was tested in the crucible of the mid-twentieth century.  When President Truman hand wrote a personal note on Westminster College’s invitation to the former Prime Minister, it helped set into motion the events that forever linked this school and the state of Missouri with Mr. Churchill,” said Nixon.

Sir Winston Churchill's great-grandson Duncan Sandys (Photo Courtesy of Dak Dillon)

Sir Winston Churchill’s great-grandson Duncan Sandys (Photo Courtesy of Dak Dillon)

Duncan Sandys said it was fitting that the memorial service took place in a church designed by Christopher Wren because Churchill’s funeral took place in another church designed by the same architect.  Sandys thanked the museum and college for keeping his great-grandfather’s memory and legacy alive.

“I think that bringing the legacy of Winston Churchill, the story of Winston Churchill to the next generation is so important.  It’s something that with my six-year-old son, I’ve enjoyed introducing him to our family legacy,” said Sandys.

Sir Peter Westmacott said Churchill always saw a deep connection between Britain and America.

“Enhancing our liberty and strengthening our democracy remains a common goal for both our countries,” said Westmacott.  “I think we best honor Churchill’s legacy by doing all we can to ensure progress worldwide towards those goals.”

British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott Photo Courtesy of Dak Dillon)

British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott (Photo Courtesy of Dak Dillon)

The service was one of the first in a series of educational and cultural Churchill-related events planned throughout the year and around the world to celebrate and advance his living legacy.






Missouri Auditor: State has too many planes, allows unauthorized passengers

The Office of State Auditor Tom Schweich says Missouri has too many planes and doesn’t track their use well enough.

In December 2012, the Missouri Highway Patrol purchased a KingAir 250 like this one.

In December 2012, the Missouri Highway Patrol purchased a KingAir 250 like this one.

The office has reviewed how Missouri used its 19 aircraft on business days during the two years that ended June 30, 2013. Those aircraft are maintained by the Highway Patrol, the Department of Transportation, or the Department of Conservation.

The auditor’s office says 19 is at least one plane too many. It found that only on 51 days out of those two years was the state’s passenger fleet used to capacity. On 459 days three or more of the six passenger planes sat idle, and all of them went unused on 69 days.

Auditors question commission usage

The report says during those two years the Departments of Conservation and Transportation spent about $376,000 to fly their respective commission members to commission meetings held throughout the state. State auditors estimate the state could have save $294,000 by paying commissioners mileage reimbursement instead, and could even have eliminated one pressurized passenger plane by eliminating those flights.

Further, the report says the state paid more than $183,000 for chartered flights even though on 67-percent of the days those were used, state-owned pressurized passenger planes were available. The auditor says interviews with Transportation Department and Conservation Department personnel indicated main reason flights were chartered was a lack of coordination with the Patrol and its inability to guarantee flight availability.

The Conservation Department says the Auditor’s findings could be “misleading” for not including days when flights could not occur due to bad weather or days when pilots could not fly due to federal restrictions. The auditor’s office responded saying the Patrol’s and Conservation Department’s flight operations staff said those were not significant factors in fleet usage.

State Auditor Tom Schweich

State Auditor Tom Schweich

The Conservation Department defends flights taken by commissioners, saying they are uncompensated volunteers and travel by flight enables them to engage with citizens throughout the state. It also says the auditor’s findings could be misleading because the flights in question are not exclusively for commissioners, but also include staff.

The Transportation Department says it will continue using state aircraft for highway commissioners, saying, “It would simply not be possible for many commissioners to serve on the commission and devote the time required without this transportation option to reduce travel time.”

Questions about documentation and authorization of passengers

Auditors say the Transportation Department allowed unauthorized passengers on state flights in violation of state policy, including commission members’ spouses and family members and former commissioners. It says the Highway Patrol, meanwhile, did not always document flights in enough detail to determine their purpose, or the identity of the passengers or their relationship to the Patrol.

The Transportation Department says it will better document when non Department or Highway Commission personnel are on the plane. The Patrol says the auditor’s office is wrong about its documentation of flight purposes. It says a “small number” of reports could have included a more detailed description of the flight purpose, but “did contain sufficient detail for responsible personnel to determine such and provide a verbal explanation to the examining auditor.

The auditor’s office says the Patrol isn’t charging enough for operating costs and to spread out the cost of the $5.6-million dollar plane the Patrol bought in December, 2012. Auditors estimate the Patrol could have billed an additional $191,500 to other agencies for the use of its aircraft, including $127,000 from the Governor’s Office. As a result, it says the Patrol is subsidizing the costs of flights for other agencies.

Whether to consolidate

The auditor’s report explores consolidating the state’s fleet to eliminate a “duplication of effort,” and to potentially eliminate some of the state’s planes. It says having multiple agencies providing flight services means having more planes and multiple agencies employing pilots and mechanics, providing hangar space, and using administrative staff to coordinate and schedule flights.

The Patrol told auditors such consolidation would require changes in the makeup of the state’s aircraft fleet. The current mix of various models and makers of aircraft could present issues for pilot training and would therefore create a safety concern.

The state auditors recommend the state perform a “comprehensive statewide analysis of state agency flight service needs and how to most efficiently provide those services to state agencies.” The state Office of Administration says it will “engage” state departments to that end, but the Patrol says it has no authority to perform such an analysis of aircraft owned by the Conservation and Transportation Departments.

See the report at the State Auditor’s website

Chairman defends Missouri House Committee hearing at country club

Two Missouri House committee hearings have been set to take place at the Jefferson City Country Club this week, and that is drawing criticism.

Representative Lyndall Fraker

Representative Lyndall Fraker

The first hearing to be scheduled was that of the Committee on Utility Infrastructure, chaired by Representative Lyndall Fraker (R-Marshfield). He told Missourinet the Missouri Energy Development Association made the arrangements for his committee to meet at the Country Club, will pay for the meal, and will offer an informational presentation.

A Kansas City Star editorial called the hearing, “business as usual in Jefferson City, where lobbyists have spent more than $1.8-million over the last two years providing lawmakers with food, drink, trips and entertainment,” according to data provided by St. Louis Public Radio. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) called the scheduled hearing, “unbelievable.”

Fraker says he proposed the idea of an informational hearing and MEDA President Trey Davis proposed the meal.

“I posted it up as a regular meeting just so we would be transparent, so the public would know we don’t have bills to hear but we’re going to have an informative meeting, an introductory meeting for our first meeting and all the utility members of all the committees can meet one another and get to know each other and get to know Trey’s organization,” Fraker said.

He said the invitation to the hearing has been extended to the members of the Regular Standing Committee on Telecommunications and the Regular Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment.

Fraker says he wants it to be distinguished from hearings held outside the Capitol last year that also drew criticism, such as a lobbyist-paid-for meal of more than $4,800 at a Columbia restaurant.

“The one thing that I specified to Trey was … there would be no alcohol at this event and to keep the meal very conservative, in light of the fact of what happened last year,” Fraker said.

He says despite being held at the Country Club, the hearing will be open to the public and the media. Anyone attending would be admitted to the Club as guests of MEDA, but the meal would be offered only to the members of the three committees.

“We’re playing by the rules, we’re being transparent, we’re being up front,” said Fraker. “We’re not having clandestine meetings or doing anything that to me would question integrity.”

Since the Utility Infrastructure Committee scheduled its hearing, the House Telecommunications Committee chaired by Representative Bart Korman (R-High Hill) has set a hearing for Tuesday night at the Country Club.

Special prosecutor looking again at drowning in Missouri Patrol custody

The special prosecutor that four months ago said she wouldn’t charge a Highway Patrol trooper in the drowning of an Iowa man while in that trooper’s custody now says she is reviewing the case after getting new information.

Brandon Ellingson sits in the back of a State Highway Patrol boat on the Lake of the Ozarks after being arrested in May.

Brandon Ellingson sits in the back of a State Highway Patrol boat on the Lake of the Ozarks after being arrested in May.

The Kansas City Star reports Amanda Grellner has had witnesses reinterviewed in recent weeks, including a couple who saw Brandon Ellingson in the water on the Lake of the Ozarks minutes before he drowned. She won’t comment about what is being reviewed or specifics of the investigation.

Brandon Ellingson died May 31 after falling out of a Patrol boat while handcuffed and after the life jacket that had been improperly placed on him, slid off.

5pm Update: Springfield officer that was shot, person being questioned, named

Update 5pm:

The Springfield police chief has identified the officer who was shot early this morning and the man being questioned about that shooting.

Police Chief Paul Williams says officer Aaron Pearson is a three-year veteran of the Department who liked working the late shift.

“He enjoyed working the graveyard shift, keeping you all safe while you were sleeping,” said Williams.

Springfield media say the man that was taken into custody near the scene of the shooting is 32-year-old Joshua Hagood. He is not identified as a suspect but he has been questioned.

The investigation is continuing.

Earlier story:

Springfield police officer shot, search for shooter continues

Police in Springfield, Missouri are still looking for the person that shot one of their officers early this morning in the northern part of the city.

Springfield shooting pic

Police in Springfield secure the scene near where one of their officers was shot early Monday morning. (Courtesy; Chase Snider, KTTS)

Springfield Police Captain Greg Higdon said the officer was responding to a call to check on a person. That’s when the suspect took out a gun.

“We know that shots were fired and the suspect left the area on foot, and the officer was taken to a local hospital and is being treated,” said Higdon.

The officer is reported to be in serious condition.

KTTS News has photos of the crime scene and more coverage.

Traffic this morning in Springfield could be interrupted while authorities look for the shooter