If I understood the report on Channel 16 correctly last night, the investigation into the theft of candidate forum questions from a computer in the Newton County Sheriff's Department has been completed. Of course, no information will be given to the public about the results because, Sheriff Ron Doerge notes, it is a "personnel matter."
For those of you who are not familiar with the situation, Neosho radio station KBTN held a candidate forum last week for those running for the Newton County sheriff position. Doerge, who has served 16 years in that position, is not seeking reelection. After the forum, candidate Mike Langland, a longtime department deputy said he had been given a list of the questions which were asked during the forum. This caused an uproar, in which the information finally surfaced that program host John McCormack had asked Doerge, who had already come out in support of candidate Mike Copeland, the eventual winner, to help hiim come up with questions.
Surprisingly the media focused on the alleged theft of questions from a Sheriff's Department computer. The ethics of Doerge writing these questions was never questioned. Even more to the point, the ethics of program host McCormack, who essentially offered the candidates a fair and balanced forum, but offered them a list of loaded questions, was also not questioned.
The investigaiton has been closed, and it probably should remain so, but not before mentioning a couple of other items wh ich Sheriff Doerge has also conveniently failed to mention. Since these questions were obviously not Sheriff's Department work, what the heck were they doing on a taxpayer-financed computer? Why is it not mentioned that whoever took the questions from the computer, if anyone did so, was simply taking material which had nothing to do with the work that the taxpayers are paying Doerge and his departmetnt for.
Finally, why is Newton County tax money being used to investigate something which has nothing to do with a crime or with the operation of the sheriff's department. And how can Doerge have the nerve to discipline an employee who didn't really do anything wrong?
The whole thing is an embarrassment to the county and to KBTN. The Sheriff's Department needs to let this drop this. As for KBTN, a brief suspension for McCormack, followed by an apology, is probably what needs to be done. Don't be surprised if nothing happens.
The Joplin Globe reports this morning that accused drunk driver Edward Meerwald Jr., 50, Noel, will probably not have his charges upgraded to second degree murder in connection with the July 31 deaths of a Neosho man and the man's granddaughter. The article says that so far officials have been unable to discover enough previous DWI arrests to be able to charge Meerwald with anything more than involuntary manslaughter. The Globe did finally take the time to check the state's Case.net system and found Meerwald's Jasper County careless and imprudent driving conviction. The Globe needs to thoroughly examine this particular conviction. If it came as a result of a plea bargain agreement, then that type of agreement needs to be examined. This is the kind of problem that newspapers can do more than any other medium to bring to the attention of the public and to the attention of legislators who can do something to close these loopholes.
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