Friday, November 20, 2009

BEAT BYTE: City Hall whistleblower documents retaliation

1)  CITY HALL:  Whistleblower documents "retaliation"
2)  SNUGGIE STORM:   Blankets Columbia! 
3)  SHOPPING WHILE BLACK:  US Supremes reject local racism claim
4)  COLUMBIA COLLEGE:  Wins first-ever green-building designation
5)  LOCAL SHELTERS, MU VETS:  Study benefits of foster pets
6)  UNIQUE COLUMBIA:  Medical project makes breast cancer headway 

7)  READERS WRITE:  Mayoral candidate responds to "MU terrorism" claim 
8)  HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!   Local Announcements

WIN A SNUGGIE!   Be the first to answer our first "What the Heck is That?" question as part of our 4th anniversary celebration.  See question and details at the end.  More questions -- and prizes -- will follow in subsequent issues. 

CITY HALL:  Whistleblower documents "retaliation"
Final part of an exclusive Heart Beat 7-part series

COLUMBIA, 11/19/09 (Beat Bytes) --  When long-time City of Columbia public works supervisor Bill Weitkemper discovered in March 2006 that City Hall wasn't billing thousands of sewer utility users, he blew the whistle. 

Like so many whistleblowers before him, he feared retaliation -- fears that later proved justified, as his fellow supervisors quietly banished him to "pariah" hall.

"Writing this is certainly difficult," Weitkemper told city manager Bill Watkins in a Dec. 2007 email obtained by the Columbia Heart Beat through a Freedom of Information Act request.   "I am still not sure if I should be contacting you.  I am concerned with retaliation, both from those who failed to correctly apply the ordinances as well as those who have thus far not done much to correct the situation."

"The situation" had Weitkemper -- with the city since 1976 -- insisting that certain facts about what he'd uncovered were irrefutable, only to have those facts re-written in the public record or entirely ignored.

The city is losing $1.2 million per year in underbilling for sewer use at the University of Missouri alone, Weitkemper insisted.  But instead of collecting the $100,000.00/month in additional payments required to make up that annual loss, public works director John Glasscock settled with MU, asking for $5,000.00/month and gradually ramping up to  $600,000.00 annually -- half of today's loss -- in 10 years. 

In a Nov. 2007 six-page report entitled Billing Error Costing Sewer Utility Millions, Weitkemper made his case line by line.  Boone Hospital and Columbia Regional Hospital were together underpaying $26,608/year.  Columbia's hotels and motels were underpaying $193,620/year; the Columbia Housing Authority, $19,362/year; nursing and retirement homes, $34,900 per yearmobile homes, duplexes, and apartments, $161,000/year; the Columbia Mall, $6,859/year.   

Add it all up, and Weitkemper said he had discovered over $1.6 million in city revenue lost to some of the area's biggest players, all at a time when a mantra of "tight budgets" and "no money" rules virtually every discussion at City Hall -- except when it comes to salary increases for department heads. 

The best way to ignore the lessons of history may be to rewrite history, and that's exactly what Weitkemper would later claim his bosses tried to do. 

"The August 2008 edition of City Insider" -- a monthly newsletter for city employees -- "stated that I was recognized and presented a $3,000 bonus because I noticed a discrepancy in sewer billing," Weitkemper emailed Watkins in September 2008.    That discrepancy "resulted in increased annual city revenue of" -- not $1.6 million. Not $600,000.  Not even $200,000. 

No, Weitkemper's superiors decided he had found a mere $130,000 in annually underbilled sewer charges.  Calling that information "incorrect and misleading," Weitkemper told the city manager, "There is just a little more to the story than that." 

This story concludes about where it began:  Inertia, stasis, whatever you want to call it at City Hall.  It may be nice to think of government as some sort of great equalizer, but there are lots of big thumbs that squat all over this community without so much as a peep from government -- or by directly colluding with government.   As a result, people like Bill Weitkemper are more likely to be squashed than recognized.  

"I should not have been harassed, intimidated, and subjected to a hostile work environment because of my persistence," he wrote to Bill Watkins.  "I should not have been retaliated against by being denied the salary increase I earned."

SNUGGIE STORM:   Blankets Columbia!

COLUMBIA, 11/19/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Yes, it's that clever little, cheaply-made blanket with sleeves that's recently jumped from a chronic barrage of infomercials to a Gerbes -- or Westlake's -- near you.  It even comes in MU Tiger black and gold -- for a significantly higher price, of course. 

It's the Snuggie, and we caught up with this warm and dandy winter dalliance in a series of emails from local professional women -- and a couple of guys -- singing its praises.  The subject kicked off when one of the women sent out an email entitled:  Oh Lord -- the Snuggie!

----- Original Message -----
From: Tracy
Sent: Wednesday, 2009  1:17 PM
Subject: RE: Oh Lord, The Snuggie!

My mom says it took 6 weeks for our snuggies to arrive.
The kids LOVE them.
I was snuggled up in one last night watching TV.  

I was pretty warm and comfy.


----- Original Message -----
From:  Jennifer
Sent: Wednesday, 2009 1:18 PM
Subject: RE: Oh Lord, The Snuggie!

Power to the Snuggie!  Tracy, you should start a facebook group – "Snuggie Snugglers."  
There might be a Snuggie group already!


----- Original Message -----
From: Michael
Sent:  Wednesday, 2009 1:21 PM
Subject: Re: Oh Lord, The Snuggie!

I told you.  This is big.  I wanted to get the whole family Snuggies for Christmas last year, but my wife kept poo-pooing the idea. 

Instead, we've had to settle for a couple of ratty old Blankies. 

----- Original Message -----
From: Tracy
Sent: Wednesday, 2009 1:21 PM
Subject: RE: Oh Lord, The Snuggie!

The snuggie is WAY better than a blankie!

----- Original Message -----
From: Jennifer
Sent: Wednesday, 2009 1:21 PM
Subject: RE: Oh Lord, The Snuggie!

Well, it should be!  I didn’t know it was so popular as to be snuggie--liscious.


----- Original Message -----
From: Haley

Sent: Wednesday, January 2009 1:38 PM
Subject: RE: Oh Lord, The Snuggie!

I do LOVE the snuggie, but I think Ellen Degeneres' suggestion to wear your bathrobe backwards is hilarious!


----- Original Message -----
From: Jennifer

Sent: Wednesday, 2009 3:15 PM
Subject: RE: Oh Lord, The Snuggie!

Okay, this is what happened.  Someone had a fleece robe and by accident, they put it on backwards and got the bright idea to make backwards robes, and market them as nice blankies with sleeves and the Snuggie was born. 

That dude or dudette, is now a millionaire.   I wish I would have thought of it! 


U.S. SUPREME COURT:  Rejects local racism claim

COLUMBIA, 11/19/09 (Beat Bytes) --  The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a civil rights claim from thirteen African-American shoppers who alleged that Dillard's Department store in the Columbia Mall was using racially motivated store surveillance procedures.

Despite testimony from former Dillard's employees that store managers were "especially aggressive" in watching black
customers -- and gave white shoplifters preferential treatment over black shoplifters -- the nine-justice panel decided not to intervene.   One former employee testified that when African-Americans entered, the security code "44" was announced over the store intercom.

Federal law required the shoppers to prove the retailer "actively and intentionally obstructed his or her efforts, making any purchase impossible," a claim dismissed by two lower courts.  A federal appeals court in St. Louis concluded that even racially-motivated surveillance was not illegal if store managers did not refuse to sell their products.

Dillard's is a Little Rock, Arkansas-based chain with 330 stores in 29 states. 


COLUMBIA COLLEGE:  Wins first-ever green-building designation

COLUMBIA, 11/19/09 (Beat Bytes) --  The first building in Columbia to receive a prestigious certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, Columbia College's Missouri Hall at 1011 Rogers Street is now a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver designee.  Originally constructed in the 1920s, Missouri Hall recently underwent a $3.9 million renovation led by Simon Oswald Associates, CM Engineering and Reinhardt/Wilson contractors.

Approximately 38,000 square feet, Missouri Hall has housed 110 women; a lavish parlor; and the home economics department over the years.  It currently houses Admissions, Enrollment Management, the Registrar, Student Support Services, and a new Veteran Service Center.

"We took a risk -- not when we agreed to design the Missouri Hall renovation -- but when we committed to seeking a zero-cost, high level LEED certification," said Simon Oswald architect Shelley Simon from Columbia. "And we did it!" 

About LEED and Columbia College

LOCAL SHELTERS, MU VETS:  Study benefits of foster pets

COLUMBIA, 11/19/09 (Beat Bytes) --  In partnership with the Central Missouri Humane Society (CMHS) and the Columbia Second Chance Animal Shelter, MU veterinary researchers want to answer a simple question: If people who own pets enjoy a better life, as studies have shown, do foster pet parents similarly benefit?

To find the answer,  the MU veterinary school's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction will study senior citizens acting as foster parents for shelter dogs before the dogs are permanently adopted.  Seniors are often hesitant to adopt animals because they fear their pets may outlive them, said center director Rebecca Johnson.  The temporary foster dog approach might be a better option. 

The veterinarians will provide new foster parents with instruction, dog food, veterinary care and a 24-hour hotline for questions. They will look for measurable benefits to the foster owners' health, physical activity level, and mood.

The study is funded by a grant from the WALTHAM Center for Pet Nutrition and the International Society for Anthrozoology.


UNIQUE COLUMBIA:  Medical project makes breast cancer headway 

COLUMBIA, 11/19/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Working with a little-known National Cancer Institute project called the Columbia, Missouri Serum Bank, researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia have discovered that women with increased levels of so-called Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS) may be at a greater risk for breast cancer.

MIS is a hormone-like biochemical that regulates sexual differentiation in boys; inhibits elongation and branching of mammary (breast) ducts; and slows mammary tumor growth in animals.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last month, Fox Chase researcher Joanne Dorgan, Ph.D. studied 309 participants registered at the Columbia, Missouri Serum Bank, finding that increasing MIS concentrations were associated with greater breast cancer risk.

As part of the NIH/National Cancer Institute's Biological Markers Project, 6,915 women living in and around Columbia who were free of cancer donated blood to the serum bank between 1977 and 1987.  Participants provided information about
breast cancer risk factors:  age, height, weight, reproductive and menstrual histories, family history, medical conditions, and drug use, including oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. 

Stored at a very cold -70 degrees C, serum from 6,720 (97%) of the original donors remains in the bank.  During a 1989 follow-up, 244 invasive cancers, including 107 breast cancers, were discovered among women who were cancer-free at blood collection.

NIH researchers consider the Columbia, Missouri Serum Bank "a unique resource that can be used for biochemical epidemiology studies aimed at identifying serum markers associated with cancer risk." 


READERS WRITE:  Mayoral candidate responds to "MU terrorism" claim  

A friend of mine forwarded your article. :)   You have so many interesting articles, I subscribed.   I wanted to clarify a few things.  

I did not call MU a terrorist organization (at least not intentionally). I called the Curators of the University of Missouri a terrorist organization.  I did want to point out to you that I'm not name calling.   I'm just pointing out the laws as they are written in Missouri Revised Statute 574.115 relating to terrorist activities.

In much the same way, you may or may not approve of the President of the United States (current or previous depending on your leanings) while still supporting and loving the United States.

While looking at several of your previous blogs, I have to ask if having a mayor who is willing to stand up to special interests, regardless of how large or powerful they are, would be a bad thing?   I see several articles about Bill Weitkemper, whose efforts could save the city millions of dollars by pointing out existing regulations that were not being enforced due to special interests.

I think we can all agree that Weitkemper's work on this is a good thing.  

Since crime is something I'm personally concerned with, I've looked at what police officers cost the city.   Based on the current budget, a sworn law enforcement officer, equipment, and supporting personel runs about $120,000 a year. 

$1.2 million in unpaid sewer bills a year is 10 more fully equipped and staffed police officers patrolling our city and reducing crime.

The terrorism allegation resulted from a large, politically powerful organization who deliberately chose to harm a citizen and brag about its ability to do so.   Tough for me maybe, but I still lead a good life.  I love my job.  I have more friends than time, and in just a few more years, I'll own my own home and be completely debt free.

You may sometimes be punished for something you didn't do.  However, if you calmly accept the punishment and refuse to declare it unjust, those who see you being punished may believe that you deserved it.
-- Paul Love, 2010 Candidate for Mayor, City of Columbia

Missouri Revised Statute 574.115
Making a terrorist threat

HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!   Local Announcements

2nd Annual United Way LIVE UNITED Week
This Week, Nov. 16-20.

Throughout mid-Missouri families continue to feel the pinch of a tough economy.  Local job cuts and increasing state-wide unemployment are causing people never needing help before to seek the assistance of local non-profit agencies.  In an effort to help meet these needs, the Heart of Missouri United Way launched its 2nd Annual LIVE UNITED Week as a final push in its annual fundraising campaign. 

The capstone of the week’s activities this year is the first official MU-KU Student Challenge: a 48 hour contest between the Tigers and Jayhawks to collect change in support of each community’s local United Way.

Thursday you can support the challenge by bringing your loose change to Speakers Circle and Lowry Mall on the MU campus where students will be collecting money throughout the day. 

LIVE UNITED Week ’09 community activities also include CiCi’s Pizza on the 19th, and Chevy’s Fresh Mex on the 20th (go to to print the flyers to take to the restaurants).  On Thursday the 19th the first ever Columbia LIVE UNITED Flash Mob will take place in Lowry Mall.

To find or give help, dial 2-1-1 or visit us online at
or call 573.443.4523

Former St. Louis policeman, Redditt Hudson will speak at a public meeting on, “Why TASERs Pose An Unnecessary Risk to Police and the Public”.   This event will be held on Friday, November 20, 2009 from 6:30-8p.m. at the Boone County Government Center, 801 East Walnut in Columbia.

The mother of Stanley Harlan, Athena Bachtel, will also speak briefly about how the TASER death of her son by Moberly police has affected her family and why she supports efforts to ban the deployment of the TASER weapon.   The meeting is sponsored by People for a TASER-Free Columbia.

For more information, call Mary Hussmann at 573-474-1983.

The Columbia Farmers Market will be extending its season on a trial basis through December 19th. In years past, the Market's season has ended just prior to Thanksgiving.  The December market days will be held from 10 am to at least 12pm on three Saturdays, December 5th, 12th, and 19th.  The location will be the same, behind the city Activities & Recreation Center (ARC) at the corner of Clinkscales and Ash.

Products expected to be available include lamb, pork, beef, eggs, winter & greenhouse vegetables, honey, locally-made chocolate, baked goods, and more.  If weather conditions are not suitable for an outdoor market, an announcement will be made on the Columbia Farmers Market website (, and on the Market's voicemail (573-823-6889).

WIN A SNUGGIE!   Be the first to answer our "What the Heck is That?" question as part of our 4th anniversary celebration.    Email responses ONLY.  Emails are time stamped, and by sending your answer, you are allowing us to print it in order received.  First correct answer -- by time stamp -- wins.   

QUESTION:  What the heck are those three bells and a little bricked up white window next to Schnucks in the Forum Shopping Center?   How do you know?   You can see them at a distance, over to the far right, at this Google Street View link (or Google Forum Shopping Center and look at the street view):

Please include your name, phone number, and valid snail mail address.   

(Employees of the Forum Development Group, owners of the shopping center, and their families are not eligible).  


Mike Martin
Editor in Chief
The Columbia Heart Beat


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