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COLUMN: Why not investigate Kenny Hulshof?

Thursday, February 26, 2009 | 12:30 p.m. CST; updated 11:32 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We have several matters to chew on this week, so let's get started.

First, a question: Is anybody investigating Kenny Hulshof? You know why I ask. Judge Richard Callahan, himself no bleeding heart friend of criminal defendants, castigated Kenny last week in the ruling that set free a guy Kenny had prosecuted 15 years ago for a murder the man almost certainly didn't commit. Judge Callahan ruled that Kenny, then an assistant attorney general specializing in murder prosecutions, had concealed evidence and lied in his summation to the jury.

The defendant belatedly walked free and said he held no animus toward the man who had cost him half his life in prison. But it strikes me that the Callahan ruling requires some follow-up. The judge didn't use these words, but his conclusion says to a layman that the prosecutor, later our congressman and a candidate to be our governor, violated at least the ethics of the profession and maybe even broke the law.

Shouldn't there be a penalty for that? Shouldn't somebody be looking into it, at least? To try to find out, I called the Missouri Bar Association. A nice lady there referred me to an office I'd never heard of, the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. The equally nice lady who answered the phone there told me that the office investigates complaints of ethics violations. It doesn't initiate investigations on its own. Of course, she couldn't tell me of any pending investigations. Those are confidential. Only if the counsel decides discipline is warranted is anything said out loud.

If I were Kenny, and my conduct had been criticized as seriously as his was, I think I'd seek an investigation to clear myself — if I were really confident I'd done nothing wrong. Wouldn't you? And if I were a lawyer on the losing side, told I'd been cheated, I'd certainly file a complaint. Maybe we'll learn more some day, and maybe we won't.

Speaking of learning, we learned last week that the Columbia City Council and the School Board both have hired outsiders to lead our cops and our schools. We can only hope they made the right choices. I've noted previously that neither body has an impressive track record when it comes to bringing strangers into these jobs. It'll be a while before we know whether this time they got it right, or whether what we're seeing is another triumph of hope over experience.

At least Chris Belcher, who'll be our next school superintendent, had been to town before. He earned his doctorate at MU. Unlike previous outsiders hired into this job, he has actual experience as a superintendent. The new chief, a lifelong Texan and an alum of Sam Houston State, will have a steeper learning curve. Let's wish them well.

Speaking of newbies, our new governor is off to a strong start, it seems to me. Remember how the Republicans in the legislature complained that he was basing his budget on the uncertain arrival of unwelcome federal stimulus dollars? Well, it turns out that Gov. Nixon was being, you should pardon the expression, conservative. We're getting more from the feds than he counted on.

So not only is that bridge near Tuscumbia going to be rebuilt, there's reason to expect that the state can keep its half of the bargain struck by the governor and UM System President Gary Forsee -- holding both the state appropriation and tuition at this year's levels. That would be a rare piece of good news all around, if the Republican-led General Assembly lets it happen. You might want to speak nicely to Sen. Gary Nodler and Rep. Allen Icet. You can bet President Forsee is.

And, finally, speaking of President Forsee, he gave what struck me as a generally applause-worthy performance a week ago in Jesse Auditorium. From my seat in the middle of the audience, I heard only a couple of missed cues.

It would have been useful, for example, if he had explained what alternatives to requiring a new employee contribution to the pension plan were considered and why they were dismissed. That may have been the best choice, but we employees won't be able to judge unless we're told more about the rejected options.

His worst answer, I thought, was to the question from a faculty member about benefits for domestic partners. The response was unresponsive. A progressive record at Sprint just isn't relevant to action, or inaction, at the university. Surely it's time to recognize that this is the 21st century, even in Missouri.

Still with me? Good. Next week there'll be a quiz.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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