Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Difference A Local Paper Makes: Seven Years of Bringing St. Charles News That Matters

The Difference A Local Paper Makes:
Seven Years of Bringing St. Charles News That Matters

The First Capitol News is proud to enter into its seventh year of bringing St. Charles real news stories that go above and beyond the meaningless chatter of other out-of-town publications. It has been our privilege to continue in the tradition of local papers that stretch back to the first paper printed west of the Missouri, “The Missourian.”

Over the years, local newspapers have been as much a part of St. Charles as Lewis and Clark. Our research has identified thirteen local newspapers in whose footsteps we follow, including the German language paper, “The Democrat.” The last incarnation of such a newspaper prior to the First Capitol News was, “The Banner-News.” The Banner-News was a daily that many St. Charles residents still remember.
The importance of a locally owned newspaper is made evident each time the First Capitol News goes to print. We bring both a deeper understanding of news stories and the ability to delve further into stories that are worthy of closer examination. Our local publication has, in fact, scooped our competition over and over again; first on our daily blog and then again weekly in the hard copy edition of our paper.

The out-of-town papers regularly find themselves playing catch-up with the First Capitol News and, frankly, we are proud of our record and consider it an honor when these guys at least cover stories of local interest. To our amazement, the First Capitol News has also been the sole newspaper source of critical information that the conglomerate papers have failed to print. This is, of course, what sets our publication apart from others in town. It should also be noted that the First Capitol News is currently the only newspaper located in the City of St. Charles. In this story, we want to recapitulate (and in some cases update) some of the main news stories of 2006 and provide you, our valued readers, with a record of several stories that have been First Capitol News exclusives. We also encourage you to pull up some of these stories yourself at our blogspot where you will find a chronology of past editions:

In January of 2006, the First Capitol News continued reporting on fraud committed during the attempt to recall Mark Brown and Dottie Greer in a story titled, “Recall Fraud Admitted.” It was soon after discovered that some members of the Citizens Empowerment Committee profited personally from their involvement in the recall. The investigation by the First Capitol News continued to uncover more about this story with each passing week. Depositions linked developers T.R. Hughes and Mike Sellenschuetter to the recall efforts including paying out-of-town signature gatherers $10 for each signature gathered and for the printing of literature and signs. Eventually, some associated with the recall effort wanted to create a “Do-the-Right-Thing” committee; however, this attempt seemed to have lost steam after widespread forgeries and other problems arose during the recall efforts within their own ranks.

In the April 8, 2006 edition, the First Capitol News ran a story titled, “David Beats Goliath” when Councilwoman Greer rebuffed recall efforts using almost no money compared to tens of thousands of dollars poured into the recall attempt by wealthy developers and other disgruntled special interests.

Local Paper Announces Daily Update

The First Capitol News became the first locally owned newspaper in the town’s history to create a website where readers can turn to check up on the latest local St. Charles news. The February 4th edition announced, “First Capitol News Daily on Net.” Today, your local newspaper can be read entirely online at: and daily updates can be read on our blog at: It should be noted that the blog address must be entered all lower case into your computer’s web address bar.

Top Cop’s Suit Ends
February 17th, 2006, the First Capitol News announced the end of a lawsuit brought against the City by Thomas Mayer, an employee of St. Charles City who had been fired. The city spent thousands of dollars defending itself against a lawsuit that asked for $100 Million. The true story was discovered later to be the fact that York failed to inform defense attorneys for the City that she had sent a letter on City stationary to the Chief of Police in St. Louis supporting the claims made by Mr. Mayer and thereby putting the finances of our City into greater jeopardy. York also testified under oath that Chief Joe Mokwa asked for the letter of recommendation. In Mokwa’s testimony he told the court that he did not ask York to send any letter to him and did not contact her regarding Mayer. This was a fact brought out exclusively by the First Capitol News.

This story ended with a settlement of $57,500 for Mr. Mayer – a sum that certainly would amount to very little after attorney fees were paid. The council was prepared to continue to fight, but it was believed that settling the suit was in the City’s best interests in light of the letter penned by the mayor.

Eminent Domain
After the state legislature failed to create any real protection for property owners, the city council under the direction of Councilman John Gieseke passed legislation that was more restrictive and protective than anything offered by the state general assembly. Under the new city ordinance no private home may be taken for private development and businesses were offered greater protection. The issue became a hot topic in 2006 when the U.S. Supreme Court placed the matter into state and local hands.

Express Scripts
A First Capitol News exclusive informed the public about how the illegal signing of a contract by York could culminate in a lawsuit by Express Scripts. When city council attempted to investigate further into this matter, five on the council provided coverage for York by refusing to subpoena witnesses who could bring details to light. These five council members claimed they wanted the facts but refused to bring in those who could provide these facts.
Currently, Express Scripts does in fact have a lawsuit against St. Charles seeking compensation of $200,000. The First Capitol News is proud to lead in this story, so that the taxpayers of St. Charles may stay informed of this matter. We will also continue to watch the development of this story and report further updates.

Police Learn of City Hall Embezzlement After Story Runs in First Capitol News
In a First Capitol News scoop regarding embezzlement by a city employee, the First Capitol News not only informed the general public about events that concerned their tax money but also the local authorities learned of wrongdoing at city hall because of our headline. Again, this story was seemingly ignored by out-of-town publications reportedly printing for St. Charles. In comparison, a story in our competition read, “Rex-Plex Naming Rights up for Grabs.” While The First Capitol News reported news directly concerning St. Charles City, our competitors were running stories from a neighboring town. Our publication is proud to operate in, and serve St. Charles City.

Federal Grand Jury Subpoena City Records
The First Capitol News was the first to report the story of a grand jury subpoena requesting documents from St. Charles City Hall. The subpoena demanded all e-mail correspondences, telephone records, and financial records including the illegally signed contract that York executed with Express Scripts who in turn filed suit against the city for damages of $200,000. The City hired an attorney to handle the subpoena request at a cost of $25,000. The First Capitol News has been critical of this matter and first wrote about the possible forthcoming lawsuit in 2005. Readers of the First Capitol News were able to anticipate this suit and the potential financial fallout it would cause. In 2005, an attempt by half of the council to use their legislative authority to oversee the executive branch of city hall by employing subpoena power to bring in witnesses regarding the illegal signing of the Express Script contract was blocked by councilmen: Kneemiller, Weller, Reese, Hoepfner and Muench. Without seven votes, the remaining council members were powerless to use their oversight in this matter and the issue appeared to have stalled. Land developer T.R. Hughes helped spearhead efforts to block council’s attempts to investigate this matter calling it a, “Kangaroo Court.” Hughes and others attempted to disrupt the council proceedings by jeering in and making inappropriate comments while the investigation was underway. Apparently the grand jury feels that the matter does indeed arise to investigatory level. Those on council who wanted to investigate made certain to point out that no charges were being made and that they simply wanted to ask questions in order to find out where the system broke down and whether any inappropriate measures were taken, and if so, by whom. We broke this story in our November 18th edition and we await further news regarding this matter and will bring you any updates that come to light.

Money Laundering
In a series of exclusive news reports, the First Capitol News began to investigate large sums of money that were passing through more than ten committees under the direction of Thomas Smith of 320 Monroe Street. Smith, who served on the Parks Board, was the paid legislative director of Representative Tom Dempsey (R). The millions of dollars passing through Smith’s control was in some cases directed to The Columns Banquet Center which is managed by Tom Dempsey and owned by Dempsey’s father, Ernie Dempsey. In other instances, Smith was paid thousands of dollars to act as treasurer for the numerous committees – a task that was claimed to be a volunteer position.

As the First Capitol News continued to investigate, we uncovered some of the financial sources for the various committees including donations from the casino, T.R. Hughes, and other wealthy developers. The reason for using various committees was to circumvent finance laws that limit donation amounts. This was in essence the same activity that brought charges against Congressman Delay of Texas. Dempsey passed legislation that removed donation caps for future elections.

A further important aspect of this story was the timing of a fundraiser held that funneled money into various committees. A committee called, “Citizens for Responsible Government” raised over $200,000 in one event. It was learned that the treasurer and vice treasurer were T.R. Hughes employees. This fundraising event was held after Representative Dempsey passed special legislation for the developer at St. Andrews that forced the City of St. Charles to provide sewer service for a development that was not annexing into the corporate borders although the city was reaching sewer capacity for development within its own limits.

Since the passage of this narrow interest legislation, the Missouri Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that such special legislation is unconstitutional. After the November election, Representative Dempsey stated that he too was unaware of some of Smith’s actions and planned to look into the matter.

In 2007, the only locally owned St. Charles newspaper, the First Capitol News, will work hard to continue investigative journalism that provides its readers with real, meaningful news that goes beyond the fluff seen in other publications. We are confident that we will continue to scoop the competition despite their larger budget and greater manpower. We thank you, our readers, for making us the most read newspaper in town for the past seven years! Thank You!

St. Charles Newspapers

Free Press
The Democrat
The Western Star
The Chronotype
The Reveille
The Sentinel
The Cosmos
St. Charles News
Banner News
First Capitol News