Commission votes to allow Swingle to promote books on Web site

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The case of the Web site book promotion is now closed.

The Cape Girardeau County Commission on Monday voted 2-1 to restore to public view the World Wide Web page at Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle's Web site where he displays the covers of his three commercial books. The page also includes lists of and links to many of Swingle's scholarly and legal articles.

The page had been hidden from view since last week when Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell directed that it be removed because of potential conflict with the county's Internet use policy barring commercial uses of the county's resources. Purcell voted against restoring the page, while Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones and Associate Commissioner Larry Bock favored putting it back on view.

"It doesn't pass the sniff test," Purcell said.

In front of the commissioners, Swingle focused on the access to legal articles, noting that it built up the reputation of his office to show his work furthering legal understanding. "These are things, believe it or not, that some parts of the public are interested in," Swingle said.

He also stated that his true-crime commercial book, "Scoundrels to the Hoosegow," had legal merit and was being used in at least one instance "as a training manual."

Swingle noted that in March he had altered the links on the page so that instead of directing users to a place where they could purchase his books, the links now lead to descriptions of his books on the Mystery Writers of America Web site. A note on the Web page tells readers that the books are available at local bookstores and at online book sellers.

"There is no question that it does not violate the county's policy," Swingle said.

Purcell defended his actions, comparing the book promotion to his personal bed-and-breakfast operation, Bock's seed business or the newspaper owned by Jones. It would be wrong to have prominent logos from those businesses with a note on how to be a customer on the county Web site, he said.

"They are not official business," he said. "They are not related to the county."

Purcell told Swingle that he should look at the issue with detachment. "I think maybe you are a little blinded because it is your issue," Purcell said.

Swingle, however, said the books are part of his public persona and rightfully are on the Web site. In an interview after the meeting, he said that even his two novels, "The Gold of Cape Girardeau" and "Bootheel Man" are deserving of display. "They teach history. They are scholarly publications even though they are history novels."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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