Last week's brief rumor that the lawsuit between Cape Girardeau County commissioners might be settled out of court died quickly. According to Tom Ludwig, the attorney for two of the three commissioners, a formal response will be delivered to 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell's attorney, J.P. Clubb, sometime today. No court date has been set for Circuit Judge Stephen Mitchell to hear the case.
The tension in commission chambers has been palpable since Purcell filed suit against the commission May 14, based on Missouri's open meetings and records act, nicknamed the Sunshine Law. The suit claims the commission's April 17 meeting was improper, based on the notice issued and the reasons it was closed. The county has responded by asking that Purcell be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for recording that meeting.
Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones and 1st District Commissioner Larry Bock met in a closed session, without Ludwig, after Thursday's regular commission meeting.
At the mention of the meeting being closed for litigation reasons -- which is allowed under the Sunshine Law -- Purcell asked if he was part of the meeting or excluded. Jones told Purcell the closed session was about the Sunshine Law suit. On the way out of the room, Purcell paused by Jones and said, "I'll leave this recorder with you."
"No, you cannot," Jones replied, laughing.
"See, we can laugh about it now. We're gettin' there," Purcell said.
"You might call it a laughing matter, but it sure as hell is not a laughing matter to me, for what you jokers said," Bock said, referring to a conversation between Jones and Purcell during a car trip to Jefferson City, Mo., which Purcell also recorded.
That conversation echoed in my head while aboard the Golden Knights' plane for Friday's air show. The commissioners communicate so differently than the Knights, perhaps because the commissioners don't jump out of planes or conduct ground patrols in war zones.
Watching the Golden Knights get set for a jump was a lesson in focus. Staff Sgt. Noah Watts of St. Peters, Mo., a team newcomer, stood still, thinking, before starting his jump preparation routine. The former Marine joined the U.S. Army in 2007. He is an infantryman, with a slew of service medals.
Safety issues are top priority of the dozens of variables he and other Knights check before stepping out of a plane. Training is critical, according to Knight Sgt. Pete White. It involves repetition, "reinforcement of the good and a very critical eye toward the bad," he said. In the absence of orders during combat, actions are automatic because "you have these things so embedded in your psyche," he said.
After jumpers don their parachutes, teammates double-check them, making sure nothing has fouled up. I tried picturing the commissioners checking each others' parachutes.
Watching the Knights confidently leap from the plane, the lines from Canadian aviator
John Gillespie Magee Jr.'s 1941 poem, "High Flight" popped into my head:
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth / And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; / Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth ..."
The Knights kidded each other as they got ready for Friday afternoon's jump, which was modified to accommodate weather problems. No one bickered about where they sat or who got to jump first. Knights take turns doing each job on the plane and on the ground.
Asked Thursday if the commissioners would slip their own surly bonds and settle the lawsuit before it gets to court, one insider responded, "Don't bet on it."
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