Purcell to ask prosecutor to take books off website before asking for commission vote

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jay Purcell made a conciliatory gesture Thursday morning to Cape Girardeau's presiding commissioner, talking about moving past egos and lingering personality conflicts and resolving disagreements in a civil manner.

Still, Purcell, Cape Girar­deau County's 2nd District commissioner, brought up a longstanding disagreement with the county prosecutor Morley Swingle over his books being promoted on the county's website. Pictures of the novels' covers link to the Mystery Writers of America website, which describes the books.

Although Swingle initially said he would speak about the issue at Thursday's commission meeting, he canceled the appearance to prepare for the preliminary hearing in the case of accused rapist Mitchell T. West.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones asked Purcell if he planned to make a motion to remove the books from the county website, but Purcell instead asked to address the commission.

Jones agreed.

Purcell said he'd spent two hours on the phone Wednesday night talking to another county official — "not a commissioner, so it wasn't a secret meeting" — about the controversies.

Purcell spoke for more than five minutes. He recapped events since May 5, when he voted against three motions: to allow Swingle to leave the books online, to restrict commissioners' access to certain department heads and a motion to reassign most of Purcell's responsibilities as a commissioner. All three measures passed with 2-to-1 votes. Last week, Purcell was reinstated as the commissioner overseeing the parks and public works departments. All three commissioners are now responsible for information technology, which until May had been Purcell's responsibility.

"It has to quit being about 'I won, you lost,'" Purcell said.

Purcell said after Tuesday's conversation with the unnamed county official about controversies, he didn't want to force a vote on Swingle's book page. Instead, he said, he would e-mail Swingle asking him to consider removing the links himself. If he doesn't, Purcell said he would ask for a vote but would drop the matter if outvoted because "that's the way democracy works."

Swingle, contacted later, said he didn't intend to remove the books "because they belong there."

He said the only reason his novels were more prominent than the legal-related books and articles on the webpage is that they were the most recent additions. He said he plans to update the site soon.

Purcell also offered a direct apology to Jones for recording a private conversation of a trip the two men took to Jefferson City, Mo., on Feb. 3. Jones said after the meeting "it was very big" of Purcell to apologize. Asked if there was any way to resolve the Sunshine Law suit Purcell filed against the commission in May, Jones said if he knew how, "it would be done."

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

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