by Mark Vasto
With less than one month until Election Day,
Jim Plunkett, candidate for the District 2 Platte
County Commissioner seat, is alleging unfair campaign
practices on the part of incumbent Steve Wegner
and the Platte County Commission.
Plunkett and Wegner will square off in the Republican
primary on Aug. 3. There is no Democratic candidate,
so the primary is basically for all the marbles.
At issue is a public mailing from the countys
public affairs division entitled Platte County
Parks & Recreation Explorer. The full-color,
six-page, newsletter contains a note from the
commission on the front page and five stories
detailing the progress of park projects in the
county throughout. Although the piece doesnt
make mention of the upcoming election, Plunkett
feels that the mailing was inappropriate.
There almost using it, in my opinion, as
an election piece, Plunkett alleged. Even
though Plunkett acknowledged the commission had
plans to send out newsletters, he said that it
just seemed peculiar that this comes along
during an election.
Plunkett said he objected to the general format
of the publication, particularly the back cover,
which featured a picture of the commissioners.
He also questioned the cost.
Knowing from what Ive spent (on campaign
literature), that was an expensive piece that
went out. My guess is that it cost $30 - $40,000.
Plunkett guessed that the newsletter was also
being distributed countywide.
If it is, that not only benefits Steve
(Wegner) but its also beneficial to Michael
(District 1 Commissioner Michael Short, who is
also seeking reelection), Plunkett said.
He stepped up his charges when he learned the
piece was only sent to registered voters.
This seems awful obvious, Plunkett
remarked. They sent it to voters and not
all the residents. Theyre using it for a
political piece, rather than to educate or inform.
If they had done this in September, it would be
a different story.
Kevin Kuzma, Platte Countys public affairs
officer, denied that the mailing was a campaign
piece. A former journalist who designed, wrote
and took pictures for the newsletter, Kuzma said
the project went out to bid in the commissions
media package, which was voted on in January 2004.
Although Kuzma was unable to furnish the mailing
costs for the piece as of press time, he defended
the newsletters estimated $9,900 printing
The county has purchased a significant
amount of land, Kuzma said. We went
from one 12-acre park to having more than 400
acres. We needed a publication that reflected
In recent years, Kuzma said, the commission wanted
to upgrade its former two-sheet newsletter and
the current mailings are the realization of that
The countys strategic plan calls
for it to issue annual communications to citizens
regarding the latest progress on projects related
to the plans advancement, Kuzma explained.
Every year, we produce two Citizen Update
newsletters and two parks and recreation newsletters
one per season.
Kuzma said the commission decided to start developing
the newsletter two years ago, and initially offered
it only via email to about 2,500 people. Using
Internet tracking software, Kuzma said the newsletter
was forwarded about 700 times. That activity proved,
Kuzma said, constituents wanted the information.
We had always intended on eventually publishing
it, Kuzma said. This was for the residents
who didnt have an Internet connection or
who just didnt want to spend time on our
website looking for it.
According to Kuzma, the county
s summer edition of the Citizen Update newsletter
is presently in development and will be ready
for distribution in late July. The commission
addressed that production schedule, Kuzma said,
and at their discretion will not mail it until
after the August election.
This is an election year so I understand
the added sensitivity, Kuzma said. But
Platte County is a government body. Were
not going to temporarily shut down.
Wegner agreed and sought to frame criticism as
another political attack from Plunkett.
Government doesnt stop because of
elections, countered Wegner. I have
made a real effort to keep my constituents informed
and this is not the first (newsletter) this commission
has put out. We sent one out two months ago
Mr. Plunkett made it a political issue.
Wegner said that although the idea of the newsletter
becoming political fodder for his opponents had
crossed his mind, he felt it was more
important to keep people informed. He defended
the commissions choice to send the newsletter
solely to registered voters in the county.
These are the people who participate in
government, Wegner stated. Its
a cost thing. If we mailed to every address in
the county wed be mailing to second homes,
apartments, post office boxes
always only mailed to registered voters.
According to Mike Reed, director of compliance
for the Missouri Ethics Commission, complaints
regarding campaign matters can be directed to
If anyone believes there is a violation
of the law that has occurred, they can file a
complaint, Reed said, adding that he would
not be able to verify if any complaint has been
filed or even investigated. We work off
complaints, and we keep them confidential.
Kuzma said his office has received no complaints.
In fact, weve only heard positive