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A L E E E N T E R P R I S E S N E W S P A P E R • F O U N D E D B Y J O S E P H P U L I T Z E R D E C .M1 21, •1 8WeDneSDAy 78 A14 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • 05.22.2019




Accountability, please A taxpayer-funded halfway house helps operators wallow in wealth.


n paper, at least, Dismas House of St. Louis was supposed to be a halfway house to help federal prisoners transition back into society — a much-needed service that helps reduce recidivism and put ex-offenders on a path to productivity. Who could argue against that? In reality, it bears all the hallmarks of a scam designed to put millions of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of its operators while federal inmates live in substandard conditions with apparently liberal access to drugs and alcohol. Since taxpayer dollars fund this operation, a thorough federal or state audit is needed to determine whether Dismas House’s nonprofit status has been abused to enable its operators to wallow in wealth. The Post-Dispatch’s Tony Messenger offered broad outlines of the Dismas House operation and the $5 million paid out between 2011 and 2016 to two of its top operators, who ran it like a family business. Dismas House hides its full financial records behind a flimsy religious-exemption claim that shields it from the reporting requirements that apply to other nonprofits. The absence of public scrutiny translates into minimal accountability — an invitation for abuse. Dismas House might, of course, operate just barely within the legal boundaries. If so, why does it smell so fishy? Dismas House’s claim of a religious exemption dates back to 1959, when the nonprofit’s founders, a Jesuit priest and a lawyer for Mafia figures, ran it as part of a ministry. They have long since departed the scene, as has the religious pretense behind the operation. For the past 13 years, the board of Dismas House has been dominated by John Flatley and his sister, Vivienne Bess. Together, they have milked its proceeds by awarding themselves lavish salaries. Flatley’s son, Patrick, was


The Dismas House of St. Louis, an unmarked building at 5025 Cote Brilliante Avenue, has about 140 beds for men transitioning from federal prison. among other beneficiaries. John Flatley’s base salary in 2012 was $645,450 when he served as executive director. Bess made $252,867 that year. Also on the board is Bess’ husband, Gary Bess, who served as former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s parks director. The Flatleys, Besses and close associates maintain an interlocking board that runs a separate nonprofit offshoot, Forward Assist Inc., that acquires real estate used as group homes for recovering addicts and alcoholics. Board membership also overlaps with a private real estate investment holding company, Forward Invest LLC, which makes personal mortgage loans. Beneficiaries of those loans include some of those same interlocking board members. The high salaries and apparent shuffle of funds from one entity to the other helps obscure whatever is actually happening with the $42 million, five-year contract awarded to Dismas House by the Missouri Bureau of Prisons to house federal prisoners. “This is our personal family business,” Patrick Flatley told Messenger. And that’s exactly how this supposedly nonprofit, religious-exempt, taxpayer-funded operation appears to be run. Which is why a full audit is more than justified.

10-point perk plan Kris Kobach has a few demands before he’ll agree to be America’s top xenophobe.


ris Kobach isn’t asking much to grant America his services as President Donald Trump’s new immigration czar. Just 24/7 use of a government jet. And a West Wing office with “walk-in” privileges to the Oval Office. And a future appointment to head Homeland Security. Oh, and authority over top Cabinet officials, including the attorney general and the secretary of defense. For these and some other modest demands, America would get an immigration czar who’s spent his whole career proving how disastrous such an appointment would be. What a bargain! Kobach’s entire elective résumé consists of two terms as Kansas’ secretary of state and the loss of a gubernatorial race. Yet he’s shown a Forrest Gump-like ability to insert himself into some of America’s biggest controversies — if Gump had been a self-promoting purveyor of noxious xenophobia. In 2017, Kobach signed on to cochair a commission investigating Trump’s unfounded claim that illegal voting by non-citizens cost him the 2016 popular vote. There was never a molecule of truth to Trump’s votefraud assertion, but that didn’t stop Kobach from making a three-ring show out of the commission before it was unceremoniously shuttered. Remember the notorious “papers, please” law allowing former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to essentially stop anyone with brown skin and demand they prove their citizenship? Kobach, freelancing outside his own state, was its chief architect. He co-authored a similar measure in Alabama and offered legal counsel to defend anti-immigrant laws in Pennsylvania and Texas. Now Trump wants an “immigration czar” to coordinate immigration policy across federal agencies. Given Trump’s open hostility toward immigrants almost regardless of legal status, Kobach perhaps believes he has an in. How else to explain a remarkable list of


President Trump and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. his demands reported by The New York Times? In addition to the jet, a top-paying designation as “Assistant to the President” and other perks, Kobach is asking that he become, effectively, more powerful than people whose appointments have to be confirmed by the Senate (this one wouldn’t, possibly by design). Among Kobach’s demands is that the president “sits down individually with Czar and the secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Ag, Interior, and Commerce, and tells each of the Secretaries to follow the directives of the Czar without delay, subject to appeal to the President in cases of disagreement.” Trump seems blind to factors like Kobach’s malicious approach to immigration issues, his involvement in laws that keep getting overturned, or even the fact that his attempt to prove Trump’s voter-fraud fantasy wound up thoroughly disproving it. Giving Cabinet-dominating authority to a non-Senate-confirmed position would be constitutionally questionable. But abiding by the Constitution never was one of Trump’s top concerns. Trump might nevertheless want to consider this: Any self-proclaimed dealmaker who linked up with a grifter like Kris Kobach would be certifiable — as a chump.

yOUR VIEWS • LETTERS FROM OUR READERS experienced a traumatic loss of control concerning her safety and her own body. This bill would only seek to re-traumatize these women in further removing their ability to control their bodies and lives. As a woman and gender-studies scholar, I am appalled by the actions of the Missouri Legislature. Rosie Jones • Maplewood.


A demonstrator protests outside the House of Representatives chamber in the Missouri State Capitol on Friday as the House voted to pass a new bill that would virtually ban all abortions in the state.

Women will fight back against legislature Regarding “Near-total ban on abortion approved by Missouri House, heads to governor” (May 18): I am appalled that the Missouri Legislature would ban abortion after eight weeks. We’ve now joined the list of “Most Stupid States in the Union” thanks to their action. The Republicans are messing with women’s health care decisions, and we won’t tolerate it for long. Lawmakers should be prepared for the fight of their lives in the next election, because they have stirred a hornet’s nest. Women will not stand for our health decisions being left up to a bunch of largely outstate lawmakers who have no concept of what a rape does to a woman’s soul when she becomes impregnated by a violent criminal. Or, when a woman is carrying a sick and dying baby in her womb and must make a gut-wrenching decision to abort. Or, the fear of dying and leaving other children behind because she can stroke out at any moment during pregnancy from preeclampsia — when both mom and baby could die. They might be gleeful about stripping us of our choices right now, but Missouri legislators will soon regret holding this extreme vote to hurt women, and they should expect a multitude of Missouri women going into the voting booths next year to kick their sorry butts to the curb because we refuse to allow them to control us, our bodies or our most intimate decisions. We will stand up and fight back against their tyranny toward women. Rusti Levin • University City

Women must have control over their own bodies Missouri’s abortion bill removes people’s ability to exercise self-determination. Our country reinforces the concept of the “American Dream,” wherein people are able to make their own choices in pursuit of their individual happiness. Yet, this bill directly impedes such a liberty. This bill also fails to recognize the very real experiences of those who are pregnant and/or those who think they might be pregnant. At eight weeks, many women may not know they are pregnant. Menstruation cycles may not be consistent, or women may not notice one skipped period. Moreover, eight weeks does not take into account the extenuating factors in people’s lives: getting off work to travel for an abortion, acquiring the funds for an abortion and developing practical plans with their support networks. A third contention I have with this bill concerns those with limited support networks. I work at a domestic and sexual violence service agency and have interacted with many clients who are pregnant as a result of rape, incest or reproductive manipulation. In these circumstances, the survivor’s autonomy has already been limited; she has often

Missouri Legislature should banish theocrats Women, are you paying attention? Laws are being passed that are severely restricting or potentially eliminating the constitutional right to make your own reproductive decisions, including the very personal decision to terminate a pregnancy. Some of these laws also preclude the potential to terminate the pregnancy due to rape or incest. Please take note that all of the states proceeding with this draconian behavior are controlled by the GOP. President Donald Trump has named two associate Supreme Court justices who may vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. A majority of the lawmakers making these decisions are white, male and Republican. It is time to get out the female vote. Even if you disagree with some positions within the Democratic platform, this one issue alone should have you running from a party that wants to take us all back to the dark ages. Please get out the vote so we can rid ourselves of these theocrats. Ryan Geraty • Lake Saint Louis

Missouri abortion law is against Constitution This extreme and dangerous Missouri legislation criminalizes abortion as early as eight weeks, before some women even know they’re pregnant, with no exception for rape or incest. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Mike Parson, who has made clear his willingness to sign. For many Missourians, the unconstitutional ban would remove access to safe abortion. It violates Supreme Court precedent in an attempt to ultimately overturn Roe v Wade. Abortion is an incredibly personal and sometimes complex decision that should and must occur between a pregnant woman, her family and her doctor — not categorically decided by politicians inexperienced in matters of reproductive and maternal health care. In a state already lacking health care and an abysmal maternal mortality rate that exceeds that of some developing nations, Gov. Parson and anti-choice state lawmakers have made the express decision to fuel the continuing decay of health care in Missouri. They also uphold the egregious claim that the government deserves a hand in the bodily autonomy and deeply personal parenting choices of pregnant Missourians. I call on the governor to reject this unconstitutional ban. Alex Keeley • Kirkwood

Unborn children denied to tell their own story Regarding “Missouri 8-week abortion ban one step from going to governor” (May 16): Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, comments in part that the bill portrays women as “vessels of pregnancy rather than understanding that women’s lives all hold different stories.” I would suggest that the lives of unborn children hold only one story — their struggle to survive. Following an abortion, the mother will still have her story to live, which cannot be said of her unborn child. Mary Simon • St. Louis Read more letters online at STLtoday.com/letters

TOD ROBBERSON editorial Page editor • trobberson@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8382

STLtoday.com/opinion Find us at facebook/PDPlatform • Follow us on twitter @PDEditorial I know that my retirement will make no difference in its cardinal principles, that it will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty • JOSEPH PULITZER • APRIL 10, 1907 PLATFORM •

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