You know how it sometimes seems to take forever to bring criminal defendants to trial?

Well, the delays in criminal cases sometimes pale beside U.S. Tax Court cases, which play out away from the headlines, in the complex machinery of tax law and IRS rules and regulations.

One case that I’ve been tracking is now 10 years old and still not decided. With any luck, a trial or settlement will take place in 2015. I am anxious to see this case resolved in favor of the government because the defendant, a former Kansas City resident, owes the federal government millions of dollars in income taxes and needs to be forced to pay up.

The defendant is Keith Tucker, a former chairman and chief executive officer at Waddell & Reed, an Overland Park-based mutual fund company.

I don’t like Tucker, who now lives in Texas with his wife Laura, for two reasons: First, because of his tax dodge, and, second, because he largely concealed from public view perhaps the most beautiful home in Kansas City — a Louis Curtiss-designed residence on the northwest corner of 55th and Ward Parkway.

keith tucker


Surely, you’ve seen it…I hope it was before the Tuckers ensconced it with veritable walls of tall shrubs on the east and south sides.

The man who commissioned construction of the home for himself and his family was Bernard Corrigan, who  built his fortune partly as a streetcar developer. Work on the home at 55th and Ward Parkway began in 1912. Two of the home’s outstanding features are the reinforced-concrete foundation and the gray limestone exterior walls, with a medium-rough, or “shot-sawed” finish.

Considered to be one of the best examples of Prairie Style architecture in the Midwest, the home also features beautiful, leaded-glass windows, antique exterior light fixtures and an unusual, L-shaped footprint.

The Tuckers bought the house and surrounding 2.4 acres in 1998 for $1.65 million. The home sold for $6 million in 2005. To the best of my knowledge, it has been owned since then by Ann Dickinson, former chairwoman of a holding company that formerly owned Bank Midwest.

But back to Tucker and his financial shenanigans.

Under his watch at Waddell & Reed (1992 to 2005), the company was often entangled in litigation. Just before he resigned, the firm agreed to pay $7 million in fines and up to $11 million in restitution to settle charges that it aggressively pressured customers into buying unnecessary annuities.

In 2004, the U.S. government charged Tucker with tax fraud, alleging that he and his wife owed more than $22 million in income taxes and penalties. The IRS contends that the Tuckers claimed $39.2 million in sham tax-shelter deductions. The shelters, which many people took advantage of, were put together by the accounting firm KPMG.

For years, the Tucker case lay dormant while charges against KPMG executives were being resolved. KPMG admitted in 2005 that it sold bad shelters, but it took years for elements of the case to play out in courts. In a pivotal decision late last year, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the IRS and said that the government could collect a 40 percent penalty — over and above the taxes owed — from a taxpayer who had used the illegal shelter.

Seemingly, that precedent-setting case has opened the doors for trial or settlement of many similar cases.

So, on March 17, after years of rote entries delaying the Tucker case, a U.S. Tax Court judge signed an order, which said: “Upon due consideration…the Court has determined that these cases will be tried during the first half of 2015. “

The judge also ordered the parties to file a report by June 2, saying which month they would like the case to go to trial.

I hope the government is able to clean Tucker’s clock. But given his proven ability to dodge and weave and work the system, that probably won’t happen. In addition, 90 percent of Tax Court cases are settled before trial. Still, the government should be able to extract several million bucks from the Tuckers.

I’ve believed all along that Tucker erected those shrubs around that beautiful home on Ward Parkway because he had something to hide. Looks like the government is about to smoke him out.



tucker house

Four years ago I took this photo of the home (and enclosing shrubbery) on the northwest corner of 55th and Ward Parkway. It looks about the same now.



Here’s a better view of the L-shaped house from many years ago.

I wanted to let things unfold a bit before jumping in on the weekend triple-murder story, but it’s time to give The Star credit for a great job.

In ordinary times, it’s easy to complain about The Star and how it has shrunk in the last six to eight years. But it’s still the only regional news organization that can pull together the resources and experience it takes to respond appropriately to a story of this magnitude.

The first day’s  coverage — in Monday’s paper — was a bit scrambled, but that was understandable, given the weekend occurrence and the inherent difficulty of getting ahold of a wide array of sources on a Sunday.

Even with that disadvantage, though, The Star’s reporting team managed to get a significant amount of information, and the big, bold headline — “Black Sunday” — was terrific.

My fear on Sunday night was that The Star might hold off on reporting Glenn Miller’s “Heil Hitler” comment because the cops wouldn’t confirm it, but it was right there near the top of the story, as it should have been.

Then, on Monday, The Star’s formidable team of courts, investigative and feature reporters — along with outstanding photographers — rolled into full action.

The photo of Will Corporon wiping tears from his eyes while his sister Mindy Corporon (whose son and father had died in the shootings) spoke to the press — was an absolute throat grabber. The editors put it right up in the flag on Tuesday morning.

millerAlso on the front page, the 1984 photo of Miller holding a 10-foot-long (or thereabouts) shotgun in front of a KKK sign made it clear what kind of space junk we were dealing with. And the police mug shot of him from Sunday — glassy- and vacant-eyed — made for a sharp, riveting contrast.

The lead story, appropriately, was Tony Rizzo’s identification and tribute to the third victim, Terri LaManno, whom police did not publicly identify until Monday.

Eric Adler, the paper’s premier feature writer, did a nice job portraying the Corporan family — whose courage and strength to come out in public, and attend and speak at prayer services and press conferences — has been nothing short of remarkable.

The third story on the front page was a takeout on Miller. The writers were KC Star mainstays Laura Bauer, Donald Bradley and Judy Thomas, all of whom have tons of big-story experience.

Accompanying the story, on the “jump” was a photo of Miller’s ranch-style home in southwest Missouri, with a pickup parked directly in front of the front door. Good call — dispatching ace photographer (one of several aces on the staff) Keith Myers on a three-hour-plus trip to get a residential mug shot. It added a lot.

Today, The Star came back with three more outstanding stories, one of which delineated the charges and clearly explained the difference between state and federal prosecution. The Star is fortunate to have a state courts expert, Rizzo, and an authority on federal courts, Mark Morris. That duo provided the guts of the “hate crimes” story on Page 1.

The other front-page story was a real eye-opener. Morris, Thomas and Dave Helling collaborated on a long piece revealing that Miller was once in the federal government’s witness protection program. It was the kind of story that makes most of us want to say, “The son of a bitch should never have been given a break for his cooperation in earlier hate-crime cases, and he should have been in prison the last three decades.”

One source, in fact, said as much. Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (whatever that is) was quoted as saying: “That man shouldn’t have been running around free. He should’ve died in prison.”

So, the reporters let us indulge ourselves in that emotion before bringing us back down to earth with a quote from former federal prosecutor Patrick McInerney:

“For someone to predict that 30 years after he testified for the government he would do something like this is a little bit of a stretch.”

How true. And, indeed, Miller testified for the government in a 1988 trial in Fort Smith Ark., where more than a dozen white supremacists were accused of conspiring to kill a federal judge and FBI agent and plotting to overthrow the federal government.

Pretty serious stuff, and it’s easy to see why the government would be willing to make a deal for incriminating testimony. Unfortunately, the defendants were acquitted.

Topping off today’s coverage was an eerie, creepy photo of Miller in a wheelchair before or after he made a brief, remote court appearance from the Johnson County Jail.

Photographer David Eulitt, another top-notch shooter, caught Miller looking at the camera out of the corner of his eyes, with a sneering, disdainful look on his face.

What a prick…And The Star was able to portray him as precisely that without having to use any four- or five-letter words.

Good stuff, Star editors, reporters and photographers. Thanks for the stem-to-stern, enlightening coverage of this unforgettable, horrible story.

You never know what you’re going to read about here…I’ll drag you down any alley and just hope you’ll follow.

Today, for example, with a tough few days behind us — with “Over-land Park” (as I heard it pronounced on NPR today) in the national spotlight for the worst of reasons — I decided to lighten up after a day of substitute teaching.

So, I clicked on my iTunes library and started in on some of my 35 songs. (I know, some people have hundreds, maybe thousands, but I keep it simple.)

I didn’t get far, though, when I homed in on “Poetry in Motion” by Johnny Tillotson. I’ve always loved that song, which came out in 1960, my first year of high school back in Louisville. Those four years — especially the first three — at that all-boys, Catholic school were grim and difficult.

There wasn’t much to look forward to, except football and basketball games and Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” on TV every afternoon. There were a few parties, but the girls were mostly out of reach for me and my buddies. The Xaverian Brothers who ran the school didn’t hesitate to smack us around for the smallest of transgressions, and I remember one “brother” in particular who would walk up and down the aisles smacking kids with a book on days when his arthritis was acting up. Didn’t matter if you were sitting still, not bothering anybody, you or the equally terrified guy next to you might get it, regardless.

About the only thing that salved the psychological torment and gave us hope that a kinder, happier world existed outside the walls of St. Xavier High was the incomparable, soaring music of the ’60s. How were we to know that what we were hearing on the radio (radio station WAKY in Louisville) would come to be regarded, almost unarguably, as the greatest pop music of all time?

“Poetry in Motion” was one of the most uplifting, hopeful songs on the radio in those days.

Those opening lines…

When I see my baby
What do I see
Poetry in motion
Poetry in motion
Walkin’ by my side
Her lovely locomotion
Keeps my eyes open wide…


Where do I find a girl like that? That’s what I wanted to know. And…Will I ever get the opportunity?

johnnyJohnny Tillotson was 21 or 22 when he recorded that song — not that much older than us, but light years away.

I didn’t know it then but two of the Nashville studio musicians who played backup on the song were Boots Randolph (“Yakkety Sax,” 1963) and Floyd Cramer (“Last Date,” 1960.)

I didn’t know this, either: The guys who wrote the song, Paul Kaufman (1930–1999) and Mike Anthony (born 1930), said their inspiration came from looking up from their work and seeing a procession of young ladies from a nearby school pass by on the sidewalk outside each afternoon.

What I knew was that the song thrilled me and helped get me through those long, dreary school weeks.


On Sunday, Johnny Tillotson will turn 75.

Thank you, Johnny, wherever you are…Florida, maybe, where he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2011.

…Now, here’s that song…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2yAanNhcqI

(Sorry about the ad.)


Just to give you the flavor of my high school, here’s a 1964 photo from “the smoking shed,” outside the school cafeteria. I am at the extreme upper right, to the left of the guy looking at the camera. (I think he was blowing smoke rings.)

st. x2



For me, Sunday was a tremendous day of TV watching.

The Masters golf tournament is the only “show” I can watch for five hours and not get bored or irritated.

The reason it is such a great broadcast — even if it doesn’t always offer a hair-raising finish — is that the guys who run Augusta National golf course have steadfastly held onto the reins of the programming.

mastersAs far as I know, it’s the only event where the people staging it have been able to keep the TV networks from dictating how things will go.

For example, the Masters limits coverage of the four-day event to 17 total hours — four hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and five on Sunday, closing day.

In a story posted on Thursday, USA Today said:

“Augusta National is protective of its tournament. For years, there were no cameras on the front side (first nine holes) of Augusta. The first nine was like the dark side of the moon — only a few had seen it. Masters officials had been worried that too much television coverage would cut down on crowds. Even as recently as 2001, when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were in the final Sunday group, CBS would come on air at 4 p.m. on Sunday to only show the second nine.”

But the absolute best thing about the Masters coverage — hands down — is that Augusta National limits commercials to four minutes per hour.

Four minutes an hour!

That’s unbelievable in these days of three-and-a-half-hour baseball games and NFL games of at least equal length. Those games are interminable, and it’s mostly because of the glut of commercials. It’s commonplace on NFL games to have a fairly long commercial break after a touchdown or field goal, then the ensuing kickoff and then another extended commercial break.

It’s insufferable…I like the Chiefs, but there’s no way I can watch an entire game any more. In fact, as I’ve weaned myself away — or, I should say, as TV has driven me away — I find myself watching less and less of Chiefs games. Now, it’s down to maybe part of the fourth quarter, if the game is interesting.

In addition as much as I like golf (second to women’s college basketball, in my book), I can’t watch the Golf Channel’s coverage of tournaments, either.

I swear, the Golf Channel has just about as much commercial time as it does actual golf coverage. If the FCC cared about the viewers, it would run the Golf Channel right off the air. It’s a complete waste of time…And when the Golf Channel is not airing commercials or precious minutes of actual play, analysts like the insipid Brandel Chamblee yammer about obscure points of the game and dissect golf swings to the point of nausea.

So, what a relief and pleasure it was to watch five hours of coverage (actually I got in on it a little late because I had lunch-clean-up duty) with only 20 minutes of commercials. It was a challenge to get to the kitchen and back with a snack and not miss seeing an important shot…Now that’s compelling coverage.

Moreover, the commercials that do run are not the grating, banal kind that you see on every other show. The Masters limits the marketing to select “corporate partners.” The partners this year were IBM, AT&T and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz. Those three companies used their limited time to get their messages across quickly and efficiently.

In addition to minimal commercials, Sunday’s coverage offered an irresistible story line: A hard-fought battle between the free-swinging, likable Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, a fresh-faced, fiery Texan who was competing in his first Masters.

In the end, Bubba’s experience and ability to hit 360-yard drives proved to be the difference, with Bubba winning by three strokes.

But it was a hell of a show, from start to finish.

So, I say, thank you, you old sticklers who run Augusta National…Thank you for keeping the network executives’ grubby hands from getting a stranglehold on one of the greatest sporting events in the world.

Long live Augusta National and long live a commercial-limited Masters!



Sometime between 2005 and 2009, I was at Knuckleheads in Kansas City’s East Bottoms and rubbed elbows (almost) with a celebrity.

On the dance floor next to me was then Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and her husband, K. Gary Sebelius.

I was pretty impressed…not just that I was in proximity to the Kansas governor but also because she and her husband were “out amongst them,” as we used to say, at an everyday establishment for everyday people.

I say it was sometime between 2005 and 2009 because those were the years that Matt Blount was governor of Missouri. A one-time, political flame-out was Blount, if you remember him at all.

So, word gets to the band leader that the Kansas governor is in the house, and after one song, the band leader announces, “The governor is with us…the good governor.”

She got a nice round of applause, and everyone went back to dancing, and most people left her and her husband alone, except for one guy who took advantage of her accessibility and bent her ear for too long a time.

sebeliusPartly because of that occasion and partly because of the composed and confident manner in which she, a Democrat, carried herself amid the Railing Republicans of Kansas, I always liked Sebelius. So, I was disappointed this morning when I read she was resigning as Secretary of Health and Human Services, a job she had held since 2009.

Yeah, she screwed up by not getting the best computer wonk in the country to oversee the healthcare.gov sign-up. And, yes, she didn’t always say the right thing (insisting, for example, that the website had not crashed — just going slowly, she said — when it most certainly had).

But, still, she always carried herself with that composure that had long appealed to voters in bloody-red Kansas. And she had some notable accomplishments.

The New York Times’ story about her resignation included this noteworthy paragraph:

“White House officials were quick to point out the many successes during Ms. Sebelius’s tenure: the end to pre-existing conditions as a bar to insurance, the ability for young people to stay on their parents’ insurance, and the reduction in the growth of health care costs. In addition, Ms. Sebelius helped push through mental health parity in insurance plans and worked with the Department of Education to promote early childhood education.”

As I have said here before, the changes on pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until they were 26 have been a godsend to our family, and I will always be thankful to Sebelius and the Obama administration for that — and I’m sure millions of other Americans agree.

You’ve got to like the classy way in which she resigned, too. No big to-do. Not to the shrieks of the Railing Republicans. Just in her normal, composed way.

Quoting again from The Times…

“Last month, Ms. Sebelius approached Mr. Obama and began a series of conversations about her future…The secretary told the president that the March 31 deadline for sign-ups under the health care law — and rising enrollment numbers — provided an opportunity for change, and that he would be best served by someone who was not the target of so much political ire.”

She had a nice touch, too, in an interview with an NYT reporter, whom she told that she had always known she would not “be here to turn out the lights in 2017.”

Well, in my opinion, the best political light that Kansas has seen in many years has now been clicked off. The Railing Republicans are no doubt happy today.

But Sebelius is probably happy, too. She’s 65, has had a hell of a political career and can go out with her head held high. Unfortunately, she had one big screw-up that blemished her career and that will be long remembered.

But haven’t we all had big screw-ups? I sure did, but because I was not operating under arc lights, I weathered most of the ensuing storms pretty well. In 2006, at age 60, I retired from a business that was about to go over the precipice…although I certainly didn’t realize it. But I got my pizza and sheet-cake party. Wooo-hooo! I’ve had a great retirement, and I wish the same for Kathleen Sebelius.

Hope to see you on the dance floor, Gov!

I just got back today from Nashville, where I attended the Women’s Final Four basketball tournament.

I had never been to Nashville, even though I grew up in Louisville, KY, which is only about three hours north of Nashville.

Nashville probably wouldn’t have appealed to me in my Louisville days, anyway, because I didn’t develop a taste for country western music until the 1980s, long after I had moved to Kansas City.

The only country western music I like, however, is from the 80s and 90s – sometimes called the country legends — when the great artists like George Strait, George Jones, Alabama, the Bellamy Brothers, Pam Tillis, Kathy Mattea and others were in their primes.

You can find plenty of live music being played from that era — as well as the new stuff — in downtown Nashville. For at least two blocks of Broadway, narrow, dark and deep bars (for the most part) line both sides of the street. Western wear stores and other retail establishments are interspersed among the bars, but the bars are the main attraction.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is just off Broadway, but I couldn’t tear myself away from the live music long enough to get over there.

An interesting thing about the bands is that there’s a core group of musicians, all of whom seem to rotate from group to group, joint to joint. For example, I saw the same guitar player with three different groups, at three different places, on three separate days.

You don’t seen any signs bearing the names of bands and nobody asks. The only thing the bands have in common is that there’s always a tip jar near every stage…and the band leader reminds the patrons about that. (My advice: tip generously; this is good stuff!)

Another interesting thing is that most of the bands solicit requests, and if you ask for a song they haven’t played before, sometimes the players will put their heads together, strum a few notes, talk about how they’ll approach it, then resume their positions and…one, two, three, four, hit it! That’s how versatile and experienced these players are.

I’m definitely going back — and I intend to find that same skinny, ball-cap-wearing guitar player.

…Of course, Nashville isn’t just about music. Other attractions include good restaurants; the State Capitol; LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play; and Bridgestone Arena, where the Nashville Predators hockey team plays and, of course, where the Women’s Final Four was contested.

The semifinal games were played on Sunday and the championship game — won by UConn, of course — was played last night.

And now, for your viewing enjoyment, here are some photos…


The name of the place? “I like it like that…” No, no, make that The Second Fiddle.














On the left is that guitarist I mentioned — the guy I saw with three different groups on three different days.














Broadway by day














Broadway by night (at least basketball finals’ night)














Ryman Auditorium, first home of the Grand Ole Opry














Looking up Capitol Drive at the State Capitol















The library


The UConn and Notre Dame teams warming up before Tuesday’s game















Just like that, it’s over




















Today is a day for endorsement and indictment.

First the endorsements, although I am aching to get to the indictment. (Does the headline give you a hint of where I’m headed?)

On Tuesday, we will have what could be the most important Kansas City School Board election in decades.

Five of the existing nine board seats are up for election, but come 2019, the board will be reduced to seven members. As a prelude to that change, Tuesday’s winners will serve five years instead of the usual four, so they will be in there a long time and will have significant opportunity to take the district up — or down.

My focus is on the two at-large seats that are up for grabs. (“At-large” means the winners will be elected by voters throughout the district.)

Four candidates are vying for the two open district-wide seats, and I hope you will give strong consideration to the candidates I think offer the most hope for district improvement.

My recommendations are 55-year-old Pattie Mansur and 60-year-old Amy Hartsfield. Both have been endorsed by Freedom Inc., the political organization I worked closely with last year to trounce Jackson County’s proposed half-cent sales tax for “translational medical research.”

Mansur also has the endorsement of The Kansas City Star.



Mansur is communications director for a charitable foundation that supports health services for low-income children and adults. She and her husband, Mike Mansur, public information officer for the Jackson County prosecutor’s office, have three children, two of whom graduated from KC public schools. Their youngest child is a sophomore in high school.

Pattie Mansur has served as a parent leader at three public schools and on numerous school district planning committees, with her focus being on student achievement and parental involvement.

Mansur has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and an MBA, with an emphasis in marketing, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She and her family live in the Brookside area.

Hartsfield works as a counselor and assessment consultant at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee. She also does volunteer work with a program that provides meals, tutoring services and other educational opportunities for Kansas City Public School students.



She and her husband, Rev. Wallace Hartsfield II, spent many years in Atlanta before returning here in 2008. At that time, her husband succeeded his father, the legendary Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield, as senior pastor at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, 2310 E. Linwood. (The Hartsfields live a few blocks from the church.)

While in Atlanta, Amy Hartsfield was an intake counselor for the Georgia Department of Mental Health.

An ordained minister herself, Hartsfield has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Barnard College in New York and a master of divinity degree and a doctor of theology degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

The Hartsfields have two grown children and two young grandchildren, whom Amy Hartsfield would like to see attend KC public schools.

As you can see, Mansur and Hartsfield have tremendous qualifications to serve on the school board, and I think they could spearhead an era of new and inspired leadership for the Kansas City Public School District.


Now the indictment…

I’m sure most of you have heard by now that a 14-year-old girl with autism was raped repeatedly — over the course of a month — at Southwest Early College Campus.

I’m sure that most of you also are aware that another girl — a 17-year-old — was raped at the school last August. In that incident, two boys dragged the girl through the halls in the middle of the school day and assaulted her in a small, second-floor room.

In the wake of the most recent assaults, six staff members, including the principal, have been placed on administrative leave, and prosecutors have charged a 14 year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl with one count of rape and one count of sodomy.

The Star has reported that the victim was attacked by the boy repeatedly over the past month in an area out of view of security cameras, while the girl stood by as a lookout.

Today, I spoke with both Mansur and Hartsfield about the latest scandal and how it reflects on the district as a whole.



“I was stunned. I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ How does this happen a second time?”

The latest rapes, she said, reflect a set of failures at both the building and the district level that lead her to believe that Southwest “is just left to its own devices.”

In other words, the place has been virtually devoid of sound administration.

“It seems that the conditions in the school were being ignored over a long period of time,” Mansur said. “Where were the adults responsible for this school?”

The ultimate responsibility for the debacle, she said, lies with District Superintendent Steve Green because he makes the staffing decisions.

While Green does not deserve to be fired, Mansur said, he must be held to a higher level of accountability. His top priority now, she said, should be to conduct a thorough review of leadership at all Kansas City public school buildings, with the goal of establishing “a pipeline of really strong administrators” whose primary charge is to establish a safe, respectful and positive climate at each and every school.

Hartsfield, while not assigning as much blame to Green, agreed that the district’s top priority now should be a rigorous assessment of leadership at every school, with a view toward identifying the buildings with the most “difficulties and challenges.”

Administrators, she said, should know “where every student should be at specific times.”

(Allow me to offer an aside: How is possible that one or more students are unaccounted for long enough and often enough to sexually assault a girl many times during the course of a month?)  

Like Mansur, Hartsfield said it was imperative that the district establish a safe environment for its students.

“That’s our responsibility,” she said. “Once we take them in (to the district), we have to develop the capacity to provide safety for them.”

She also pointed out that some students, such as the girl with autism, need more oversight and protection than others.


It’s a sorry commentary on the district and on Green as the top administrator that at least one Kansas City public school — and probably a few more — still feel unsafe when you walk through the doors.

It will be up to the next school board to demand that Green insure that every school has an environment where parents don’t have to worry about their children becoming crime victims while in their school buildings.

Is that too much to ask?



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