Do not Pass Go - Do not get the opportunity to defend your honor

Gary Groman, the most visible writer in the region slandered me in his online newspaper while I was imprisoned for failing to appear before the 38th circuit. My response is posted below. He calls himself the Ole Seagull - a bird that poops on people while they're eating lunch. An Old Seagull has especially good aim.

So there I was chillin’ with the governor (my yearlong goal) hours before I’d be taken away by order of the 38th circuit court.

Before honor comes humility and blatant disregard for a requested presence with a 38th Circuit Judge can land you in a place a Tijuana jailer would be ashamed of. Thus my lack of posts on my blog the last couple of weeks.

They say a good man gets knocked down six times and rises seven.

For now, I'm very tired having walked from the cliffs of Hollister - across the Taneycomo Bridge - to the landing - the length of 76 boulevard - then Green Mountain Drive to Pointe Royal where I met with Kid Future, Gary Groman and Branson’s Mayor.

I began walking at 4:30 AM this morning and arrived at 7:00 AM just in time to have coffee with Gary Groman the Ole Seagull (a local political pundit) and the Mayor.

I go to great lengths seeking truth- pay everything I have to get it – sell it for no price and share it freely.

I'm grateful to have the opportunity to respond and defend my honor after Gary Groman – the Ole Seagull – “Champion of Higher Taxes” took the opportunity while I was knocked down to lay an aggressive assault on my character. I'm equally grateful to have friends - many of you - who told me of this post.

As practice, I make myself visible both in the community and on-line. I maintain accountability for what I write and use a singular handle. I have never hid from correction and post criticism on my websites as long as appropriate language is used – especially if the author discloses their identity. I give even my enemies a voice.

Thank you citizens of Taney County for wisely casting your vote on Proposition A. Some really good creative energy that those trying to pass the tax invested will not be wasted. I personally believe that refinement of some interesting ideas proposed (though not in the proper manner) through work sessions could benefit the community. In this, I include ideas submitted in work sessions involving Vonda Sheets, a reporter for Ozark Mountain Newspapers and Donna Clevenger who coresponds for the Branson Daily News.

I strongly objected to the tax. Branson’s official city minutes read:

“Darin Codon, P.O. Box 2065, Branson, Missouri, stated he has been following this county tax
proposal and he feels there are some major issues in this county that need to be addressed. He said
this special interest tax upsets him because he knows there are a limited amount of funds and the levy
can not continue to be put on the backs of the people. He said the transportation aspect was needed
and was a good aspect to the proposal but Proposition A as a whole (sic)provides little or no economic value to the county. He also
added there are some very serious problems in the community that needs to be looked at that could
destroy the tourist economy and one of them is the Meth problem. He said he has looked at some stats
which show us as number one in the region. He said this is the wrong tax, at the wrong time. “

(Proposition A was inserted to avoid confusion)

Vonda Sheets and Donna Clevenger were negotiating for the tax as a representative of a private psuedo-government entity called the White River Valley Historical Society. It evolved through a multi-month process. I called it snake oil reporting – again I elaborate on this website lengthily and hold a great grudge against the Springfield Newsleader for giving the issue no coverage.

I have accused them of simultaneously lobbying for money and writing for the paper promoting the Tax. It’s my belief that citizens weren’t getting a fair shake nor were their actions helping us remain “free and self governed.” I believe the public deserved better and that Sheets and Clevenger should adhere to the basic standards prescribed by the Professional Journalism Society’s Code of Ethics - especially when they're being published on the front page of the newspaper.

I frequently discuss this concern and try to practice it. I’m not perfect, but seek perfection and see reporting as an awesome responsibility – I take this very seriously and the part of the code which demands we fulfill a moral obligation by calling out infractions when the code of ethics are violated. I hated writing it, but after a month of what I have labeled misrepresentative reporting I didn’t feel I had another choice.

A discouraging post was created by Vonda Sheets (she didn't publish her name directly hiding behind an alias “SheIsIndependent.”

I've written extensively on the topic which I dubbed [URL=""]Branson Mediagate.[/URL]

To summate: There is universally accepted journalistic code of ethics (Society of Professional Journalists Elaborates) the community expects from reporters – Below are links to adaptations by three different media outlets. Al Jezeera adopted the most lenient guidelines with the minimum standards.

A few of adaptations of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics as applied to journalists.
Business Week
Al Jezeera

The idea is that you want your reporters to be interested in telling you the truth and not beholden to any other interest - a violation of this standard will get you fired from any major publication. It seems to me – from firsthand experience - in Branson, following it could get you fired. How sad for the citizens.

Gary very elegantly asked a question to the public begging “Did Darin Codon lie about the old Seagull.” Of course, I did not. It’s not uncommon for Gary Groman to edit and delete sections of writers posts so I’ve opted to place this article here – the only way I can be assured my work will be maintained with integrity.

Let’s look shall we?

“Groman had the audacity to ask me if I thought corruption was involved with the creation of the tax - to which I answer patently, thoroughly, by definition.”

(In the article the dictionary definition of corruption is posted)

Did Groman ask the question? If he did I’m innocent. If Gary didn’t I have an error which deserves correction.

Proposition A - was created for and by the corrupt. (Darin Codon)

Gary Groman responded, “Wish it had been handled differently but isn't that a bit strong?)

This is what he wrote after I posted 14 articles elaborating on the activities of Sheets and Clevenger. Since Gary Groman published articles citing terms posted on this website we can assume Groman reads this site (though he doesn't always site his source - we're glad to help Gary so he can better serve the public)

I stated, "Groman wants us to ignore the corrupt and underhanded methods used to illicit public support for a tax levy created by and for special interests and ignoring Taney Counties most needy."

Gary elaborates on the issue in a previous article citing “appearance created” in a 13 point endorsement of an economic development tax in Taney County.

My assumption is based off the statement “he would recommend ignoring what has happened up to this point.” I assumed Gary Groman was stating “he recommends ignoring (insert whatever gave an “appearance” of something shady) We’re assuming Gary means “appearance” of something that wasn’t right and that we should trust the commissioners --- because……(he didn't insert a reason).”

I believe the official record is very clear in what I mean when I say “most needy” and the lengthy posts on Proposition A as covered in the 14 article series called Branson Mediagate clearly elaborate on my position.

We have serious issues and it’s my belief that we need to fund the “Departments of Saving Lives” before the “Department of Fun and Games” The citizens apparently agreed and while some tax proposals passed on Nov. 6th Proposition A was not.

I understand Gary’s anger. I called him out for taking a hard left turn relating to his stance on taxes. I called him out on several counts and have a couple major concerns which will be addressed shortly. Unfortunately, Gary's website at times seems like more of a dictatorship than a democracy. Gary reserves the right to edit posts and break rules at will for his own purposes whenever he sees fit.

I would encourage readers to follow the timeline of my posts on Proposition A ( and the verbiage entered into the dialogue regarding Proposition A by Gary Groman.

I would encourage Gary to read the Professional Journalist Code of Ethics and more importantly encourage Gary to promote the standards and encourage others to do the same.

I acted slowly – not quick to anger - hoping the journalists covering the issue of a new tax levy would change their ways and disclose their participation in creating the tax long before any names were mentioned.

It seemed the temptation to endorse the tax was greater than the responsibility of educating the public about it. This is my opinion and a slew of stories published by Ozark Mountain Newspapers (not published here) gives great clarity to the motivation behind the journalists addressing the topic.

As officers of an organization lobbying for tax funds disclosure should have been given as a minimum instead of speaking about an organization they control as if it were a third party they have no affiliation with.

It would be fair to assume that the writer isn’t benefiting directly by having their hobby financed on the tax payer dime. Don’t the citizens deserve that?

Proposition A is the first issue I’ve ever taken a stance on. I felt obligated to say something even though it wasn’t popular and could cause me great harm. I hated having to attack the powerful and oppressive press in Taney County , but I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do. I had a moral obligation. As you can see from my posts I feared the "corruption tax" would pass because due to an uninformed public and

Ordinarily, I like to cut out windows for the public to view their government – (elected for and by them). But the best I could do in this case was create a reflection.

Of course it harmed me- read the posts on this site, I had to take on a band of multi-millionaire politicos in an incestuous political community. Do you think I wanted the nightmare of the repercussions ? Do you think I wanted to criticize individuals far more powerful than myself?

I hope my writing has given perspective, increased awareness and provoked thought. I hope I will be remembered as one who took the cause of the helpless; - who stood up for what he believed was right even when bullies tried to terrorize him.

After I pass – in my professional life – I hope to be viewed as a Government Watchdog instead of a Government Lapdog. I hope I can stand up as someone who was fair and told both sides of the story.

After many many warnings to the journalists I accused of violated the code of ethics - I came out…..and came hard against Proposition A. I believe the information I shared helped Gary Groman – the ole seagull - compile material while he was writing for the paper. I believe I did.

With Proposition A, a one side of the story was being told repeatedly in two publications – one of which Gary – “gains his silver from”.

I took the other side to try and balance out the dialogue. I went hard – maybe too hard.

The newspaper’s stance on taxes has been followed by voters in several of our last elections.

Gary Groman’s endorsements for public office were also followed…repeatedly. A politician once asked me – “Do you think it’s possible to beat Gary Groman in an election?”

How sad.

I believe there are two sides to most stories when conflict is involved and taxes are always categorized as a conflict issue. Citizens can only be taxed so much and when taxes are allocated the governments priorities are solidified. It’s like a game of Jinga – you can only pull so many pieces out of a free market economy before it collapses.

I believe we need to consider the least of our citizens first – before special interests.

It seemed to me, after a dozen articles were posted by area publications – without disclosure of the journalist’s direct affiliation with an entity benefiting from the tax – great damage was done. It’s disrespectful in the most heinous way to the process of democracy and the expectation of the public. I believe this with all my heart.

I went to jail a couple weeks ago for missing appointments with a judge. I confided that I had missed the appointment with an attorney. The same attorney alerted Groman, perhaps to gain favor when he looked at the court docket and found I was incarcerated for failure to appear.

I believe, in America, a man/woman has the right to a trial before he/she is convicted. The thread assumes I’m guilty; though my plea before the judge is one of innocence.

Back to ethics. Can someone here cite the Associated Press recommendations for handling a divorce? It’s pretty clear.

A woman posts above that ” I’ve paid a debt”. By reading the ramblings of Gary’s lapdogs, one would assume that I’m guilty of a crime. What crime was I convicted of?

Perhaps, an attorney among us can clarify the difference between being accused and convicted and elaborate which category my case falls into.

Thank God we live in country where one is tried before convicted – it’s drafted by our forefathers into the constitution. It’s pretty important for a darn good reason.

Psst…Gary, which “crafter of words” which Taney County reporter understands the Missouri court system best?

Vonda Sheets – a newspaper reporter - found great joy in my incarceration for failing to appear and wished that I had spent more time in a place where I watched a man beaten for a sandwich. Hmmm. I’m sorry you feel that way Vonda but am happy I could bring some joy to you in your life.

To Vonda Sheets:

More importantly Vonda, I hope you consider the importance of your work as a journalist as a historian and as a participant in democracy. There is no greater role you have than giving us the information we need to be free and self governed. You have additional responsibilities as a custodian of fact and to disclose your affiliations. If you fall short, I’ll be there to make sure the work is done to the best of my ability. Our future depends on it.

As God as my witness, I never wanted to battle one as powerful as you. In the confines of the newspaper offices, I learned of your wrath well. I learned what it meant to be assigned to a position you once held and just how cruel you and your friends could be. I only won that spot because I worked harder, was fairer to public officials and was bolder in my pursuit of truth.

May democracy win.

I could be wrong – perhaps like the sign said over the Taneycomo bridge (the sign falsely represented the tax proposal might “build a bridge” – the printed slogan though the crafters of the tax designed the proposal in such a way that no fiscal responsibility to build a bridge was entailed.

I figure after 100 stories published through 6 media outlets that I’ve earned the right to call myself a journalist – Gary challenges the notion. If I’m not, I hope those greater than I can teach me what journalism is. I’m ready and willing to listen.

To Gary:
You’re a great writer Gary, I hope I’ve inspired passion in you. Vonda, you too are an extremely talented wordsmith and may your liberal sprinklings remain a joy to the downtrodden.

For the rest of you, I hope the three years I’ve posted video, pictures and editorial have benefited and/or enlightened you in some way. At least, I hope I’ve entertained you.

May freedom endure and the prison walls that contain us both seen and unseen be shattered.