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Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

Your view: Actions taken

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

To: The owners of cemetery plots at the Garden of Memories and Memorial Park Cemeteries, Sikeston, Mo.

The people of Sikeston can be justly proud of the action taken by the Sikeston City Council consisting of Mayor Mike Marshall, Jim Terrell, Jerry Pullum, Sue Rogers and David Teachout, as well as City Manager Doug Friend in their efforts to resolve the cemetery issue. Joseph Blanton of the Blanton Law Firm, Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden and Circuit Judge David Dolan have also demonstrated how much they care and proved themselves to be invaluable in their attempt to resolve the apparent abandonment of our loved ones' grave sites.

FIRST, on Sept. 16, Mayor Mike Marshall and City Manager Doug Friend, acting on behalf of the entire Sikeston City Council and representing the people of Sikeston, filed an official complaint against Michael Graham and Associates with Missouri Attorney General Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon. The complaint reads: "Michael Graham & Associates have failed to mow, weed-eat and adequately maintain the Garden of Memories and Memorial Park Cemetery for the past several months. Weeds and grass in some areas exceed five feet. For this reason, the Sikeston City council directed the City crews to provide for maintenance. The first mowing has been completed and Michael Graham & Associates have been billed $8,535 for the service. Failure of Michael Graham & Associates to pay the invoice will result in a tax lien against the properties."

SECOND, The City Council voted unanimously to address the problem on Sept. 6. The very next morning at 7:30 a.m., City Manager Doug Friend moved quickly and directed the immediate remediation, as voted upon by the council. City employees worked three days to clean up the Garden of Memories and four days to clean up the Memorial Park. Doug charged them for the man-hours, as well as the use of the riding lawn mowers, tractors, weed-eaters, pick-up trucks and a one-ton truck. The enormity of the task listed above gives those of you who may not have visited the cemeteries an idea of just how much the cemeteries needed attention. Today, thanks to the City Council, the City Manager and city employees, the cemetery looks a whole lot better than they did prior to Sept. 6. The quick action of the City Council, along with corresponding in-tandem reaction by the City Manager, shows how well our charter form of government works on behalf of everyday citizenry. I am genuinely proud of each one of them.

THIRD, the City of Sikeston sent letters to Gov. Matt Blunt, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, Senator Christopher Bond, Senator Jim Talent, State Senator Jason Crowell, State Senator Maida Coleman and State Representative Peter Myers. Each of the letter state in part: "The Sikeston City Council wishes to express our outrage regarding the management and maintenance practices of Michael Graham & Associates as they pertain to the Garden of Memories Cemetery and Memorial Park Cemetery in the City of Sikeston." The letter goes on to state that, "something needs to be done to protect our citizens and honor those who have passed before us." The letter is signed by Mike Marshall, Mayor, city of Sikeston.

FOURTH, on Friday, Aug. 25, the Blanton Law firm of Sikeston, filed a class action suit in the Scott County Circuit Court against the companies and persons associated with ownership and operation of the Sikeston Garden of Memories Cemetery, Sikeston Memorial Park Cemetery and Forest Hills Cemetery in Morley. Lead counsel for the Class Action Lawsuit is Joseph C. Blanton Jr. and John E. Cozean. Again, a big thank you is due the Blanton law firm from each one of us in trying to find a permanent solution to this problem.

FIFTH, in addition Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden has said, "We're gathering all the information we can on Mike Graham and his associates that are associated with these particular cemeteries. Since they have a record of doing this in other states, it seems to me they have prior knowledge and intent to defraud people." As reported in the Sept. 12 issue of the Sikeston Standard-Democrat: "Information will be presented to the prosecuting attorney's office 'to see if they'd be interested in filing charges on theft by deceit'," Juden said.

SIXTH, on Wednesday, Sept. 14, Circuit Judge David Dolan ordered a preliminary injunction to prevent the transfer of assets from the Garden of Memories and Memorial Park cemeteries in Sikeston and the Forest Hills Cemetery in Morley, outside the ordinary course of business during a hearing according to Joseph C. Blanton Jr., as reported in the Sept. 15 issue of the Standard-Democrat.

We are, indeed, fortunate to have these local leaders listed above working so hard to remedy this problem. It is so easy to send a than-you card to each one of them and even easier to pick up the telephone and let each one of them know that you appreciate their efforts. As for myself, I can only wish that each one of these local leaders were in greater positions of power because they have proven themselves worthy to be called mayor, councilmen and women, public safety director, attorney, judge and most of all caring friends.

Remember my fellow Sikestonians, that old saying, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for a few good men and women to do nothing." Let not any of us be counted among those who did nothing.

Respectfully supporting those who fight for the honor of those who have given so much and expect only that their final resting place be honored,

Buck Smith