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GOP Chair Under Attack Again

November 22, 1995
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - For the second time this month, State Republican Chairman and M.U. Curator John "Woody" Cozad has run into problems with legal requirements as a curator.

Just weeks after the revelation that Tenet Healthcare Corp. is a client of Cozad's Kansas City law firm, state Democrats revealed that Cozad was more than six months late in filing a financial-disclosure statement required of many state officials.

"Ever since Woody Cozad was appointed to the Board of Curators in 1991, he managed to file his personal financial disclosure statement on time," Richard Martin, executive director of the state Democratic party, was quoted as saying in a press release. "Why is it that this time he waited until six-and-a-half months had passed before he turned it in? Is there something he needs to hide?"

During a telephone interview on Tuesday, Cozad said he simply forgot about the financial disclosure form. "It simply fell through the cracks," he said.

Cozad said that once he remembered the form last week, he sent it to the state's Ethics Commission by overnight mail, "before someone tried to make political football out of it like the Democratic party."

Normally, the Ethics Commission sends notices to those who haven't filed their reports after the May 1 deadline. But Cozad didn't get such a reminder, said Marion Sinnett, the commission's administrative secretary.

The reason -- the University of Missouri didn't include the curators' names in its list of who would need to file the disclosure form, Sinnett said.

The financial disclosure form helps keep track of expenditures that might influence the curators in their job performance. Curators and other public officials are required to file the reports annually.

Missouri's Ethics Law requires curators to file the financial interest statement by May 1 of every year. Cozad's was federal expressed overnight on Nov. 17. State law imposes a fine of $10-per-day fine for late filing of some types of disclosure statements.

That would amount to a $2000 fine, but Cozad said he did not think he owed a late-filing fee.

"It's unfortunate that he did not comply with the law," said Chris Sifford, spokesman for Gov. Mel Carnahan. "We expect higher standards from our curators."

Curator Fred Hall Jr., the board's vice president, said that there will be no ouster proceeding for Cozad's actions.

"It's each individual curator's problem," he said. "I don't see it as a problem for the board as a whole."

Sinnet said that of the 8,000 or so required to file the personal financial disclosure reports, approximately 300-400 filed late. This is the first year that the late fees will be used, he said.

The curators' president, Adam Fischer of Sedalia, said that the penalties for not complying with the law don't extend any further than the fine. "So there's no basis for the board to act."

Hall said that every year, the board's attorney, Bob Ross, reminds the curators file the disclosure statement on time. Hall said he received his reminder on March 22 -- more than one month before the May 1 deadline.

"As a matter of routine we mail a letter and forms to the curators," Ross said.

Cozad said that he, too, received the memo in March.

As for the fine, Cozad said he the only ones who have asked him to pay are members of the Democratic party.