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POPLAR BLUFF – Last April’s City elections gave rise to a “new” group of largely dethroned leaders whose supporters coalesced to form a public group known as “Citizens For Poplar Bluff’s Future,” a group who pressed for “transparency” and “financial responsibility,” among other things (ironically, two of the very criteria that voters emphatically embraced in removing long-time incumbents and ultimately, their leader, former City Manager Doug Bagby).
Over the past months, SEMO TIMES has confirmed that Citizen’s for Poplar Bluff’s Future (CFPBF) was selectively allowing commentary, deleting comments from those with whom it disagreed, and even blocking some individuals who disagreed with its views from participating at all.
The group originally devoted to community-betterment and transparency also refused to disclose the identity of its Facebook managers/moderators. While taking a positive stance leading up to the selection of a new City Manager in Poplar Bluff, its mission quickly evolved to one dedicated to returning the City to the hands of those the voters sent home in April.
In researching the issue, the SEMO TIMES learned that local State Farm Insurance agent and Butler County Central Republican Committee leader, Eddy Justice, originally registered the website address (www.PoplarBluffsFuture.com) for CFPBF. Justice distanced himself as the group adopted an attacking posture toward the new City Council and City Manager. SEMO TIMES contacted other local leaders to discuss CFPBF and all denied involvement:
Eric Schalk – I am not [involved]. I signed as supporter of the cause but I have never posted or responded to any Facebook posting other than as Eric Schalk or Eric Schalk for TRC board.
Susan McVey – I am not involved in posting and or responding on Facebook as CPBF. No [I do not know who is].
Dr. Larry Kimbrow – I am NOT a supporter of the FB Page and do not know whose page it is.
Steve Halter – I have nothing to do with it. I have no idea who CFPBF is.
Over the past month, rumors began circulating that CFPBF’s Facebook leader was local banking executive, Matt Funke, Chief Financial Officer of Southern Bank.
On October 8th, SEMO TIMES obtained conclusive evidence that Funke was Citizens for Poplar Bluff’s Future manager.
On the 8th, CFPBF was engaged in a discussion with local citizen, Gretchen Thom:
I have been speaking to you, who ever you are, all morning about this very subject. Must I re-post the very article you posted this morning??? Why are all of your responses deleted and only my responses remain. I’m am so disappointed. [emphasis added]
Funke accidentally responded from his personal Facebook account to Ms. Thom in the discussion:
Ms. Thom, we are sorry that we have not met your standards for timeliness and discourse. The managers of this page have day jobs and cannot immediately reply to every comment. We mean no offense by the size of any word used. We will shortly address any further comments on the post from today.
Within seconds of the posting, Funke deleted his personal comment from CFPBF’s Facebook page. A short while later, a similar comment to Funke’s was re-posted, this time as CFPBF:
SEMO TIMES noted that Funke’s personal post stated “we are sorry” and “we mean no harm” and “we will reply” – all referring to himself as one of the managers of the CFPBF page.
SEMO TIMES questioned Funke specifically about the Citizens for Poplar Bluff’s Future. He responded with this quote:
I am not an administrator of this [CFPBF] page, and I never have been.
SEMO TIMES believes that those who are truly concerned with the future of Poplar Bluff would welcome input from all, not just from those who share their views.
Most importantly, those that have clean hands and good motives would not hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and Facebook. Or lie about it when they mistakenly out themselves.