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Care of Hammons' health, business in question

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The state’s official senior advocate is seeking information regarding Springfield community leader and longtime businessman John Q. Hammons.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder issued a statement Oct. 29 urging citizens to contact his office with information regarding the 91-year-old philanthropist and hotelier following a staff shakeup at the Springfield hotel firm.

Friends of Hammons contacted Kinder’s office regarding his care and the conduct of his businesses, according to the statement. Gary McElyea, spokesman for Kinder’s office, declined to identify who contacted the lieutenant governor’s office.

“The concerns we have received lead us to believe that we should look into this – these specific circumstances regarding Mr. Hammons’ condition as well as those with his business dealings,” McElyea said in a telephone interview. “We are making no allegations toward anybody connected to Mr. Hammons. In this case, we believe that concerns are very valid and worth looking into much closer in the coming days.”

McElyea refused to elaborate on the concerns.

Details continue to emerge regarding job cuts at Springfield’s John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts.

A pair of executives, Scott Tarwater, executive vice president of development, and Steve Minton, senior vice president of architecture, was among those let go, according to company officials.
Tarwater on Oct. 22 referred Springfield Business Journal’s questions about his dismissal to Kent Foster, JQH vice president of human resources.

“Mr. Tarwater decided he wanted to pursue other interests,” Foster said Monday. “He didn’t share if they were in the industry.”

As of Oct. 29, four corporate job openings were listed at www.jqhhotels.com – regional vice president; internal auditor; vice president-sales and revenue strategies; and vice president-capital planning and asset management.

No timeline has been set for findings from the information sent to Kinder’s office regarding Hammons.

“I think that we will definitely be receiving information over the weekend. Early next week, we’ll be examining and hopefully speaking with sources of authority in this situation,” McElyea said. “If and when necessary, we’ll be looking at the appropriate authorities to pass information on to.
Right now, our intent at this time and our mission is to gather facts and the concerns that have been voiced to our office. After examining those facts, we’ll be able to make a decision as to how best to move forward.”

McElyea emphasized that Kinder’s office is not considering its work an investigation.

“We’re simply trying to generate more information, and ask that people close to Mr. Hammons or close to the company who have more information regarding this situation to contact us so that we can have a better understanding of the care Mr. Hammons was receiving.”

Among media reports that have surfaced in recent days, KOLR-10 footage would indicate Hammons is staying at the senior care facility Manor at Elfindale, but the report did not identify the center.

Reached by telephone today, Manor at Elfindale Administrator Matt Gould would neither confirm nor deny whether Hammons was a resident, citing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations.  

Foster said the company will have no official statement regarding the firings until Monday, when Justin Harris, company senior vice president and general counsel, approves the statement.

Tarwater represented JQH Hotels on the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors and selection committee for study to determine the best use for 1.7 acres downtown.

Negotiations between Hammons and the city of Springfield to build a hotel on the site stalled in September.

Recent hotel projects in other cities by Hammons broke down due to the sluggish economy, including Colorado Springs, Wilmington, N.C., Denton, Texas, and Osage Beach.

Hammons is a lifetime member of the Drury University board of trustees, a position he has held since 2005, according to Todd Parnell, Drury president.

However, Parnell said he is not an active board member and hasn’t attended a meeting in some time.

Parnell said the last time he spoke with Hammons was at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet Jan. 31.

“I had a nice conversation with Mr. Hammons. He was very alert and enjoyable to visit with,” Parnell said.

Hammons serves in a similar position on the Ozarks Technical Community College Foundation board but as with Drury, seldom attends the meetings, said Hal Higdon, OTC president.

“It’s been a year or so since I’ve talked with him,” Higdon said. “He was a contributor to college in its early years, and we have a lot of warm feelings toward Mr. Hammons.”

Anyone with information regarding Hammons is encouraged to contact Kinder’s office at (573) 751-4727 or call the state's senior hotline number: (800) 392-0210.[[In-content Ad]]

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