Character Education Lesson in the Wentzville MO School Board Election: Gamble that Voters Won’t Discover the Truth About Candidate’s Felony Conviction?
The recent Missouri school board elections in Joplin and Wentzville districts show how important it is for the administration and unions to have representatives on the board representing their agendas which might not necessarily be the taxpayers’ agenda. Anne reported yesterday on the questionable tactics of Joplin Superintendent CJ Huff in personal Facebook postings regarding a school board candidate (who won the election last week) who he believed was not an appropriate candidate to become a board member. You can also read in the post about the numerous questionable expenditures made by the Joplin School Board under this superintendent.
For those of you not in the St. Louis suburban area, you may have missed the results of the Wentzville election in which the candidate receiving the most votes in a crowded field (seven running for two positions) has a felony conviction in Iowa. From Show-Me Daily and Election of Convicted Felon to Wentzville School Board Should Sound Alarm:
The letter to WNEA members, not made public before the election, may be found on the original post here. The post continues:
Apparently the group also removed posts about Feinstein from its Facebook page. However, the WNEA did not alert the public to the issue or to the fact that they dropped support. As voters drove to their polling places, they passed scores of WNEA-approved signs supporting Feinstein. Some claim WNEA representatives were even standing in front of polling places holding these signs.
Should it trouble Wentzville citizens that a newly elected school board member was convicted of a felony involving credit card theft and that the teacher’s union supporting the candidate did not inform the public when it discovered this conviction? Read about Michael Feinstein’s Iowa conviction in this 2004 article:
The former president of the Ottumwa Regional Health Foundation is being released from prison after serving little more than a month of a 10-year sentence for theft and forgery. Documents were filed last week releasing Michael Feinstein from the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale, where he was taken after his sentencing on March 29. The release was ordered by Judge Daniel Wilson, the same judge who handed down the sentence even though prosecutors had sought restitution, probation and a suspended sentence.
He must enter counseling and enroll in a gambling addiction program as part of his release.
The letter details Feinstein’s gambling history which began with dice and occasional sports betting at age 17, when he went to Las Vegas, Nev., with his father.
Feinstein’s gambling in recent years focused on sports betting and bookmaking, with fewer than 15 visits to casinos, the documents said.
His probation officer stated that he is a pathological gambler and the credit card theft was used for cash advances for casinos and betting. He also cashed in government bonds. There was concern that he involved other governmental employees in his theft of funds:
The investigation into the Feinstein case also led Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents to look into alleged connections to coaches at the Ottumwa school district, Indian Hills Community College and a county supervisor.
Ottumwa schools Superintendent Tom Rubel said an internal probe found no evidence that employees were involved in gambling at school. He said some people had been punished, but he gave no details.
Wapello County Supervisor Jerry Lee Parker pleaded guilty to a charge of bookmaking. His 30-day jail sentence was suspended, and he was fined $1,500.
Candidates must file paperwork when they run for school board office in Wentzville and below is a screen shot of what the candidates sign attesting to their lack of any felony conviction under Federal or Missouri law:
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on this school board election:
Missouri law sets a number of requirements for those who run for school boards. Candidates must live in the district they serve, for example. They must not be delinquent on taxes. They cannot be registered sex offenders.
“A candidate cannot have been convicted of, found guilty of or pled guilty to a felony under Missouri law,” says the Missouri School Boards’ Association’s guide for candidates. “Further, a candidate cannot have been found or pled guilty to a felony or misdemeanor under federal law.”
However, “a person convicted of a felony in another state can file as a candidate in Missouri as long as he or she has served the sentence and is not on probation for the crime.”
This article from Ottumwa, Ottumwa hospital thief wins Missouri school board seat contends that while Feinstein’s Iowa conviction did not preclude him from running for Wentzville School Board, many Wentzville taxpayers were quite concerned the Iowa felony conviction was withheld from them prior to the election. On the Facebook Wentzville School District site (mentioned in the article), this comment seemed to sum up many of the concerns voiced by the commenters:
Under Missouri law a candidate with an out of state felony is allowed to run. But in the TV interview itself last night, he said himself that he decided not to disclose it. I do wonder though.. what would’ve happened if this were one of the more conservative candidates? Not telling the voters something like this…. I have my suspicion WSD and NEA would’ve blown that up as big as they could. Folks the school board exists so that we, the parents and taxpayers will have local control over our school. It is our community asset. The problem is through deception, we ended up with a candidate that first off lied to us by omission, and secondly is willing to rubber stamp anything the NEA and administration would cry out for. We were deceived out of our representation by one or more folks, who insulted the intelligence of the voter, in thinking they just didn’t need to know about this. At least until after the election. The first in that group is one the newly elected. He seems like a smart guy, smart enough to know that being forthright and honest would cost him an election.
We received a comment the day after the election from a concerned Wentzville parent:
The Wentzville NEA held on to this information for a week and then quietly sent an email out to it’s members only the evening before the election. Yard signs were not removed and they never shared the information they had with the public. I had teachers texting me the night before and the morning of the election reminding me to vote for him. Many of my friends and neighbors work for the district. I love my kid’s teachers and would go down swinging for any one of them on a moment’s notice. I give my heart and soul to these schools….but when you ask me to vote for someone, I expect you to feel a moral obligation to me. This sort of information should be shared with those that you have worked so hard to influence. I personally did not vote for him so it wouldn’t have made a difference with me anyway, but I can’t help but feel misled and disrespected. It’s not up to them to decide whether or not I need to know this information. It’s not up to them to decide that this candidate is the lesser of two evils. It’s not up to them to decide whether or not his past is less important that what he can give to the district. As a registered voter, a tax payer, a stakeholder, THAT’S MY DECISION! I strongly believe that people can be reformed and forgiven and shown grace. We all need 2nd chances….but I deserved to have all the facts in front of me when I entered that polling booth. It stinks that your past has to be re-lived over and over, but when you make the choice to run for public office, that’s part of the deal. Be honest. Be forthright. Everyone loves a good story of a life changed….but you have to allow people to offer you a chance for redemption.
There’s just something very unauthentic about that chance being stolen. I don’t blame the WNEA or the WSD for not vetting him thoroughly. There is a major loophole in our system that allowed him to not share this information….but I absolutely blame them for their lack of integrity and transparency after they learned of it. It just feels really dirty. I’m just very, very, very, disappointed in whoever made the decision to keep this quiet. I thought we were better than this. I thought the people that I entrust my children with everyday, were better than this.
The Wentzville parent raises a very important point. Parents entrust their children to teachers and school board members to behave responsibly and display good character traits. Do you believe the WNEA and Mr. Feinstein behaved responsibly and displayed good character in the handling on this situation? Would you advise your children to handle a situation by not telling the truth and when the truth was discovered, to withhold the truth? Are these the same teachers instructing children in character education?
The roll of the dice and the gambling of Mr. Feinstein and the Wentzville NEA that the voters would not want to know the history of a board candidate is questionable decision making and worrisome for transparency to the voters.
Citizens who are concerned that this information was intentionally kept from them to make an informed voting decision should attend the next Board meeting at the Central Office on Thursday, April 16. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. If anyone would like to express themselves before the Board, please arrive about 30 minutes early to sign up to do so.