Scott County prosecutor or state can investigate school officia

Saturday, June 24, 2006

But that can only be done if someone files a written complaint.

The Missouri attorney general's office or the Scott County prosecuting attorney could investigate whether to go to court to disqualify a Scott County farmer from serving on a local school board for apparently not meeting the state residency requirement.

But first a written complaint would have to be filed with the attorney general or the local prosecutor. Under state law, local and state prosecutors have a duty to investigate such a complaint, the attorney general's office said.

Anyone can file the complaint and it doesn't have to be signed, said John Fougere, a spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Scott County prosecutor Paul Boyd declined immediate comment on the issue Friday afternoon.

The residency issue was raised in a Southeast Missourian article. But that doesn't constitute a formal complaint, Fougere said. "Information has to be submitted before we can begin to look into it," he said.

Scott County farmer Eric Kesler, whose eligibility is in question, was elected to the Scott County Central school board in April.

School officials said the residency issue surfaced before the April election but was never resolved.

Superintendent Joby Holland said he stopped looking into the matter after the school's lawyer told him that he had no legal responsibility to determine whether a school board candidate or member met the state's residency requirement.

An official of the Missouri School Boards' Association says state law requires school board members to be "resident taxpayers." That means they must live within the school district, said Susan Goldammer, senior director of school law for the association.

County tax records show that Kesler's house at 728 Scott County Highway 447 is in the neighboring Oran School District, Scott County Assessor Teresa Houchin said. County Collector Mark Hensley said Kesler paid 2005 real estate taxes to the Oran School District and personal property taxes on vehicles to the Scott County Central School District.

Fougere said the ultimate decision on disqualifying any board member from office would rest with a circuit judge.

Even if it is found that Kesler was ineligible to serve on the board, his past votes as a board member would stand, Fougere said.

Kesler hasn't commented publicly on the issue. Repeated messages left on his answering machine by a Southeast Missourian reporter haven't been returned.

His wife, Kim, is employed as a special education teacher in the Scott County Central School District.

335-6611, extension 123

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