Scott Co. prosecutor says school official will resign

Thursday, August 17, 2006

At issue was whether the board member met the state's residency requirement.

Scott County Central school board member Eric Kesler will step down by Friday amid evidence that he didn't meet the state's residency requirement, Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd said Wednesday.

In a faxed, one-sentence statement to the Southeast Missourian, Boyd said he expects Kesler's resignation by the end of business Friday. Boyd also wrote that he would have "no further comment" on the matter.

Boyd's announcement came in response to an initial investigation by the Missouri attorney general's office into the residency issue.

"He has assured us he is going to handle it," John Fougere, a spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon, said Wednesday morning, more than six hours before Boyd's announcement.

The issue of Kesler's residency initially was raised in a Southeast Missourian article in June. In July, the Missouri attorney general's office received a written complaint and assigned the case to an investigator.

Kesler's resignation would clear the way for the school board to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next school board election, according to state law. At the next election, voters would elect a candidate to fill the remainder of the unexpired term.

Before the appointment can be made, the board must publish a notice in the newspaper advertising the vacancy and stating that interested people must file an application with the secretary of the board of education.

The appointment must be made and voted on in open session, according to the Missouri School Boards' Association.

Under state law, the attorney general's office or the local prosecutor can investigate and decide whether to go to court to disqualify an individual from serving on a local school board.

Kesler, a Scott County farmer, was elected to the school board in April.

School officials said the residency issue surfaced before that election but was never resolved. Superintendent Joby Holland said in June that he stopped looking into the matter after the school district'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.

Since that public comment, Holland has been silent on the issue. He hasn't returned repeated telephone calls to his office and home.

Neither has Kesler, who has remained publicly silent on the issue.

State law requires school board members to reside within the boundaries of their school district.

County tax records for 2005 show that Kesler paid his real estate taxes to the neighboring Oran School District but personal property taxes on his vehicles to the Scott County Central School District.

An anonymous letter to the Southeast Missourian claimed Kesler's home is in the Oran School District but less than a mile from the Scott County Central boundary.

A telephone directory lists Kesler and his wife, Kim, as living at 728 Scott County Highway 447. Their mailing address has an Oran ZIP code.

335-6611, extension 123

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