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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Board member asks for more time

Friday, August 18, 2006

SIKESTON -- Scott County Central school board member Eric Kesler asked the board for its support and a couple more days to further explore avenues after the state concluded he didn't live in the school district.

Board members granted Kesler his request during a closed executive session Thursday evening.

"The board is unanimously supportive of him. He had no hidden agenda -- he just wants to give back to the community where he comes from," Dr. Joby Holland, superintendent, said.

Following discussions with Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd and the Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon's office, Kesler told the board he will make a decision about whether or not to resign from the board by next week.

"Scott Central means a lot to him, but at the same time, he doesn't want to give the school any bad publicity," Holland said.

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

An investigation by the state attorney general's office determined Kesler, who lives in rural Scott County, lived in the Oran school district and not the Scott County Central school district.

"It wasn't like he was trying to sneak around," Holland said about Kesler filing for candidacy.

Kesler's physical address is Oran, but he paid his personal property taxes in the Scott County School District. Kesler, a Scott County farmer, graduated from Scott County Central High School. His wife teaches at Scott County Central and their children attend school there as a result of that, Holland said.

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

Holland said he knows who filed the complaint but wouldn't name the individual. However, Holland would say it isn't anyone involved in the community or education.

Kesler was elected to the school board in April after receiving the second highest number of votes of the six candidates seeking office.

The question of whether or not Kesler lived in the district arose within the community before the election, but no conclusion was ever made, Holland said.

"He was, at the same time, elected by the people, and they voted for him -- not because he lived in Haywood City or in the district but because he was Eric Kesler, and they all know him," Holland said.

Holland pointed out anyone can run for a school board election. The courthouse certifies a candidate's eligibility, not a school district, he said.

"It's really something that's out of my hands and out of the school district's hands. Anybody that runs for school board is eligible to run, and we can't say if they can or can't," Holland explained.

If a complaint wouldn't have been filed, Kesler's residency wouldn't be an issue for the district, Holland said. Similar situations like this have occurred in other school districts with different results, he added.

"It's happened in other districts; and the board member was allowed to stay on there," Holland said.

State law says the attorney general's office or local prosecuting attorney can investigate and decide whether to disqualify an individual from serving on a local school board.

"His intent is honest and good, and there's no ill intent to Scott Central," Holland said about Kesler.

Holland said more will be known next week. If Kesler does decide to resign, the six remaining members would appoint a new one to fill the remainder of his term until the next school board election.

"There's no big pay off for him, and he's not out to harm Scott Central," Holland said about Kesler. "The district means a lot to him, and he's as black and orange as anybody."

And as good as that is, rules are rules.

"The bottom line is he doesn't live in the district," Holland said.