Shane Schoeller's questionable fee office contract
The Kansas City Star
Shane Schoeller’s explanations for his family’s involvement in a no-bid contract while he served as a state legislator are weak, at best.
Schoeller’s opponent in the Missouri secretary of state race, Kansas City Democrat Jason Kander, last week produced some fairly incendiary information about a fee office contract held by Schoeller’s wife.
Schoeller, a Republican from Willard, was serving in the Missouri legislature for three years while his wife ran the lucrative motor vehicle licensing office in Nixa. But a state statute forbids members of the General Assembly or their spouses from performing any service for the state “for any consideration” of more than $1,500 a year, unless the contract is gained through a public competitive bidding process.
John Hancock, Schoeller’s campaign spokesman, told The Kansas City Star that “the service office operated in full compliance with every law and rule,” and that audits and oversight from the Department of Revenue “raised no concerns about the high quality of service to the public.” But the performance of the office isn’t the point. The issue is whether Schoeller violated a state statute by serving in the General Assembly while his spouse profited financially from a state contract. And, although there’s been no official ruling on the matter, Kander makes a strong case that Schoeller was in violation.
Hancock, a former state legislator, also told The St. Louis Beacon that he remembered other lawmakers whose family members ran fee offices.
“My assumption is that it’s fairly commonplace – fairly common practice,” Hancock told the Beacon.
But just because other lawmakers may have gotten away some something doesn’t make it right. Schoeller is running for secretary of state, a job that requires integrity and an ability to be scrupulous about the rules and laws. The fee office contract calls that ability into question.
The time frame in question, from 2007 to 2009, is outside of the two-year window for the Missouri Ethics Commission to investigate. Schoeller’s campaign should ask for an independent opinion of the propriety of the contract.
The Schoeller campaign attempted to counter the fee office allegation with a suggestion that Kander obtained help from Gov. Jay Nixon to expunge a tax lien from his record.
But Kander came up with a letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue stating that the lien, in the amount of $349, was an error. The revenue department billed Kander on the mistaken assumption that he employed workers.
Not quite on the same level as having a spouse earn many thousands of dollars from a fee office contract that maybe, according to state law, she shouldn’t have had.
Nixon did the state a favor by getting rid of the patronage method of obtaining fee office contracts when he took office in 2009. Contracts are now awarded by competitive bids. Schoeller’s wife bid on the Nixa contract but lost out to a non-profit.