Jackson County Legislator James Tindall withdraws from August primary because of felony conviction

04/08/2014 7:03 PM

04/08/2014 7:03 PM

Jackson County Legislator James Tindall has withdrawn his name from the August primary ballot after renewed assertions that his 1999 felony conviction disqualifies him from holding public office.

His criminal record could also lead to his removal from office before he can finish out his term, which ends Dec. 31, according to a challenger.

Tindall referred a reporter’s questions to his attorney, Pat McInerney, who said he would comment later.

Tindall’s status has been in doubt since he was elected in 2006 to the first of two terms in this, his second stint on the county legislature. Previously, Tindall served 14 years on the county governing board before resigning in 1996 amid the cloud of a federal investigation.

Three years later, he was convicted of federal tax fraud, which is a felony.

State law forbids felons from holding elected office. His challenger in the 2006 and 2010 elections raised the issue but took no legal action.

But last week one of Tindall’s two challengers in the Democratic primary filed a lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court, alleging that Tindall’s felony conviction disqualified him from office. A group of petitioners also filed complaints with Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and the secretary of state’s office, which has no jurisdiction.

Zachary Berkstresser, a 27-year-old law student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said the statutes plainly state that felons cannot hold office.

He said he was surprised that neither Peters Baker, nor her precedessor, James Kanatzar, challenged Tindall’s status previously.

A spokesman for Peters Baker declined to comment on that issue or whether she will take steps to remove Tindall from his seat.

A few years ago, there was doubt over the legality of the Missouri statute disqualifying felons.

In 2006, a circuit judge dismissed a lawsuit attempting to bar then-Jackson County Legislature chairman Henry Rizzo from the ballot.

The judge in that case cited several reasons, including a Missouri Supreme Court decision that ruled unconstitutional on procedural grounds a section of a law that barred those with federal convictions from running for office.

However, since that decision it was discovered that the same language was in yet another law, which is still in force and has not been challenged.

It says felons cannot run for office or hold office, but it has not been challenged.

Tindall is head pastor of Metropolitan Spiritual Church of Christ in Kansas City. Last May, Tindall acknowledged that he had requested a federal pardon but said it was only for personal reasons and had no bearing on his ability to serve in office.

With Tindall out of the race, Berkstresser’s lone opponent in the primary is attorney Alfred B. Jordon. However, a quirk in Missouri law could allow others to enter the race after the filing deadline, which was March 25.

Beginning Wednesday, new candidates can file for office with the clerk of the Jackson County Legislature. That window closes next Tuesday at 5 p.m.

No one from an opposing party has filed.

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