The Jackson County prosecutor’s office is reviewing a complaint that a member of the Hickman Mills school board may be violating state statute because he no longer lives in the district.
The prosecutor’s office received the complaint this week but did not reveal who made it. A section of the law gives the county prosecutor jurisdiction to force the removal of someone from a Missouri district school board if he or she is found to be illegally holding the post.
Hickman Mills school board member Dan Osman recently informed his fellows that as of July, he had moved out of the district, to Kansas, but continues to own, maintain and pay taxes on his former home.
In his letter to the board, Osman, 39 and a Kansas City lawyer, said, “It is my intention — and my desire — to remain on the board through the remainder of my current term, which ends in April 2017.”
Osman said he believes that continuing on the board under his current residency status is “permissible,” because Missouri statue only lays out rules for potential board candidates but does not address residency criteria for sitting board members.
Osman said he wrote the letter to be proactive and “in the interest of full disclosure.” He added, too, that “if it is the will of my fellow board members, I will reluctantly tender my resignation from the board.”
Osman said that when he told board members last week about moving, “there were no objections to me remaining on the board,” he said.
Ruth Terrell, a district spokeswoman, said board members were “OK” with Osman living in Kansas and remaining on the board as long as no Missouri statute was being violated. She said the district’s attorney had reviewed the matter and assured board members no laws were being broken.
But this week, half the board may have changed opinion about the situation.
The issue seems to have split the seven-member board, with three members siding with Osman’s wish to remain on the board and three board members, in a letter addressed to district Superintendent Dennis Carpenter, calling for Osman to resign. The superintendent serves at the will of the board and has no power to force a board member to resign.
According to information on the Missouri School Boards’ Association website, Missouri statute requires school board candidates “to be a citizen of the United States, a resident taxpayer of the district, a resident of Missouri for one year next preceding the election, and 24 years of age.”
Several districts, including Kansas City and Lee’s Summit in this area, require that board members be “voters of the district” rather than “resident taxpayers.”
The statute goes on to say that the “resident” part of “resident taxpayer” is not ambiguous. Individuals must reside within the district in order to run for the board; simply owning land within the district’s boundaries is not enough.
Osman was living in the district when he ran and was elected to the position in 2011. He said he’s certain he could not run for re-election to the board now that he’s moved, but “I’m willing and able to remain on the board or leave if that is what is best for the district.”
The board will take up the issue at its next public work session Sept. 15.