Government & Politics

Missouri attorney general investigating Frank White's personal financial dealings

See some of the baseball memorabilia Royals legend Frank White is selling

Frank White, the former Kansas City Royals great, has put about 70 items from his personal collection of baseball memorabilia up for sale through an online auction by Crown Sports Auctions in Lenexa.
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Frank White, the former Kansas City Royals great, has put about 70 items from his personal collection of baseball memorabilia up for sale through an online auction by Crown Sports Auctions in Lenexa.

An investigation into Jackson County Executive Frank White's personal financial dealings has been handed over to the Missouri Attorney General's office by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, The Star has learned.

This next chapter in the probe comes as White, the former Kansas City Royals great, has put a large portion of his personal collection of baseball memorabilia up for sale. Among the more notable items are his 1985 World Series trophy and 1980 Gold Glove Award statue, one of eight he won during an 18-year career in baseball's major leagues, all with the Royals.

The sale could net tens of thousands of dollars — the World Series trophy alone might bring as much as $15,000, the auctioneer says — for the former All-Star second baseman, who has acknowledged being under financial stress since breaking with the Royals organization seven years ago.

His troubles have included unpaid taxes and foreclosure notices on his Lee's Summit house. Baker has previously acknowledged an ongoing investigation into a transaction involving the home's mortgage.

Attorney General Josh Hawley's office confirmed Thursday that it was reviewing the matter.

"The matter was recently referred to our office. We intend to review it carefully," spokeswoman Mary Compton said.

Three times since he assumed county government's top job in 2016, White has seen his house on the verge of being sold at auction on the courthouse steps due to delinquent mortgage payments. It happened twice that year and most recently in April.

But it was White's rescue from the first of those foreclosure crises in April 2016 that drew Baker's attention. She began looking into it after The Star reported in December that, according to sources, White's mortgage deficit was erased with the help of a benefactor who has close ties to county government.

White's predecessor as the county's chief executive, Mike Sanders, arranged the meeting in Independence where the alleged bailout occurred the day before the foreclosure sale was to take place. A source with direct knowledge of that meeting said that Sanders' then-law partner Ken McClain provided an unknown amount to fund a loan to White and his wife, Teresa. But instead of lending the money directly, the source said, the funds were funneled to the Whites through a third party to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

McClain does business with the county, and the county's charter prohibits officers or employees from accepting "any service or thing of value, directly or indirectly, from any person, firm or corporation having dealings with the county, upon more favorable terms than those granted to the public generally."

White, Sanders and McClain have declined to comment on the meeting or any financial agreement regarding White's house, which the county appraiser says has a market value of $289,739.

Despite earning $145,000 a year from his county job and as much as $112,000 annually from his baseball pension, White's financial difficulties do not end there. As recently as 2015, he owed the federal government $80,000 in back income taxes, which he claims was a result of his unemployment after breaking up with the Royals in 2011.

He quit his front-office job that year rather than accept the pay cut that the Royals said was justified because his TV broadcasting duties on Royals games were taking time away from his obligations to the team. Then later that year, the TV job ended when Fox Sports Kansas City canceled his contract.

The financial impact was devastating, White said in the written statement he issued back in December, and he has refused to discuss his finances publicly since then.

"As many know, in 2011, I was let go by the Kansas City Royals," White wrote. "This news caught me by surprise, and like many others, I was not prepared to handle such a financial loss. In the weeks, months and years that have followed, I have worked hard to rebuild. As I have confronted these issues, I have sought and received counsel and have followed their recommendations. While it has not been easy, I am proud of the progress I have made."

Crown Sports Auctions of Lenexa is handling the sale of White's collection. One of the company's co-owners, Jeffery Logan, is a long-time friend and founder of the Kansas City Baseball Historical Society.

"It's interesting to people why he'd want to sell it," Logan said, "but it's time."

He said it's not unusual for retired ballplayers White's age (he's 67) to clear out their closets and put some or even all of their memorabilia up for auction.

White's teammate on the 1985 championship team, Bret Saberhagen, sold virtually all of his collection of balls, trophies and even World Series ring a few years ago, and it wasn't because he needed the money, Logan said. He gave the proceeds to charity and his kids, rather than let the stuff gather dust in a storage locker.

"He had 10 times what Frank has in this auction," Logan said. "These guys, at certain points, have to decide what to do with all of it."

In addition to the World Series trophy and the Gold Glove award, there are more than 70 other lots of White's things for sale through the end of the month. Many lots have multiple items. A single successful bid will win a pair of game-worn cleats and flip-up sunglasses. Others are package deals for two or three baseballs signed by entire teams or an individual player such as Yogi Berra, Maury Wills and Ernie Banks.

By no means is it all of White's collection.

"He still has lots of stuff to go," Logan said.

But there are many one-of-a-kind items. For instance, despite his stellar performance in 1989, White was denied a ninth Gold Glove that year. Royals fans rectified the situation by presenting him with a special gold glove trophy of their design. Now, he's selling it along with signed baseballs with personal notes to him from the likes of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.

"To Frank A Great Player," the Yankee Clipper wrote and signed it "Joe DiMaggio #5."

Not everything will necessarily sell. Some of the premiere items won't go to the highest bidder unless that bid meets the secret reserve price set by White, Logan said. But most of it will find its way into someone's collection.

As of Thursday night, the top bid on a ball signed by Yankees great Elston Howard with a personal message to White was $303, while several other items were still awaiting their first customer.