The Battle on Nepotism –– 5 ½ Months

Throughout the past week, the Douglas County Herald has fielded questions from folks continuing to ask for clarification on the question of nepotism, and the issue involving Ava R-1 school board member Ron Wallace.

Many questions echo back to last year and forgotten details as to how the incident started. Others are trying to recall facts related to the dispute and earlier actions of the board. In response to inquiries, a brief summary is being provided as an overview of the past six months, and hopefully, this summary will clarify outstanding questions.

  • In June 2014, Ava R-1 board member Pat Henry resigns, and a process for selecting a candidate to fill her seat is initiated.

Six candidates apply and complete the interview process. Candidates are: Bart Ellison, Mitch Goss, Ann Duckworth, Scott Stark, Vernon Johnson and Regina Porter.

  • On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, the board selects Ann Duckworth, and the oath of office is administered.

However, prior to the next board session, Ann resigns for personal business reasons.

  • Re-initiating the selection pro­cess, board members held a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, and from the list of four remaining candidates, board member Jeff Davis nominates Vernon Johnson to fill the vacancy on the board.

Johnny Burkdoll seconds Davis’ motion for Johnson.

Those voting for Johnson were Ron Wallace, Johnny Burkdoll, Jeff Davis and Randy Spurlock.

Dissents were cast by Dan Watson and Marsha Aborn.

  • On Thursday, Aug. 21, then-Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney Roger Wall releases a statement alleging nepotism. The press release cites Missouri law and says Wallace automatically forfeited his position on the board when he voted for Johnson, his step-father-in-law.
  • On Tuesday, Nov. 18, Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney Roger Wall files a Petition for a Writ of Quo Warranto against Ron Wallace to oust him from his elective seat. The petition is assigned to Judge Cynthia MacPherson, associate circuit court judge, 44th Circuit Court in Missouri, Ozark County.
  • On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Judge MacPherson files a response to Wall’s petition, which states: “the Court hereby finds sufficient facts pled to require respondent [Wallace] to file responsive pleadings within 30 days.”
  • On Thursday, Jan. 15, Wallace files an answer to the nepotism charge, in compliance with the court deadline. In the response, Wallace is represented by Attorney Virginia L. Fry, of the Husch Blackwell Law Firm, in Springfield, Mo.
  • On Wednesday, Jan. 21, newly elected Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wade chooses to dismiss the case against Wallace. In his press release, which appeared in the Douglas County Herald Jan. 22, Wade states: “based upon an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office, this blood-connection must exist for nepotism to occur. Since the bloodconnection is absent, Prosecutor Wade does not believe Wallace committed nepotism and has dismissed the suit.”

However, in the letter from the Attorney General’s office, the letter states in the first paragraph: “we do not mean to suggest that we are providing you legal advice or otherwise treating you as a client of the Attorney General or any of his assistants. We merely wish to assist ….”

Also, the AG’s letter offers an opinion based on a relationship dissimilar to Wallace’s situation.

So, at present, the only two court opinions tackling Wallace’s familial relationship and nepotism charge are former Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney Roger Wall’s argument charging nepotism, and Wallace’s answer refuting the charge as written by Attorney Virginia Fry.

And, as noted above, the nepotism case was dismissed last week at the behest of Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wade, and under that action, charges have been dropped and a ruling on the issue is not adjudged.

In this situation, it is conceivable a charge of nepotism could be re-filed, but that is unlikely to occur.

Those interested in reading and assessing the opinion arguments rendered by attorneys Wall and Fry, the exhibits filed with the circuit court, the letter from the office of the Attorney General, and local press releases, please click here

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News Editors note: Differing opinions in this battle have sparked harsh words and bad behaviors, as the issue was met with deep passion and conviction by opposing sides.

Therefore, it is noteworthy to acknowledge those who stand strong for what they believe. In this spirit, Theodore Roosevelt offers an eloquent and appropriate statement:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusi­asms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”