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Jasper County Attorney Advises Commissioners to Fill Vacant Joplin School Board Seats

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CARTHAGE, MISSOURI -    The Jasper County attorney tells county commissioners it's their job now to decide who should fill vacant seats on the Joplin school board. By law, the county commission makes the appointments, when the seven person school board has three or more vacancies. The Joplin school board has not yet accepted two resignations. But the county attorney told county commissioners today that doesn't matter.

"It is my opinion that, that policy conflicts with the Missouri constitution.”

Jasper County Attorney Dean Dankelson says that the state constitution  trumps Joplin school board policy saying board resignations require acceptance.

Dankelson says, "One of the clauses in there (the constitution)  is that a person has the ‘right of resignation' and that belongs to the office holder."

And  Dankelson says, “Those resignations were  effective when submitted in writing  to the board secretary."

Dankelson also says the county would automatically  get the appointments after resigning members missed three meetings.

He urged the commission, "Let's do it  now. Let's get this over with. Let's appoint  three people  and let the Joplin school board  move on and do the business they need to do."

On Monday, board president Jeff Koch attempted to have Jim Kimbrough sworn in through  a previous  board vote to fill an empty seat.

Dankelson says he couldn't comment on retroactive action that he hasn't researched.

"Whatever they've done, nobody's been appointed  to the school board. Nobody's been seated.  Nobody's been sworn in so  there are three vacancies right now."

Jasper County presiding commissioner John Bartosh says they don't have a set policy for how they make appointments to boards but they hope to get this job done before the school boards next meeting. He says, "We toss around a few names. Jasper county's very lucky people will step up when there is need and help out.  We've been very successful in getting the right people."

Asked if commissioner Darieus Adams should recuse himself because he received contributions from a current school board member and whether that's a conflict of interest, Bartosh responded, “I think people are grabbing for straws here. That's just ridiculous.   I'll visit with him about that but I think that's ridiculous."

 It's a responsibility, Bartosh says the commission didn't want or ask for but will accept. "We'll make the appointments. That's our obligation."

 Dankelson says, by law the responsibility goes to Jasper county and not Newton county, because Jasper county has a higher  assessed property value.

Board president Jeff Koch was out of state on business for his job and unavailable to comment.

He posted to his facebook page that he had wanted to keep appointments in the board's hands and not the commission's.

To qualify for the board of education, applicants must be a u-s citizen, a Missouri resident for one year, at least twenty-four years of age and a resident of the Joplin school district.

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