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Former Springfield council, school board candidate alleges ethics violations by current school board member

J. Michael Hasty, who previously ran unsuccessfully for Springfield City Council and Springfield school board, speaks at a news conference he called on Feb. 28, 2023.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
J. Michael Hasty, who previously ran unsuccessfully for Springfield City Council and Springfield school board, speaks at a news conference he called on Feb. 28, 2023. He alleged Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate, a board member, broke financial disclosure ethics rules.

A Springfield conservative who previously ran for city council and Springfield school board called a news conference Tuesday to call out a current school board member.

People started showing up for Tuesday night’s Springfield school board meeting at least 90 minutes before it began. LGBT people in the community wanted to talk to the board about their interests, and conservative people wanted to show up with numbers, too.

But the action began long before the tension-filled meeting gaveled open.

J. Michael Hasty — a Springfield man who previously ran for city council and, more recently, school board — called a press conference an hour before the school board meeting.

Hasty told reporters he’s reviewing campaign finance and ethics disclosures for all of the Springfield school board members — with the help of a law firm he wouldn’t name. And Hasty believes he’s found some issues.

He said, “The school board member today who failed to disclose their nonprofit in a contract it has with the school on their financial disclosure statement and failed to file annual financial disclosure statements each year since being sworn into office. This board member also failed to notify in their most recent filing, the contract which exceeds the $5,000 per year, the $500 per transaction, and exceeds, the —uh, the transaction, yes... We’re talking about Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate today, ladies and gentlemen, and her nonprofit Ujima Language and Literacy.”

In other words, Hasty alleges school board member Shurita Thomas-Tate broke ethics rules by not disclosing links to a nonprofit 501(c)(3) group that gets paid to provide literacy services to the school district. The school district that Thomas-Tate helps oversee as an elected board member.

Ujima is listed as a “student program” on the Springfield school district website, and Ujima describes Thomas-Tate as a founder and board member.

Hasty provided reporters with a Missouri Ethics Commission personal financial disclosure statement by Thomas-Tate. It covers last year.

That statement doesn’t mention Ujima as a “business entity” doing transactions with the school district.

And in a section of the form requiring disclosure of the board member’s employment income, it doesn’t mention Thomas-Tate's job as a Missouri State University professor, or any other job.

Late on Tuesday night, Thomas-Tate emailed KSMU to say she was still meeting in closed session with other board members and would not be able to comment that evening.

Also late on Tuesday night, the Springfield Daily Citizen reported the school district issued a written statement on Hasty's allegations, calling them "inaccurate" and "unwarranted."

"In this circumstance, no member of the Board of Education received any compensation," the statement reportedly said in part.

Thomas-Tate is running for re-election to the school board on April 4. Hasty dropped out of the school board race in late December when he didn’t collect enough resident signatures to qualify for the ballot, according to reporting by the Springfield News-Leader.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs and investigations.