Monday night’s meeting of the Excelsior Springs Board of Education erupted in emotion as supporters of Activities Director Jesse Hall came forward to voice their concern about mailed newsletters that have accused him and others of manipulating the school system and community for their own profit.
A line-up of past and present colleagues, former students, local business people and a representative of the AstroTurf company spoke, backed by a roomful of others who were mostly silent but for rounds of applause between speakers.
Two of the speakers provided information that directly responded to accusations Rick Moore and Ken Fousek have sent through the mail—namely, that Hall’s son, Brock, profits from projects like the recently-completed Miracle Field due to his employment with a company called Turf Etc., and that Gregg Williams, a local native who is on suspension from his coaching position with the NFL, but is continuing his local activities with the Gregg Williams Foundation, has Hall and others on the foundation payroll and improperly funneled game tickets and other perks to individuals.
The first speaker Monday night was Jason Berning, the regional manager for AstroTurf. Reading a statement from Joiava Philpott, the secretary and general counsel of AstroTurf, LLC, Berning stated that the school district had contracted with the Georgia-based company through the U.S. Communities national purchasing cooperative, and that neither Jesse Hall nor Brock Hall has ever had any ownership in or been employed by the company, and did not gain financially from the Miracle Field contract.
Moore, speaking in an outside interview after the meeting, claimed that Brock Hall is
employed by Turf Etc., a Lee’s Summit company that is a franchise for AstroTurf.
Williams also spoke, insisting that the foundation does not own any tickets for any event. Donated tickets are sold at the annual summer fundraiser to the highest bidder, but Williams said any tickets provided to friends (and he indicated that some of those friends were in the audience Monday) came out of his pocket. He also stated that the foundation is strictly a volunteer organization and no salaries, stipends, bonuses or any other compensation is provided to volunteers or foundation board members. Williams also offered support for Hall, whom he called a personal friend.
“He has his priorities aligned correctly,” he said. “He’s a friend of the entire community.”
Bill Griffey II committed what he called a “cardinal sin for a small businessman in a small community” by speaking out. He said that some things override that rule, and called Moore’s and Fousek’s newsletters “disruptive and harmful” and full of character attacks, anonymous statements and half-truths.
Griffey lent his support to the school district and administrators, saying that schools play a large role in the strength of a community, and added that they had some tough budget decisions ahead.
“Don’t lose focus,” he stated. “There’s a lot of turmoil circling in the community.” He also called out the people he said were responsible for the turmoil. “To those people who are part of the problem and not part of the solution, stop it,” he said. “You’re hurting Excelsior Springs. Enough is enough.”
Moore, in his interview afterward, said he was present to stand up for the “10,000 people that aren’t here.”
“Sports and Jesse Hall dictate a lot that happens in this community,” he explained. He said many of those who appeared to support Hall “had favors or positions that Jesse has given them. I don’t blame them.”
But Moore said he has supporters, too. “The supporters I have can’t come forward because they work for the district or they have children in the district”
He said he isn’t giving up. “I’m not just going to roll over and play dead because somebody doesn’t like what I’m saying or doing,” he explained. “They can’t rebut what I’m saying, other than with threats and innuendo,” he added, noting that he has been the victim of vandalism and other petty crimes.
He said some of the speakers had bones to pick with him, but added that several of them obviously love the community.
“I understand that, and I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love the community,” he explained.
“It’s easier to conform; it’s hard to do what’s right,” Moore added. “I’m not going to stand back and watch the school district and athletic department do things they shouldn’t be doing … until it’s done, my job’s not done.”
For more on this story, see the print edition or e-Edition of the Tuesday, June 12, Standard.
By Eric Copeland • firstname.lastname@example.org