Board candidate’s financial past includes two bankruptcies
A Shawnee resident, with the backing of a local educational organization, used the Shawnee City Council meeting Monday to demand an apology from Councilman Kevin Straub, who is running for the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education.
The situation arose during a period of public comment on changes to the contract for the Monticello Road project. Although Shawnee Mayor Jeff Meyers interrupted the speech, saying the council meeting was not an appropriate forum for the topic, residents and members of Kansas Families United for Public Education after the meeting continued to discuss their efforts to get Straub to step down as a candidate, citing two cases of bankruptcy in his past.
Straub, for his part, said he wasn't trying to hide his bankruptcy and will continue in his campaign.
The subject came up as the council was considering an amendment to the engineering services contract for Monticello Road to include design services for 71st Terrace from Monticello to Chouteau. Sheila Kostas, whose home on West 73rd Terrace is in Monticello Road's projected path and is slated for removal, approached the council before it made its vote, asking to make two statements.
In her second statement, Kostas addressed Straub, who is running for the at-large seat on the De Soto school board and attempted to have him apologize to the current school board members and employees of the De Soto district.
It was at this point that Meyers asked Kostas to cease her statement.
"I don't mind you talking about the Monticello project, but I don't think we should get into attacking individuals on this council," Meyers said. "This is not an issue of the school board; this is not an issue on Mr. Straub."
In Kostas's full written statement, she accused Straub of making irresponsible public statements in the school board race, calling board members and district employees fiscally irresponsible. She planned to say this was ironic because, according to court records from Straub's former home in Clark County, Nev., he has filed for bankruptcy twice and still has an unpaid judgment of more than $90,000.
Records provided show that Straub and his wife filed for consumer bankruptcy, Chapter 13, in April 1994, and the filing was converted to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1996. The De Soto Explorer confirmed that the cases were filed and have a closed status, using the District of Nevada U.S. Bankruptcy Court's Voice Case Information System.
Straub said his bankruptcy was something that resulted from a bad business deal.
"I did a bankruptcy, yes," he said after the meeting. "... I did what I did, and I'm not justifying it and I'm not denying it, but I can look in the camera and say 'Yes, I did do a bankruptcy.' It's not something I'm proud of, I'm not happy I've had financial problems, but I'm a good person."
After the council adjourned to an executive session on an unrelated matter, John Martellaro, president of Kansas Families United for Public Education, said it was his organization that asked Kostas to make the statement.
Martellaro said the organization has been following the De Soto board race and found Straub's statements to be "disturbing," with no basis or documentation to support them. He said Straub's campaigning was bad for the school district and its students.
Martellaro said Kansas Families United discovered the bankruptcy filings in Nevada, and the organization thought it was proof that Straub should not be making claims about fiscal responsibility.
"He's a sitting member of the city council and between that and his personal problems, that should be plenty for one person's plate," Martellaro said.
The organization chose to bring its position on the school board race to light at the council meeting because it thought that in the community, Straub's roles as a school board candidate and council member should not be separated, Martellaro said.
Straub said the council meeting was not the place to address the issue because it had nothing to do with the city, but he accepted that this was politics.
"It's sad that they're trying to find as much mud on people as they can," Straub said. "They're coming out with as much as they can to try and attack the candidates because they can't argue their own issues."