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Hickman Mills School Board Wants Apology After Member Spoke To City Council About Tax Breaks

DaRon McGee, a former state representative who resigned after being accused of sexual harassment, is now in trouble with the Hickman Mills school board.
Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
DaRon McGee, a former state representative who resigned after being accused of sexual harassment, is now in trouble with the Hickman Mills school board.

Hickman Mills school board member DaRon McGee criticized a tax deal that would bring a new Price Chopper to South Kansas City. But other board members say he didn't have their permission to speak about the project.

A Hickman Mills school board member has been reprimanded for what he said at a city council committee hearing last week.

The Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee was considering tax incentives for a new Price Chopper at Pioneer Plaza, a blighted retail area across from the former Bannister Mall site.

Hickman Mills school board member DaRon McGee asked the committee for more time to negotiate a better deal for Hickman Mills students.

“We want a developer that really wants to work with the community and get something that is a benefit for the students out here,” McGee said. “Providing jobs is good. Providing internships is good. But we think that for a deal where we lose over $2.8 million over the course of this TIF, to offer us $75,000 over a seven-year period paid over seven years is really an insult to the Black and brown children that we represent.”

Except right after, Chris Vukas, president of Sunflower Development Group, pointed out that he already had a memorandum of understanding with the school district.

“The school board asked for some additional dollars, a scholarship fund and also an additional $50,000. We have agreed to all of that,” Vukas said.

Then Cecil Wattree, the president of the Hickman Mills school board, asked if he could speak. He said McGee told the board that the committee would hold discussion on the tax incentives for three weeks, so they hadn’t taken action yet.

The committee ended up accepting the recommendation of the Tax Increment Financing Commission – and Wattree filed three ethics violations against McGee.

On Thursday, the Hickman Mills school board met via Zoom to discuss them, though McGee didn’t log in.

Board member Irene Kendrick said that McGee had acted “deceitfully” and jeopardized the project when he spoke to the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee as if the entire board shared his views.

“Your arrogance and self-entitlement are unacceptable and require formal action,” Kendrick said. “And lastly, your absenteeism here and other meetings only solidifies your lack of commitment to our students and this community.”

The quorum present voted to send a letter to McGee requesting that he apologize to the city council committee and the Hickman Mills School District within five business days.

If McGee doesn’t respond, then the board will file an official complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Carol Graves and Byron Townsend were not at the meeting and did not vote.

It’s not the first time McGee has run into trouble as an elected official. He had to leave the Missouri House of Representatives in 2019 after being accused of sexual harassment.

Tax abatements that divert funds from school districts are increasingly under scrutiny. Earlier this summer, the Kansas City Public Schools successfully stopped an incentive package for BlueScope Construction, a company that had already cost the district $7 million in revenue.

KCPS loses the most due to property tax redirection: more than $2,000 per student. But economic development deals have hurt Hickman Mills, too, like when Cerner’s package resulted in a $2.4 million shortfall. The district had to close two schools.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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