Though supporters of the program note that the money comes totally from donations, it is still taxpayer money and all care should be taken to make sure it is being handled properly, which brings into question decisions that have been made concerning the operation of the local Bright Futures chapter.
Four months before former Superintendent C. J. Huff hired Bright Futures Joplin Coordinator Melissa Winston, she and her husband, Erik, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy,
Documents filed in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri show the Winstons owed $326,733.97, including unpaid federal income taxes, thousands to companies that had written off their debts as noncollectable, and thousands more to companies that hired collection agencies to pursue the Winstons' debts.
The Winstons filed July 11, 2013 and the listing of creditors indicate that much of their problems, stemmed from more than a quarter of a million dollars in education loan debt, including $138,856 from Sallie Mae, $74,026 from Great Lakes Higher Education, $51,703 from MOHELA, and $18,390 from U. S. Bank for a total of $282,974.
Other debts listed include the following:
Title Max auto loan $1,400
IRS, unpaid income taxes $600
Dish Network (collection agency) $40.13
Ally Financial, charge off $7,745
AT&T (collection agency) $2,510
Capital One credit card charge offs $1,288
Cash Net USA $901
Sprint (collection agency) $1,863.55
Chase Card Services charge off $1,721
Comenity Bank charge off $1,647
J. C. Penney's charge off $524
Lowe's charge off $744.83
Wal-Mart charge off $534
Gordon Jewelers charge off $538
J. C. Penney (collection agency) $1,065.98
Midland Credit Management (collection agency) $743
Speedy Cash payday loan $645
Zale's charge off $5,389
The debts also included approximately $5,000 for various medical expenses and prescription drugs.
The placement of Winston as the head of Bright Futures Joplin was not the first time that C. J. Huff had entrusted the management of hundreds of thousands of dollars in donated and taxpayer money to someone with a record of credit problems.
As noted in earlier Turner Report posts, Huff's loyal aide Kim Vann was placed in charge of the not-for-profit Bright Futures USA, which receives most of its money from Missouri taxpayers, despite a Chapter 7 bankruptcy which came as a result of mounting credit card debt.
While declaring for bankruptcy does not make someone a bad person, when taxpayer money is involved, it seems prudent to take care to make sure that people with a proven track record for fiscal responsibility are placed in the top positions.
It is hard to believe that there were not qualified people to run Bright Futures USA and Bright Futures Joplin who did not have recent bankruptcies on their record.
Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado, takes Joplin from tornado to state audits and the "retirement" of C. J. Huff. The book is available in Joplin at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe, and The Book Guy. It is also available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon at the links below.