Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bright Futures Joplin coordinator filed for bankruptcy in 2013

R-8 budgets over the past few years have shown more than $700,000 annually for Bright Futures Joplin.

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.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The sadder commentary is that bankruptcies like this cost all of us in everything we buy. Excesses in personal life, living beyond your means.... apparently they didn't have a finance class in high school or college!!

Anonymous said...

1. Why would anyone take out that much in student loans for the majors they had? Shows lack of common sense.
2. Considering how much student loan and tax debt they had, why did they keep on borrowing? Shows irresponsibility and a fixation on material possessions not seemly for those claiming to follow the teachings of Christ. He wasn't real big on hoarding possessions, as I recall.
3. This is at least the second, if not the third, person we have learned that CJ Huff hired to work in Bright Futures who could not manage her own finances. Why is that? Did he look for these people, or is this what they have in common--irresponsible spending? And then there was that McGrew idiot, too. CJ seemed to like people who spent without prudence and lived beyond their means.
4. I have seen that Erik Winston is on Facebook valiantly defending himself and his wife in this. He appears to be unsure why his finances should be exposed to the public. Well, Mr. Winston, there is a reason for that. It is so that future lenders, and their customers, won't get stuck for the price of someone else's self-indulgence. We all pay for your actions when you fail to take responsibility for the mess you made of your finances.
5. If these people can't manage their own household, how on earth is she qualified to assist others? Oh wait. Being qualified for a job was not a parameter with CJ. I hope it is with Dr. Ridder.

There is a reason why bankruptcies are public record. They do reflect the habits of people. There is not a huge amount of medical debt here. It wasn't a medical bankruptcy, which many of us could understand. It was just excess borrowing and living beyond one's means. That is not something we can just overlook for someone in charge of hundreds of thousands of other people's dollars. It's a state of mind.

Anonymous said...

Even students pursuing degrees from places such as say, UMKC, to be doctors shouldn't have that much student debt. Not too smart. Should think before you act, whether it's commenting or borrowing. There are always consequences for overstepping. Bankruptcy costs everyone and is selfish, short of a disaster. Nothing here reflects they underwent a disaster. They just overspent. Every piece of jewelry I own doesn't add up to what they stuck their jeweler for. Think about it--what's the difference between that and just walking in and taking it without paying? The difference is the "thief" goes to jail and the bankrupt borrower walks away.

Erik Winston said...

Actually, my income was cut by more than 50%. We were not living beyond our means, nor did we file bankruptcy on the student loan debt.

Anonymous said...

Life was fine in Joplin before BF and it will survive nicely without it.

Thank you.

Dusty Roads said...

Deadbeats like her love a job that they may be able to skim a little money from, from the looks of the creditor list they borrowed from anyone who would loan them some money,time for herb to step down, also Winston's you should not throw rocks when you live in a glass house.

Anonymous said...

Erik, your income was probably cut by more than 50% because you are a dud! Face it. You can fool some of the peoples some of the time, but you..............

Anonymous said...

"nor did we file bankruptcy on the student loan debt."

Not sure what the intended point of that statement was.

AFAIK most student debt is not discharged by bankruptcy.

Also AFAIK all debts are listed when filing bankruptcy, whether or not they are nondischargeable.

Isn't there an old saying? Something like 'Don't take credit for not doing what you couldn't do.'

Anonymous said...

Fear of losing our jobs is what keeps most of us from purchasing on credit or from excessive borrowing. Comenity charges nearly 27% for their credit. That makes for some expensive clothes. All of these lenders look like the high interest variety. It's better to save up and pay cash or take on some extra work. As for that student loan nonsense, why take on so much? Neither graduated from prestigious, Ivy League schools. They claim to be humble servants of The Lord, so why borrow so much? Did they just live on that while they were going to school? I worked my tail off to pay cash for all three of my degrees. I still work my tail off every day to make sure I don't have to go to loan sharks for payday loans and so I'll be prepared for emergencies. I remember people in one of my graduate programs worrying that Obama would raise their taxes. This conversation was going on as they were filing for their loan forgiveness for working in poor schools. One of them (at least) paid off her credit cards, took her daughter to see a celebrity concert in a distant city, and then took her family to the East Coast for a nice vacation, using her student loans that the rest of us paid for with our tax dollars.

Perhaps we all need a reminder of what it was that our ancestors despised about credit, and why that old adage, "neither a borrower nor a lender be" is still so appropriate. We want too much, spend too much, and owe too much as a society. This story is just a sad example of what happens when you don't plan ahead and when you borrow too much. Once again, my donations will go someplace more secure than Bright Futures, or even now the United Way, for fear they will send my dollars to this group. I work hard for what I have. I will donate directly to those in need.

Anonymous said...

While it is true anyone can have a turn of events that land them in financial troubles and lead to bankruptcy, this list of debts shows a pattern of ignorant financial decisions. Private college loans way out of proportion to the jobs those degrees would lead to, jewelry bought on credit, and more than a few transactions with legal loan sharks--all actions that anyone with basic fiscal common sense would avoid. These are not people I would hire to manage an organization that primarily exists to direct cash flow.

Anonymous said...

Audit time and drug tests for all federal student loans.

Anonymous said...

Check the financial of Jennifer Doshier. It is documented that McKinley had to take a collection to help her pay for her car repair. It is eyewitness fact that she has been seen In local businesses cashing Title Loan checks. Come on Randy, she's next.

Dan Bare said...

So much judgment coming from Anonymous folks hiding behind keyboards with too much time on their hands. You don't even know all the details of the Winstons and still you don't mind smearing them. So if someone has made mistakes they should never get a job at a charity...or try to help others...really? And BTW bankruptcy exists for a reason and is approved for a reason as a part of our system - If you have ever received even one dime of taxpayer money or enjoyed a tax-subsidized benefit then you aren't qualified to comment. While I am definitely not a fan of Huff's policies and have occasionally agreed with the Turner Report, this time you've gone too far. I hope that your stone-throwing comes back to haunt you. You should all be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

Well, when you buy your fake degree online from a for profit university, it can be pretty expensive. Capella University? Really? How dumb is that?

Anonymous said...

9:19 PM - You say that "If you have ever received a tax-subsidized benefit you aren't qualified to comment" and this is total nonsense.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Winston's ran up debt and entered into a contract to "pay" for the goods and services that were provided. When bankruptcy "forgave" these debts - the people who provided the goods and services were screwed out of their money NOT THE TAXPAYERS.

It is fairly standard procedure for potential employers to run background and credit checks on future employees. The reason they do this is to evaluate and determine the character and personal habits of a potential employee.

Anonymous said...

WOW!! Just WOW!! Randy- you delve into the public record and show everything. WOW!!!

Remember the humiliation you felt when the whole town had a say about your position. Your reputation, career, and life came under close scrutiny. Did that make you feel good? Did you get a chance to tell your story?

What are the details that led to this bankruptcy? Did you provide the full story? Or just show details that make a person look bad?

You call this reporting? It looks like you bring up records and give half the story. Did CJ Huff do the same thing? Are you turning into CJ?

You have lost my respect. I used to advocate for you.

Anonymous said...

So many here are willing to judge strangers on information you know nothing about. I used to have sympathy for Randy Turner. Now he just seems bitter and determined to attack others. Why is it ok to vilify someone who does nothing but try to help others and support her own family?

Anonymous said...

Just look at the creditors... This wasn't because they fell on hard times. They were careless with their finances. Plain and simple... Does it make them horrible people? No, but don't make excuses for their poor decisions. I am one who feels that people who can't manage their own finances should not be in charge of others peoples money. There are too many reports of stealing from employers, boards and charities in our area. People need to remember that desperate people do desperate things. As for Randy reporting this he has done nothing wrong. They chose to file bankruptcy and those records are public. Live life right and your dirty laundry will not be there for all to see.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again. Every few months Randy writes something that his enemies feel gives them an opening to come after him. When I read this one yesterday, I knew what was coming and I wasn't disappointed. You have some talking about how he has crossed the line and how he is revealing personal information that has nothing to do with the woman's job. Then there are those who say they used to sympathize with Randy, but not any more. That is a bunch of nonsense. Those people never sympathized with Randy about anything, but they are ready to pile on when they sense weakness. The Winstons are working up a frenzy on social media playing the martyrs. None of it is going to work.

Randy has laid the groundwork of this story with his months of investigative reporting into the workings of the school district. The key point that he emphasized in this story was that CJ hired Mrs. Winston four months after the bankruptcy. This has nothing to do with giving someone a second chance. There was nothing in her background to indicate that she should run a program that deals with hundreds of thousands, potentially millions in donations, all of it as Randy pointed out accurately becoming taxpayer money the minute it is accepted. Surely there must have been people whose background did not include a recent bankruptcy and who had the kind of experience to handle such an important position.

Randy has pointed out, always with documentation, the incredibly careless ways in which CJ Huff spent the taxpayers money. He has also detailed how CJ surrounded himself with people who were not qualified to hold the positions they were holding, including a principal who did not have a license to be a principal and a director of special services who did not even have an administrator's certificate. Randy was also the first to note that Bright Futures had begun paying for people's rent and utilities, a questionable use of taxpayer money that has occurred with Mrs. Winston running the show. How much does the Board of Education and even Dr. Ridder know about the operation of Bright Futures? Thank you, Randy Turner, for continuing to stand up against those who want to keep us in the dark.

Anonymous said...

Please do not tell me that Turner is cherry picking information to make the Winstons look bad or that he is not telling the whole story. Any of us would have sympathy for someone who is forced into bankruptcy because of a medical emergency, but these records don't lie. There is a small amount of medical expense, but a lot of it comes from charge offs, which Wikipedia says take place when someone does not make a payment for more than six months. More concerning to me would be the number of businesses who either had the charge offs or had to call collection agencies in on the Winstons. Isn't part of Bright Futures dealing with local businesses. Having someone who has stiffed quite a few of them in charge does not inspire confidence.

Sphyrna Mokarran said...

Bad Form Mr. Turner. You should think about the karma you are brewing for yourself. Does it make you feel like a big man to expose other peoples lives to the public for humiliation? What a sad little pathetic man you must be in your empty soul. You need to take into consideration when you are trying to step on others in an attempt to build your own shattered ego, devoid of compassion or consideration. You must have no sin in order to cast so many stones. Beware of the consequences of your actions, this a very small pond and in it swim some very large and voracious fish that lurk here. I would recommend not chumming the water if you don't want them swimming your way.

Anonymous said...

If Randy is a "investigative reporter" then please tell us why the Winston's filed for bankruptcy.

Anonymous said...

I am 6:45 and stand behind my comment. Yes, he used public record and yes, we can examine who was owed what, etc.

A reporter is supposed to be balanced. Did he reach out to the Winstons? Why did they declare bankruptcy? What caused it? Was it a job loss? We can make assumptions.

I have no use for Huff and what he did to Joplin R-8. I hated to see what Randy went through. I am a teacher and I know the love and passion one has for their students.

At some point, though, there is a line. Bad form.

Zero respect.

Have you watched Parks and Recreation? I believe Joplin, MO is turning into Pawnee, Indiana. Unfortunately, Joplin is not fictional and where I live.

Anonymous said...

What I believe Mr Turner was doing here is pointing out the incompetence of CJ Huff not this Winston family. With her financial history she would not have been hired by a local convenience store, yet CJ Huff put her in charge of a $700,000 bank account. Now why is it that Mr Huff hired people like this? It appears from her comments that she is forever loyal to CJ for giving her this opportunity. Good for her she got an opportunity but its not about her its about CJ Huff putting people in place that he knows he will control. Look at his hires, rarely are they qualified or competent, but loyal you bet. Thats good for him but bad for all the kids in the R8 trying to get a good education. Sorry this lady got caught up in it but probably shouldnt have beeen there to start with. I wish them well in the future!

Dusty Roads said...

It seems CJ put in incompetent and flawed individuals in important positions so he could hold their in adequateness over their head in order to control them

Anonymous said...

So how soon before there is the need for an audit of BFUSA???

Anonymous said...

So... Turner sacrificed a family to prove the inadequacy of Huff. Something proved over and over by other stuff.

Why if Turner does it, he is a hero? If CJ does it, he is a villian? I think Randy had forgotten his roots and is modeling his foe's behavior.

kitty chiwawa said...

Observations... Randy's other blog site delivers the news. Observation often contains opinion, nothing wrong with a person expressing an opinion, right? Public record is there for anyone to access, Randy just makes it easier for those of us that don't know or want to find the information. Thank you, Randy for taking the time and effort to share your findings with us.

Anonymous said...

This is such a tacky move Turner. This isn't news and has nothing to do with BF.

Anonymous said...

Feels like a take down piece. She called your blog a mud pit and then you proved it was (or could be). A lot of great stories have been posted here; this isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

This Facebook exchange remains interesting. A Mr Winston really did have an interest in discussing teacher turnover? Is that the same Erik Winston?

Dr. CJ Huff
November 25, 2014 ·

It's been a busy year at Joplin Schools, and there are many exciting things going on around the district. Tomorrow from noon to 1 p.m., I'll be taking your questions here on Facebook. Join me for a conversation about your schools!
55 Likes16 Comments1 Share"

Here is the question Dr Huff was asked:

Erik Winston Dr. Huff, can you explain some of the dynamics present in the districts struggles with teacher retention?
2 · November 26, 2014 at 10:15am

That's a easy pitch to hit, imo. How did CJ Huff do?

Dr. CJ Huff

Dr. CJ Huff You bet. Teacher burnout is a struggle that districts across the country are facing. In Joplin we peaked a year or two ago at about 14.5% which was still below the state and national average. We were at around 10% this past year. It's going to vary from year to year, but something we watch closely.
November 26, 2014 at 10:39am · Edited

Dr. CJ Huff

Dr. CJ Huff A few things we have been doing to address those concerns include ongoing discussions with our teacher organizations, exit surveys of staff leaving the district, and multiple activities throughout the year to show our appreciation and support for our teachers. We are also working hard to insure that we are hiring high quality staff and providing professional support to teachers that they need to be successful.
November 26, 2014 at 10:40am

Since Mr Winston's question had already been answered, a later question (not submitted by a spouse of a BF employee apparently) was deflected by referring to the previously supplied answers.

Chelsie Banfield Along the same lines as Erik. The turn over of teachers in the district is astronomical. I wonder why?
November 26, 2014 at 10:35am

Dr. CJ Huff

Dr. CJ Huff Chelsie...See my reply to Eric above.
November 26, 2014 at 10:37am

Perhaps Dr Huff was glad that he didn't need to respond to the second question. Funny how that happened.

Anonymous said...