SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A local health department spokesman called his county commissioners “bigots” for not approving a grant to an LGBT organization because of its “outreach” to kids ages 5-11.
In an email earlier this year to two health department colleagues, the Springfield-Greene County Health department’s Public Health Information Administrator Aaron Schekorra wrote, “Also – update, the commission is just bigots.”
His March 1 email links to a Springfield Daily Citizen article that day reporting the Greene County Commission’s decision not to award American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) COVID relief funds to The GLO Center, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
As noted by the Citizen, Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon had recommended, among other ARPA awards, that the GLO Center receive $10,000 – but that Second District Commissioner John C. Russell objected, followed by First District Commissioner Rusty MacLachlan.
Writes the Citizen: “The GLO Center application, Russell said, states it will host ‘semi-autonomous groups that target specific populations,’ including a group called Rainbow Kids. The GLO Center’s website describes Rainbow Kids as a ‘youth outreach program for LGBTQIA+ kids aged 5-11.’”
“I have serious concerns about allocating taxpayer money to an organization that targets kids ages 5-11,” Russell was quoted by the Citizen. “And there are other groups besides the Rainbow Kids, but if they’re going to include that in what they’re asking, I can’t support that.”
“Because that was listed, and it was in their words – ‘targeted’ – I can’t go there with that group,” MacLachlan added.
Schekorra’s email calling the commissioners bigots was released this week by “Brother Noah,” an anonymous frequent contributor to Springfield’s Elijah Haahr Show on KWTO.
Brother Noah had made a sunshine request of the local government to understand its sponsorship of the Ozarks Pridefest in June – which included a public drag queen show featuring at least one performer known for lewd shows. The documents he received in return included the March 1 email calling Greene County commissioners bigots.
“On 6/16,” Brother Noah posted on Twitter Tuesday, “I formally requested information from the @SGCHD as it pertained to ‘Pridefest.’ That request was fulfilled on 8/8. I’ll be publishing more later. One thing that caught my eye is the way health department employees use their government emails to discuss their bosses.”
Haahr, a former speaker of the Missouri House, had a field day on air over the email, along with a conservative contributor to his show.
Schekorra used “taxpayer-funded email to call his indirect bosses – the commissioners – bigots based upon their vote. And he’s doing it on the public dime,” Haahr said, adding he thought it was a national-quality news story. “I think it’s a pretty big deal.”
“I think it’s time for a full-scale review of what city employees are doing on city time with city resources. It’s your and my tax dollars that we pay in county and city taxes going to these people who are lighting up political firebombs on taxpayer time on taxpayer email and in taxpayer offices.”
The contributor on Haahr’s show this week wondered whether the bigot email would receive more attention in the media if it had come from a conservative.
“It doesn’t seem like anybody else is chasing this story,” Haahr agreed.
Haahr recalled the breathless coverage of the 2017 kerfuffle over then-Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin’s emails urging county employees to promote a half-cent sales tax vote. An audit later showed Cirtin did nothing wrong.
Haahr’s contributor noted the irony that it’s the health department’s communication person who sent the email – “about his own bosses.”
The Heartlander has requested comment from the commission spokesperson and Commissioner Russell in particular.
Toward his original intent, Brother Noah told The Heartlander he is currently piecing together a picture of how the local government sponsored Pridefest – then how it responded to the public backlash in internal emails.