WENTZVILLE • One day after his election to the Wentzville School Board, Michael Feinstein faced questions from dozens of parents and educators who learned on Wednesday that he had served time in prison for a forgery and theft conviction in Iowa.
Feinstein, of O’Fallon, Mo., said he wasn’t hiding the information during the campaign. He said he spoke openly about his record with officers from the Wentzville teachers union who asked him about it on March 30 and, as a result, decided to pull the organization’s support for Feinstein the following day, but only after they had sent out a mailer endorsing him.
The news about the conviction was posted online Wednesday by an Iowa television station.
Feinstein pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his use of a credit card to steal about $105,000 from the health foundation he was working for in the early 2000s, news and court records say. He lost the money gambling.
Feinstein served a 38-day sentence in an Iowa prison. He completed his four years of probation. He said he hadn’t been in a casino or purchased a lottery ticket in years. And he said he had spent the past 11 years trying to put his life back together.
His past should not hinder his ability to serve as a member of the school board, Feinstein said.
“That position does not involve the handling of money,” he added. “It’s providing classroom space, approving budgets and looking out for the best of children in the district.”
“While I recognized it could be an issue, I felt the needs of the district and what I could do to help the schools out would outweigh the turmoil that could come in the days after this came out,” Feinstein said. He said it was not necessary to disclose the “skeletons in my closet.”
Missouri law sets a number of requirements for those who run for school boards. Candidates must live in the district they serve, for example. They must not be delinquent on taxes. They cannot be registered sex offenders.
“A candidate cannot have been convicted of, found guilty of or pled guilty to a felony under Missouri law,” says the Missouri School Boards’ Association’s guide for candidates. “Further, a candidate cannot have been found or pled guilty to a felony or misdemeanor under federal law.”
However, “a person convicted of a felony in another state can file as a candidate in Missouri as long as he or she has served the sentence and is not on probation for the crime.”
Wentzville’s explosive growth has made it the fastest growing school district in Missouri.
School Board President Dale Schaper the board must focus on these challenges and is “committed to working with whomever the public has elected to the position.”
Parents who took to the district’s Facebook page wrote that they weren’t aware of Feinstein’s record and were divided on whether he should have shared it prior to the election. They expressed everything from hostility to support.
“In my opinion, what’s happening here is we have a lot of people willing to cast the first stone, and that is incredibly disheartening,” said Elizabeth Catherine McGowan.
“I will gladly cast the first stone,” said Courtney Amber.
Feinstein received 21 percent of the votes Tuesday – the most of any of the seven candidates running for two seats. He has two children in Wentzville schools. He works as a sales manager for Lou Fusz Automotive.