Missouri housing official’s home in Arkansas draws scrutiny

JEFFERSON CITY • Jeffrey Bay leads Missouri’s powerful commission on housing development, which hands out millions of dollars of tax credits each year to developers to build homes for the poor and elderly.

But Bay lives in a house he and his wife own in Arkansas, according to documents filed there.

Property records show Bay and his wife own a home in Rogers, Ark., for which they received a Homestead Tax Credit. According to Arkansas law, the credit can be claimed on only a person’s principle place of residence.

It isn’t the first time residency questions have dogged the chairman of the Missouri Housing Development Commission. This year, Bay resigned his post as an alderman for the city of Parkville, Mo., after a television news report questioned whether he resided there or in another Kansas City suburb.

The questions have Missouri Republicans calling for Bay’s resignation as chairman of the Missouri Housing Development Corporation. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, appointed Bay chairman in May 2010.

"Given the serious allegations against Jeffrey Bay stemming from his potentially illegal service on the Parkville Board of Aldermen, it is stunning that Jay Nixon has continued to protect Bay for this long," said Missouri GOP Executive Director Lloyd Smith. "The MHDC has a history of conflicts of interest and corruption, and it needs a leader who has not been tainted by scandal."

Bay said there was no merit to the accusations. He contends he is simply being used by Republicans to score political points against Nixon.

Missouri residency is not a requirement to serve on the MHDC. But in practice, only Missouri residents have been appointed to the commission, according to Tina Beer, director of operations for the MHDC.

"To the best of my knowledge, and I haven’t been here forever, but no one has served on our board that hasn’t been a Missouri resident," Beer said.

When he was appointed to the MHDC, Bay was living in the Kansas City suburb of Parkville and serving as a member of that city’s board of aldermen. According to the Platte County Assessor’s Office, Bay sold his Parkville home last July.

Eight months later, he resigned from the board after a Kansas City TV station found Bay living in an apartment in Gladstone, 20 minutes west of Parkville. Bay listed the Gladstone address on paperwork filed with the Platte County Recorder’s Office as early as September 2010.

As chairman of the MHDC, Bay is required to file personal financial disclosure forms with the Missouri Ethics Commission. His most recent filing in February lists the Parkville home he sold last summer as his mailing address.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder wrote a letter to Nixon shortly after Bay resigned from the board of aldermen, asking the governor whether he still supported his choice for MHDC chairman in light of the questions about Bay’s residency. Kinder’s office said he planned to question Bay about the matter today at a MHDC meeting in Columbia.

Kinder, who is widely expected to run against Nixon in 2012, declined to comment before the meeting. Scott Holste, Nixon’s press secretary, said only that the governor’s office was "focused on MHDC’s vital role in rebuilding Joplin."

Bay blames the situation on politics. He says he’s a lifelong Missouri resident who resides in an apartment in Gladstone. That’s the address on his drivers license, and that’s where he’s registered to vote.

After selling his Parkville home, Bay said, he rented a room from a friend who lives in the city. Eventually, he gave up hope of finding a home in Parkville and permanently moved into an apartment building he already owned in Gladstone, prompting his resignation from the board of aldermen.

He said his wife was from Arkansas and lived in the couple’s Arkansas home full-time. He said he traveled back and forth regularly.

As for the personal disclosure form, he said listing his Parkville address was a mistake. By Missouri statute, disclosure forms are signed under penalty of perjury, although a representative of the ethics commission said no state law mandating an address must be provided on the forms.

"There’s nothing secretive about any of this," Bay said. "But if you chose to pare out a fact or two, you can paint a picture to serve your own means."

Bay said Kinder had never contacted him to ask any questions or verify any information.

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