FARMINGTON, Mo. — Delinquent taxes, sign stealing, false affidavits, and a truck that has been repossessed multiple times are just part of the drama surrounding the race to replace Sen. Gary Romine in the SD 3. The race is between state Rep. Elaine Gannon; owner of Scism Ford, Kent Scism; and Joshua Barrett, a veteran who is a part-time employee of the Mineral Area College Police Department.
However, the sparks are coming from the two St. Francois County candidates: Scism and the former head of Scism’s Keep Missouri Great PAC, Barrett. Until Feb. 24, Barrett was listed as the treasurer of the Keep Missouri Great PAC, established to help elect Scism. The day after quitting the committee, Barrett himself filed for the Senate seat, mounting a challenge to Scism.
“I have been friends with Josh for years so I asked him to be a member of Kent’s PAC. Several donors had expressed their concerns with the choice of Josh because of some of his financial issues, but we chose to stick with Josh,” Benjamin Bradley with the Scism campaign said. “The night before Josh announced, he called and informed us that he would be announcing that next morning his plan to run against Kent. Both Kent and I were shocked.”
Barrett framed his decision to quit in more ideological terms.
“I could not in good faith continue to support the campaign of someone with such liberal beliefs and offered my resignation immediately,” Barrett said. “I tried to recruit a strong conservative candidate into the race for Senate, but no one announced.”
When asked if Barrett ever raised any concerns about Scism’s positions before quitting the committee or if he mentioned that he was recruiting an opponent for Scism while serving as the committee’s treasurer, Scism responded: “Josh never expressed any concerns about anything to do with the campaign until he decided to run himself.”
It was shortly after Barrett’s entry into the race that some of those financial concerns began to come to light. Every candidate that files for state office completes an affidavit swearing under oath that they have paid all of their state taxes. Barrett signed his sworn affidavit on Feb. 25.
But back in Farmington, it was revealed that his property taxes were, in fact, not paid. As the tax issue was brought to his attention, Barrett requested a property tax waiver on March 3. Property tax waivers are typically granted if you don’t own any personal property tax.
Barrett filled out his application stating that he had paid his property taxes in 2019 and had not been assessed property taxes for 2018. This is likely because the 2008 white Dodge Ram truck he purchased in 2015 was repossessed in January 2018. After regaining possession of the truck in early 2018, it was repossessed again in May of 2018.
On March 9, Barrett changed his story again and paid his delinquent property taxes on a 2001 Chevy Cavalier and a 2006 Jeep Commander.
Under Missouri law, candidates can be removed from the ballot for lying on a tax certification affidavit. Rep. Rob Vescovo was taken to court in 2016 for lying on his sworn affidavit that he did not owe any delinquent taxes. A judge ultimately ruled in his favor after Vescovo produced a tax clearance letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue.
While Barrett’s sworn affidavit stating he doesn’t owe Missouri taxes is on file with the Missouri Secretary of State, he still owes over $1,400 in sales tax to the state of Missouri on the truck that was twice repossessed.
On Barrett’s personal financial disclosure document, he swore he did not own any real property and said he worked as a security guard at Mineral Area College and Pure Hockey in Kirkwood.
Mineral Area College confirmed his part-time employment, while a representative of Pure Hockey said the company has no knowledge of him working there.
“Like most people in our district, I come from a working-class family and have had to fight for everything I have in life. There was a time in my life where I was working through war-sustained injuries from my time in the Marine Corps that left me with nothing but a pile of medical bills,” Barrett responded. “I took on multiple jobs, worked hard, and have continued to build a better life for my family.”
As the story of Barrett’s white pickup truck began making the rounds throughout St. Francois County’s political circles, both campaigns began to lodge complaints of their signs being stolen. In response, both campaigns mounted cameras to catch the culprits.
First, the Barrett campaign caught on a high definition camera a tractor mowing over one of their signs near Highway 67 in north Farmington. Initially, the Barrett campaign indicated the driver of the tractor was a member of the Busenbark family who owns a farm nearby.
However, the driver of the tractor was found to be Darin Johnson. Johnson lives beside the property and cuts the field for hay and at one time had a Barrett sign in his yard. The sign in the video and the high definition camera were placed on state property, and some Scism supporters believe the video was staged.
While not in high definition, the Scism campaign’s outdoor cameras did catch a white truck taking some of its signs. After the Scism campaign directed its staff to be on the lookout for that white truck, on June 6 around 8 p.m., a Scism campaign employee witnessed a man in that same white truck taking down one of Scism’s large signs.
In a sworn affidavit for local law enforcement, Jessica Benz stated, “I took Route OO to Fredericktown, MO to meet a friend. While driving I was passed by a white Chevrolet Silverado with a lift gate on the bed of the truck which fit the description I was given of a truck seen taking down Kent’s large signs. I tried to get the license plate number but it was too dark so I proceeded to follow the vehicle. The truck turned on to Rt. T and several miles down the road it turned off on Nike Lane.”
When asked about the signs or the truck, the Barrett campaign said Barrett does not own a truck at all. Records do indicate that after the white Dodge truck was repossessed for a second time, he did not receive the vehicle a third time.
However, after scrutinizing the video, the truck seen taking the signs turned out to be a white Chevy Silverado registered to a Joe Wibbenmeyer. Wibbenmeyer is the father-in-law of Barrett, and the address Barrett listed when filing for office is at 895 Nike Lane in Fredericktown — apparently the home of his in-laws.
The property is owned by Wibbenmeyer, and the white truck seen taking down Scism signs is registered to Wibbenmeyer at that same address on Nike Lane. Further, there are repair records that show the white Chevy Silverado was serviced locally under the name of Josh Barrett. Wibbenmeyer also has a home in Ballwin and works throughout the week in the St. Louis area.
The Barrett campaign still denies any role in taking down the signs but couldn’t be sure a rogue supporter didn’t act on their own.
“Having had more than $1,000 worth of our own campaign signs stolen or damaged, I am completely opposed to anyone engaging in sign stealing or the destruction of campaign signs. These petty political games serve no purpose other than to distract from the real issues in this race,” said Barrett.
Scism had more than $246,000 cash on hand at the end of the April quarterly filing period. Barrett had nearly $27,000; Gannon reported just over $4,000.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.