'Failure to cut and paste': response to former Grandview mayor's nonprofit controversy uncovered

GRANDVIEW, Mo. - Since issuing his sudden resignation as Mayor of Grandview, Steve Dennis has remained tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding his decision.

As 41 Action News exclusively reported on Monday, two city aldermen said the FBI questioned them about the former mayor's now-defunct nonprofit organization called, "Matters of the Heart, Inc."

According to documents filed with the Missouri Secretary of State, Board President Brent Steeno and Alderman John Maloney submitted complaints against Dennis for falsely listing their involvement with the nonprofit.

41 Action News has learned that issue first surfaced near the Grandview mayoral election in April 2013. Dennis won reelection by a comfortable margin.

The following week, he responded to the controversy with a Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Jackson County Advocate . The weekly newspaper provided 41 Action News with a copy of the letter.

In the letter, Dennis referred to the paperwork errors as a simple mistake. He explained that he put Steeno and Maloney on the document as "placeholders" to make sure all the information fit on the page. He added the information was supposed to be switched to the correct names before it was sent to the state.

"It wasn't supposed to mean anything. It could have been ‘Mohammad (sic) Ali' and ‘Joe Frazier' that I typed in. I was just ‘formatting' the page," Dennis wrote. "There is truly nothing more to it than that…a failure to ‘cut and paste.'"

Dennis said there was nothing malicious in the intent and said he had offered an apology and explanation to the aldermen.

He also explained that the organization's treasurer had failed to submit an annual report, resulting in the administrative dissolving of the nonprofit a year after its creation.

Dennis said his treasurer had been in the hospital from heart surgery, though he never mentioned the name of the person who worked in that role. He said the proper paperwork would be resubmitted to get the organization in good standing with the state, but that never occurred.

The former mayor concluded his letter by assuring residents the nonprofit was not a political organization and that no public money had ever been used.

"Now, I've heard a couple of different stories that have been told in the community that automatically assume that I am either falsely stating my ‘importance' in a do-good organization or that I must be pilfering money illegally through the non-profit for my own benefit," Dennis wrote. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

It remains unclear what exactly "Matters of the Heart, Inc." did in the community. Dennis described it as an organization that helped poor and disadvantaged residents.

However, 41 Action News has yet to speak to a resident or city official who has witnessed a charity event. Mary Wilson, editor of the Jackson County Advocate, told 41 Action News she has not covered anything related to the nonprofit since her family took over the newspaper in September 2012.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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