Saying he has "dug as deep as he could," a St. Louis alderman sent a letter to constituents asking them to help pay for his daughter's college education.
A day after The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained the letter and reported on it, however, Freeman Bosley Sr., 78, now says he will return any donations that are sent as a result of his request.
Bosley, a longtime local politician, sent the letter to friends and supporters asking them for $14,274 to pay the outstanding balance of his 18-year-old daughter's upcoming bill at St. Xavier University in Chicago.
Although his daughter has nearly $25,000 in scholarships and grants, Bosley wrote in the undated letter that "the remaining balance is still a challenge."
"I get asked for things all of the time," Bosley told a reporter Wednesday. The longtime local politician later said he was "just a father trying to help his daughter."
On Thursday, he criticized a reporter for making "such a stink" about the request and said the issue had been blown out of proportion.
"I won't even open the damn envelope, if that's what it is," Bosley said in an interview. "I'll just send it back."
The Democrat's request raised ethical questions, but a Missouri Ethics Commission official said it doesn't appear the letter violated any state laws. It has, however, put a spotlight on what some say are lenient state laws governing the money politicians raise and how it gets reported.
"It's a unique situation," said Stacey Heislen, acting director of the Missouri Ethics Commission. "We've never been posed a question of this nature before, that I'm aware of anyway."
Bosley wouldn't identify who received his letter or how many were sent — or how much money, if any, has been raised — but he stressed he wasn't using his office to influence any donations.
Still, his letter begins: "This is Alderman Freeman Bosely Sr. requesting your support once more."
Bosley and his fellow aldermen are paid $37,000 a year. He raised $25,363 in campaign donations during the last election cycle, and a campaign finance report filed last month showed he has $820 on hand.
In his letter, Bosley said his daughter had attended St. Elizabeth Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in St. Louis that was shut down last month. He said she was in the top 2 percent of her class and had a 4.0 grade point average.
"On top of the difficult process of finding scholarships, Kenya's class lost their high school counselor and college consultant in early October, due to the school's closure," Bosley wrote. "It has made it challenging for Kenya, as well as other seniors in her class, to be aware of scholarship opportunities and to make sure they are well prepared for the next step."
A spokesman for Mayor Francis Slay said the mayor had no comment on the situation.