Missouri State Fair: Boonville School District Backs Superintendent, Announcer Mark Ficken

tuffy-gessling-obama-clown.jpg
Courtesy of Perry Beam
Update below: Mark Ficken, the announcer at the center of the Missouri State Fair rodeo scandal, did nothing wrong during the controversial Obama clown performance.

That is according to the Boonville School District, which is today releasing findings of its investigation into Ficken, who is the district's superintendent.

"The determination in the investigation was pretty all-encompassing," Ficken's attorney Albert Watkins tells Daily RFT. "He did not make any inappropriate statements."

See also: Tuffy Gessling The Clown May Get Talent Agent, "Overwhelmed" by Support After MO State Fair

The Saturday, August 10, performance at the taxpayer-funded event in Sedalia got national attention when an angry attendee spread the word about a clown in an Obama mask being chased by a bull. That audience member, Perry Beam, along with critics across the country, slammed the stunt as offensive and racist -- and one that seemed to provoke violence against a sitting president.

Here is some grainy footage Daily RFT uploaded then, along with some photos:

Missouri-State-Fair-Obama-2.jpg
Courtesy of Perry Beam

obama-mask-7.jpg
Courtesy of Perry Beam

By Sunday night, people were naming Ficken as the announcer behind the stunt, who allegedly made statements like, "I'm excited! Yahoooo! We're gonna smoke Obama, man! You ready? Obama, they're coming for you this time!.... As soon as this bull comes out, Obama don't you move! He's gonna get you, get you, get you, getcha!"

Given that Ficken, then the president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, is also a local school superintendent, some officials called for a full investigation. Ficken quickly lawyered up, arguing that the media reports were flat-out wrong and that, though he was the announcer at the time, the Obama clown act was a complete surprise to him and he did not actually make the statements attributed to him. (The clown is a performer named Tuffy Gessling, who now has a huge online following.)

Ficken resigned as the cowboy association president anyway, and the Boonville School District pushed forward with an investigation.

The results of that inquiry were released last night and confirm what he and his attorneys have been saying from the beginning, Watkins says.

"He didn't know about the rodeo clown until he appeared," he says. "He was surprised by the rodeo clown's appearance and did nothing to further the inappropriateness of his actions and statements."

Watkins has argued that Ficken said nothing more than the single statement, "Watch out for that bull Obama!"

In a statement to media this morning, Watkins says the findings "cleared Dr. Ficken of any wrong-doing, inappropriate actions or statements. The findings and the report gave rise to the Board's unanimous support of Dr. Ficken."

The report apparently was prepared by Jim Ritter, a retired Columbia public schools superintendent and Rick Williams, a retired navy judge advocate and former Missouri attorney general.

tuffy-clown-profile-picture.jpg
via Facebook / Tuffy Gessling Rodeo Performer
Tuffy Gessling.

"He's just extremely proud to be part of a school district that truly embraced the concept of a man's reputation being worth more than a knee-jerk reaction," Watkins says.

Charlie Melkersman, president of the Boonville school board, did not offer Daily RFT a comment or copy of the report this morning and tells us only that a press release will be sent out today.

In the meantime, here is Watkin's full news release.

BOONVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPPORTS SUPERINTENDENT FOLLOWING INVESTIGATION INTO RODEO CLOWN INCIDENT

The Boonville, Missouri School District last night released its investigative findings into the role of its superintendent, Dr. Mark Ficken, in the August 10, 2013 Obama rodeo incident at the Missouri State Fair. The finding cleared Dr. Ficken of any wrong-doing, inappropriate actions or statements. The findings and the report gave rise to the Board's unanimous support of Dr. Ficken.

The investigative report was prepared by Jim Ritter, a retired Columbia, Missouri Public Schools Superintendent and Rick Williams, a retired navy Judge Advocate and former Missouri Attorney General.

"My client is proud to be associated with a school district where the reputation of a man is held in high enough esteem to warrant a complete investigation before taking draconian action based on erroneous media reports," said Albert S. Watkins, legal counsel for the Boonville School District Superintendent, Dr. Mark Ficken, to whom initial world-wide news reports incorrectly attributed the inappropriate comments and actions of a third-party rodeo clown.

"It appears those who tried to characterize the Heartland of America as a cistern for systemic racism overlooked one thing...the truth," concluded Watkins.

Update, 10:52 a.m.: The Boonville School District just released a statement confirming the findings of the report and expressing its confidence in Ficken.

Here is the full press release:

On August 27, 2013, the Board of Education of the Boonville R-I School District met in executive session to review the investigative report prepared by Dr. Jim Ritter, retired Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, and Mr. Rick Williams, retired United States Navy Judge Advocate and former Missouri Assistant Attorney General. On behalf of the Board of Education, Dr. Ritter and Mr. Williams were hired to perform a thorough investigation of Superintendent Dr. Mark Ficken's role in the Missouri State Fair Rodeo Incident. In the course of their investigation, Dr. Ritter and Mr. Williams interviewed multiple individuals and analyzed video footage of the Missouri State Fair. The investigation was performed over multiple days and was summarized in a detailed report.

The report found that after careful review of the facts and opinions available to the investigators, "Dr. Ficken has been wrongly characterized by some who don't have correct information. " In particular, the report found that Dr. Ficken "had no advance knowledge of Mr. Gessling's [the clown's] plan to have someone impersonate President Obama," the skit was "not planned or rehearsed," and notably, Dr. Ficken had "no role in the skit other than an incidental reaction to Mr. Gessling's comments." Further, the report concluded that Dr. Ficken "has done nothing that would interfere with his role as an effective superintendent of schools in Boonville."

The Board voted 5-0 to accept the findings and conclusions of the investigators. Per the requirements of the Missouri Sunshine Law, Dr. Ficken was notified of the Board's vote prior to releasing the vote to the public this morning.

The Boonville R-I School District Board of Education is confident in Dr. Ficken's leadership. Under Dr. Ficken's leadership the district will continue to provide the best educational opportunities for its students and looks forward to another successful school year.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


My Voice Nation Help
52 comments
Brian Scott Smith
Brian Scott Smith

The whole "you don't have a uterus so you don't get to have an opinion" is a weak argument employed by the weak-minded. The debate is determining when we can consider it enough to be a human life to trump the liberty of doing what one wants with her own body. In some cultures they kill their own young daughters for the sake of their own personal liberties, to preserve their right to have or afford having a son. Like 5-6 year old girls. Some people think a fetus has no right to live until after it's born and can breathe on it's own. Some put the right to life at 6 months. 3 months. 6 weeks. And some say the right to life begins at conception. Seems like there might be enough wiggle room in there for a debate, at least, no?

Brian Scott Smith
Brian Scott Smith

Or maybe if someone punches a pregnant woman with the intent of killing the fetus, we'd better sure as hell not call it murder if successful. Your insight is profound.

Brian Scott Smith
Brian Scott Smith

I didn't realize abortion was so simple until your valuable lesson, Courtney, thanks!! I was thinking of inventing a little guillotine to place in front of a woman in case she decided to abort at the last second. If you think these issues are so fucking simple then you need to lay off cable news your damn self.

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

Go on back to bed now little boy,, let the grown folks talk.

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

seriously, dude. get over yourself. in violation of 4th amendment? um. were you pissed off when Bush signed the Patriot act? which is EXACTLY the same thing.,, and hes not infringing on the 2nd amendment because hes not coming to take your guns. he wants to keep them out of the hands of crazies like you by making background checks MANDITORY. so stop being a fear mongering fox/NRA pawn and think for YOURSELF for once. He is not Forcing christians to offer abortions. dude.. you SERRRRRRIOUSLY have it ALL WRONG. he is saying that the So Called Christians in the "not so christian right" cannot make laws according to their OWN faith with that Life begins at conception bull shit.. if you dont want to have an abortion. dONT FUCKING HAVE ONE.. the fact that YOU dont have a uterus means its ALSO none of YOUR god damned business.. this is not me justifying anything because im a coward, im teaching you a lesson.

Pamela Cape Smith
Pamela Cape Smith

Who paid and brought this mask too the rodeo? If my boss gave me a "uniform" to wear I would have too wear it.

Brian Scott Smith
Brian Scott Smith

Sue, you obviously have a blatant disrespect for critical thinking.

Erin McMahon
Erin McMahon

not surprising at all....was horse all along and some people owe apologies!

Sue Stepanek
Sue Stepanek

named after Daniel Boone...but still...small town and obviously ok with blatant disrespect and racism.

Lisa Scaturro Hagnauer
Lisa Scaturro Hagnauer

I think this is another race baiter disgrace! This has been done with past presidents with no one crying about it!

Justin N Rachel Hager
Justin N Rachel Hager

By the way if you're so up to speed on the constitution then why aren't you outraged at the fact this President keeps trampling it everyday. He's violated our 4th amendment, is threatening to infringe on the 2nd and let's not even start about the fact he's killed Americans via the Drone program. How about Obamcare and the fact he is forcing Christians to offer abortions? thats against the religious belief. Where's your intellectual outrage for that? Oh that's right you ll justify everything he does because your a coward. Have a nice day.

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

ps.. Steve dixon. you're like the hottest roller derby ref ive ever seen. just sayin..

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

thank you :) Its not a matter of bias, you toolbag. its a matter of facts and knowing the Constitution. I could care less what this jackwagon did or didnt do ... but ill tell you what. my tax money doesn't go to the govt to fund hate and bigotry.. what i stand for has nothing to do with it..

Jean Whitney
Jean Whitney

Eh, lost cause, if residents there think racist "joking" is ok.

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

Courtney is 100% correct on Freedom of Speech.

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

I fail to see how this surprising. This whole stupid story is a non-issue. The press (like you RFT) have been keeping this dumb-ass story alive far longer than the 15-seconds it should have gotten.

Daniel Bramley
Daniel Bramley

What a complete toolbag. Do you go around writing this lame ass comment on everyone single post that's about an article that isn't about one of the things you mentioned? Why not? Oh yeah, its because you would be a douchebag if you did that. Get it? You douchebag. Damn kid sorry you are that miserable of a person. Thanks for sharing your negativity. That's what the world needs more of right now especially from what you think. Hey what about the good things going on? Can they report on that or would that be wrong while all the shit you mentioned is still going on and has been going on since, gee like forever. Find something more in life than misery kid and maybe, just maybe you might get laid.

Daniel Bramley
Daniel Bramley

Justin your comment makes no sense at all. Courtney is correct. Get an education or are you too cowardly to open a book?

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

you should check out how many dollars the teachers union gives to democrats vs. republicans. teachers make a definite political statement.

Justin N Rachel Hager
Justin N Rachel Hager

Courtney is a shameless coward. Stand up for something that doesn't protect your bias

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

somebody didnt pay attention in Govt class. Freedom of speech only really applies when its the government. they cannot intervene. however, slander and libel does not count.. also.. the rodeo board is not the government.. they do not have to adhere to the freedom of speech you folks keep spewing out your Skoal hole. if they deem what he did as inappropriate, they have the right to take action. Just like anyone else getting fired for doing/saying something stupid. that is not upheld by "freedom of speech"

Luke David McGowan
Luke David McGowan

Only in America. 100,000 people have died in Syria, half of the world is living in starvation or below the poverty line, our education system is failing, the government is abusing all freedoms, disease plagues the world, disasters are destroying lives, the constitution might as well be shredded, and we are all still talking about a clown wearing a mask...love you RFT, but drop this story.

Rick Lebowski
Rick Lebowski

Dear RFT: please write news worthy articles & report on things that matter. The horse is dead stop beating it.

Jay Smith
Jay Smith

All from a school district named "Boonville". Color me shocked they'd rule any other way.

Max Schulze
Max Schulze

Which it wasn't racial, so all is good.

Ryan Stufft
Ryan Stufft

Liberal or Conservative, Superintendents should hold themselves to higher standards than making a mockery of our president with political statements.

John Shadley
John Shadley

You ever heard of beating a dead horse ? Well you're doing it RFT ... Report something of interest. That's what most of your readers think ! Sheesh... Move on ... you're like old GF that wont go away !

Darrell Ford
Darrell Ford

I think that's the right answer...I was a hardcore clown dis-liker (?) and I remember how Bush Jr. was really roasted by SNL and I laughed my ass off. In good faith I can't really get upset about satirical treatment of the POTUS...just don't be a racist about it.

Eric R Bricker
Eric R Bricker

AWESOME he should get to keep his job the clown suit doesnt have anything to do with his day job.

Josh Ess
Josh Ess

Is the state fair tax payer funded? Yes.

Anthony Gutierrez
Anthony Gutierrez

I do not understand why we are still talking about this. Why does everything have to be a scandal or controversial in this country?

Cody Reid
Cody Reid

As an angry liberal i must say that....I could care less...unless it wasn't funny...that's just a waste of a good mask....

Josh Thompson
Josh Thompson

Free speech. Poor taste? Sure. But free speech.

Dawn Loehr
Dawn Loehr

Umm...yeah, ok. Thanks for the advice? RFT...stick to restaurant/concert recommendations and best ice cream spots.

Josh Griesemer
Josh Griesemer

You should turn on the news or open a paper if ya wana here about that

Dawn Loehr
Dawn Loehr

Can you please start reporting real news. Perhaps Obama trying to send us to war?? Might be a newsworthy topic, ya think?

Phil Reeder
Phil Reeder

rodeo clown wears a mask of the president. It's not the 1st time it's happened, but thanks to all the "outcry" it could be the last. Why are people so damn overly sensitive?

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