Ann Maher Aug. 7, 2014, 7:39am

Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler is deflecting recent criticism about a business he runs in St. Louis saying he is being attacked personally with misleading statements.

Prenzler, a Republican, is seeking re-election to a second four-year term in November.

He will face Marleen Suarez, a Democrat, who on Monday called for Prenzler to address "repeated health, safety, and staffing violations" at the Good Sheperd Academy, a preschool and daycare he operates at 5500 Virginia Ave. in St. Louis.

In a press release, Suarez provided documents from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service which identified 86 violations at the center in 2013 and 2014.

Raising the issue is germane to the campaign, Suarez said, because "Kurt made his daycare a relevant issue by citing it as a qualification to be Treasurer during previous campaigns."

She said the "alarming" violations - which included the detection of spiders and rodents, lack of outdoor fencing and staffing issues, among other things - are "a direct reflection of his work ethic, character, and competency."

"Public officials are held to a higher standard, and Kurt’s absolute failure to be accountable to these children and families raises questions about his ability to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars," she said.

Prenzler did not respond to the criticisms of the center he has operated since 2004.

But, in a statement he said, "My opponent has begun to attack me with false and misleading ads."

He said that candidates who are "desperate" resort to "dirty" campaigning.

Prenzler said he ran "clean" campaigns for Treasurer in 2006 and 2010, and plans the same this year. He said he has not "mentioned" his opponent, and, instead, plans to run on his record.

He states that he has reduced the Treasurer's budget by 30 percent, saving taxpayers $1.5 million.

Prenzler lost election in 2006 to the now-imprisoned former treasurer Fred Bathon. Bathon is serving a 30-month sentence for having rigged the county's tax sales for the benefit of tax buyers who contributed to his campaign.

Prenzler said he blew the whistle on Bathon's handling of tax sales which led to a federal investigation and indictment.

"In 2006, when I ran against Democrat Fred Bathon, I never attacked him personally," Prenzler stated. "I never used the word 'corrupt.' Even though he took $150,000 from tax buyers, and ran a homebuilding business from the county treasurer's office.

"Bathon spent tens of thousands of dollars of TV ads against me, calling me a right-wing religious extremist and claiming that I wanted to abolish the U.S. Constitution."

Prenzler also states as an accomplishment that he has run "ethical" tax sales, reducing penalty rates for delinquent tax payers to 1.59 percent, compared to Bathon's average 18 percent penalty rate.

The candidates have so far raised modest amounts of campaign cash - less than $50,000 combined. Prenzler has an edge.

From the last quarter of 2013 through June 30, Prenzler has raised $26,543 to Suarez's $17,276.

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