FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The mother of a 2-year-old girl said her daughter did not win Homecoming princess this month because of the event committee's faulty scorekeeping.
Homecoming President Donna McAndrews denied any impropriety. She said the committee named a prince and princess at this year's 40th annual Homecoming held Aug. 10-11 based on whoever sold the most raffle tickets.
Shemeka Williams said her daughter, Kayla Keely, was runner-up because the committee changed the rules at the last minute.
Williams voiced her concerns at a City Council meeting on Aug. 21. Some aldermen now say they will not approve funds for next year's Homecoming until the issue is resolved.
Aldermen say they have a right to be concerned that all residents were treated fairly because even though the Homecoming is not a city-sponsored event, the city does provide some resources.
The city gave the event $2,800 this year from hotel-motel funds, and pays for $12,000 to $15,000 in overtime to police officers and parks employees who work the event, Finance Director Scott Borror said.
Willliams said a committee member told her the girl who won, Halie Kaiser, sold only one hundred $1 tickets but turned in about $1,500 -- meaning she received about $1,400 in donations.
Williams said her daughter sold more than 1,200 tickets and the committee never said she was allowed to collect donations.
"When we went to turn in our tickets, they told us, 'We're not going to count tickets this year, we're going by donations,'" Williams said. "We could have gotten donations, but we played fair game."
Vera Mitchell, who was in charge of the Homecoming raffle contest, said Williams is wrong and Kaiser's win was based on ticket sales. Mitchell is the wife of Mayor Gail Mitchell.
"We didn't do hers any different than anybody there," Mitchell said.
Mitchell, said the committee did not count up the raffle tickets each contestant submitted. Instead, the committee counted the money each contestant turned in and then calculated how many tickets that amounts to.
The tickets and the money submitted is not a 1:1 ratio because contestants were allowed to sell tickets as a bundle of six tickets for $5.
Mitchell said she took the dollar amount submitted, divided the number by five and then multiplied the number by six. These are the results:
* Keely's family turned in $939, which amounted to 1,126 tickets.
* Kaiser's family turned in $1,063, which amounted to 1,275 tickets.
The contest for prince brought in drastically fewer tickets -- about $200 worth, according to Mitchell.
Mitchell said she explained the process to Williams the day of the contest and Williams had no objections.
Mitchell said members do everything they can to keep the contest honest, such as not divulging how many raffle tickets each contestant picks up to sell and setting up individual appointments with contestants.
Mitchell said the committee did make an exception: It gave Williams more time when she showed up at the appointment without all the tickets filled out. Willliams said she was on time.
Both McAndrews and Mitchell said they want to meet with Williams to explain the process and show her the records they have. They said a meeting was set for Monday but Williams canceled.
Williams said she is still waiting for an "honest" explanation from the Homecoming Committee. Williams said she will bring an attorney to meet with them because, for now, she's not even sure the tickets she sold were included in the raffle drawing.
Mitchell said Williams' tickets were included in the drawing. A recount to see how many tickets each contestant submitted can't be done because the committee throws away the tickets after Homecoming, Mitchell said.
Ward 2 Alderman Speed Allen said that if Williams' account is true, what the Homecoming committee did was wrong.
"I was one of the main supporters of Homecoming, but I won't support them after this -- not if they don't get it straightened out," Allen said. "I will not vote to give them one dime."
Ward 5 Alderwoman Sandy Baldwin said she wants to know what was communicated to the contestants and how it was communicated. She also wants to know how the committee counts the money and whether there is financial oversight.
"I don't understand the processes and when I tried to ask that question the other night, I was told it's not city business," Baldwin said.
Ward 3 Alderwoman Pat Baeske and Ward 4 Alderwoman Carol Warner also said they were concerned about possible impropriety and have yet to get answers from the committee.
Ward 4 Alderwoman Linda Arnold said she's confident the contest was "above board" and aldermen should let the Homecoming Committee resolve this issue on their own.
Arnold said her granddaughter was one of the contestants, but she did not win.
Williams' daughter should have been disqualified from the beginning when she turned in her tickets late, Arnold added.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at email@example.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.