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Voters in Cole County, Missouri, voted by a 3-to-1 margin against a sales tax to fund a new jail in Jefferson City, voiding the pending sale of the Missouri Baptist Convention headquarters building.

The final unofficial results of Tuesday’s county election were 9,752 votes (74.4 percent) against the tax and 3,348 (25.6 percent) in favor of the proposal, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reported Wednesday.

County officials in August agreed to buy the Baptist Building for $2.75 million, contingent on voters approving a half-cent sales tax to finance a proposed $36 million Justice Center in downtown Jefferson City.

The purchase, the first of several to clear they way for construction of the facility, was challenged by a local attorney who accused county commissioners of violating Missouri’s Sunshine Law by trying to keep the deal secret while they negotiated with owners of other properties.

The managing editor of the state convention newspaper, The Pathway, was fired after reporting the story too soon, though he was unaware of the deal to keep it quiet, sources told EthicsDaily.com.

A Wednesday story on The Pathway Web site said the Baptist Building is still for sale.

“We will be entertaining other possible buyers and contracts,” said MBC Executive Director David Clippard. “At this moment in time, we have no other buyers identified.”

Clippard said the convention is under no pressure to sell the 77-year-old former hotel, which has served as the Baptist headquarters since 1970.

“It has served Missouri Baptists well,” Clippard said of the building. “But we will continue to explore its sale and replacement in an effort to lower overall operations costs and thereby channel more dollars into missions, church planting and helping our churches fulfill their Great Commission mandate of Acts 1:8.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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