Anti-Measure J campaign complaint filed
State panel only issues warning
John Hardin, the local businessman who took on Porterville Unified School District’s $90 million bond measure campaign, has been issued a warning by the Fair Political Practices Commission after school board member Richard Morris filed a complaint.
Measure J lost in the polls Nov. 6, 2012, falling about four percentage points of the necessary 55 percent approval needed to pass the local bond measure.
In his complaint filed with the FPPC on Dec. 17, 2012, Morris alleged that Hardin had failed to follow election law in his campaign to defeat the tax measure. Morris alleged Hardin did not file proper expenditure reports and that he did not properly fill out reports he did file.
Morris, who included fellow PUSD board member Pete Lara as a witness, also alleged that someone placed “No on Measure J” signs on school property, but he submitted no evidence to back up his allegation that Hardin had been responsible.
It took the FPPC less than a month to investigate and rule, issuing Hardin a warning letter, explaining that he had sought advice and followed advice from the county election’s office.
“Specifically, the FPPC found that you failed to include the proper identification disclosure and failed to properly file campaign disclosure reports when you made a number of independent expenditures in the form of advertisements, yard signs, radio ads and robocalls opposing Measure J.
“Your actions violated the Act because you failed to file the proper forms in a timely manner and failed to include your name along with a statement indicating you were opposing Measure J in the committee’s name. However, because you consulted with the Tulare County Office of Elections regarding your filing obligations, you filed campaign forms disclosing your activity prior to the election for the public to view, you had some form of committee name on your mailings and advertisements, and the fact that you do not have an enforcement history, we are closing this matter with a warning letter.”
Hardin said he welcomed the scrutiny and was pleased with the outcome. He also vehemently denied placing signs on school property.
“Obviously, it is sour grapes for board member Morris that we were able to defeat Measure J by showing the public the self-serving nature of certain board members,” he said in a written statement.
Morris said he felt obligated to look into possible violations.
“During the campaign there were comments and some accusations made about the proponents of the school bond measure failing to follow state campaign laws. My request to the FPPC was made to demonstrate that the rules in a campaign apply to both sides,” he said in an email reply to The Recorder.
“I found the results of the inquiry to be both interesting and quite satisfactory.”
Hardin has been vocal about issues involving the school district for quite some time. He spent hundreds of dollars to point out what he says are excessive expenses regarding the district, including school trustees in the district’s self-funding health plan. He took on Measure J, claiming the board did not deserve “a leap of faith” by voters to manage the $90 million. He said he spent more than $3,800 of his own money to defeat the measure.
“I think it is sad that Mr. Morris does not understand the damage his arrogant, attacking me first nature causes Porterville Unified School District. I can think of $90 million reasons why Mr. Morris should resign from the board and allow a replacement that is willing to work with the community and truly put the students’ and teachers’ needs ahead of his own,” said Hardin.
Morris expressed confidence the district does have the support of the community.
“I serve a community that has proven time and again its support for our schools. I am confident that working in an atmosphere of truth and harmony we will find a way to continue providing the best possible education for our students,” he said.
The quick action by the FPPC is in contrast to the time it has taken regarding three complaints filed against current and former city council members. Still under investigation are complaints filed against current council members Greg Shelton and Cameron Hamilton, and former mayor Ron Irish. Those were filed in June.
Rick Elkins is editor of the Porterville Recorder. He can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1040, or by email at email@example.com.