Local resident claims PUSD violating election law
Measure J opponent levies charge
Porterville resident John Hardin has hired an attorney to address what he calls “election law violations.”
A letter, addressing issues relating to the alleged unlawful promoting of the passage of Measure J — the District’s $90 million general obligation bond measure on the Nov. 6 ballot — was submitted to John Snavely, superintendent of the Porterville Unified School District, by the law offices of Kelly Aviles in San Dimas.
“It was recently brought to my client’s attention that district employees, on district time, have been campaigning for the passage of Measure J, the local bond initiative which would authorize the district to issue $90 million in bonds. The campaigning is widespread. I am informed that teachers, principles, and even you have promoted the passage of Measure J.
The campaigning has occurred throughout the community and has even been done during classes within the district, asking students to get their parents to vote in favor of the measure,” the letter read.
Hardin’s claim that the District has improperly campaigned for Measure J is not true, said PUSD Superintendent John Snavely.
Headed by Milt Stowe, Friends of Porterville Schools-Campaign for Measure J is a lawfully created nonprofit organization formed to conduct all campaigning for Measure J, said Snavely.
Hardin is also asking for public record copies of all public records relating to Measure J from Jan. 1 to the present.
“Mr. Hardin, once again, is making unsubstantiated claims,” Snavely said. “In fact, over the last several years, Mr. Hardin has made numerous claims that have taken extraordinary amount of taxpayer dollars and staff time to research and address.”
On Aug. 20, Hardin, through his attorney, requested the district to provide copies of the bond initiative, including “every detail of the bond,” copies of each and every board member meeting minutes from when the bond was discussed and how each member voted on any actionable item, copies of any additional details concerning the bond initiative of anything he, Hardin, might have “inadvertently failed to request” and a detailed list of what the proceeds of the bond issue can and cannot be used for, and any changes made to the latter via a board member vote, post issuance.
The District received the letter on Aug. 22 and responded with the information on Aug. 23.
The current letter asks for any documents created by the district or any employee thereof, relating to Measure J; any correspondence, memorandum, and e-mails relating to Measure J, and any PowerPoint or slide show presentations regarding Measure J.
“The District believes in accountability and transparency and I am confident that the District’s response to Mr. Hardin’s public record act request will support the District’s position; however, District staff will now be required to spend hours and hours of time to research the documents Mr. Hardin requests when, instead, we could be working to provide a quality education to our children,” Snavely said. “It should, also, be noted that most of the information requested by this attorney has already been provided directly to Mr. Hardin in one of his many previous public records act requests.”
The letter through Aviles went on to quote California law, Education Code section 7054, prohibiting the engaging in political advocacy using public resources, including school property, funds, personnel, supplies or equipment for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure.
Any public statement about the measure must be informational, factual and impartial, the letter reads.
“We demand that all school district employees immediately cease using its funds, school property, personnel, supplies or equipment to influence the election. Printing of the material must cease and any remaining offending material not yet distributed must be destroyed,” the letter states.
In the meantime, Hardin remains adamant.
“We intend to hold every administrator legally liable for not only pressuring staff members during school hours on campus into supporting Measure J but also demanding their staff go out and find other supporters. Administrators pushing the districts political agenda to students in classrooms during school hours in an attempt to garner votes from their parents is a compromise to ‘free elections’ and won’t be tolerated,” Hardin said. “I suspect the district will deny wrong doing but we will let a judge decide.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.