The University City School District has been running quite a campaign to support Proposition U, a $19.4 million bond issue proposal that will be on the April 2 ballot. In the process the school district is violating several state laws.
The school district has printed and distributed a considerable amount of material having to do with the ballot proposal: a “Fact Book,” a “Fact Sheet,” “Questions & Answers,” and an edition of the “UCity Pride” newspaper that has several pages favorable to Proposition U. These are being mailed to residents and also distributed at schools.
Also, 19,000 large, full-color postcards were printed and most were mailed to University City households. They show pictures of a poorly maintained school and issue an invitation to take open house tours at Brittany Woods Middle School and University City High School.
All the material is clearly designed to promote the passage of Proposition U and involves many thousands of dollars of expenditures. Therefore, it violates state law that prohibits spending public funds to either promote or oppose a ballot measure or candidate.
Much of the material does not say who paid for it, as the law requires, but some material does have “Paid for by the School District of University City” on it. This makes it clear the school district is also violating the law that requires campaign finance disclosure reports to be filed. The reports must list contributions and expenditures. This is mandated in the law and affirmed by Missouri Attorney General’s Opinion No. 21-88.
When asked for copies of any such reports, the following response came from Darryl Cobb at the UCSD on March 21:
Dear Mr. Sullivan,
The School District of University City received your Sunshine Request regarding copies of Proposition U campaign financial reports filed with the St. Louis County Board of Election and/or the Missouri Ethics Commission. In accordance with RSMO Section 115.646, the District does not campaign and is therefore not subject to filing Proposition U financial reports with either entity.P lease contact me at your earliest convenience if you have additional queries.
Darryl Cobb, Ed.D.
Associate Superintendent for Human Resources
School District of University City
However, at Brittany Woods Middle School, which is across the street from the district’s administrative offices, the following was on the school’s signboard this week: “4/2 VOTE YES FOR PROP. U” The sign leaves no doubt where the school district stands on Proposition U and that it is campaigning for its passage. Brittany Woods is also a polling place.
Flynn Park Elementary School also has a “YES TO PROP U” yard sign on its grounds. These are being distributed by a committee supporting Proposition U. Flynn Park also has a huge sign in front thanking voters for supporting 2009’s Proposition U, a previous bond issue. These are apparently at every school in the district. The signs have had a banner added across them saying, “WHAT’S NEXT – STAY TUNED.” Perhaps they will be changed to urge yes votes for Proposition U a few days before the election.
The University City Board of Education members are: Stacy Clay (President), Linda Peoples (Vice-President), Maria Chappelle-Nadal, John Clark, Rodney Jennings, Tom Peters and Rick Salamon. The superintendent is Joylynn Pruitt.
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