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Guest Editorial: “YES FOR PROP. U” Signs Displayed at U.City Schools

March 25th, 2013 by Mark Truman · 2 Comments

By Tom Sullivan

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.

Thanks,

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 School District is providing a terrible example for its students. There is certainly no diversity of opinions allowed on Prop. U — only ONE WAY to think. In addition, the lesson given to students is that it’s acceptable to cheat, lie and trample on the law if it helps to get what you want. Students in the school district are also being shown how to go about corrupting an 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.

Related:

UPDATE: Picture of the Day: Is This Legal?

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Tags: St. Louis

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt // Mar 25, 2013 at 7:54 am

    All the school districts do this, as do the boards. The Fox School District did the very same thing, and the Jefferson County 911 Board spent $180,000 on “organizing” in support of passing a major sales tax expansion. No one cracks down on them, and when you report them, nothing is done. The law needs to be changed such that the entire board of a political body can be held individually liable for a Class A misdemeanors when such things are done. There is literally no enforcement mechanism or body as it stands to enforce the statute, so the inmates run the asylum.

  • 2 Chris // Mar 25, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Actually, there is a mechanism to address this type of violation: The Missouri Ethics Commission can and will enforce the laws regarding political campaigning. They have successfully prosecuted a number of political subdivisions, including school districts, for this type of activity. The caveat is that they will not investigate unless a complaint is actually filed.

    Fortunately, it’s easy to file a complaint and the resources are all available on their website: mec.mo.gov. I am a member of my local school board and made the decision to run several years ago because of EXACTLY this kind of problem. I would encourage someone in the University City School District to file a complaint with the MEC and stop this kind of wasteful and illegal school spending!

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