Another ASD Principal Gets Political – John Burton’s turn

Orem High School Principal Mike Browning sent this email out to faculty on Tuesday, which looks very appropriate.

From: Mike Browning_ohs <>
Date: Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 3:31 PM
Subject: Politics and Public Education
To: OHSFaculty <>

Just a quick reminder that as we enter the election window, ASD employees are encouraged to study the issues and involve themselves in the political process.  Since questions occasionally arise regarding appropriate political involvement by school employees, the following reminders may be helpful:

  • Engaging in political activities during contract time or at school functions by district employees or school parent councils is not appropriate.
  • Employees may engage in political activity as private citizens as long as the activity does not involve the use of public funds (equipment, Internet connections, and supplies).
  • Political information should not be displayed or distributed via schools.

Great work on a successful first term of the school year!  Have a good week,

The problem is, Mr. Browning is a hypocrite.

ASD_cardASD_card2I spoke with a teacher last night who informs me that at the faculty meeting at the beginning of October, Mr. Browning told the faculty that he is very involved in politics and that he had a meet the candidate event at his home and one of the candidates is critical in some regard to some issues in Alpine School District (it was unclear if Chris Jolley had actually been invited to this event). He then pulled  out a card (pictured at the left) and proceeded to say how great the Alpine School District is and what it gives to the communities.

This teacher explained to me, “Mr. Browning said, here we have PLCs, collaboration, and such, and encouraged us to have the cards in our wallet and when people were critical of the Alpine School District show them that we support the district and what it does for us and for our communities. While Mr. Browning’s speech wasn’t “technically” a political speech his words were almost, exactly the same as what was said by Mr. Conley in his now infamous very political email sent to his faculty. It is very evident that both of these principals got their information from the same sources, mainly the administrators in the district.  I came away from that faculty meeting knowing full well where Alpine District’s wants were concerning this upcoming election. It’s very evident that the district is on a public relations push to show just how much good the district is doing and that major changes are not needed. This is a way, non-political of course, to show where they stand concerning the upcoming elections. The cards, the words to the principals, which are trickling down to the teachers, all show that the district administration is very concerned about the possible change of direction if John Burton and JoDee Sundberg are voted out.”


Here’s some more information that came out after yesterday’s post. It appears current Board President and former long time Alpine School District administrator John Burton may have his own set of problems to deal with. Rick Armknecht posted this in the comments section.

Sadly, the emails shown here may include violations of law on the part of a great many public servants.

Look at the “To” section of the principal’s email:,,,,,

ALL of these recipients were put on notice of the principal’s illegal campaigning as of last Friday (the 24th) morning (assuming that they read their emails every 2 hours or so during work hours). What did they do about it? Looks like one became a “whistle blower.”   But what about the others? IF they read the email sent to them and IF they knew (or reasonably SHOULD HAVE KNOWN) about the illegality of the email AND if their position would imply that they DO something to stop the illegal conduct but they failed to take any action (yes, I know — a string of “ifs” there), then there is a violation of Utah law:

  • 76-8-101. Definitions

For the purposes of this chapter:

. . .

(5)          (a)          “Public servant” means any officer or employee of the state or any political subdivision of the state, including judges, legislators, consultants, and persons otherwise performing a governmental function.

  • 76-8-201. Official misconduct – Unauthorized acts or failure of duty A public servant is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if, with an intent to benefit himself or another or to harm another, he knowingly commits an unauthorized act which purports to be an act of his office, or knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.

So: What did John Burton know and when did he know it?

It seems to me that ASD has a pattern of doing what they want without any fear of repercussion. The ends (them maintaining power at all costs) justifies the means (violations of ethics and the law, particularly in the case of Ms. Sundberg and Principal Conley). Will there be enforcement of the law? It’s doubtful unless people rise up and say the law matters.

If Mr. Burton is OK with knowing this is going on under his watch as a publicly elected school board member and having been a long time administrator at ASD, he should resign his position and withdraw from the ballot. Nobody knows election ethics more than school administrators and the fact that this is knowingly allowed and even encouraged by inaction is a big problem.

10 thoughts on “Another ASD Principal Gets Political – John Burton’s turn”

  1. Two items jumped off Mr. Browning’s little card at me. First, “What is your 30 second elevator speech?”
    Is Alpine School District so worried about it’s “great reputation” they are now giving their employees sales pitch training in order to defend it?
    Second, “to ensure the future of our democracy”.
    Um, we engage in democratic processes, but last time I checked we still live in a constitutional republic.
    I’m not in ASD, but I believe what happens there impacts all of us, or has the potential to, so I do care what happens there. And that little card speaks volumes about changes that need to be made.

  2. John Burton isn’t just only a member of the Alpine School District Board of Education, he’s the President of this Board. In accepting of the emails he’s showing the side that he doesn’t have any integrity. We need better than this on the board, regardless of their stance. We need people with integrity and honesty. By not speaking up about these the egregiousness of the situation grows by the hour.

    1. Tim,
      Yes, as President of the Board, John Burton would certainly be expected to have a heightened level of responsibility. What I consider to be even more significant, though, is that “The Board of Education employs all personnel” (Alpine School District Policy No. 9072). Accordingly, John Burton (along with all other Board members) is the employer of every ASD principal. It is a well-accepted legal doctrine (in civil law matters) that an employer is responsible for actions of employees. The Latin terminology used for that concept is “Respondeat Superior” (translated as “let the master answer”).

      1. Thanks Rick. Great point. I’m just amazed that a sitting board member (JoDee Sundberg) would even dare to push the very limits of the policies that she, as a board member, approved. When a board member takes the oath of office they raise their right hand to the square and swear to take the office of Board of Education with ‘fidelity’. ‘Fidelity’ being the last word, if I remember correctly. Doing just this removes any ‘fidelity’ from the actions of that membership, IMHO.

        1. Rick, another item… Most board members in the ASD feel that they are there to ‘Support’ the superintendent, which in effect cedes all responsibility to him. Given what you’re seeing here is an example of just that.

    1. Chris,

      Thank you for informing all of us of this fact. At this point does it really surprise us about what tactics “they” are willing to use?

      1. Matthew, given the fact that this meet-and-greet never actually took place, I’m not sure it says anything about the tactics that “they” are willing to use.

  3. Dr. Burton read the district motto (,,,to ensure the future of our democracy) in his debate with Dr. Jolley yesterday and he then commended the ASD for the great job they are doing. Every time I substitute “democracy” for “republic” in the Pledge of Allegiance I cringe. I will suggest the new board correct the district motto in January 2015.

  4. Using the logic in the OP, any comment made by any district employee that was complimentary of ASD’s policies or practices could be considered a tacit act of political speech.

    To set the record straight, I was in that meeting in October at OHS. Your source is wrong, and his/her assertions border on libel. Browning actually said he was putting a yard sign up for a school board candidate (whom he did not name), and one of his politically active neighbors came over and started a conversation with him, which included her sharing what she felt were problems with ASD. Browning proceeded to give her a card like the one pictured above. He told the faculty that the card was a convenient way to cover talking points that showed the good things that ASD is doing.

    The false equivalence that the OP makes between Browning’s remarks and Conley’s email is invalid and unfair. And calling Browning a hypocrite is simply malicious. If his worst offense has been sharing reasons for supporting ASD that were similar to the talking points of current school board candidates, you’ve stretched the meaning of the word “hypocrite” past its breaking point.

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