Yet More Election Law Violations in Alpine School District

Unbelievably, more teachers in Alpine School District continue to violate Utah election law and Alpine School District policies (See previous 1, previous 2). At this point, who knows how many schools this is happening in. Highland City Council member Rod Mann posted the below emails which he obtained, to Facebook over the weekend. He gave me permission to reprint his letter which was sent to the Lt. Gov., Utah county clerk, and ASD Superintendent Vern Henshaw. His letters are below these letters from a fourth grade teacher at Meadow elementary showing clear violations of the law.  It seems clear that the principal and other administrators must also support these actions as she wrote the names on the faculty lounge whiteboard for everyone to see. Further, after sending out an email to the rest of the school on the 21st, she continued to send emails on the 28th and 30th. The failure of the principal to stop this action shows she was complicit with the actions of this teacher.

Please contact:

The Lt. Governor’s office, 800-995-VOTE, write him at: http://www.utah.gov/ltgovernor/contact/, spencercox@utah.gov

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes: (801) 366-0260

Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman: 801-851-8026

Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson: bryant@utahcounty.gov

ASD Superintendent Vern Henshaw: vhenshaw@alpinedistrict.org

and ask your ASD board member how such violations of election law and district policy are handled.

Seems to me that this is an institutionalized method for electing rubber stamps to the board. There is only one solution. Enforce the law, and enact partisan school board elections so that locally elected representatives can vet candidates for inclusion on the ballot and not let the establishment run the campaigns of selected candidates using taxpayer dollars.

Please help get out the vote for Wendy Hart, Chris Jolley, and Maynard Olsen tomorrow. They will represent the public interest.

 

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Rod Mann’s post from Facebook, used with permission.

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I am sorry to say that today I saw copies of 3 additional emails that violate ASD policy and state election law. Here is the email I just send to Superintendent Henshaw with copies to the the Lt. Governor and the County Clerk along with pictures of the emails.

“Superintendent Henshaw, Lt. Governor Cox, and County Clerk Thompson

Last week I sent you the note below regarding information that was brought up at the recent school ASD board meeting. Today I am sorry that I became aware of 3 additional emails (see attached files) that were sent out from Alpine District Email addresses to recipients using an Alpine District Email distribution list. They promote a specific set of candidates, an inferred set of candidates, helped to organize a campaign event for a specific candidate and indicated that specific candidate names were posted on a white board in the faculty lounge of a school. I am pretty sure that these are all violations of ASD policy and I am guessing that they are also violations of state election law. You’ll notice that most the content of one of the emails is from the AEA. The problem with this one is that a school employee used an ASD email account to forward this information using an ASD Distribution List.

As I said in the email below I have a separate concern if you first hear of such violations from people outside the district. This would indicate that teachers and staff are either 1) ignorant of district policy and state election laws, or 2) are afraid of directly reporting violations, and/or 3) are willfully violating district policy and election law to ensure that the “right” outcome occurs.

It would appear that you have a serious problem with campaign policy and law in the district. I would hope that these get fixed. Please be aware that regardless of the outcome of the election I will use my best efforts to ensure that legislative policies are enacted that will serve as a more effective deterrent than the current code allows.

I would hope that in the meantime that the district would be more rigorous in informing teachers and staff about ASD policy and state election law and then find a means to deter future violations. I would also hope that the county and state would look into what appears a systemic problem with government resources being used to influence election results. Also, I believe there is a good chance that a hostile work environment exists for those teachers who do not agree with the AEA.

Regards,

Rod Mann

—— Original Message ——
From: “Rod Mann” <mannrw@gmail.com>
To: vhenshaw@alpinedistrict.org
Cc: spencercox@utah.gov; bryant@utahcounty.gov
Sent: 10/28/2014 10:27:23 PM
Subject: Campaign emails using Alpine District Resources

Hello Superintend Henshaw,

I attended the board meeting this evening and just want to share with you my point of view on the emails. The board is clearly divided on some issues and that is not bad. Healthy discussion generally creates better solutions. Reading the recent email from board vice president JoDee Sundberg to district personnel (I’m assuming it was to all principals) and Keith Conley’s (principal of Geneva Elementary School) email indicating to staff and teachers who they should support as well as recounting a teacher/staff meeting where he distributed campaign information, shows the strong personal animus that is being propagated throughout district personnel. This is not healthy discussion.

The emails support a viewpoint that the district has its own agenda and uses tax payer resources to ensure that candidates who support that agenda are elected. I would expect you to be very concerned if the first you heard of the email was through the Internet/Facebook. This would mean that no recipient of either Mrs. Sundberg’s or Mr. Conley’s email and no one who attended the meeting Mr. Conley references had the courage to share this information with you as a violation of district policy and/or state election law. How sad it would be if someone who might have considered reporting this was dissuaded from doing so out of fear of potential repercussions (after all the board vice-president seemingly encouraged the behavior).

The principal not only encouraged his staff and teachers to violate policy, he also broke trust with the community he serves by using his time at work and district resources, paid for by all tax payers, to actively work against some of them — in other words he used the resources of government to try and impose his personal (and Mrs. Sundberg’s) will on those he serves. I understand that the Lt. Governor has spoken with you and that an apology to those Mr. Conley sent the email to will be forth coming. The seems insufficient. If an apology will be written, it should be a public apology to all those whose trust he violated and whose funds he misused. I can’t help but wonder if this is the first time this happened. Is an apology enough to prevent it from happening again? I’m not sure. If I was willing to violate district policy and/or state law to accomplish a mission and I knew that if caught I would simply have to apologize, I doubt I would be deterred from acting.

That a board member would abuse her authority and encourage district personnel to violate district policy and the law is also disturbing. Were I on the board this certainly have diminished my trust in her and might affect my willingness to engage with her. Do you really want a board where open hostility reigns and trust is absent. I don’t envy your challenge.

I would encourage you to not just let this blow over, but to take active and public steps to ensure that there are strong incentives in place to discourage this kind of behavior going forward. That will go a long way to restoring trust.

A quick note on another matter. A city attorney attends all council meetings and most work sessions in Highland (I imagine that most other cities do the same). This allows all council members to directly ask questions and receive an immediate response. I find this practice to be of great value. I would recommend the same for the school board. That would eliminate any perception that the administration is blocking certain board members from obtain legal opinions on matters pertinent to the board.

Regards,

Rod Mann
Highland City resident and city council member

9 thoughts on “Yet More Election Law Violations in Alpine School District”

  1. Big shock. Utahns for ethics in govt had their petition all over the Davis schools a few years ago. PubEd is dominated by PROGressives, and they CHEAT. Get your kids out of these propaganda pits.

  2. It would be interesting to know if this website will also be publishing a report of one of their favored candidates, Joel Wright, doing essentially the EXACT same thing, except on a much larger scale. Mr. Wright sent an email yesterday to nearly all the SCC, PTA, teacher and administrator email addresses listed on the websites of the schools in his voting district, asking for their support in the election. It seems surprising that, after being outraged that district employees would use district accounts for political purposes, that Mr. Wright would then turn around and use them for HIS political purposes. As a PTSA board member, I received his email and found it very offensive that he would ask me to support him as a PTSA board member, when that is a clear violation of PTA guidelines.

    1. Well Mr. Amber, the first question is are you in agreement that what’s happening in ASD is a violation of the law. Is it and do you agree that there should be a punishment of school employees who violated the law?

      1. I agree with you that district employees should not be using their district accounts for political purposes. Principals, especially, should NOT be using their district accounts to solicit political support for ANY candidate. I believe there is a district policy against this, and they should be disciplined. I don’t think ANYONE should be using district accounts for political purposes. I’m not sure as to the legality of what was done. Is it against district policy? I would say yes. Is it morally right? No, I don’t think so. But as to the actual legality? I’m not sure.

        JoDee Sundberg’s emails (that this website and Mr. Wright were so upset about) were sent from her personal account TO district accounts. Wright’s emails were sent from his personal account TO district accounts (and many private accounts available on district sites). I find it hypocritical for Wright to publicly criticize Sundberg’s emails, and then turn around and ALSO use district accounts for political purposes. And I find it hypocritical of this website to be so upset about Sundberg’s emails without also chastising Wright (even if you feel his are the lesser of the two evils).

        It doesn’t appear that the majority of the offending emails were sent during contracted hours. In addition to the using of district accounts violation, any that were sent during contracted hours should, yes, be looked into very seriously as that would be using district time for political purposes. I understand that many are upset about Sundberg’s position of authority in the district, but the email did not go to EVERY principal, so it could be inferred that she had a personal relationship with those people she contacted, or that they had previously expressed their support to her (she should have used their personal contact information). The same can not be said for Wright’s emails. So I find them equally problematic, but for different reasons.

        The thing is that I’ve been trying to come to this site to look for information about concerns I have with Common Core and with various things at the district level. But I am finding this website to be so rabidly anti-“anything district related” that it is not helpful. As someone who spends multiple hours each week in multiple ASD schools (as a volunteer and parent- not an employee in case you are wondering), I see the many, many good things happening there. And this website seems to ignore all the good and only the discuss the bad. Therefore, I see no reason to return here for incomplete information.

        And I’m not a Mr. :)

        1. Thank you for responding. So here is the difference.

          JoDee Sundberg’s emails to principals requested that they get their teachers to fundraise and campaign for her. As a sitting board member, this crossed an ethical line. The principals in response, sent emails to their teachers continuing the vitriol and specifically breaking the law and ASD policy.

          Joel Wright’s emails did none of this. He is not a sitting board member. He merely asked for their vote and used the only method available to contact them which his opponents were already utilizing. The AEA had sent campaigning emails to the teachers and for Joel or other candidates to have that be off limits to them would be irrational. The teachers were already being campaigned. The line was crossed though when a board member told principals to violate ASD policy and then principals broke the law by doing so.

          Employees in ASD were warned earlier this year about what district policy and election laws state but those were violated in an effort to make sure their candidates won.

          I highly doubt you’ve spent much time on the site if you’re so put off by 3 posts in the last week exposing violations of the law. There are tons of positive things on this site, although a significant portion is exposing what is happening globally, nationally, at the state, and locally. I would strongly urge you to look at this post on why Utah should adopt CA’s math standards. They’ve done an amazing thing (till they adopted CC).
          https://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/solution-utah-should-adopt-californias-math-standards/

          Oh, and sorry about the Mr. I saw your email address as Dave.Amber and assumed it was first.last name instead of possibly husband.wife. :)

    2. Sending emails TO public employees via their publicly available, district email addresses is not illegal, from what I understand. Are you saying that these political emails were sent FROM a district email account? That’s where the problem comes in, isn’t it?

    3. Amber, there is a big difference between school employees compaigning ON THE JOB, REPRESENTING THE SCHOOL DISTRICT, USING TAXPAER MONEY, versus Joel Wright e-mailing PTA members on his OWN TIME, using his OWN RESOURCES, and not being in a position of power over those he is hoping to influence. In my opinion, anyone who abuses their power to run an illegal election campaign should be disqualified from the election process — i.e. Why would we want JoDee Sundberg to represent our school district when she is unwilling herself to follow the law?

  3. When my wife and I moved from Massachusetts we thought: “finally we’re moving to a state where people will be less dishonest, there won’t be dirty and illegal campaigning (at least to the extent of everywhere outside the “Beehive State”) and we can trust Conservatives to be truly conservative! But as we learned since living here and getting involved: NOT SO! I know coined the phrase and label Utah in terms of its politics at all levels as the “Wasp Nest State”. You can send me 5 cents royalty for every time you use this term, LOL. Even in my so called conservative city of Centerville, we’ve had the worst of the moderates and progressives hiding behind the conservative Republican label for too long, especially the vast majority of the Davis School District including the board. The ASD dirty tactics used this election aren’t far from Davis’s tactics. People I respect were calling my home and trashing Peter Cannon for Davis School Board re-election but who lost this primary. And lost because of gossip and inaccuracies being levied about him! When we asked from where and whom their sources for this reputation-damaging information came, as always they heard it from someone who heard it from someone in the school board. Peter was the ONLY qualified candidate in the entire race. Please understand that I love every individual who ran for this school board however, this doesn’t change the fact that they demonstrated in that debate that most of them are mostly clueless about the issues! Not one of them except Peter of course, knew anything about Common Core Curriculum (not “only a curriculum”) alias “Utah Desk Standards”. Peter was the only candidate that gave substantive answers in the debate however, since most everyone attending were low information voters, they were also clueless and the outcome of that primary tells at least half the tale. Nelson = CLULESS although a wonder guy and Tanner = pure intent and good desires but like the rest of them, quite clueless. NONE of them have any presence up at the state capitol except for Peter Cannon! How are we going to get what needs to be brought before our legislature without a savvy school board true conservative? “Ain’t gonna happen” friends. So Davis School politics will be as usual except for the fact that there is one good conservative still there Mr. Smith and at least the lesser of the two uniformed candidates won, not all bad, she’s a great woman, and now the rest of the school board will not have anyone to whom they can point fingers, call names, denigrate and disrespect now that our true statesman Peter Cannon was not re-elected (unless they go after Mr. Smith another true conservative-may he stay this way). It’s sad that this is the raw treatment a good true constitutional Conservative: Peter Cannon received the entire time he faithfully served. I invite our Davis school board members to get themselves up on capitol hill like Peter did to help with the issues that will best serve our children and their freedoms and rights. This kind of dirty politics in Davis speaks to the liberal and progressive agenda of our School District and its leaders. I guess now I have defined by default what a “Utah-Republican” is. To illustrate this point in the Davis County Commissioner race; the “establishment Republican” Bret Millburn who to me, is nothing more than a moderate – progressive and not near as conservative as his Democratic opponent Steven Andersen (no-one did their homework on these two candidates) will be our Davis Cnty. Commissioner. Great, politics as usual. Thanks Davis County!!

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