The Secretary of State's (SOS) office confirmed Thursday that two complaints were filed:
- against board chair Howard Wallach for comments in support of the bond made during the district's Sept. 30 Senior Breakfast, and
- against the district, based on the tag line, "Did you know Farmington Public Schools is asking our community to support a bond proposal at the November election?”, that appeared in a list serv email
SOS spokesperson Fred Woodham said the office will decide within a week whether to investigate the claims.
In a press release sent Wednesday, Burstein, who is treasurer of bond opposition group Farmington Kids 1st, charges that Wallach "crossed the line when he urged 'support' for the upcoming $186 million bond proposal no less than four times" at the Senior Breakfast. The release cites a section of state law that "prohibits express advocacy when speaking as a public official or the use of public resources to promote/oppose a ballot issue."
But Amanda Van Dusen, attorney for Farmington Public Schools, said the Campaign Finance Act allows “expression of views by an elected or appointed public official who has policy making responsibilities”.
The list serv tag line mentioned in the second complaint falls within the district's ability to produce and disseminate "factual information concerning issues relevant to the function of the public body”, Van Dusen said.
The release mentions the case of Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS), cited by the Secretary of State's office for violating campaign law. Interlochen Public Radio (IPR) reported in April that state officials determined the district advocated for a "yes" vote with a mailer that stated the district, "is asking voters to support the continuation of TCAPS’ long-term capital infrastructure improvement plan by authorizing a bond proposal on November 6, 2002".
Van Dusen said the tag line in the Farmington Public Schools emails "refers to the fact that the district has placed bond proposals on the ballot. State law requires the district to obtain voter approval in order to issue the bonds under the plan, so of course the district, in placing the proposals on the ballot, is hoping voters will support the request."
Clarification: This article reflects a clarification provided by Sue Burstein that the complaints were filed individually by her (against the district) and by Irving Ginsberg (against Howard Wallach).