School District Resources Used for Candidate Campaign Announcement
A Northville Public School official said the district will remove a link on its Internet home page that announced a school board member's run for the state's House of Representatives after being told by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy it may be in violation of the state campaign finance law.
The Northville Public Schools put a link on its home page that read: "Wadsworth Launches Campaign" under the "District News" heading. (Northville has pulled down the link, but you can view a screenshot here.) School Board Vice President Joan Wadsworth is running as a Democrat for the 20th district seat. The Wadsworth announcement linked from the district's site to a PDF file. The announcement of Wadsworth's campaign was written on Northville Public Schools letterhead.
When contacted, Wadsworth said that she had a different release she sent out and that the release on the Northville home page was published by the school district. She said it was done to inform the people in the district that she would stay on as vice president unless she won the election.
Mackinac Center for Public Policy Senior Legal Analyst Patrick Wright said what crossed the line was a quote from Wadsworth in the press release that talked about her ability to make "positive contributions" as a member of the House of Representatives.
"This is a campaign document," Wright said. "This expressed advocacy for this person running for this office. And it's blatantly illegal. Government's role is not to advocate for one party. ... This is about as egregious a violation (of Michigan campaign finance law) that you can find."
David Bolitho, assistant superintendent for Northville Public Schools, thanked the Mackinac Center for bringing the issue to the district's attention. He said the link would come down until the school could consult with its legal staff.
"The district and Ms. Wadsworth don't want to create any controversy for the district," Bolitho said.
The school could face a fine up to $20,000 and the person responsible for posting the item could face misdemeanor charges if the post was found to violate the campaign finance law.
A recent print edition of Michigan Capitol Confidential examined other questionable postings on public school district websites.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.