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Union Members Used School Email to Promote School Board Candidates

Livonia superintendent says it was a mistake

The superintendent of Livonia Public Schools said it was a mistake that an email signed by district employees supporting four school board candidates was sent to district employees at their work email addresses. Two district employees who are officials in the Livonia Education Association union local signed the email.

“It was sent by a staff member of the local EA (education association) who inadvertently sent it to the wrong email list,” Superintendent Randy Liepa told Capitol Confidential. “It was done in error. They did let us know immediately about the error and apologized.”

He did not say if any action would be taken against the employees. Not only did the email list the candidates the union supports, it mentioned that the union office has signs and literature available for those candidates. Emails to district employees named in the email were not answered.

One district resident, Lloyd Romick believes the email was intentional. He is filing a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections over what he sees as the use of public resources to support a political campaign.

“Our election law maintains that it is imperative to maintain strict government neutrality in elections in order to protect the integrity of the democratic process,” Romick said. He points out that two of the four candidates endorsed in the email have voted for union contracts in the past and will do so again next year.

According to Section 57 of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, “public bodies are prohibited from using their office email and phones for campaign purposes.”

While staff email directories are available to the public, it is not clear if the email was drafted on school computers or during school time, or whether email recipients forwarded their emails using school computers. An individual using a Michigan Education Association email address was shown to be the source of the email.

Livonia has been the subject of several controversies over the years. The most recent was the takeover of a popular charter public school it authorized which had the effect of bringing more state foundation money to the district. Earlier, there were objections to a $50,000 raise the board approved for Liepa and the way the district handled allegations of mistreatment of students with disabilities at an elementary school.

Liepa says he is not aware of campaign emails previously being sent by district employees using district email addresses. The state has five days to respond to election complaints. The district will then have 15 days to issue an explanation. Violation of the state’s Campaign Finance Act is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail, or a $20,000 fine if the violation is committed by a group of people.

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.