News Story

Superintendent Accused of Intimidation Against Recall Petition Signers

School board president promises zero tolerance for ‘retaliation or harassment’

A Michigan public school superintendent is accused of trying to intimidate supporters of a petition to recall four school board members.

Greg Gaw, one of the people involved in the recall campaign in the Britton Deerfield school district, claims Superintendent Stacy Johnson has been trying to intimidate recall supporters. Gaw said that he collected 471 signatures, more than the required minimum of 311.

Gaw pointed to social media posts made by the superintendent about the recall campaign in the small southeast Michigan district.

“The signature pages are public documents,” Johnson posted in a Facebook comment. “We will see them all. Sorry if you don’t like that but that’s just the way it is.”

In another Facebook post, Johnson stated, “Also – the signatures will ALL be reviewed by administration and the board members, as well as the clerk’s office! It will be interesting to see who really wants to sign something that will have such a negative impact on our school district and it’s positive momentum!!”

Gaw said it was the county clerk’s job to certify signatures and that Johnson’s comments were meant to intimidate people thinking of supporting the recall effort.

The Adrian Daily Telegram reported that the petitions targeted board vice president Ben Allshouse, secretary Yvonne Thomas, treasurer Brian Bartush and trustee Doug Mayher Jr.

School board president Todd Ost stated in an email that the Facebook comments made by Johnson don’t tell the complete story.

“Superintendent Johnson and our schools have been the subject of near daily attacks by a small group of citizens who are unhappy about recent staffing changes. Those attacks go far beyond a school board recall petition. This group has spread mistruths about the superintendent, including going so far as to file a false complaint against her with the Michigan Department of Education and a false police report against her with the Michigan State Police, both of which were investigated and promptly closed,” Ost wrote. “Members of the group have also publicly defamed the District itself by suggesting that it is facing an imminent state takeover, which is not close to true. All of this has the potential to damage the District’s reputation and to undo all of the progress the District has made over the past two years.”

Ost continued: “It is my understanding that Mrs. Johnson’s Facebook posts, which you referenced in your email, were made after Mrs. Johnson learned that members of the community were under the mistaken impression that they could sign the recall petition anonymously. As you know, that is not the case. Mrs. Johnson was attempting to clarify that point. Additionally, a person who signs the recall petition is likely someone who is not satisfied with the District or its leadership. By identifying those individuals, Mrs. Johnson optimistically believed that she could open a dialogue with them to better understand and address their concerns.”

Ost stated: “Mrs. Johnson and the Board encourage members of the community to continue their dialogue about the future of Britton Deerfield Schools. We ask that everyone do so in a respectful manner based on the facts. Finally, the District and the Board respect the public’s voice and their right to engage in the political process. The Board and the District will not tolerate any form of retaliation or harassment against any person for expressing his or her views, including by signing a recall petition.”