The Park City School Bond election is drawing nearer. On November 3rd, voters will head to the polls to decide the fate of the $56 million bond. Yet, it appears the battle is still raging. Today, the Summit County Attorney’s office released a press release stating it was investigating both school board members and the bond opposition for violating election laws. In this two part series, the Parkrag wants to provide some context about allegations on both sides, present the laws, and let you make up your own mind.
Part 2: Have Park City School Board Members Violated Election Law?
As far as we know, there have been two allegations against members of the school board, with regard to presenting information to students about the upcoming bond. The first allegation from some children was that during student assemblies, children were told to tell their parents to vote for the bond. This has been denied by the school board. We won’t cover that here.
The second allegation is that a video produced by the school district attempts to influence people to vote for the bond. We received a copy of the video from the school district and will show it below, so you can make up your own mind.
Why is this potentially illegal?
According to Utah Code: “Unless specifically required by law, and except as provided in Section 20A-11-1206, a public entity may not make an expenditure from public funds for political purposes or to influence a ballot proposition.”
In the video below, which appears to be filmed at the High School, was provided by a district personnel, and was shown to many classes throughout the district, it sounds like School Board President Tania Knauer says, “We are asking the voters to approve a $56 million bond.” It is legal for the School Board to provide matter of fact statements but they are not supposed to encourage people to vote one way or another. This statement could be construed, by some, as the school board attempting to influence voters.
Here is the beginning of the video, where introductions are made and then the part where Ms. Knauer makes her statement:
Why is this potentially not illegal?
It all comes down to “influence.” You may construe Ms Knauer’s words, “We are asking the voters to approve a $56 million bond” as pure statement of fact. Perhaps it is not trying to encourage or influence people to vote one way or another. Likewise, if you view the video in its entirety, you’ll see it is about 2 minutes of fact and 10 seconds of what sounds like Ms. Knauer’s statements.
Here is the video in its entirety:
The County Attorney’s office knows what they are doing and has actual legal minds to back up their decisions. So, it will be interesting to see what they determine. Keep in mind, these acts are typically misdemeanors. So, even if they took place, were charged, and found guilty, it’s a couple hundred dollar fine. It does not validate or invalidate the election.
Still, it’s interesting to play Arm Chair Quarterback. If your child had to watch this video in class, would you construe it as the School Board trying to influence the election?
Note: We do not have any official information on whether the above issue is the item that the County Attorney is investigating. It is just one of the potential issues that has been brought to our attention by the community.