Saturday, February 18, 2012

Letter: School district donated illegally to Huuki campaign

Those in our public schools who are entrusted with the proper use of the tax dollars they receive, and that are meant to be used to educate students, have a certain responsibility to be aware of the laws of the State of Michigan regarding donations to Michigan elected officials. Likewise, Michigan elected officials have the responsibility to be aware of what constitutes a legal donation to their election campaigns and to keep track of all donations to those campaigns. It seems that last year both a local school district and a local politician failed in their duties in this regard.

Donations to the campaigns of Michigan elected officials are available for view online at Michigan citizens can learn a lot from searching these records! Recently, in searching the records of Rep. Matt Huuki I discovered that on May 25, 2011, the Matt Huuki for State Representative campaign fund received a donation of $100 from the Adams Township School District. In investigating the legality of this, I determined that it appears that school districts are not permitted to donate to the campaign funds of elected Michigan officials, as it is a violation of Section 57 of the Campaign Finance Act.

It might be noted that a week before the donation, at a meeting of the district's Board of Education, it was voted unanimously to have Mr. Huuki as the district's 2011 commencement speaker. I have no documentation that the donation to the Huuki campaign was related to his speaking at the commencement; the close timing of events could be coincidental.

It should also be noted that regardless of the provisions of section 57, honoraria are not allowed to be given to Michigan elected officials (Mich. Comp. Laws §169.250), so even if Mr. Huuki had received the funds as an honorarium, that would not have been legal even if it had not been donated to his campaign.

I am not aware of any communication between the district and Mr. Huuki regarding the donation, but his campaign organization has an obligation to keep track of donations to his campaign.

I'm a former public school employee and pay taxes in Adams Township, and as such resent both tax dollars going to politicians that should be going to educating students and having my tax dollars going to political campaigns without my permission.

I have made a formal complaint about this activity with the Michigan Secretary of State's Bureau of Elections. I have indicated in the complaint that I do not wish that the district receive a fine for this activity, and that a reprimand would suffice. It would be hypocritical of me to complain about school tax dollars going to a political candidate and then request that the district pay a fine out of its education budget. If the Department of State finds that there may be reason to believe my allegations are true, it must attempt to correct the violation or prevent further violations by informal methods such as a conference, conciliation, or persuasion, and may enter into a conciliation agreement with the alleged violator.

Hopefully through these actions some lessons will be learned.

Doug Welker
Atlantic Mine

No comments: