Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Levy Vote Yes Committee Campaign Violations Part II

It turns out that sometime after 3:15 on Friday, October 25, 2013, Committee for VOTE's co-Treasurer, Mary Scholz dashed into the South Washington County District Service Center and delivered the 10-day Campaign Finance Report.  After two emails to SWC833's Communications Director, Barb Brown, the CFR was emailed to me late Tuesday morning.

I also received notice from the Administrative Law Judge who is currently reviewing the case to decide if enough evidence has been given to move the matter to a Probable Cause hearing (via telephone).  Due to the fact that Committee for Vote miraculously filed the CFR at the last minute on Friday,  I have moved to withdraw two charges against Committee for Vote:
 "1.       Failure to file a Campaign Finance Report ten days prior to the general election. (211A.02)2.       Failure to report additional expenditures: print and online advertising (, Woodbury Bulletin, South Washington County Bulletin newspapers and approximate cost $1440.00.  (211A.02)"
However, I stand by the other charges.

A few items to note on the 10 Day report:

It would seem that Mary Scholz once again missed an important line - "Project Title or Description" is left blank.  Perhaps that was intentional because Ms. Scholz was confused about exactly what she reporting in this section (it's starting to look like Ms. Scholz wasn't given any training on CFRs)?  It looks like she may have been using this area to itemize donations over $100, but it's hard to tell for sure: "Name and Address of Recipient" leads one to believe that the Committee for Vote spent $2500 for Advertising with Kraus Anderson and $2500 for Promotion with the Principals Association.  However, given the amount of money listed in the "Contributions" section, it is more likely that these two organizations would have donated to Committee for Vote and Mary Scholz, in her hurry to file before the 4:30pm close of the DSC on Friday, October 25, 2013, failed to properly fill out the CFR. Again.

Looking closer at the contributions (if that is what these are) and the organizations, it is also important to note that Kraus-Anderson is one of the largest construction firms in the state, and is more than likely the company that will benefit the most by Question 3 - the bond levy - and part of Question 2 - "Safe Schools - passing because it is likely that Kraus-Anderson will be awarded the construction contracts, since it was the company that was awarded the last major construction contract in South Washington County - the $90 million East Ridge High School.

Furthermore, "Principals Assoc," probably is short for "South Washington County Principals Association" which is the formal way of saying "Principals' Union."  "DSC" stands for "District Service Center." Amazing! The Principals Assoc has the same address as the District Service Center.  No wonder the union would want to contribute $2500 to the levy campaign - they probably owe that much for their office space in the DSC...that is paid for by taxpayers...and who else will benefit by a levy passing?  That's right, the principals - when they go to negotiate their contracts they can point to the levy increase (which, by the way, all goes into the District's GENERAL FUND) and say, "We supported the levy increase! You got the levy increase! So give us raises!" Guess what else?  The school principals pay dues to the union.  It was union dues that paid the Committee for Vote $2500 to convince taxpayers that the district needs more of their hard-earned money.  Where does the principals' dues come from?  Out of their paychecks.  How are their paychecks funded? BY THE TAXPAYERS.  Any more questions?

In the Woodbury Bulletin article about the complaint against Committee For Vote, Winnie Williams is quoted:
"....she has talked to people involved in past pro-school levy campaigns and they don’t recall a similar level of scrutiny paid to their activities. 'I don’t know where it comes from,' Williams said."
Gee, Winnie, I wonder???

Updated 4:04pm October 30, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Campaign Finance/Fair Practices Rules Complaint Filed on School Levy Vote Yes Committee

Press Release

Campaign Violation Complaint filed against “Committee for Vote” aka “833 Yes Yes Yes”

For Immediate Release on Monday, October 28, 2013

Woodbury, Minnesota, October 28, 2013:  A Complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings has been filed against the South Washington County School District833’s Levy Vote Yes committee (“Committee for VOTE” aka “833 Yes Yes Yes”) on Monday, October 28, 2013.  The complaint alleges the following violations of the 2012 Campaign Financial Reporting andFair Campaign Practices (MN Stats. 211A and 211B):

1.      Failure to disclose campaign financial information: “$0” total contributions, yet expenditures total “$3236.50” with “$2200.00 cash on hand.” (211A.02

(Exactly whom has donated? According to co-Treasurer, Mary Scholz, it is small bucks from "parents and schools unions"...)

2.      Failure to properly fill out first Campaign Financial Report: no “Office Sought or Ballot Question” listed on Line 2 (211A.05).
3.      Failure to file a Campaign Finance Report ten days prior to the general election. (211A.02)
 (According to District 833 Communications Officer, Barbara Brown, there were several CFRs filed on Friday by 3pm, but none of them were from "Committee for VOTE.")

4.      Failure to report additional expenditures: print and online advertising (, Woodbury Bulletin, South Washington County Bulletin newspapers and approximate cost $1440.00.  (211A.02

5.      Failure to list use of address and conference room in Parkwood Place building (7650 Parkwood Place, Woodbury, MN; Suite 270 leased by Carter Bergen, PA, building owned by JBL Properties): estimated rental cost (from divided by 2 (approximate shared total rental cost $1062.00): $560/month, beginning in June 2013. Estimated Cost: $2655.00 (211A.02)
Contrary to the FB post shown below, Mary Scholz claims the Committee for VOTE uses the conference room at the above address.
 6.      Failure to post signage at 7650 Parkwood Place, Suite 270, Woodbury, Minnesota designating office as “Committee for VOTE” location. (211B.04)
7.      Failure to file Final Campaign Finance Report or Yearly Reports for “Committee for Vote” – campaign committee formed during ’06-’07 South Washington County School District 833 levy referendum campaigns in the years since the committee was formed. (211A.02, 10A.20)

8.      Failure to use correct mailing address on signage and other campaign material (see attached). (211B.04

The "slander" referred to here was one tweet by none other than yours truly, MNHockeyMama, pointing out the fact that the management company of the building at the address listed on all the Committee for Vote's material (except the decals, those have no address at all), had no record of them as building tenants. Somehow, that tweet became "news."

Decal handed out by the Vote Yes committee - see any address or "Paid for by..." statement? Yeah, me neither.
9.      Failure to amend signage, website, Facebook page and online advertising when notified of incomplete address. (211B.04)

This sign and another popped up in my neighbor's yard on Saturday, October 26, 2013. There is nothing "amending" the address listed on the sign - a handwritten scrawl is all it would take to be compliant - apparently, Committee for VOTE believe they're above the law.  I used to believe that it was ignorance and stupidity. Now I know it is arrogance.

An expedited hearing has been requested. 

Updated: October 30, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

School Board Elections are no Big Deal, right?

Yesterday two candidates for the South Washington County School District 833 were informed by the district file clerk that a complaint had been made about the candidates' sign placement.  The email read as follows:
Good afternoon, I had a CG resident contact me to say that your signs near the corner of ---th Street and County Road -- are illegally placed.  He says they are on church property OR too close to the roadway...He says that if you do not move them by 8am tomorrow morning, he is contacting the city to have them removed.
This morning, the husband of one of the candidates went to check on the signs, at which time he reported being watched by a man in an older black truck near the church property.  The husband recorded the license plate number of the truck, then determined that the signs were not illegally placed on city property, but were on church property.  He talked with the church secretary about the issue, and was informed that on Thursday, allegedly a man had entered the church, threatened the secretary with the IRS - loss of tax-exempt status - if the church did not remove the signs.  He also allegedly left a note stating, "Remove the signs, or else."

The incident, along with the license plate number, have been reported to the Cottage Grove police and is being investigated.

This incident demonstrates that even though our school district has its elections on odd years, and only around 7% of voters - approximately 4,000 out of 50,000 eligible voters - will vote on school board candidates, that these "small, local elections" hold much value to the people involved with determining the future of our children and control over taxpayer money. They know that most people are not paying attention to the election, and when there are candidates who are willing question and hold accountable the administration and education unions, that they must shut those candidates down in any way possible - even if it means threatening a church's First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech.  

School board members make decisions that affect all the students in the district - those kids are our future. Their decisions affect how much we will be paying each year in taxes and how much our district employees - teachers and staff - will be paid.  I would argue that there is no more important election than that of the school board and city councils because what they do affects the citizens the most.

Obviously, there are those in our district who feel that this election is important and are willing to stoop to the lowest of lows to shut down opposition voices.

Pay attention.  Research the candidates.  Ask questions about the levy renewal/increase and bond.  Do your homework. AND VOTE ON NOVEMBER 5.

UPDATE: The police went to the church and spoke with the pastor and the candidates.  The police have stated that the person in the truck was actively harassing the candidates and church.  The police have also said that if the person in the truck is seen at either at the church or the candidates' homes that would constitute "stalking."  
~Updated 12:33pm, October 18, 2013 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Let's "Talk About Issues," But Only If We Like What You Say

Recently, Kirk Burback (South Washington County School District 833 parent), attempted to make comments on the District 833 Vote Yes committee's campaign page on Facebook.  He posted two comments, the first one on the committee's assertion that the district isn't planning to spend taxpayer money on iPads (the district has already bought approximately 1100 iPads for five schools and all the district preschools, and plans for all 17,300+ students to have district-provided iPads is in the district's "T3" Plan, but that isn't the reason why the district NEEDS "Q2" to pass...), but on "boring stuff" like servers and switches and the like:

Nothing combative or attacking in these comments; just some good questions, right?  

Then Kirk left a comment on a second post by the Vote Yes committee:

Apparently, contrary to the assertion by the Vote Yes committee in the above post that they want to "talk about the issues," they only want to talk about issues with people who agree with them as demonstrated by the fact that Kirk's comments were deleted and he was blocked from the page:

So, do the Vote Yes committee leaders really want to "talk about issues"? Or do they want to talk about issues, but only if what is being said furthers their agenda of selling the community on why they need to give up more of their hard-earned money to the insatiable education machine?  What does this say about the Vote Yes people?  Many of the those on the Vote Yes committee serve on various district committees and are very friendly with the administration: if the Vote Yes people actively censor legitimate questions and comments from their Facebook page, does it show that they really want to "talk about issues"? And what does that say about the administration that is hoping that the Vote Yes committee succeeds in convincing the taxpayers to approve the levy and bond referendums on November 5?  Experience has shown that this administration is not fond of actually listening to the people, unless it is to discover what the community truly cares about and then doing the opposite (busing/walking distances, last year's budget cuts, iPads all come to mind...).  

 My mama always told me, "Show me your friends, and I'll show you who you are..."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Anti-Bullying Legislation, BBIRT "Bullying Behavior Incident Reporting Tool" & South Washington County School District 833

There has to be somebody, some agency and, ultimately, some person that is responsible.  We have to show schools we are serious about this. ~ Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

Just as President Johnson vowed to eradicate poverty, Mark Dayton has vowed to eradicate bullying.   He means to do this through the work completed by the Anti-Bullying Task-Force, along with Anti-bullying legislation that was introduced in last year’s legislative session and will be re-introduced at the next one.

According to Walter Hudson and Katherine Kersten this anti-bullying legislation will institutionalize bullying by creating a new bureaucracy that all students, teachers, staff, parents and anyone serving in the education system, public or private, would have to answer to. 

It would create mandates that would divert resources away from academics, while also forcing teachers into the role of thought police by requiring them to remediate children’s undefined “inappropriate” behavior and belief systems. These behaviors will be reported in a climate report that will follow students for the rest of their lives.  Imagine, your child, who was accused of a bullying incident in the third grade, unable to follow their chosen career path because of this report. 

According to legislative testimony by Ms. Kersten, One of the bill’s most chilling aspects is that students who dissent from certain state-approved cultural/political attitudes—who maintain, for example, that children do best when they have a parent of both sexes, a mom and a dad—could potentially be referred to “counseling” by school authorities for failing to sufficiently “value diversity.” 

She went on to say that H.F. 826 would send a message to students—at least those who belong to so-called protected classes—that they have an absolute right not to have their feelings hurt or their ideas challenged; and that authorities will intervene if this occurs.

Furthermore, the state would compel the educational system to investigate every reported incident of bullying, including anonymous accusations, which withholds due process of law, where the accused is allowed to confront their accuser.  It would also permit students to harass one another by making unsubstantiated charges of misconduct without accountability.

It is ironic to note, that every school district has a written Code of Conduct that in no area allows any kind of bullying, harassment, intimidation, etc. that all students must abide by.   These locally controlled Codes of Conduct are developed and enforced by teachers, school administrators and our elected school board members.  Why would an additional layer of intrusive enforcement be required?  Is it because the schools are not properly enforcing their own policies or is it there something more nefarious going on?

Woodbury resident, Doug Ballinger was recently quoted in the Woodbury Bulletin saying that he was horribly bullied when he was growing up.  Looking at bullying today, he reports that “This is a problem that is not being fixed.”  Ballinger’s thought process leads him to believe that adequate progress has not been made in the eradication of bullying. He also believes that “Each one of us has a range of tolerance to certain things, so that tolerance could be something as thick as a tree branch…or it could be a piece of spaghetti...however, one thing that cannot be argued is how a person feels.”  
To do his part in “fixing this problem” he has helped to create the "Bully Behavior Incident Reporting Tool" ("BBIRT") app, which he eventually intends to have on all Minnesota students’ phones…surely he is doing this out of the kindness of his heart not from the depth of the school districts’ pockets, right?

Ballinger’s vision for the tool includes:
A timely, accessible, and accurate bullying incident report to relevant offices/agencies with oversight of such incidents – and maybe parents, too…
While providing the schools usable data and platform for ensuring the right supports are provided for both school bully victim and bully alike.

His goals for the app are to establish a safe environment where kids can learn and grow mentally and physically, while not having to deal with his definition of bullying as “social distractions” while also helping the “bullying” student learn to cope and eliminate bullying behavior.
Mr. Ballinger believes that his app will help eradicate bullying behavior.  However, it would seem that a long list of abuses could occur with this technology in the hands of teenagers or adults.  If there is no set definition of bullying but instead a reliance on the tolerance level of the supposed victim, the number of bullying behavior incident reports will skyrocket.  Furthermore, when the incident can be anonymously reported, intent is left to be determined by the victim and may not accurately reflect the situation in which the incidence occurred.  Also, the possibilities of students, teachers and administrators abusing this tool, either through intimidation – fear of being reported – or false reports are extremely high.  
This app also indoctrinates children into the idea of “reporting” on their fellow-classmates.  If there are no consequences for a false report, than who is to stop those reports from happening? Or eventually, reporting anyone who speaks against the overriding political/societal ideology of the time?  

Apparently, South Washington County District 833 thinks that this is a fantastic idea.  They have partnered with BBIRT to pilot this app with the ERHS freshmen this year. 
Incidentally, SWC833 schools is also asking for a levy referendum that among other things, asks for money for improvement/additional of mental health staff; improved safety and security in the schools along with improving technology in the district under their T3Initiative: Transforming Thinking Through Technology.  It would seem that the District 833administration is all on board with this latest anti-bullying, thought police technology and legislation.  Perhaps we should ask our current school board members how and why this app is being allowed in this school district?  We should also research to see if any of our erstwhile Representatives and Senators, who also sit on the Legislative Education committees, are in support of the intrusion into civil liberties that this technology and anti-bullying legislation represents.