Complaint alleges Tahoe/Truckee school district violated Political Reform Act
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; An investigation into the way the school district used taxpayer dollars to send a mass snail-mail letter to voting-eligible senior citizens could be forthcoming, according to documents filed earlier this year with state elections officials.A complaint filed by part-time Truckee resident Denny Dickinson alleges that the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District andamp;#8212; specifically, Superintendent Steve Jennings andamp;#8212; violated the stateandamp;#8217;s Political Reform Act when it mailed letters, signed by Jennings and dated Feb. 14, 2011, stating seniors were exempt from the Measure A parcel tax.andamp;#8220;I took this letter as a notice that I should vote for Measure A and then be legally exempted from that tax,andamp;#8221; Dickinson said in an e-mail to the Sierra Sun. andamp;#8220;I believe that Mr. Jennings crossed the line by targeting this senior using taxpayer funding.andamp;#8221;Measure A was renewed by a slim 2 percent margin in early March by TTUSD voters, increasing the annual parcel tax for district schools at $135 per parcel for seven years starting in 2012.In an interview Monday, Jennings confirmed an investigation is pending from the California Fair Political Practices Commission.andamp;#8220;This matter has been referred to legal counsel and we donandamp;#8217;t have any comment at this time because the investigation is pending,andamp;#8221; Jennings said.Phone calls to the California Fair Political Practices Commission were not returned for this story.According to the FPPC website andamp;#8212; http://www.fppc.ca.gov andamp;#8212; a sworn complaint found to merit a full investigation will be assigned to the commissionandamp;#8217;s enforcement division staff, including an attorney and an investigator or accounting specialist, or both.Once the enforcement division has investigated, it may ask FPPC commissioners to approve a settlement agreement andamp;#8212; in this example, TTUSD could be forced to pay an administrative fine andamp;#8212; or take other remedial action.FPPC settlement amounts and how they are awarded are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, according to FPPC.In some cases, FPPC may prosecute a case by a filing a civil lawsuit in the courts, according to the commissionandamp;#8217;s website. The case may also be referred to a district attorney or the stateandamp;#8217;s attorney general for criminal prosecution.While FPPC has power to fine the district, Jennings said it cannot demand another election for Measure A.andamp;#8220;The FPPC does not have jurisdiction to invalidate an election, and there is no set timeline to resolve the matter,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;FPPC complaints can take months to resolve.andamp;#8221;The case will be reviewed by FPPC based on the stateandamp;#8217;s Political Reform Act, which prohibits election abuses such as conflicts of interests, campaign money laundering, gift limit violations, improper campaign reporting and andamp;#8212; as is the allegation in TTUSDandamp;#8217;s case andamp;#8212; campaign mass mailing at public expense.According to FPPC, each violation can be prosecuted for a penalty of up to $5,000; however, how this will be interpreted, should the district be found at fault, has yet to be determined. For example, $5,000 per letter sent, or $5,000 in total.The news comes days after last weekandamp;#8217;s school board meeting in Truckee, which was a scene of jubilation as Measure A campaign leaders celebrated its recent renewal with rousing speeches, flowers and a fauna of smiles, as well as a photo shoot with Jennings.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User