Complaint alleges Tahoe/Truckee school district violated Political Reform Act | SierraSun.com
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Complaint alleges Tahoe/Truckee school district violated Political Reform Act

Jason ShuehSierra Sun

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.


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