A Davis man has announced that a complaint has been filed with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the campaign in favor of Measure A, the school district’s proposed emergency parcel tax.
Thomas Randall Jr., spokesman for the Davis Taxpayers Against Measure A committee, announced the complaint in a six-page statement delivered last week to The Davis Enterprise. Calls by The Enterprise to the FPPC regarding the complaint were not returned Thursday or Friday.
Randall said his committee has filed the complaint against the Davis Board of Education, and specifically board president Richard Harris and trustees Gina Daleiden and Sheila Allen.
The news release raises multiple issues, starting with a letter the school district sent to more than 900 senior citizens who claim the senior exemption under Measures Q and W, existing voter-approved parcel taxes supporting classroom programs.
The letter included a form to apply for the Measure A exemption, if the tax is approved by voters in a mail-only election that concludes at 8 p.m. Tuesday. After some voters objected that the letter amounted to a campaign statement in support of Measure A, Superintendent Winfred Roberson apologized.
Randall’s news release also maintains there has been inappropriate use of the Davis school district’s website, PTA resources and children, including a photograph of a child holding a “thank you” card in campaign literature.
He also suggests that Harris, Daleiden and Allen have a conflict of interest as members of the campaign committee supporting Measure A, known as Yes for Our Students. He questions the carryover of funds from past years by the Yes for Our Students committee, which also supported Measure Q and W.
Several of Randall’s objections appear to be directed more at the Yolo County Elections Office than at the Davis school district. He maintains that “the full text of Measure A was never mailed to voters” and that voters were directed to a website to see the complete text. Randall also objects to the vote-by-mail process, saying “each envelope containing a ballot identifies the voter in more than one way” and that therefore, “the secret ballot by the use of the process set up by the Davis school board has disappeared.”
In addition, Randall raised several other broad objections to the mail-only election process, asking, “How can you have an election for a month when people will be campaigning at the same time others are voting? Ballots were mailed April 4, 2011. The campaigning is going on for a month until May 3 while people are voting. This is contrary to a fair election process.”
He also asks, “How can you have a fair election when people are able to register (until April 18) to vote on an election that started April 4?”
Voting by mail has become increasingly common in recent years. In recent general elections, as many as half of participating Davis-area voters have cast their ballots by mail. But the Measure A election is the first mail-only vote to take place in the Davis area. Several other school districts in California have conducted all-mail elections for parcel tax measures in recent years.
Measure A, which needs a two-thirds majority for approval, would authorize a two-year parcel tax of $200 per single-family home per year, and $20 per unit per year for multi-unit dwellings, to support existing classroom programs. Measures Q and W charge a combined $320 per single-family home per year, and a bit under half that for multi-unit dwellings. Those two measures will expire in June 2012.
The Davis school board opted for the mail-only election in part to save about $100,000 for polling places and poll workers.
Measure A ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. Tuesday. It is too late for the mail now, but ballots may be put in a specially marked drop box at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. in Davis, and at the Yolo County Elections Office, Room B-05 at the County Administration Building, 625 Court St. in Woodland.
As of Friday, more than 14,000 ballots had been received, of more than 43,000 ballots mailed out.
Davis Taxpayers Against Measure A raised $740 from three donors, according to recently filed campaign finance statements. Most of the money was used for automated phone calls urging “no” votes. The Yes for Our Students campaign has spent more than $17,000 in funds donated by dozens of individuals. The money was used for phone banks, and mailing campaign literature.
The FPPC often takes a year or more to reach a decision regarding complaints. Its website includes an April 11 news release describing recent enforcement actions, some of which relate to campaigns as far back as 2007 and 2008.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.