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Published: Tuesday, 6/3/2014

Sylvania Schools admits mistakes in levy campaign

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania Schools may have acted improperly in the way it used staff and resources in its recent unsuccessful tax levy campaign.

A Sylvania resident has questioned whether the district violated the law in its bid to get voters in May to approve a 3.8-mill levy. The measure was rejected by voters.

Chris Myers has filed a complaint last month with the Ohio Auditor's office, but the state office this week declined to indicate whether it is investigating the matter.

Sylvania Superintendent Brad Rieger could not be reached for comment. The district's spokesman Nancy Crandell didn‘t answer questions about the accusations but did issue a statement, which said, "“We realize that errors were made during the recent levy campaign. We are taking steps, including training, to ensure it will not happen again.”

Mr. Myers, 38, whose stepchildren are students in the school district, requested the district's administration supply records of school activity during the levy campaign. The record request, sent by email to district treasurer Laura Sauber, stemmed from his belief that school employees worked on levy-related activities during school hours. He said the district violated the law.

Ohio law prohibits a government entity from using its own resources in support of its own levy. but it does permit government or school officials to work on a campaign during their own time.

Mr. Myers, in April, received an email request from school employees during school hours to volunteer at the polls on election day. Another email was sent requesting “Highland Families” to assist with a campaign literature distribution on the weekend.

“It’s a major problem for public employees to be campaigning on school time,” he told The Blade.

He has requested, under the state Open Records law, for all school employee emails, from Feb. 10 to May 6 in which Issue 3 was discussed and a copy of purchase receipts for Web site domains and documents related to who and when the campaign site voteforsylvaniaschools.com was purchased.

Mr. Myers said he has not received any information he requested.

“I only saw what I saw in the emails. So how much more in detail and what exactly went on with the Sylvania schools, how many other employees were using work time to organize a campaign and use school resources -- the auditor is able to figure that out,” he said.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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