Report by Paula Antolini, April 28, 2019, 7:01PM EDT
Original article April 28, 7:01PM EDRT:
The Bethel Advocate received information several days ago about an SEEC elections complaint that is soon to be filed against the Bethel Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Christine Carver and the Bethel Board of Education, by the Bethel Action Committee (BAC), to be confirmed as filed approximately Monday afternoon, April 29th, regarding a statement that was published in the April 26, 2019 “Superintendent’s News” (which is a letter by Dr. Christine Carver emailed to parents, guardians and staff). The BAC claims that the superintendent’s statement allegedly used laudatory language and possibly contained improprieties in violation of Public Act 13-247.
Billy Michael, a Bethel resident and founder of the taxpayer watchdog group, the BAC, which began in 1985, said that the SEEC complaint is being filed by “Cynthia and I under the BAC banner” on Monday, April 29th. He indicated that the Bethel Action Committee will submit the complaint under the BAC leadership of Billy Michael and also under Bethel resident and BAC member Cynthia McCorkindale, who is also a member of the Bethel Board of Finance.
The April 26, 2019 school newsletter text in question is as follows:
“Dear Parents, Guardians, and Staff,
“At the Town Meeting on April 24th, the revised Town budget was moved to a referendum vote on May 7th. The Town budget contains our maintenance account, school debt for renovations and capital non-reoccurring (band uniforms and resurfacing of track). It is important to remember that the town budget in many ways also supports the schools.”
Apparently Billy Michael’s efforts to enforce this issue have been going on as far back as 2012, according to a July 11, 2013 News Times article referring to “new language in the just-enacted state budget” regarding Public Act 13-247 that “specifies how towns can use their public alert systems for budget votes, mirroring a local proposal unsuccessfully pushed by Bethel activist Billy Michael in 2012.”
This might not be the first offense by the school officials, since Michael complained about the improper actions of school and town officials years ago for the same issue. The News Times article also reads, “Michael proposed an ‘All or None Public Alert Ordinance‘ that would require all citizens be informed if some are informed because, he complained, the town’s education department used the alert system to urge only students’ parents to vote on the budget.” Michael commented, “The language is hauntingly similar to the ordinance I proposed. It means you can’t use a public notification system (just) to inform selected groups of citizens.“
Public Act 13-247 says “only community notification systems — not systems that reach only a subset of the entire community — are permitted to be used for the limited purposes of reminding voters of the time and location of upcoming referenda, the ballot question itself, and any previously authorized explanatory text describing the subject matter of the question.“
We are waiting for comment from Dr. Carver, and also a decision from the SEEC to move this case forward, after the official complaint is submitted and confimed. We will add to this story as it develops.
There next referendum vote takes place on May 7, 2019.
UPDATE May 1, 2019, 8:49AM EDT:
It has been confirmed that the SEEC complaint has been mailed to the SEEC last Monday.
Also in a quote from Cynthia McCorkindale, the mission of the BAC is clarified, she said: “The BAC is not just a taxpayer watchdog organization, we advocate for transparent and honest government – promoting a respect for the rules and a commitment to follow them. Sadly, that attitude appears to be lacking with our current Town administrators.”