I’m Debating: Should I File a Complaint With Election Commission Against Kettering’s School Superintendent?

The DDN reports that the Superintendent of Kettering Schools, Robert Mengerink, has accepted a new position as leader of the largest educational center in the state and is moving to Cuyahoga County.

Wow. I keep wondering if I should file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission about false claims made in the ad campaign for Kettering’s recently approved 6.9 mill renewal school levy. To file such a complaint, I would cite Dr. Mengerink, specifically, as the source of false statements during the ad campaign. He seems to have gotten carried away with his zeal to pass this important levy. And now, he is leaving the district.

These false statements, in my judgment, were part of an antidemocracy campaign whose deliberate strategy was to suppress voter turnout for the 6.9 mill renewal levy vote.

I’ve had a long phone conversation with Betty Springer, the Executive Secretary, of the Ohio Elections Commission about the process of filing such a complaint. It sounds like it there are some technical requirements that a complaint must follow in order to be considered, but it seems clear to me that Dr. Mengerink’s statements fit the criteria of the code. Writing the whole thing up in the correct form, however, would be a challenge.

The language in the code that I am looking at is: “Post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate, a false statement, either knowing the same to be false or acting with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, that is designed to promote the adoption or defeat of any ballot proposition or issue.”

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5 Responses to I’m Debating: Should I File a Complaint With Election Commission Against Kettering’s School Superintendent?

  1. Eric says:

    Let’s not be a crackpot…

    If possible, ask for an advisory opinion, although it may be too late for that, or you may not have status. Don’t forget your beef is with the Kettering Schools levy group or with specific individuals. You might write the schools or levy committee and ask if they can think of any organization better equipped than the elections commission to resolve your concerns. It would be best for the Kettering levy group to ask for an advisory opinion, if that’s still an option.

    Whether or not a false claim has been made is a matter of opinion, and it’s of interest for all concerned to know how the elections commission would rule. No one set out to tell lies to voters, and the entire issue is a bit more nuanced than you seem willing to admit. Returning to your own example, most consumers would say taxes stayed the same and cost went down if an $1 item (plus 6 cents tax) sold for 92 cents (including 6 cents tax).

    What you need to stress is a shift in total valuation from industrial residential property. Since voters pay taxes on residential property, you feel it is misleading to tell voters “zero increase in taxes” if maintaining zero increase in revenue might result in a shift of tax burden to voters through reappraisal. Of course, it’s not too late to decide that bigger problems demand your attention and simply drop the whole issue. I personally would recommend not burning bridges with the school district when it is far more important to American democracy that the work of Kettering Foundation be advanced in public schools.

    Levy committees exist to keep school doors open despite an unconstitutional over-reliance on property tax. Running a levy campaign isn’t easy, and it’s understandable to want a slogan that fits on a yard sign. No levy committee wants to run afoul of election law or set a poor example modeling the principles of democracy and ethics.

    The best you can likely expect is a finding that “zero increase” is false, but that the levy campaign did not act in reckless disregard. By analogy: elementary science teachers do not act in reckless disregard when they exaggerate the role of Bernoulli’s principle in generating the lift of airplane wings.

  2. Rick says:

    Eric, I disagree. The whole typical school (and other) levy song and dance routine is designed to preclude reasoned analysis and debate. Groups get together to raise funds for the campaign, put out press releases that the whore mongering press (who never met a levy they did not like and who seem unable to find reasoned opponents to interview) and spring it out in a juggernaut of a campaign. They have professional signs put out on school and other governmental properties. (If I put up a anti-levy sign, which I would be authorized to do, how long do you think the signs would last? Yes, those nice, lovable pro-levy people would become vandals and think themselves righteous.

    As a said in another post, I believe most Americans are corrupt, and that includes those who seek levies to support government schools.

  3. Eric says:

    I’m not suggesting levy supporters are incapable of ill-considered actions, etc. But although I disagree with you, Rick, you’ve certainly helped frame one side of the question.

    So Mike can take the following to the Kettering schools levy committee:

    We’ve had some discussion at daytonos.com regarding whether the “zero increase” language would be upheld by the Ohio Elections Commission, given the likely shift of tax liability from commercial/industrial property to residential property.

    Eric expects the levy committee is composed of civic-minded individuals who would value an advisory opinion from OEC regarding the levy language.

    Rick expects the levy committee is composed of corrupt, self-righteous would-be vandals springing a campaign juggernaut with help from a whore-mongering press.

    Dear Kettering Schools Levy Committee, Who’s right. Eric or Rick? (And do be sure to let the Kettering high school civics students know…)

  4. Mike Bock says:

    Eric and Rick — thanks for your comments. I respond in a new post. I’ve decided to attempt to file a complaint.

    Eric, I hope you are correct, that, “The levy committee is composed of civic-minded individuals who would value an advisory opinion from OEC regarding the levy language.”

  5. Rick says:

    Eric, I have been re-thinking the things I said about the media. If they were whore-mongers they would charge for their endorsements, but they don’t. Rather, we should call them sluts for levies.

    As to would be vandals, we have some friends who live in Kettering. During a campaign for a previous school levy, there were pro-levy signs on school property, which turns the property into a public forum. So they put up their own anti-levy sign. Before the end of the day a teacher had destroyed it.

    And you know I am correct about the campaign juggernaut.

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