Superintendent places quarter-page ad in Elliott County
SANDY HOOK — The Elliott County school superintendent has endorsed three school board candidates in what may be a violation of state law.
Superintendent John C. Williams placed a quarter-page ad in the Oct. 24 Elliott County News endorsing incumbents Susan Burton, Donnie Barker and first-time office-seeker David Dennis.The endorsement may be in violation of Kentucky law.
Section 161.164 of the Kentucky revised statutes prohibits any school district employee from participating “in the management or activities of any political campaign for school board.” It also prohibits candidates from soliciting or accepting “any political assessment, subscription, contribution or service of any employee of the school district.”
The Kentucky Department of Education is aware of the matter and has notified the state Office of Educational Accountability and the office of the attorney general, said education department spokeswoman Lisa Gross.
The legal issue appears to be whether Williams surrenders his right as a private citizen to endorse under the First Amendment when he identifies himself as superintendent, Gross said.
A spokesman for the Office of Educational Accountability wouldn’t confirm or deny whether it is investigating the matter.But a spokeswoman for the office of the attorney general said it had received “an informational notice” on the matter from the education department and that the OEA is looking into allegations of inappropriate activities by Williams.If the OEA determines any wrongdoing, its findings would be forwarded to the attorney general, said spokeswoman Allison Martin.
Williams declined comment and referred a reporter to his attorney, Bob Chenoweth.Chenoweth did not return a call for comment Wednesday.
The ad outlines achievements of the district and credits “the cooperation and teamwork of a cohesive school board.”
The Elliott County school district chooses its board members by voting districts, and all three seats are contested. Burton is opposed by Kathy Fraley in the first district, Barker by write-in candidate Melissa McIntosh in the second and Dennis by Brenda Sheets in the third.