EL PASO, Texas - A concerned citizen believes the Ysleta Independent School District has violated the law. He's taking his complaints to the Texas Ethics Commission and asking for action.
The Texas Election Code says a government employee who uses resources and spends tax dollars to engage in political advertising is in violation.
Texas Election Code 255.003: "Political advertising" is a communication that advocates a particular outcome in an election and includes statements made orally or in writing, email messages, posters, newsletters, fliers, television or radio ads and Internet sites. An employee or officer who makes use of any resources of the political subdivision to engage in political advertising, including computer, copier or telephone use, is spending public funds in violation of the Texas Election Code.
Concerned citizen Ali Razavi told the ethics commission that YISD used language in a district newsletter that attempts to influence or compel the reader to vote in favor of the bond. Many may know him by his blog Max Powers.
"To have someone come along with a pseudonym, who hides behind a blog, to send in this complaint, although its certainly within his right, is disappointing," said YISD Superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre,. "But we'll deal with it."
There are two complaints. The first complaint focuses on the district newsletter distributed earlier this year around YISD's first and failed bond attempt in May. The then board president Patricia Torres McClain writes "many of our schools are in poor or catastrophic condition."
"Catastrophic is very subjective is what he's basically asserting," De La Torre said. "That is, what you think is catastrophic may not be catastrophic."
A second complaint is leveled at De La Torre for his recent statement regarding the November bond election. Phrases used in the newsletter include "the deteriorating condition of our campuses", the bond money would "significantly improve, modernize and rebuild our schools," and "every student, teacher and campus would benefit" from the bond projects.
"He's exactly right," De La Torre said. "Even those who are in opposition of this bond never quarreled with or disputed that we have schools that are in need of an investment."
So are these words political advertising?
"If the Texas Ethics Commission decides that. we'll deal with the consequences," De La Torre said.
The district and its attorney have to respond to the commission, proving these statements are fact. If the commission agrees, the complaint is dismissed. If it agrees with Razavi, the district faces civil penalty, costing thousands of dollars."