One of the candidates running for a seat on the Boise school board has publicly complained about the campaign procedures leading up to the Sept. 2 trustees election.
Retired Air Force Col. John Hruby wrote a letter Friday to school board president and Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff asking for the district to convene a special meeting and consider handing over control of the election to the Ada County Clerk’s Office.
But Boise school officials said all campaign policies have been adhered to and no rules were broken.
Hruby complained that members of the Boise Education Association placed endorsement flyers in schools last week when parents registered their children for classes. He also expressed concern the ballots used in the Sept. 2 election will identify the incumbent candidates in the race by placing an “I” next to their name. Finally, he said members of the BEA have used their district email accounts to coordinate candidate interviews that led to the endorsements.
Hruby is a challenger in the race, not an incumbent, and he was not endorsed by the BEA.
“I just want a fair, open election governed by rules that are known by all and (adhere to) the highest ethical standards,” Hruby said in an interview Monday. “The Boise School District, whether perceived or real, should not be influencing elections.”
In 2012, Hruby ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Legislature. During that campaign, he said state and Ada County officials provided much more clarity about the applicable policies and rules governing campaigns and finance.
Due to its status as an independent “charter” district that predates statehood, the Boise School District enjoys a unique legal status.
In a response to Hruby sent Monday, Balukoff said that Boise school officials have run their own elections for 125 years.
Balukoff said BEA members asked for permission and followed district policies relating to posting materials relating to the school board election.
The district did not receive any other requests to place materials in schools, but would have granted that permission if a request was made and district policy was adhered to, he said.
“We hold ourselves to the highest standards of openness, accuracy and accountability,” Balukoff wrote. “We have outlined clear policies and practices regarding communications from candidates and organizations regarding political activity.”
BEA President Stephanie Myers said flyers were placed in secondary schools throughout the district.
“Because we are endorsing candidates this time, we felt it was our responsibility to provide information to our membership and the public about education-related issues,” Myers said.
Hruby originally found out about the flyers when his daughter, a beginning teacher in the district, showed up to work to begin preparing her classroom. Friends of Hruby’s son, a 10th grader, also noticed the flyers in their schools, he said.
After receiving Balukoff’s letter Monday, Hruby said his concerns about incumbent designations on the ballot, use of district email accounts and his request for special board meeting were not addressed.
Ryan Hill, a district spokesman, said Monday the move to designate incumbency on ballots is new for the district this year. In statewide elections run by the Secretary of State’s Office and local county clerks, ballots list a candidate’s party affiliation, but do not identify incumbents.
Balukoff said the school district itself is not endorsing candidates in the race.
Each of the seven candidates vying for the three seats on the school board has been invited to participate in a Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce candidate forum set for 9 a.m. Aug. 26.
Further reading: Full text of Balukoff’s response to Hruby:
Dear Mr. Hruby,
A fellow Trustee forwarded your email to me for a response. I did not receive your letter directly because my email address was incorrect.
The Boise School District has been holding Trustee elections for more than 125 years. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of openness, accuracy and accountability. We have outlined clear policies and practices regarding communications from candidates and organizations regarding political activity. In keeping with our commitment to provide every student equal access to a high-quality education, every candidate and organization is afforded the opportunity to communicate with the public. It is important to note, however, that our involvement is strictly limited to what occurs on school property.
The Boise Education Association asked for permission to provide information about the upcoming Trustee election during various school-related activities. Permission was granted (based on policy #4312) and the BEA has been diligent in following not only the letter of the policy, but also the spirit. We have received no such request from any other candidate or organization for similar access. Obviously, had we received any similar requests, we would’ve granted permission–providing the candidates or organizations were (as the BEA did) willing to follow our publicly-approved policy.
The Boise School District has not endorsed candidates for the Board of Trustees for the September 2, 2014 election. Our commitment is to provide timely and accurate information to our parents, patrons and staff on how, when and where they may participate in Trustee elections. We also encourage everyone to attend the candidate reception at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, August 19th at the District Services Center. For more information, please visit www.boiseschools.org.
A J Balukoff