Ethics Commission throws out three exhibits in complaint against AISD

The Texas Ethics Commission won’t consider three of the four issues cited in a complaint against the Austin school district, saying the allegations, if true, don’t constitute violations.

The Travis County Taxpayers Union, and community member Karen Flanagan, alleged district employees had violated the Election Code by using public resources to lobby voters to support the school district’s $1.1 billion bond package.

Election Day is Tuesday.

In its complaint, the group says flyers, stickers, letters and emails sent to parents or community members did not contain a disclaimer required by Texas election law, and that the materials amount to illegal lobbying by the district. They also alleged the district has used public funds and resources to advocate for the bond.

The commission said the allegations related to three of the four exhibits would not be considered because “the complaint does not state, on its face, an allegation that, if true, constitutes violation.” The commission also said there wasn’t evidence to indicate the district authorized, approved or caused to be published the communication in the examples provided by the group.

Click here to view the documents at issue

The commission has not weighed in on a fourth exhibit, an email from Superintendent Paul Cruz to former parents and community members.

A call made to Roger Borgelt, the lawyer representing the group in the complaint, was not immediately returned Monday evening.

“Obviously we’re disappointed that they ignored the Davis Elementary flyer. It’s false advertisement,” said Don Zimmerman, who leaders the taxpayers’ union. “At least they’re still looking at the Paul Cruz email. That’s something encouraging.”

The Davis flyer included a sentence that inaccurately stated the bond would lead to “no additional taxes.” It had been prepared by a couple of parents and did not go through the approval process, as it should have, before it was sent home with students, according to a school email. The flyer was supposed to say the bond would not raise the district’s tax rate.

Under state law, districts are allowed to circulate factual information about bond elections, but cannot use public resources for political advocacy.

The group also had asked for a criminal investigation of district employees for the same reasons.

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