Administrator Caught Electioneering With School Resources

In response to a tip from a whistleblower, Texas Scorecard has uncovered evidence of one Houston-area school principal abusing district resources to electioneer for a liberal candidate in the Republican Primary. This could represent a Class A misdemeanor punishable by confinement in jail for up to one year and a $4,000 fine.

School administrators are allegedly using their positions of power to cajole teachers into supporting liberal, big-government candidates for public office.

Earlier this month, Galena Park ISD Principal Joe A. Coleman used his district email account to forward to his staff a campaign email from Scott Milder, who is running a floundering campaign against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Coleman wrote:

Colleagues, I agree that we need to support Scott Milder in his quest to become the Texas Lieutenant Governor. He is a former GPISD employee during Dr. Neeley’s superintendency. [sic] Remember to ask for Republican Ballott, [sic] you can vote in Texas in the primaries for a Republican or Democrat. Let’s support Scott Milder. Please tell all of your friends and family this is critical. Joe.

Texas Scorecard demanded emails sent by Coleman. We found not only the email sent to classrooms teachers that sparked our inquiry, but a curious email in which Coleman admitted he had done something wrong.

A day after campaigning with school resources, Coleman seemed to recognize that his misuse of district resources was contrary to state law. He informed two Galena Park ISD administrators that they may receive a complaint, confessing “I probably broke some type of rule with this email, probably not good judgment.”

The original email from Milder’s campaign that was spammed to the official email accounts of “Texas Educators and Staff” contained the following disclaimer:

(NOTE: Receiving this email or any email at your district email address is not a violation of any law. Forwarding this email would be considered a violation so please do not forward from [sic] district email or device.)

In other words, Milder’s campaign doesn’t believe it will face any consequences for spamming the official email accounts of thousands of Texas school teachers. However, if those teachers then disregard the disclaimer and forward the emails to their colleagues – as Coleman did – they will face legal consequences for misusing school property to engage in electioneering.

As Attorney General Ken Paxton advised Texas legislators last month, such activities violate several state laws, including Texas Election Code §255.003, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by confinement in jail for up to one year and a $4,000 fine.

Milder and other liberal candidates running against conservative incumbents in the Republican Primary portray themselves as friends of Texas educators. But their actions make clear they simply want to use teachers and staff as fodder to advance their own personal and political interests.

This should not be surprising. In his private business, Milder profits off of school district debt as a campaign consultant for a construction firm that promotes school district bonds. His cavalier attitude toward the law has led his firm to lose several bids when his affiliations with accused and convicted criminal came to light.

Milder’s run for statewide office coincides with the “culture of voting” campaign being promoted by the Texas Association of School Boards and AFL-CIO affiliated unions. The campaign, which masks itself as a simple effort to encourage voting and civic engagement, is obviously built around the expectation that administrators like Coleman will take the extra (illegal) step of encouraging their colleagues to vote as a block in the Republican primary for liberal candidates like Milder.

Many of the activities promoted as part of the “culture of voting” have been deemed illegal and unconstitutional by the attorney general. Yet others require school district employees to traverse the minefield of Texas’s unduly burdensome Election Code in order to avoid committing serious crimes.

Instead of mindlessly voting as a block for liberal candidates preferred by their paymasters, Texas teachers would be better served if they united with taxpayers to oppose cronyism.

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Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel for Empower Texans. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony received his J.D. in 2012 from UT Law School. While in school, Tony served as Senior Vice Chairman for Young Conservatives of Texas and helped manage its legislative affairs. During the 83rd Texas Legislature he served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Jonathan Stickland. Tony resides in Austin and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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