ALPENA A local superintendent will respond to an allegation about a violation of Michigan's campaign finance law relating to a 3 mill property tax increase.
Superintendent Brian Wilmot said Thursday he hadn't receive a copy of the complaint from the Michigan Department of State by mail, but was prepared to answer questions after studying an email version of the allegations. Wilmot, heads the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District, and has gone on record to support a property tax increase to make up for funds over the years that have been cut by the state.
The Feb. 11 letter from Lori Bourbonais of the Bureau of Elections states that Wilmot has been accused by Harrisville resident Kenneth Short of improperly using "tax-payer funded equipment, resources and personnel to run a ballot question committee, create a website, and collect funds for the committee."
Bourbonais' letter identifies the alleged offense as a misdemeanor and states Wilmot has 15 days to respond in writing to Short's complaint. However, the Feb. 26 election will be over by then.
State Spokesman Fred Woodhaus said complaints of this nature do not halt an election.
Wilmot said Thursday that Short's allegations will take focus away from the area's financial straits.
"Suffice to say I disagree completely with Mr. Short's allegations, and none of it is true," Wilmot said, adding that none of his actions have been a violation of state election laws.
In his complaint, Short focused on the Our Kids 1st campaign, which has been raising awareness about funding cuts. In his first allegation, he said the campaign organization is based out of the same building where Wilmot has his office at 2118 US-23 South. The address has since been changed to a Post Office box number.
The fundraising effort implies that staff, "mail clerks, secretaries and possible bookkeepers" are utilized at taxpayer expense, Short stated in his complaint.
Using screen grabs, Short illustrated that an Our Kids 1st website letter to teachers encouraged them to make contributions to the campaign. Another letter also encouraged parents and grandparents to attend informational sessions about the issue, and both were signed by Wilmot as "AMA Our Kids First Chairperson."
Wilmot said he was only chairman of a series of lunch-time meetings about the issue, when attendees were on their own time.
"None of this is in violation of election laws," he said.
Wilmot said he called the state office Feb. 6, asking for clarification, but didn't get much guidance.
"I want to know if it is not right, I certainly want to fix it," he said.
Short first asked that questions from a reporter be made to him in writing.
"I do not want to be painted black as a bad, bad, person and a kid, kid hater," he said, adding he worked for the Alcona schools in the maintenance and custodial division for five years.
The 71-year-old said he filed his complaint because he wants the district to be more transparent and truthful.
"This is an orchestrated endeavor schemed by our school administration to mislead the public about the millage," Short said. "The students need money, not the administrators, not the educators."
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693.