Mayoral Candidate Michael Bardsley today filed a complaint with the city clerk that there was an apparent violation of a state law prohibiting the use of city buildings for political purposes when leaflets advertising an jnformal meeting with David Narkewicz, City Council President and Mayoral Candidate, were distributed through the use of teachers' boxes at the JFK Middle School, and perhaps other schools as well. The topic of the meeting was "issues affecting Northampton Public Schools." A number of parents who asked that their names not be used complained about the leaflets and the use of the public address system at JFK by a teacher to promote the meeting at a close of the day last Monday, at a time when there were still students in the building. One mother characterized the teacher that made the announcement over the loudspeaker " as someone who is involved with the Narkewicz campaign." The leaflet promotes a meeting with Narkewicz at the Florence Civic Center this past Tuesday, June 21 from 3:30 to 5:00 pm "to discuss issues affecting Northampton Public Schools." The people inviting their fellow teachers to this meeting were Andrea Eglito, a teacher at the Ryan Road School, Nancy Cheevers, a reading specialist at JFK, and Karen Schiaffo , a nurse at JFK. City Clerk Wendy Mazza, notified of the complaint, called the principal at JFK, Lesley Wilson. She was initially unaware of this activity, but investigated, and told the City Clerk today the allegations by the parents seemed to be based on fact. The teachers' boxes were used for the leaflets, and the public address system was used to promote the event, and that this was improper.
A former school administrator confirmed that this prohibition is well known, and in other years the first order of business in the fall of an election year is to inform all school principals of the law, and the necessity of making their teachers aware of it. The City Clerk has forwarded Bardsley's complaint to the General Counsel of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), and has forwarded to David Narkewicz a list of questions about the incident.
I contacted him this afternoon, and he acknowledges that the meeting was an official campaign event, and he paid for the facilities. He denies that Eglito,Schiaffo and Cheevers were volunteers for his campaign. He says that they approached him at the Pride March, and broached the idea of meeting with their friends. He acknowledges that using the JFK loudspeaker was a bad idea and schools are properly off limits for political activities. As of this afternoon, none of the teachers have returned my phone call.
This is David Narkewicz's fourth campaign, the topic was education, the volunteers were teachers, and an obvious question for these three teachers was how were they were planning to promote the event. They should have been briefed on the State law. Deploring what happened after the fact is not enough.