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School Department receives notice from OCPF

By Natasha Clark

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW On July 15, The Longmeadow School District was notified by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) that it was in violation of campaign finance laws.

This determination was made after studying actions taken by the School Department during its promotion of the override ballot questions affecting the School Department budget prior to the May town elections.

OCPF is an independent state agency that administers Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 55, the campaign finance law, and Chapter 55C, the limited public financing program for statewide candidates.

In a letter addressed to Longmeadow Public Schools' Superintendent Dr. Scott AndersEn, OCPF said "this office has completed its review of a complaint we received concerning material related to the May 25, 2005 override, compiled by the Longmeadow Information Network for Kids (LINK) which the Longmeadow Schools' Parent Teacher Organizations and Parent Advisory Councils sent home with students in their backpacks or by U.S. Mail using the Longmeadow Public School's bulk mail permit."

In the letter, the OCPF also states the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling that, "the campaign finance law demonstrates an intent to 'assure fairness of elections and the appearance of fairness in the electoral process' and that the law should be interpreted as prohibiting the use of public funds 'to advocate a position which certain taxpayers oppose.'"

Brad Balzer, Deputy Director at OCPF, explained the situation to Reminder Publications in a telephone interview last week.

Balzer said the Longmeadow School District used three means of distributing advocacy materials, and that all three had different circumstances surrounding them.

"The middle school was done properly. The elementary [materials] was done properly except the privately produced material was distributed to students by public school teachers," Balzer said. "[While] volunteers had used private photocopy equipment, the distribution was done by public school teachers."

Balzer also said that high school materials were sent out using the schools' bulk mail permit.

Even though these violations took place, Longmeadow had no prior offenses and the OCPF closed the case.

Balzar said OCPF hopes their guidance will ensure future compliance and they did not see a need to further pursue the issue.

School Committee Chair Jim Nittoli could not be reached for comment by press time.