You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

Saline school district removes pro-bond proposal video, but says it didn't violate campaign laws

By Kyle Feldscher

Saline Area Schools officials removed a video from the district's website today after questions were raised over the legality of posting content from an employee who asked voters to support the school bond extension on the ballot Feb. 22.

But district administrators and attorneys say the video didn't violate campaign finance laws.

In the video, Doug Bacon, the district's director of facilities, explained what good could come from extending the school bond. At the end of the video, Bacon said, “I’d like to ask for your support for our upcoming bond extension on Feb. 22.”

Saline Superintendent Scot Graden said it was clear the school district didn't violate any election rules. He said the district’s attorneys told him that as long as employees don't explicitly ask for a “yes” vote, they would be in the clear.

“From our standpoint, this is a non-issue,” he said.

The portion of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act that most directly applies to the issue — section 169.257 — says: "A public body or an individual acting for a public body shall not use or authorize the use of funds, personnel, office space, computer hardware or software, property, stationery, postage, vehicles, equipment, supplies, or other public resources to make a contribution or expenditure or provide volunteer personal services that are excluded from the definition of contribution under section 4(3)(a). This subsection does not apply to any of the following: (f) An elected or appointed public official or an employee of a public body who, when not acting for a public body but is on his or her own personal time, is expressing his or her own personal views, is expending his or her own personal funds, or is providing his or her own personal volunteer services."

Graden said Bacon volunteered to do the two-minute video, which was filmed on school property.

The district is asking voters to approve a revamped version of the proposal rejected in the 2010 primary election. The new proposal would add $22 million in new debt to the current $124 million bond by extending repayment six years — from 2024 to 2030. The new proposal asks for $6 million less than the bond proposal shot down in August.

Pat Berardo, an attorney with the Thrun Law Firm who has been working in elections for 40 years, said Bacon’s comments were not a violation. He said the state of Michigan follows federal courts on campaign finance issues. He said there's a difference between asking for a “yes” vote and asking for support.

“You can what tell the benefits of the proposition are or what it means to the program, but there is a difference between asking for support and saying, ‘Please vote yes,’” he said. “That would cross the line and be a violation.”

At least one attorney disagrees with Graden and Berardo’s assertions.

Bob LaBrant, general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said Graden was mistaken in his belief that as long as Bacon avoided asking for a yes or no vote, there was no violation. He said asking for support is the equivalent of asking for a yes vote.

“Support is basically an express advocacy term for ‘yes,’” he said, citing the Buckley vs. Valeo federal Supreme Court case. “It’s just as if he had said defeat instead of ‘no.” It would still be advocating a ‘no” vote.”

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at



Fri, Feb 18, 2011 : 8:03 a.m.

appearances are important. we expect our leaders to behave in proper ways. it does not matter what the lawyers think. the superintendent should not be hiding behind his lawyer. he should be out front explaining why he thinks the millage is important. stand up and take credit and lead.


Thu, Feb 17, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

You know, I don't pretend to know the right answer here, but I think it's great that all the comedians, and those self appointed lawyers have had their say on this. Last time I checked, it was still good customer service to take down a video that people found problematic, not an admission of guilt.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Thu, Feb 17, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

This bond is a Vote No - easy. . Our Saline School system already pays about $1,000 just in interest, per student - every year. That is too much. . Saline Schools should cut their own spending first. Chelsea saved big dollars re-structuring teacher health-care/insurance. Why won't Saline Schools? . Other districts have saved Big Dollars re-organizing services. Why won't Saline Schools? Lots of money to be found. . Vote No - cut the fat - then we can move forward.

concerned citizen

Thu, Feb 17, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

If you really want to see a prime example of Saline's Best requesting &quot;support&quot; for the bond, watch Mr. Raft's (middle school principal) performance on YouTube <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Not only does Saline need to be more responsible with it's needs to send the Mr. Raft back to public speaking and english classes!


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

According to Mr. Graden and his lawyers, I guess none of these comments would break the law. I offer these suggestions up to the Saline Schools for your next infomercial. (all legal) 1. Please put a check on the ballot next to the three letter word that starts with Y. 2. Please go to the ballot and help Saline Schools out! 3. Remember what Obama said...&quot;YES we can&quot; 4. When you make your choice at the ballot on February 22, Please choose the word that rhymes with MESS. 5. When you go to the ballot, please make the choice that will make all the Saline School Staff happy. 6. When you vote this Feb. 22nd, just remember who is with your kids for eight long hours a day. 7. Don't make us at Saline Schools angry on November 22. 8. In Saline, we have the best schools in the area. We are counting on you to vote to keep them that way. 9. Help us win on February 22nd 10. I don't want to tell you how to vote, but expect a visit from my cousin Vito if things don't go our way.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

This is simply the proposal from last year repackaged in another form.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

When the citizens voted &quot;NO&quot; last November, did Mr. Graden think they meant &quot;MAYBE, keep trying.&quot;? Is it just a coincidence that on the day of the special election, next Tuesday, there is no school? Is the school district hoping that many families will be out of town and therefore not voting &quot;yes&quot; or &quot;no'. Wonder if the district has instructed all school employees to stay in town to vote.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

Saline, post the line-item detail of EXACTLY what you are spending $22 million on, down to the penny. Post a PDF file so we can all see where the money would go.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

Welcome to Saline, we don't worry about laws!!!

Go Blue

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

Saline is starting to follow the Ann Arbor lead ...........voters say no, just put a bigger bow on the package and try again and again until you get what you want. What part of no is not being understood? What part of our economy is under water is not being understood? Saline had to have a big fancy new high school that residents still unhappily grumble about. And what about that new water system that was going to save everyone lots of money. Anyone seen there water bill do anything but increase? If everyone else has to live within their means, cannot go to their employer and demand more money, then why can't our school system as well as our governmental agency? Guess they forgot they work for and are employed by the public not the other way around.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

Scot Graden said: &quot;"From our standpoint, this is a non-issue," he said.&quot; Well Mr. Graden, it will certainly be an issue when this bond proposal gets voted down once again, you folks just don't get it. Mqybe this time you will though, we can only hope. Two no votes from my household. Good Day


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

This is why I am voting no on February 22nd. I don't feel the school is being honest about how this money is going to be spent, just as I don't feel they are being honest about the video. How hard is it to say, I'm sorry I made a mistake, move on. And what a wonderful example for our children to see. We all make mistakes. Admit it, correct it, and go on. Where children are involved, we are teaching every moment. We all must be careful!! I am very disappointed in the school's reaction to the obvious violation of the Campaign Finance Act.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 7:49 a.m.

"I'd like to ask for your support&quot; (Doug Bacon) - this sounds like a 'yes' vote request to me.

David Parker

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:42 a.m.

if it was legal, leave the video up. SAS took the video down because they fear it is NOT legal. another outfit reporting on this story: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

&quot;From our standpoint, this is a non-issue, he said.&quot; This is an arrogant statement Mr. Graden, and an insult to our intelligence.

Stephen Landes

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:16 a.m.

Unless Graden can tell us how a &quot;No&quot; vote could be interpreted as &quot;support for the upcoming bond extension&quot; then it is clear that the Saline District did violate the Campaign Finance Act.

Basic Bob

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 11:03 p.m.

Well, they'll just have to resort to the time-honored technique of scaring the kids. &quot;There will be 40 kids in a room, bus routes will be dropped, and pizza will be taken off the menu. They will lay off all the teachers you like.&quot; Maybe they should start making all teachers and administrators take a &quot;school election ethics&quot; course, taught by someone other than the MEA and their lawyers.