The state's Public Disclosure Commission has been asked to investigate alleged campaign violations by a Stanwood-Camano School Board member, but that member has filed a response denying the allegations.
Stanwood parent Melissa O'Neill claims in her PDC complaint filed Nov. 4 that board member Al Schreiber violated election laws when endorsing candidates for local positions.
The complaint states: “Mr. Schreiber knowingly and willfully created small business cards to hand out to people informing them of who they should choose to vote for, which included Keith Pappas who had dropped from the election. ... In addition, he promoted this card online, AND using his personal email he sent TEACHERS AND STAFF an email listing those picks again.”
In a written response to the allegations to the PDC, Schreiber cited a letter from Maurene Stanton, the School District’s executive director of Human Resources, that “individuals school board members and employees do retain the right as citizens to engage in political and campaign on their own time provided no District resources are used."
Through business cards, social media posts and his personal email account, Schreiber said he distributed his endorsements to friends on his own time and equipment.
The group of parents, who have formed the Alliance of Students, Community and Parents, argue Schreiber endorsed Pappas because if Pappas won and chose not to serve, the board could appoint its own pick. However, Pappas, who withdrew from the race in the summer after ballots were printed, is trailing Charlotte Murry in initial voting returns.
In an interview with the Stanwood Camano News on Wednesday, Nov. 6, Schreiber said he supported Pappas because he knew him.
“The criticism is that we were trying to pack the board is not true,” Schreiber said. “I know Keith and I thought he’d make a good board member, and I was hoping he’d fill the seat. He’s a great individual. I just preferred the known to the unknown. … But now I look forward to working with Charlotte.”
O'Neill and six other parents spoke about the complaint and a desire to increase community engagement with the School Board during the public comment period of the regular board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 5.
"We are not abandoning our stand against Al Schreiber ... he needs to step down," O'Neill said. "We are here to demand accountability."
At the meeting, Schreiber did not resign, but did step down as board president "for personal reasons ... including my employment requiring me to work more afternoons and evenings," he told the Stanwood Camano News in a phone interview later Tuesday. Natalie Hagglund was then voted by the board to replace Schreiber as board president, and Julie Dean was voted to replace Hagglund as vice president.
O'Neill and fellow residents said the Alliance of Students, Community and Parents plans to lobby for an investigation in Schreiber's actions and for a committee to review the district and board procedures.
"We ask you ... to work with us to create such a committee to review best practices and make recommendations to elevate trust and communications in Stanwood Camano School District," Kassandra Burnham of Stanwood said at the meeting.
Schools Superintendent Jean Shumate met with members of the group after the meeting and said Nov. 5 that she plans to sit down with the group in the coming days to map out the next steps.
"It's important to us to hear what they have to say," she said.
O'Neill and Burnham said Schreiber's actions were a catalyst for the group to form and to push for changes.
"It was the straw that broke the camel's back," Burnham said. "What we want is a more collaborative and transparent relationship with the district.”
Kelly McGill said he wants Schreiber to resign, but added he appreciates the district reaching out on how to move forward.
"An olive branch has been extended, and that speaks volumes," McGill said.
The board meeting came nearly a week after about 50 parents and concerned residents raised complaints to the School Board during a special meeting on Oct. 30. Seven people spoke in the 25-minute public comment period about their displeasure over the way Schreiber endorsed candidates.
After an hourlong executive session following a public comment period at the Oct. 30 meeting, board member Julie Dean said the board as a group doesn’t endorse or oppose any candidate and encourages any community member to submit complaints to the Public Disclosure Commission. The board will support any investigation, she said.
Now that a PDC complaint has been filed, the state agency's staff will review and investigate the complaint, which is currently in the "assessment of facts" stage. Read more about the process at pdc.wa.gov.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally published Nov. 5 but has been updated Nov. 6 to include additional comments from Al Schreiber. Check back throughout the week for more info as the story develops.