The inside story on Minnetrista local issues: This blog is to inform citizens and give them a perspective on matters of importance in Minnetrista, MN. Opinions posted here are my own and do not reflect official positions of any public body or official.
Westonka Schools established additional criteria for people to serve as election judges on their absentee ballot board for their 2021 school board election scheduled for November 2. One had to have served as an election judge in the 2020 general election in order to serve. At least that’s what this Republican applicant was told by the school administrator.
The school board then appointed five school employees, who had not served as election judges in the 2020 general election, to their absentee ballot board and appointed them election judges as well. When they realized that ruffled the community they called a few ‘real’ election judges and scheduled them for a few absentee ballot board duty shifts. The problem is these five school employees, who do not qualify to be election judges according to the school’s criteria, are, and have been, scheduled on the ballot board duty roster without ANY election judges present since the beginning of October.
This means employees of the school are accepting and rejecting ballots for the same candidates who will have authority over them and their livlihoods. This is the very reason the legislature mandates that election judges, and not government staff, must accept and reject absentee ballots. Elections should be fair and free of any appearance of conflicts of interest. No one is accusing anyone at Westonka Schools of mishandling ballots and that is not the point here. The point is the Westonka school board has shown contempt for Minnesota election law by violating statutes they have been made aware of:
I noticed last weekend the supposedly brand new “independent” political committee promoting the incumbent Westonka school board candidates had not filed a campaign finance report, despite seeing lots of signs around town. So, I sent an email to the address listed on their signs asking why. I got a response on Sunday that they had filed their report with the school district. Miraculously Sunday afternoon their report was uploaded to the school district’s campaign finance page. Guess that was an oversight. I can overlook oversights.
What I first noticed, upon opening the We Are Westonka campaign finance report filed Sunday, October 17, was that the political committee’s expenditures far exceeded their reported contributions on this first (ever) report. In fact they only reported $100 in contributions while spending over $1,100 on signs and buttons. Hmm. A brand new committee isn’t going to have funds to carry over…unless they’re not brand new….I’m confused.
A campaign finance report is supposed to account for all contributions and all expenditures but this one clearly did not.
I noticed reports filed by Yes Westonka, the former political organization that pushed the school’s past bond referendums, and this is what I found:
The Yes Westonka Annual Report 19-20 showed a $1,200 contribution from the Teacher’s Union and showed cash on hand of $1,498.20. To-date no subsequent reports show expenditures of those funds.
The Yes Westonka Annual Report 20-21 shows $0 contributions, $0 expenditures but, interestingly, the “cash on hand” field was deleted entirely from the report. Was there a reason they didn’t want to show the $1,498.20 sitting in the account prior to the school board 2021 election? Did they think they could just delete a mandated field from a required report and no one would notice? What happened to the $1,498.20??
The signature at the bottom of both Yes Westonka reports is Lori Wollner, school board incumbent Gary Wollner’s spouse. Well, that explains why they couldn’t use Yes Westonka as an independent political committee now, doesn’t it.
This is the kind of thing one could file and win a campaign finance violation over, but why? The complainant would likely incur thousands in attorneys fees and the political committee would get a slap on the wrist without any meaningful consequences.
Better to just let the community know and ask the school district why they are overlooking these violations.