Do it in the open

Independent campaign fliers are fine, but voters should know who is behind them

A contentious campaign for three positions on the Eagle Point School Board demonstrates the importance of public disclosure in elections.

Eight candidates are on today's ballot for the three positions. One candidate for each seat is perceived by some in the community as pro-union, and one for each seat has been branded a supporter of the district administration.

We aren't taking sides in these races, and make no assertions about the truth or falsehood of those characterizations. We do, however, have some observations.

First, in a district that has weathered a teacher strike, it's not surprising that some want to take sides based on their perception of various candidates' attitudes toward the teachers union. It's quite another thing, however, to send fliers out to voters under the name of a previously unknown group without disclosing the members' identities, or registering the group with the Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division.

A printed flier mailed to district patrons urged votes for the three supposed pro-administration candidates. It came from a group calling itself "Parents supporting Eagle Point School District #9," but no such group could be found.

A district resident complained to Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, who forwarded the inquiry to a compliance specialist with the state Elections Division, who couldn't find any record of the group either.

Those behind the mailing apparently were unaware that they were required to register with the state and report contributions and expenditures. They quickly moved to comply, and no repercussions are expected.

That's appropriate, under the circumstances. The important thing is that voters should be able to find out who is behind campaign materials they receive.

Second, it's worth pointing out again — as we did almost a year ago — that there is no district policy against the spouse of a teacher serving on the School Board. In fact, the district's Board Member Ethics and Conflict of Interest document specifically states it is not a conflict.

Incumbent Mark Bateman's wife is a teacher for the district, and he has been criticized in the past for what some see as a conflict of interest, despite that policy.

School districts face many issues, and labor relations are just one of them. It's unfortunate that a single issue still dominates the debate, but at least the election should be conducted in the open, with all participants disclosed, including independent groups seeking to influence the outcome.

Meanwhile, today is the day, not just in Eagle Point but in communities throughout the county. It's too late to mail in ballots, which must reach the county Elections Department by 8 tonight. Drop boxes are available until 8 p.m. in Medford, at the Elections Department, 1101 W. Main St.; at the public libraries in Ashland, Central Point and Eagle Point; and at the Rogue River City Hall.


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