Tri-City man alleges Pasco school official misused public resources to promote $46.8M bond

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJune 17, 2013 

State officials will investigate allegations that the Pasco School District misused public resources to promote a $46.8 million bond.

The state Public Disclosure Commission and Attorney General's Office received the complaint last week from Franklin County resident Roger Lenk.

Lori Anderson, the commission's spokeswoman, said the attorney general asked the commission to look into the allegations.

Officials have 45 days to look into Lenk's allegations and decide whether to file charges. The commission will also review the district's practices, which the district requested upon learning of Lenk's complaint.

By law, public employees cannot campaign for a bond or levy while they are on duty. Public facilities and resources cannot be used. District officials are allowed to provide information about a bond and how the district would be affected if it passes or fails.

Lenk alleged in his 220-page complaint that Superintendent Saundra Hill used district resources to promote the bond. He also claimed the district had a "hand in glove" relationship with Pasco Citizens for Better Schools, a citizen committee that advocates for bonds and levies. He told the Herald that he wants February's bond passage invalidated and a new election held.

Hill has said the district complies with state laws and guidelines from the public disclosure commission, and that the district would cooperate with any state review or recommendation.

If officials find evidence supporting Lenk's allegations, the commission can either schedule a hearing process or recommend charges by the attorney general.

Lenk could still take his case to court on his own if the commission says there is nothing to support his complaint and the attorney general decides not to pursue the matter. If victorious, the state would have to reimburse him for his costs, Anderson said.

District officials have said that without the bond's passage, they may have needed to start multitrack, year-round schooling to accommodate growing enrollment.

District officials broke ground last week in west Pasco on the first of three new elementary schools being paid for by the bond.

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