Monday, October 13, 2014

Law Dept. looking into whether West High PTSO email broke election law

Well, this is interesting . . .

Sooooooo, you might recall that back in January Sandra Rowcliffe, then-president of the Knox County Council PTA, sent an email to members, warning about the use of tax-exempt non-profit organizations for political purposes.

She noted:
“PTA is a non-commercial, non-sectarian and non-partisan organization. Because PTAs are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, the IRS rules regulating some types of legislative activities of non-profit organizations must be followed.”

She also advised principals that “if your parent group is a PTO as opposed to a PTA that you inform them as well if they are, in fact, a 501(c)3.” 
“Certain political activities are absolutely prohibited: supporting or opposing political parties or candidates for federal, state, or local public office…”
Well, on Saturday an email started making the rounds, and it was forwarded to a number of reporters. It was initially sent Oct. 10 by West High School PTSO co-secretary Carolyn Rezler.

You can read it RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Anyhoo, as I noted, a number of us received this Saturday evening. Looks like Betty Bean over at the Knoxville Shopper beat everyone to the punch. Find her story RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Essentially, the email - written by a member of non-profit PTSO - is asking members to support a certain opponent in the 2nd District BOE race.

Um, folks, I'm not sure if you should be doing this. It appears to be a political email (soliciting political support) and these are the types of things that jeopardize non-profit status.

As Betty noted, the county law office is now looking into it.

By the way, here's another note that made the rounds. It's a document that talks about what PTAs (and by extension, PTSOs) may and may not do.

Find that one RIGHT SMACK HERE.

It may provide a glimpse into what the law department will say.

In the meantime, the three 2nd District candidates - Charlotte Dorsey, Jamie Rowe and Tracey Sanger - will participate in a forum beginning at 6 tonight at the Christenberry Community Center on Oglewood Avenue.

Go out, show your support, vote for whoever you want to. Try not to violate election laws.

1 comment:

fischbobber said...


It's only fair to Carolyn to point out that she didn't write the e-mail, David Schmid did. It was forwarded during a time when she was catching up on e-mail correspondence for the various volunteer work she does and , frankly, wasn't proofed before it was forwarded. She has owned up to the mistake. It is also only fair to point out that as of 5:30 pm on Oct. 13, 2014, no one from the press had personally contacted her for her side of the story. We all make mistakes and she owns this one. It is not a nefarious plot. It was simply a busy volunteer who made a careless error while trying to knock out a "to do " list on her lunch break.

We all make mistakes. Even I made one once. Also, I would point out that at quick glance, it would appear the e-mail is a follow-up to PTSO business from a previous meeting. This doesn't change the fact that a mistake was made, but it was just a mistake made in haste.


Bob Fischer