Park City Board of Education cleared in investigation
March 1, 2016
Summit County attorney Robert Hilder found no evidence of wrongdoing in his investigation into allegations against members of the Park City Board of Education and a group campaigning against the Park City School District’s $56 million bond measure last fall, Hilder’s office announced last week.
Hilder opened the investigation in October, just days before residents were set to cast ballots on the measure, which ultimately failed.
The allegations against members of the Board of Education surrounded whether they had improperly campaigned in favor of the bond. Hilder’s investigation sought to find whether the district had violated election code when it disseminated a video featuring Board members Tania Knauer and Nancy Garrison discussing the bond without granting equal access to the bond’s opponents.
Additionally, Hilder’s office looked into allegations that Board members told students at assemblies at Ecker Hill Middle School to tell their parents to vote "yes" on the bond. The important legal question was whether they had used public funds to voice support for the bond, if they indeed had spoken in favor of it at the assemblies.
Hilder, who did not return multiple calls seeking comment, said in a statement that "there is no legal or factual basis to file charges against any elected or appointed officials."
Garrison said she was pleased, though not surprised, at the findings of the investigation.
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"I don’t think there was ever a doubt in our mind, but I’m happy that the county attorney took his time and carefully evaluated it and verified what we knew all along, which is that we were given good counsel and followed it," Garrison said. "We’re happy to have that behind us, because there’s a heck of a lot of important work to be done."
Hilder also looked into whether members of the anti-bond group Citizens for Better Education had violated any laws by handing out fliers on school property. One of the leaders of the anti-bond group Citizens for Better Education, Ali Ziesler, was aware of the allegations but said Monday via email that she was never given formal notice that the organization was under investigation.
Hilder said in an email statement to The Park Record Monday that no one campaigning against the bond was shown to have violated any laws: "The essential conclusion is that with state statute applying very narrowly, I have seen no evidence that would bring any actions of opponents within its reach."