Park City Board of Education race takes controversial turn
District 4 candidate Meredith Reed sends opponent Mandy Pomeroy cease-and-desist letter
With Election Day looming, the divide between two Park City Board of Education candidates has grown even bigger after a controversial campaign strategy was utilized earlier this week.
A political advertisement from interim board member Mandy Pomeroy’s campaign containing a photo of her opponent Meredith Reed and Reed’s children was placed on doors in Jeremy Ranch on Tuesday. The women are competing for the District 4 seat, which represents districts north of Interstate 80 such as Hidden Cove, Glenwild and Silver Creek.
Reed became aware of the door hangers in the morning, before a school board debate hosted by the Park City Rotary Club. She and Pomeroy participated in the event as well as the candidates vying for the seat in District 5: incumbent board chair Erin Grady and Nick Hill, a Parleys Park parent.
After responding to a question from the audience, Reed directed her attention to Pomeroy. She said she was upset that the image was published without her permission and requested Pomeroy stop using it.
Pomeroy defended the use of the picture, saying it was “referenced” on Reed’s campaign materials. Reed said in an interview the photo was printed on a postcard she sent out before the June 28 primary election.
“It’s my children, who are in this school district, who are not your children. So please stop using their image on your campaign material,” Reed said during the debate.
The Park City School District has a policy prohibiting images of students from being published without permission from their parents. Pomeroy is considered a school official as she is a sitting member of the Board of Education. However, Heidi Matthews, a School District spokesperson, said the policy doesn’t apply because the picture wasn’t used in a district publication.
Pomeroy told Reed they can have a conversation at another time. However, Reed said she wanted to continue it. Reed again asked Pomeroy to stop using images of her children on campaign material.
“I don’t think that’s what today is about,” Pomeroy responded.
Reed rebutted, “I think as a school board member who is using images of children who are in this district, it is absolutely part of this conversation.”
In an interview after the debate, Pomeroy said the situation clearly struck a nerve.
“Meredith Reed and the Democrat Party are embarrassed that my campaign pointed out a truth. The facts are she put that photo of herself and some children at the bus stop in public and mailed it to more than 1,000 constituents. Any expectation of privacy she thought she had evaporated when she blessed that direct-mail piece for mailing,” Pomeroy said.
She doesn’t consider the campaign strategy controversial because she used Reed’s own marketing materials to point out a fault in her opponent’s campaign.
“She could apparently find no photos, for example, of participation in classroom activities, presence at PTO meetings, leadership in PCEF or Red Apple Gala that would demonstrate the qualifications important in doing the nitty-gritty work necessary to the vitality of our schools,” Pomeroy said.
But the tense exchange didn’t end after the debate.
Reed told The Park Record she was approached by a woman who asked to speak with her after the Rotary Club event. The woman, whom Reed identified as Pomeroy’s mother, allegedly became aggressive. Reed said she tried to leave what had become an uncomfortable situation when the woman grabbed her arm and became more confrontational. She is considering pressing charges, according to a cease-and-desist letter Reed provided The Park Record.
The letter, dated Oct. 19, alleges Pomeroy and her mother engaged in illegal and immoral behavior that “breached the bounds of civility and fair play, as well as generally-acceptable conduct to be demonstrated by a public official in Park City.”
It documents several grievances regarding Pomeroy’s campaign including the alleged violation of the School District policy and the reproduction of Reed’s photo without her permission. An attorney representing Reed advised Pomeroy to collect and destroy any campaign materials containing the image, with proof to be provided by 5 p.m. on Wednesday or legal action would be taken.
Pomeroy’s campaign was also accused of false political advertising. The image of Reed and her children was accompanied by text that said, “Don’t you want a district board member representing YOU who gets closer to our schools than the bus stop.” Reed understood the message to be that she isn’t active in the School District beyond picking up her children, which she said isn’t true.
“You are in direct violation of that law,” the cease-and-desist letter from Reed’s attorney said. “Beyond that, it is commendable that she takes the time to ensure that her children feel safe and loved when boarding the school bus. Shame on you for denigrating her publicly for caring about her children.”
Pomeroy commended Reed for walking with her children to the bus stop in a statement, but said the School District needs “leadership that actually steps foot in our schools and does the work.”
“I volunteer in PCSD schools weekly. I have first-hand knowledge of what is going on behind the scenes. Combine that with my years of experience as an educator and education professional, and my refusal to become a partisan pawn, I am the best choice for the children and parents in the Park City School District,” Pomeroy said.
The letter also detailed a text that appeared to have been sent from the School District endorsing Pomeroy for the Board of Education. Matthews said it was not sent by the School District, which does not endorse school board candidates.
“Yesterday we were made aware of a campaign text message that inaccurately appeared to have originated from PCSD. District employees researched and determined that the message did not originate from Park City School District. We received an email from the candidate taking accountability for the error and assurances of correction. At this point, we have determined the particular issue to be resolved for our end,” Matthews said.
Pomeroy was unanimously appointed to fill the seat vacated by Kara Hendrickson after her passing in April. Reed and Josh Mann, who did not advance to the general election, abstained from applying for the vacancy to avoid a possible unfair advantage.
Earlier this month, Pomeroy received an endorsement from the Summit County Republican Party. The Board of Education race is nonpartisan. Pomeroy, who said she is an unaffiliated voter, credited the support to her experience rather than a political party.
Reed is the former chair of the Summit County Democratic Party. She has received endorsements from Utah Parents for Teachers, the Park City Board of Realtors and several county Democrats.
Reed earned the most votes in the primary election with a total of 519, or 35%. Pomeroy received 493 votes, or 33.24%.
Ballots for the Nov. 8 election were mailed earlier this week and should arrive in mailboxes soon. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 28.
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