PREVENAS LOSES ELECTION APPEAL

June 14, 2000 12:00 am

A state hearing officer has rejected Dr. Paul Prevenas appeal of a finding that he violated state election laws.

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury has signed an order directing Dr. Prevenas to pay a $100 fine for improperly advocating passage of a bond measure 18 months ago.

Acting on a complaint from Brookings-Harbor School District resident Dominic Taurone, the secretarys office said Prevenas, district superintendent, inappropriately campaigned for passage of the bond.

State law prohibits public officials from using district resources to campaign for voter approval of a ballot proposal.

Prevenas has the option of going to court with an additional appeal, or paying the $100 fine to the school district. He intends to pay the fine because of the expense required in going to court.

The superintendent said he will be doubly cautious in future bond elections to avoid violating the states requirements.

He drove to Salem for the appeal hearing before a hearing officer. His chief interest was to clarify that no erroneous information had been dispensed by the school district.

The superintendent had been accused of saying the bonds for a term of 20 years when actually they were for 30 years. But, the superintendent argued, the bonds were actually for 20 years, but had been written by the bond counsel for a 30-year period for technical reasons. There was never any intention to sell bonds for 30 years. Also, he said, there is no market for 30-year bonds, so they could not have been sold.

The ruling by the secretary of state included a final order against Dr. Prevenas. It said that he violated state law by using work time as a public employees to produce two publications promoting passage of the school bond measure, and that he directed a public employee, his secretary, to assist with the publications.

The secretary, Susan McCarthy, was not fined because she was performing her normal duties.

During the hearing, there was testimony by Norma Buckno of the secretarys office that a newsletter prepared by Dr. Prevenas constituted advocacy in promoting passage of the bond.

The secretary (of states office) also pointed to use of the word will, finding that it suggested a correct outcome, and other phrases that the secretary characterized as passionate rather than neutral. These phrases included: Why does Brookings-Harbor need a school bond now? Why is the school bond so important? The best way to relieve this overcrowding is to build a new high school. The only way District 17C can raise money to build a new school and renovate our existing buildings is by passing a bond. and There are no better solutions to the problems from over-crowding and from aging buildings.

Dr. Prevenas argued during the hearing that the publications were truthful. The hearing officer agreed with the secretary of states contention that the superintendent had promoted the passage of the bond. This is despite the fact there was nothing in the publications that directly say the voters should approve the bonds.

Although the publications contained neutral material there was sufficient persuasive language to substantiate a violation, the ruling said.

The superintendent said he did not expect to win a reversal on the appeal. He expressed regret that the state does not permit him to discuss the need of an issue. That is the reason passage of bonds is requested, he said.