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ANAHEIM HILLS : Objections Fly Over School Vote Mailing

Several Orange Unified School District trustees Monday criticized district officials for photocopying and mailing a campaign flyer that urged Anaheim Hills voters to approve a ballot measure involving new-school construction.

Though measure supporters reimbursed the district for the cost of the mailing last week, the trustees argued that the activity was “inappropriate” because it left the appearance that the district was taking sides in the election.

“I don’t think it is proper for the school district to reproduce documents and get involved” in the election process, said trustee Robert H. Viviano, expressing the views of at least three board members. “The whole action represents poor judgment.”

Despite the mailing, voters last week overwhelmingly rejected the ballot measure, which would have allowed the district to build one elementary school with money originally set aside to build two schools.

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Residents who live near the likely school site supported the measure, as did many school officials who believed a “yes” vote would have saved the district an undetermined amount of money.

But many residents in the nearby Highlands neighborhood opposed the measure, fearing it would rob them of the elementary school they were promised when they moved into the area.

The flyer was produced by a group called Sycamore Canyon Homeowners for a Neighborhood School. District officials made 822 copies of the flyer and mailed them to residents in the area where the special election was held.

Frank Remkiewicz, director of planning and information, said the district’s actions were justified.

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“We have on a number of occasions helped with bulk mailings for the PTA and other groups,” he said. It’s been the school board’s policy to have the district “provide assistance to (school) groups that need help.”

Remkiewicz said that district officials often helped opponents of the measure find and photocopy public documents.

“We acted in good faith and did get the reimbursement,” Interim District Supt. Richard Donoghue said. “If there were any indiscretions, they are not of a significant nature. We did not intend to do anything incorrectly.”

The flyer urged residents to “Vote Yes on March 23" and included a drawing of a proposed school. The flyer contained the line: “Don’t be fooled by the Highlander residents’ misleading information!”

Remkiewicz said he thought the flyer provided voters with helpful facts. “I believe it to be informative. The opposition claims it is persuasive,” he said.

Several trustees said the flyer was purely partisan campaign literature.

“I kind of object to the strong language used to describe” the Highlander residents, Trustee Bill Lewis said. “I think we went a little over the line. . . . I don’t think we should get into the politics of the different sides.”

Highlander residents have demanded that trustees look into the district action for possible violations of the state Education Code.

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