December 16, 2014
On December 3, Susan Curlee filed a sworn complaint with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance against Williamson Strong. Williamson County Schools, Williamson County Board members, WCEA (local teachers’ association) and W-PACE (local teachers’ PAC) were also referenced in her complaint.
Curlee calls Williamson Strong an “unregistered, politically active group.” We honestly can’t figure out what campaign finance law violation she alleges in her 110-page document. We have a lawyer looking into it; at first glance it’s without merit and yet another example of Susan Curlee imagining a conspiracy where one does not exist.
We have no money; we have raised no money, and we have contributed no money. None.
Parents with skills have pitched in to make a great website and a popular Facebook page to support strong schools in Williamson County.
Applicable laws are described under TCA 2-10, Campaign Finances.
“Basically the allegations are that this group Williamson Strong was supporting or opposing candidates without being registered as a PAC,” Rawlins said. “If a group supports, and by that I mean makes contributions to, candidates, they have to register as a PAC and disclose a financial report.”
According to Tennessee state law under Tennessee Code Annotated 2-10, Campaign Finances, a politically active group must file campaign finance disclosures with the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, including candidate endorsements made monetarily.
“The complaint appears to allege that Williamson Strong supported candidates without registering as a Political Campaign Committee (PAC),” Rawlins said. “This can be making a contribution directly or [for example] taking out an ad asking you to vote for a candidate.”
Rawlins said that there is no “investigation.”
January 14, 2015
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance had a preliminary review of Susan Curlee’s sworn complaint against Williamson Strong today.
We look forward to the opportunity to respond to her complaint against us. We did not engage in any fundraising activities nor did we contribute monies to any candidate. We have no money; we have raised no money, and we have contributed no money. None.
Neither Williamson Strong members nor the group’s attorney, Gerard Stranch of Nashville firm Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, were present at Wednesday’s meeting, but Stranch later told the Home Page Curlee’s claims bear no weight.
“We’ll have our responses to all of Ms. Curlee’s complaints,” Stranch said. “What she’s missing is proof we collected money, accepted donations or gave money to any candidates. That’s fatal to her claim. We look forward to March so we can put an end to this and hope Ms. Curlee will stop efforts to intimidate parents and start encouraging them to engage with the school board.”
We will continue to stay focused on engaging public school parents and community members and helping to make Williamson County Schools the best they can be – welcoming every child, pursuing excellence and opportunity for every child, and pushing back at sideshows and other agendas that aren’t about the boys and girls of WCS.
We are grateful to have met so many awesome, smart and engaged WCS parents, WCS staff and WCS community supporters. Many of us (all of us?) woke up a little late to the reality that we needed to pay more attention to the governance of our schools. But we are here now and it is amazing to see how many of us there are (1100+ new since September), how engaged people are, and how we can come together on something as basic and essential to our families as great public schools. Let’s keep up the good work – together!
“Most of it was emails, letters, correspondence between groups,” Ethics Bureau Executive Director Drew Rawlins said at Wednesday’s Registry of Election Finance meeting. “I don’t see any actual … there are websites, but nothing where there’s been money spent to say, ‘Vote for John Doe.'”
“I did not see anything that I believe would constitute a violation, but I don’t vote,” Rawlins said.
Although the board had not reviewed the full 100-plus-page complaint, Rawlins gave each board member the first three pages, as well as a summary document provided by Curlee.
Rawlins briefly described the complaint to the board stating the group is accused of acting as an unregistered political action committee.
“It also talks about some other things that we don’t have authority over, referencing public use of funds,” Rawlins said.
“The main thing is that the complainant feels that this group, Williamson Strong, is spending funds
supporting opposing candidates without registering as a PAC.”
Pitt asked if any evidence of expenditures was submitted with the complaint, such as newspaper ads supporting candidates.
Rawlins responded that after a brief overview of Curlee’s complaint, he did not see evidence of expenditures.