Saturday, February 25, 2012

Whalen E-Mail - Crossing or Just Blurring the Lines?

Seems that there's an e-mail chain going around initiated by current school board president John Whalen in his bid for re-election to a 3rd term.  While we aren't suggesting that what Whalen's doing is a violation of statute or rule, we will say that it begs the question.  Actually, it begs a LOT of questions

From: John Whalen [] 
Sent: Sunday, February 19, 2012 8:14 PM 
To: Adam Kristina Boardman; ; Caroline McCourt; Cheryl Batterman; Dan McIlroy; Dan Deprey; Dave Joan Unmacht; David Glusick, P.E.; Dawn Moret; Dr. Reeder; Heather Reeder; Jan Kiecker; Jan Nelson; Jeanne Behrend; Jeff Zacher; Jeff Tubbs; John Bloemer; Karin Delaitsch; Kellen Dorner; Kim Erb; Kimberly Trent;; Lorie Candelmo; Mary Swita; Matt Silbernagel; Matt Harms; Mike Gomoll; Mike Healy; Mike Nelson; Mike Larson; Monique Glusick; Pam Albi; Pam Klute; Sharlot Bogart; Todd Birkrem; Todd Sears; Tom Bernard; Toni Rossmiller;

 Subject:  Re-Elect John Whalen for Sun Prairie Area School District School Board 


 Attached, please find a brief flyer outlining my qualification for the Sun Prairie Area School District . I would like to ask two things of you. First, I would like your vote on April 3rd, and second, I need your help.  

Whalen didn't propose "looking into options" to address
elementary space needs.  That was John Welke.  Without Welke's
intervention (not Whalen's) the district simply proposed
building an 8th elementary school.
In order to get my message out efficiently, I would like you to forward this email to everyone you know in the Sun Prairie Area School District . In addition, if you ask these people to do the same, we can cover the District in a very green way.

 Please note April 3rd is during spring break and if you are going to be out of town, please vote absentee. You can vote by absentee right at city hall. It is quick and easy. Your vote is very important to me. Please contact me with your questions or concerns.

 Thank your for your support,
 John Whalen

Election Rules & Campaign Flyers
One thing that is immediately noticed regarding his "flyer" is that it lacks the de rigeur "Authorized and Paid for by ______________" attribution, which must appear on any campaign material.  These requirements are spelled out in section 11.30, Wis. Stats., " Attribution of political contributions, disbursements and communications."

Sure, Whalen could argue that e-mail costs him nothing--and therefore he is exempt.  But it DOES cost him something to maintain an Internet connection with which to send it.  We also don't know whether or not any of these were printed for handing out.  The bottom line, is that --after 6 years/2 terms--Whalen simply knows better.  And we expect better from someone in his shoes.   He's not a "newbie" at this who has made an innocent mistake.  He needs to be doing it BETTER than the other guys.

Conflict of Interest?
The list of recipients on this e-mail (and perhaps there were other "lists") is a veritable list of "Who's Who In Sun Prairie".  More to the point, many of these folks do business with the school district, and therefore Whalen puts himself in a very sticky wicket.  Kip Kobussen--of Kobussen Busing-- has a contract with the district worth about $10M.  Should Whalen now recuse himself from voting on any future contracts or checks written to Kobussen?   What about the others:

Correction: we've since learned that Kip Kobussen is not a part of Kobussen Buses, as we've been told.
Our apologies to Mr. Kobussen and Kobussen Buses for the error.
  • Jeff Tubbs (Findorff, who built the last $100M+ of district projects)
  • Sharlot Bogart (owner of Teddy's Place, one of the district 4K sites)
  • Caroline McCourt (co-owner of Beans & Cream, from whom the district frequently purchases things)
  • Matt Silbernagel (with whom the district has done some multi-media business)
  • Pam Albi and Matt Harms (Board of Trustees for the Sun Prairie Education Foundation, which has received over $500,000 in money from school district naming rights.
That's a lot of big names and local business owners/big wigs. Doesn't this put Whalen in a very awkward position on the board?  We've never heard Whalen abstaining from ANY check in the past.  Should he now if re-elected?  Furthermore, if the intent is for these folks to pass the e-mail on to their employees, there are statutory cautions involved with doing that as well.

Look...we understand. Whalen mingles with the "beautiful people"-- the "haves".  And in doing so, he cultivates new relationships.  But when these relationships could potentially result in business opportunities with the school district, the lines get blurred and the community starts whispering things like "influence peddling".  It just looks bad, and smells a little funny.  When one hears a community member suggest that the school board is in bed with So-and-So business--right or wrongfully so--, now you see how such statements or beliefs are born.

Over-Stating His Position?
Whalen's flyer states, "It is projected that we will run out of space in our elementary schools in the next few years. Instead of rushing ahead to build a new elementary school, I support looking for options for addressing the space needs. "  

Funny...but we don't recall Mr. Whalen coming up with that idea.  In fact, had it not been for board member John Welke motioning to create an Ad Hoc committee to explore space options, it sure looked like the board was moving directly to building an 8th elementary school.   Whalen never expressed such an idea before, when the board agenda item was the timeline for an 8th elementary school.   Sensing the community is not so hot about building yet ANOTHER school right now, is Whalen now simply stealing Welke's thunder?  

In fact , 3 years ago, when Whalen was re-elected, Welke was running as a Write-In candidate.  Many in the community believed then that a significant number of votes that Whalen received were due to confusion over the two names.  If that was the case, it looks like Whalen is once again hitching a ride on Welke's star.

But "Green" Sounds So Chic
"...we can cover the district in a green way" is like spraying Febreze on a soiled carpet. It may mask the odor temporarily, but the soil still remains.  Other candidates are printing buttons and flyers.  Is Whalen really so "green" thinking?  Or is the "green" tagline tossed in there to avoid people from thinking he's just lazy or cheap?

What We Really Are Dying To Know
Who exactly are the "two blond tornadoes"?  John?  Ferris Bueller?  Anyone!  Do Tell.