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Superintendent of Schools’ Newsletter Regarding Budget Referendum Did Not Violate Election Laws

A Superior Court Judge recently held that a superintendents’ newsletter sent to parents which discussed a referendum does not violate Connecticut General Statutes §9-369b if the referendum has not yet been scheduled to take place.  In this case a complaint was filed alleging that the Bethel superintendent of schools used municipal funds to distribute a newsletter about a budget referendum, in violation of C.G.S. §9-369b.  The statute only prohibits distribution of such information when a referendum is legally “pending.”  As of the date of the superintendent’s newsletter on April 24, the referendum had not yet been scheduled to take place.  Because the superintendent’s April 24, 2015 newsletter was distributed before May 14, 2015, when the budget referendum qualified as “pending” under the local Charter, C.G.S. §9-369b did not apply.  The State Elections Enforcement Commission dismissed the complaint.

Because the point at which a referendum is considered “pending” varies from Town to Town, districts should consult with legal counsel to make certain they do not run afoul of the State Campaign Finance laws when they issue such statements.