A complaint was filed with the Crow Wing County Attorney's Office against the Brainerd School District with regards to its upcoming bond referendum election, according to the man who made the complaint.
Brainerd resident Jeff Czeczok, a past Brainerd School Board candidate who has expressed his stated opposition to the 2018 Brainerd School District referendum, said he filed the complaint to point out potential election law infractions committed by the district during its efforts to inform the public regarding the referendum.
In response, district officials said they followed the advice of their legal counsel during the three-year planning process leading up to the referendum vote on April 10.
Czeczok's formal complaint presented two main items:
• The first item alleges the school district circumvented election law when non-forwardable notices were sent to the Florida address of a Nisswa resident, who was vacationing out of state at the time.
• The second item deals with publication of election day information-specifically, the language the district used when it informed residents of the 15 polling places designated for the April 10 vote. In his complaint, Czeczok noted election law specifies the district must list the specific polling place for each resident, versus providing a list for voters to reference.
"This was spelled out as clear as the nose on anybody's face," Czeczok said of the state statute parameters during a phone interview. "How that happens, I can't speculate. Why it happens, I don't know. But, when they hire attorneys-this is their job, they're professionals. When I see this as a blatant disregard for election law, I don't care if it's a mistake, it needs to be addressed and people need to be held accountable."
Czeczok identified the first item of his complaint pertaining to non-forwardable mail as the "biggest one," or the point of most concern. Whether or not area residents request their mail to be forwarded to an address outside the district, the post office should have been notified mail dealing with the referendum vote be pre-determined as non-forwardable under any circumstance, he said.
The second item, pertaining to published information regarding the election polling places, is more a subject of debate, Czeczok conceded-however, by asking voters to determine their polling place by looking up their precinct and other residential information, it places an unnecessary burden on the voter.
"They're asking people for a lot of money and to do a lot of things," Czeczok said. "If they can't follow simple instructions, why should people trust that they're going to handle their money appropriately?"
In response, Director of Community Education Cori Reynolds said the Brainerd School District's actions, both in regards to the issue of non-forwardable mail and the issue of polling place information, reflect the advice of legal counsel the district consulted during the planning process.
"We are following the advice of legal counsel-legal counsel that has done these elections for schools across the state, for years and years, so we trust what they tell us to do," Reynolds said. "On some of these (stipulations) there aren't clear methods for how to do it. For instance, our legal counsel let us know in November, they did a couple elections where this forwarding issue came up and it was three districts, three different ways their post office handled the issue."
Reynolds added it has been the district's position, and still is, to err on the side of over-communicating and making every effort to disseminate information regarding the referendum.
The administrative director for Crow Wing County, Deborah Erickson, confirmed she notarized Czeczok's complaint. Anne Soberg, an assistant attorney with the the Crow Wing County Attorney's Office, would not comment on the matter.
Clarification: While a previous version of this article accurately cited the example of a Nisswa resident who received illegally forwarded referendum notices during their stay in Florida, it should be noted this issue is universal to the district's handling of non-forwardable mail and wasn't isolated to a single household. Under state statutes, no documents or notices pertaining to an election can be forwarded to an address outside the constituency -- this is done, in part, to prevent non-eligible people from voting on a given election. The Brainerd Dispatch regrets this error.