|News||Maintenance||School Budget||School Projects||Special Education||State Agencies||Salaries||Links|
|Pride||Harutunian I||Harutunian II||The R.S.B.C.|
MGL Chapter 55, the Campaign Finance Law, regulates political activity by public employees and the use of public buildings and resources in campaigns (About OCPF).
Following an election, ballot question groups such as the N.O. No Override Committee, Reading Pride (formed to push the $4.5 million 4/8/03 override) Building Pride (formed to pass the $54 million Reading Memorial High School demolition/renovation/new construction project in February 2003) and Reading Pep (for $2.5 million of the new elementary school) are required to dissolve and distribute remaining funds as specified by the State (MGL. Chapt 55 Section 18, Residual Funds Clause).
Reading's exception: Building Pride was allowed to continue from Spring 2002 ballot question funding high school schematic design to $54 million February 2003 override because the apparent intent of the committee was to support both phases of the project (Letter to Nancy Radville from OCPF Director Michael Sullivan 05/15/02).
State-required Campaign Finance Information (compare this information with the process Reading organizations and officials actually followed):
a.) "The Application of the Campaign Finance Law to the Use of Governmental Resources for Political Purposes" - 10/31/91 Interpretive Bulletin
b.) "Extent to which Appointed and Elected Officials May Act or Speak in Support of or Opposition to Ballot Questions" - 03/18/99 Interpretive Bulletin
c.) "Disclosure and Reporting of Contributions and Expenditures Related to Ballot Questions" - 02/01/99 Interpretive Bulletin
d.) Annual Campaign Contribution Limits for Calendar Year
e.) Campaign Finance Ballot Question Report Forms
Download these OCPF materials - OCPF materials [.pdf download, 1.91 MB]
(Matt Wilson with Flansburgh Associates' Robert Peirce and Sid Bowen)
Campaign finance reports reflect the manipulative nature of the ballot question promotion in Reading: a well-funded minority succeeded in (repeatedly) misrepresenting school projects and State reimbursement requirements to the public in order to achieve their own ends.
The ballot question / political action group Reading Pride evolved out of Building Pride and Reading Pep. Matthew Wilson chaired Building Pride and Reading Pride while Amy Coumoundurous served as treasurer of Reading Pep and Reading Pride.
Building Pride's 2002 Campaign Finance Report [.pdf download, 186 KB] and 2003 Campaign Finance Reports [.pdf download, 450 KB]. Described as the committee to "restore" Reading Memorial High School, Building Pride's original Mar. 5, 2002 Statement of Purpose was "Support of ballot question #1, April 2, 2002." This ballot question was for $450,000 to explore costs and needs to RENOVATE Reading Memorial High School. Three affordable schematic options (School Building Assistance approvable) were supposed to be produced for a high school restoration (RMHS "Schematics" for Renovation Questions & Answers, Reading School Building Committee).
In an unusual turn of events, the State Office of Campaign Finance gave Building Pride permission (05/15/02 Sullivan/Radville OCPF letter)(06/04/02 Birne / Radville Pride Memo) to retain their funds beyond the original April 2002 ballot question. Normally, once an election has passed, remaining funds of a ballot question committee must be dispersed and the committee dissolved.
Building Pride wrote a June 12, 2002 "letter to serve as an amended Statement of Purpose" [.pdf, 34.2 KB] so that the ballot question group could "stay in existence to support future ballot questions related to the renovation of Reading Memorial High School." Retention of Building Pride's ballot question funds allowed Building Pride to continue its momentum into the next year and to work to gain final voter approval of a significantly more extensive demolition / addition / new construction high school project.
The $450,000 approved by voters in the first ballot question was not used for the purpose voters had intended. Voters were NOT provided three reasonable reimbursable options: instead, all options involved similar exorbitant costs and two proposals required excessive phasing time, leaving the voters with only the Building Pride endorsed option. In spite of an October 01, 2001 SBA letter detailing that the State would not fund the demolition of the existing high school and construction of a new school, the February 2003 ballot question was for $54 million to demolish the entire 1953 high school and sections of the 1970s additions, construct a new 4 story addition, "renovate" the Field House and what remained of the 1970s addition, and build new synthetic athletic fields.
The $450,000 for cost options toward the restoration of the structurally sound Reading Memorial High School quietly was transformed into a major $54 million demolition / addition / renovation project that did not even qualify to be put on the SBA preliminary reimbursement list (according to an April 4, 2003 Department of Education school building grant advisory).
Only special legislation (07/01/03 Jones/Town Manager letter) filed by Rep. Brad Jones, designed to circumvent SBA requirements, allowed Reading and 62 other communities to leapfrog onto the preliminary SBA waiting list (at the bottom) without meeting the criteria of Massachusetts State laws. Reading selected an option that was not reimbursable and had the law changed to meet the "wants" of school officials, special interest groups and some Reading citizens.
Reading PEP - Reading Parents for Educational Progress for Schools Campaign Finance Reports, January 1 to February 8, 2003 and February 9 - March 11, 2003. Amy Coumounduros, Treasurer.
PEP expenditures included a $3500 Consulting Fee paid 03/07/03 to Michael McGovern of Lowell MA and $2,200 paid 01/28/03 to National Telecommunications Service, Washington DC for Reading PEP's part of an RMHS / elementary project voter telephone poll.
Reading Pride - Political Action Group / Ballot Question Committee Statement of Organization - Matthew Wilson Chairman - Amy Coumounduros, Treasurer
Reading's $4.5 million override passed April 8, 2003 was spearheaded by ballot question group, Reading Pride (which evolved out of Building Pride, the group formed to push for the $54 million high school project passed in February 2003). Of the $4.5 million operating override, $3.1 million went to the schools and $1.4 million to the Town.
Reading Pride's Campaign Finance Reports [.pdf download, 816 KB] and Reading Pride, 8th Day Filing Report [.pdf download, 148 KB] indicate that a community organization sweep (similar to that used by Building Pride to gain voter approval for the high school project) was in place. According to the reports, the Tucci "gloom and doom" video cost $529. Among the contributions to Reading Pride were the following: Reading Teachers' Association ($500), Reading DPW Employees AFSME Local 1703 ($1000), Reading Superior Officer's Association ($1000) and Reading Firefighters ($250). The remaining balance of $663.05 following the election was donated to the Dorothy Burbank Trust.