Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 4, 2014

TCAPS fined $25,600 for illegal mailing

TRAVERSE CITY — An illegal campaign flier that touted Traverse City Area Public Schools' 2012 bond millage will require a $25,656 repayment to the district, the Michigan Secretary of State's office determined.

But it's not clear who's on the hook for that sum.

Secretary of State officials in April 2013 determined the 2012 flier violated state elections laws. The state acted after Grand Traverse County resident Jason Gillman filed a complaint against the district and Superintendent Stephen Cousins.

TCAPS officials this week learned of the state's demand that the district be repaid for improper use of staff time and resources needed to develop, design and mail the flier.

"In effect, the taxpayers of the Traverse City Area Public Schools subsidized the cost of a campaign ad that urged voters to pass the bond proposal," state Bureau of Elections employee Lori A. Bourbonais wrote in a letter to TCAPS law firm. "This activity plainly violates MCL 169.257."

TCAPS officials must decide by May 30 whether to accept the ruling and prove reimbursement, which cannot come from TCAPS general fund or other taxpayer-supported funds. If TCAPS officials refuse to pay, the case could be referred to the state attorney general's office for criminal prosecution.

The state did not specifically state who is responsible for repaying the $25,656.

See Wednesday's Record-Eagle for additional coverage.

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