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PDC Complaint Targets Former Superintendent

Sumner School Board president Sherm Voiles filed a Public Disclosure Commission complaint against former superintendent Gil Mendoza for mailing election fliers in the district.

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission is investigating a complaint that former Sumner Superintendent Gil Mendoza failed to follow state public disclosure laws when he mailed out 24,288 school board election fliers.

The two-part complaint was filed by Sumner School Board President Sherm Voiles. It alleges that Mendoza violated state law because the fliers do not clearly state who paid for them and questions whether Citizens Advocating a Responsible Education System (CARE), the entity named on the flier’s return address label, is a political action committee.

The complaint also states that Mendoza did not report the $6,300 mailing cost to the PDC, said Lori Anderson, PDC spokeswoman.

Anderson said a ruling on whether or not the flier violates state law is unlikely to occur before the Nov. 8 election.

“We have not completed the initial review and I doubt we will before the election,” said Anderson.

The flier urges voters to choose Sumner School Board candidates who have children attending Sumner schools, namely over incumbent for position 2 and over Ron Weigelt for position 4, which is currently occupied by Greg Hanon. Voiles is not up for re-election this year. The flier also urges voters to cast ballots for Richard Hendricks, who is running unopposed for position 3.

Mendoza said he’s confident the PDC will rule that CARES is not a political action committee. Political committees are defined as entities that either pool money or gather contributions to influence an election.

An individual spending his own money does not qualify as a political committee, said Anderson.

“CARES is me and my family,” said Mendoza. As for the financial report, Mendoza said he was unaware of the requirement to file such paperwork with the PDC, but that he spoke with a PDC representative Tuesday.

“He walked me through the form and I am planning to send that in today,” said Mendoza.

If the commission finds the flier violates state law the consequence can range from a warning to a $4,200 fine, said Anderson.

Meanwhile, comments appearing on Buchich's candidate profile featured on Patch show that some citizens are questioning why a board member appears to be attempting to influence the election via a PDC complaint, while others are asking why a former superintendent is reaching into his pocket to sway voters.

“The real question to me is, why would a former superintendent who’d been released from the district, try to directly influence the election against a board member who was obviously on the board when he was released from employment?” said Voiles, referring to DeMarre.

Mendoza said he acted as a citizen, taxpayer and voter who lives in the community, adding he has a daughter, nieces and nephews who collectively attend four schools in the district.

“I am trying to influence the election for five candidates not just one,” he said, pointing out the flier’s theme of supporting candidates who have kids attending Sumner schools. “It’s my personal and professional belief that school board members who have kids in our schools are more vested. I think they make the stronger candidates… They have a real pulse on what’s happening in our schools.”

Mendoza served as the Sumner superintendent from July 2007 to June 30, 2011. He departed after the School Board voted 4-1 to approve a . Hendricks cast the dissenting vote. Mendoza had one year left on a three-year contract, and the agreement paid him an estimated $178,000 – his annual base salary of $147,000 along with an annuity and a year’s medical benefits.

Voiles said he wants to know why Mendoza did not place his own name on the mailer.

“You have to ask,” said Voiles, “why would he fund something like that and try to conceal his involvement – which was apparently substantial involvement?”

Mendoza said he used the CARES title because he did not want to use his name, which is well-known in the district, to sway voters.

“I tried to be neutral on it and let people make an objective decision based on the theme of whether candidates have kids in school (here) or not,” said Mendoza.

As for the expense, “It’s a personal choice,” Mendoza said. “How much somebody spends on being politically involved or being community based.”

Voiles also questions Mendoza’s lack of knowledge regarding the financial filing requirements.

“As the previous superintendent … he is very familiar with PDC requirements,” Voiles said. “He did not fulfill these requirements.”

Mendoza, however, said he checked with the Pierce County elections office before sending the flier to ensure it was appropriate. He also said the school district’s communication director is in charge of overseeing concerns regarding public disclosure when bond or levy elections occur, not the superintendent.

“This was not,” he said, “a bond or a levy.”

Shari Campbell November 02, 2011 at 02:55 AM
I'm surprised and question Mendoza's claim that he did not know the PDC rules. As the former superintendent he clearly should have. I question his motivations and am saddened that he feels the need to do this. I support Jeff and urge others to as well.
Sherm Voiles November 02, 2011 at 02:55 AM
I generally don't post online comments, and have never done so after being interviewed. Because this article includes comments by the former superintendent that are misleading, I believe this is the best way to provide accurate information to your readers. The rationale in the flier was to support all candidates who have children in school. Whether or not you agree that this is an important qualification for a school director, the fact is of the three candidates supported by Gil Mendoza's flier, only Casey Chamberlain can truly be described as having children in school during the length of the upcoming term. The remaining two supported candidates have three children in school between the two of them. Two are currently seniors at Sumner High School and one is a Junior. Two of them are enrolled in the Running Start program full-time (attending community college) and each participates in just one class at the high school. I doubt the parent of a student attending just one class each day can be described as someone who has a pulse on what's happening in schools. Additionally, current board member Mike Pavlik and I both have grandchildren who either are, or very soon, will be attending school in Sumner -- as does Jeff DeMarre. As grandparents of students, we are connected to the school experiences of our grandchildren and our children. For me, the grandparent perspective is both valuable and enjoyable! We care about the success of Sumner Schools.
Kathleen November 02, 2011 at 06:59 AM
I would not know about the PDC myself. It seems there is a lot of political infighting going on in the City of Sumner. Dr. Mendoza is free to send flyers. He should have put his name on the fliers. ("open and transparent") Having children in the district is not a requirement to be Director. Using the same faulty logic that children in the district and how much they attend reflects the Director, that would mean that I with 6 kids is more qualified then someone with one child...I don't think so. Some parents never participate. With all due deep respect to Mr Voiles I am deeply distrubed that both the Board President and Mayor have used their positions to support a candidate. As private citizens they are of course, free to support anyone. In my job, Board Presidents as policy and with their fiduciary duty to the public (and I would hope the same for Mayors) are not to use their positions to support a candidate. Further Mr Voiles comments above suggest he represents some, if not all,of the School Board as a public stance. Has the Board voted on their support of a candidate?. I would hope our elected officials would take the high road in elections. We place our trust in you to do the best for us, and to be a model of social conscienceness.
Rebecca Giles November 02, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Shame on you gil! Once again you are using your true skill of manipulation to dupe the citizens of Sumner and Bonney Lake!
Julie November 02, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Thank you Sherm Voiles!!! If you had not filed a complaint The Patch wouldn't be running this story. You saved me tons of research time. I still needed to check to see exactly who was responsible for the firing of Dr. Mendoza so I could vote for their opponent. I had no idea who was behind CARE but now that I know it's Dr. Mendoza you have saved me some research time. You never should have fired him and I can't wait until you're up for re-election so I can fire you.
Julie November 02, 2011 at 04:37 PM
I noticed you posted this during office hours. Shouldn't you be working?
Julie November 02, 2011 at 04:39 PM
“The real question to me is, why would a former superintendent who’d been released from the district, try to directly influence the election against a board member who was obviously on the board when he was released from employment?” Are you serious?? If you had to ask that question I don't think you have any business educating kids.
Rebecca Giles November 02, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Julie, happy you know my office hours. I worked last night until 9:30 PM. Lucky to be able to flex my hours. Great After School Soccer Jamboree at Panther Field, sorry you missed it!
Sara November 02, 2011 at 07:37 PM
I saw Dr. Mendoza at every school where my children attend, and at many community gatherings. I think firing him was also a big mistake, as he clearly cared for our children and the community. I would absolutely support him as a school board candidate, and think it is time we vote new faces onto our school board. Mendoza for School Board!
Julie November 02, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Thanks for clarifying. As a taxpayer, I feel I had the right to ask the question. You seem to pop up in the comment section quite a bit during office hours. If its because of comp time that's absolutely fine. Just thought I'd ask.
Rebecca Giles November 02, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Julie, instead of airing our dirty laundry why don't you give me a call instead. You know where I work. And you also know that we all work weekends and evenings without being paid for them. I am entitled to take a lunch break or a break to breathe whenever I choose and so is my staff, if the office is covered. Trust me, the taxpayers are getting their money's worth of their whole $82,500 for the entire department annually. I would love to sit down and share any part of any beef you might have. Remember, most all of this is opinion or conjecture, only a select few of us know the 'real story'.
Craig Roberts November 03, 2011 at 12:26 AM
And here in lies the problem, Becky, you keep throwing out opinions because apparently you know the "real story" and we don't. Let us in on it so that we are all playing on a level playing field. Craig Roberts
Julie November 03, 2011 at 12:27 AM
I don't see the point. I asked you a question as a concerned taxpayer, you answered the question, and I thanked you for doing so. Like I said before, I had every right as a tax paying citizen of Sumner to ask the question. Thanks again.
DAP Norris November 03, 2011 at 03:02 AM
I'd like to add a positive thought: I have interacted with several board members over my 23 years as a parent volunteer. I have always found Jeff to be honest and forthcoming, analytical and resourceful; and discrete when it’s appropriate. I cannot stress enough my confidence in Jeff as a leader and in his ability to make hard decisions when needed. Jeff DeMarre has proven to be a person of integrity and commitment, and I proudly support him. I hope you'll do the same. I am a past band, track, cross country, daffodil princess, tennis, soccer, FFA, ASB Leadership and Spartan Spirit parent/supporter. Thank you.
Rebecca Giles November 03, 2011 at 03:59 AM
Make an appointment (after hours) Craig...and I will meet with you! No problem with that. I will tell you everything I know, from my stand poing...no one elses and you make the call! I am assuming that you already voted though...will that make a difference. I am an open book. My colleagues know that, and so do my constituents who I have had interactions with for the last 21 years. I am fair and I am honest. I will look forward to hearing from you, so you can judge for yourself. I have a vacation day on Monday, so time is of the essence.
Michelle November 03, 2011 at 02:20 PM
These comments show just how immature our Sumner School District leaders really are. Becky I have liked and respected you for many years now. I must say that respect is long gone. As for the board members, Rick is the only one with my vote. I have been to several meetings and watched the board members text through speakers, be disrespectful of children giving speeches and argue in front of everyone in the room. It is time for Sumner to get a new group of members that actually care about the kids. It's time to break up the "good ole boys club". There are many of us that know the "true" story behind Gil's firing. He challenged the board and they didn't like it. THAT IS THE TRUTH!!!! As far as the fliers, it's nice to know that Sherm and Becky believe that all voters are sheep that just blindly follow the manipulation handed down by Gil. We are adults with minds of our own, and are smart enough to see where the manipulation is actually coming from. Gil you are better off without the Sumner School District. We love and support you always.
Craig Roberts November 03, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Becky you don't have to explain yoursef to me. I worked with you and Rich for 4 years some 10 years ago coaching flag football,basketball, and baseball. My experience with the Rec Dept.has been very rewarding. I understand that you might be leaving soon and I would like to thank you for all your awsome and hard work. I hope Rich will be considered for your position if it becomes avaible. I will walk over this morning and make an appointment to meet with you at your convenience, or you can call me at 253-863-1793 and let me know when you are avaible. I'm retired so I'm here all the time. And no my ballot is sitting on the table waiting to be filled out.
Katharine Rode November 04, 2011 at 12:42 AM
I don't have a problem at all with the flyers being sent out. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power and it sounds like Sherm is feeling the power. And just so all of us don't have to make individual appointments, Rebecca, why don't you let us all in on the truth? Instead, you'd rather send immature jabs back and forth like we are in junior high. Too bad we can't focus all of this energy on what is really important...the kids.
Michael C. November 04, 2011 at 03:26 AM
I suspect that this complaint and litany of posts (on all articles) would NOT have been issued had the previous superintendent NOT sent a mailing to over 24,000 voters at a personal cost of $7,800 and in doing so, failed to follow proper PDC protocol as he should have known. Now THIS is something everyone should be concerned with: “WHY?”, “What good did it serve?” And “Who really benefits from this form of deception?” I suspect it was NOT out of his care for the students, his family and the educational community. It sounds more like retaliation. I feel that if he was that concerned about the educational health & well being of our community he would have moved on gracefully and applied to jobs elsewhere avoiding this drama. How unfortunate that this election has been spun to focus on Mr. Mendoza and not the candidates themselves. And Knowledge is only powerful when it is the truth.
Rebecca Giles November 04, 2011 at 04:02 AM
Michael C. You have hit the nail on the head.
Rebecca Giles November 04, 2011 at 04:05 AM
Katharine, do you like truth or fiction? That is what it is all about. Do you believe everything that is sent in the mail to you? Well, we certainly have been receiving a lot of propaganda in the mail lately for many different measures. Do you get to vote for both of them? I think not. If you look at all the ones that are sent our by political action committees, they all have who mailed it? This mailing could have been from Santa Claus himself. WOW!
Michael C. November 04, 2011 at 05:11 AM
Politians have been supporting fellow politians for many, many decades. This is common practice at the local, county, state and federal level. This, I can assure you is nothing new. One would just have to read or watch the news to understand this.
Nancy November 04, 2011 at 06:16 AM
Spot on Michael C! It is truly sad that the past Superintendent has done this, but I am confident that our board will stay strong and continue to serve the students in our district for many years to come. Vote for Jeff DeMarre and don't let Gil Mendoza buy this election!
Nancy November 04, 2011 at 06:21 AM
Sherm thank you for bringing this all to light. Gil Mendoza is an embarrassment to our district, and you have called him out on it....thank you Sherm and thank you Jeff DeMarre for your continued service to this district.
Michelle November 04, 2011 at 01:36 PM
The complaint would not have been filed if the board did not feel threatened.
Julie November 04, 2011 at 03:00 PM
I completely agree with you Michelle. And, if there really were a "real story" as to why Dr. Mendoza was dismissed we would have heard it by now.

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