BOUNTIFUL -- Campaign election signs for three candidates running for school board positions were inappropriately stored in at least one elementary school, said Christopher Williams, the Davis School District's communication director.
The campaign signs for incumbent school board members Barbara Smith and Jim Clark, as well as Kathie Bone, a retired elementary school director, were stored, according to Williams, face-down in a corner of the faculty room at Adelaide Elementary in Bountiful for about two weeks.
A person who became aware of the campaign signs called the Standard-Examiner and sent an email with a photo of the campaign signs standing upright in Adelaide's faculty room. The person requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Carol Lear, director of school law and legislation for the Utah State Office of Education, said she received two anonymous phone calls Tuesday about the signs.
After receiving the phone calls, Lear contacted Davis School District officials.
Lear said if the callers had given their names, she would have contacted the Attorney General's Office.
Lear said when a teacher or educator uses their position or school resources to promote or endorse a specific candidate, it violates state law, as well as policies of the state Office of Education.
Adelaide Elementary School Principal Becky Bouvang said USOE officials notified the Davis School District on Tuesday about the policy violation.
"Within 45 minutes of that notification, district officials acted swiftly and sent emails to all school administrators concerning political activities in school and by educators, and the problem was corrected," Bouvang said.
The signs were removed from the school sometime after she received the district email.
Bouvang said she does not know when the campaign signs were placed in the school's faculty room and said she didn't even know which candidates they were for.
"I regret that I was not notified about this first," Bouvang said. "I think if someone had a problem, they should have come to me first. I had not had anyone come to me to voice a concern or a complaint."
Bouvang did say the teacher who placed the signs there, along with a note requesting staff and teachers to take the campaign signs and post them in their yards, "was unaware she had offended anyone or that she had violated any law or policy."
The three candidates have received "recommendations" from the Davis Education Association, said Don Paver, the DEA president.
All three candidates, whose signs were in the faculty rooms, said they had no idea the signs had been inside the school until they were contacted by the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday.
"I was absolutely, totally unaware that this had happened," said Barbara Smith, who is running for Davis School District Board out of Precinct 1. "If I had been, I would've asked them to remove them."
Sandra Montcastle, who is running against Barbara Smith, said she had been informed about the signs in the school, but did not know what she could do to have them removed.
"I don't have any real power as an individual," Montcastle said. "But it's wonderful they're gone, even though I suppose the damage is already done."
Bone, who is running for Precinct 4, said her precinct is not even in the Bountiful area, but begins in Kaysville at Center Street.
"If I had been aware of it, I would have asked them to take them out, or I would have gone and taken them out myself," Bone said. "I know that is against all the rules."
Paul Prier, who is running against Bone, said he heard rumors about the signs.
He is aware that the DEA does recommend candidates to its members, because they "want those who support the unions, not the students."
"None of us like to see this type of thing happen," said Clark, who is running for Precinct 2. "That's not really helpful. We want it to be fair and impartial."
Larry Smith, who is running against Clark, said he was unaware of the problem.
"It seems to me it just may be someone exuberant that was doing their thing," Larry Smith said.
Paver said he learned of the problem Wednesday morning through emails he received from members.
"We understand the rules, and we didn't tell any of our members to (put signs inside the schools)," Paver said. "How they determined this was OK is beyond me."
Paver said that during every election cycle members have to be reminded what is appropriate and what is not.
Mike Kelley, spokesman for the Utah Education Association, said neither the UEA nor the DEA endorse candidates. A political action committee is organized from each group, consisting of Republicans, Democrats and independents. The PACs, which are separate from the UEA and DEA, do not receive funding from the UEA or the DEA. Funding for PACs comes from donations.
The PACs then send out questionnaires and interview the candidates. Based on the answers, the political action committees will recommend candidates to their members, Kelley said.
Paver said the DEA posts the answers from all candidates on its website so members can decide for themselves whom to vote for.
Mark Thomas, director of elections with the lieutenant governor's office, said every election his office receives calls concerning violations committed by city or county government employees.
"People need to take an extra second and think about it," he said.
Thomas said it is OK for a school or city to promote a "meet the candidates night," as long as all candidates are represented. It is not OK to use government emails or buildings or use work time or paid leave time to promote a candidate.