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A Utah County school principal is facing criticism after sending an email from his work computer urging school staff to support specific school board candidates.
Geneva Elementary School Principal Keith Conley apologized Tuesday and said his actions were not malicious or intended to cause harm.
"I shouldn't have done it on a school computer and admitted as much," he said.
Last Friday, Conley sent an email to members of his staff and other Alpine School District employees warning about division in the school district and advocating for incumbent school board candidates JoDee Sundberg and John Burton and challenger Lynn Mower.
But members of the Alpine community cried foul, accusing Conley of using school resources to engage in a political campaign.
State School Board candidate Joel Wright posted a copy of the email on his Facebook page and accused Conley of violating Utah elections law. Education advocate Oak Norton wrote a post on the Utahns Against Common Core website urging residents to submit complaints to the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office.
Mark Thomas, elections director for the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office, said he spoke to Conley and instructed him to issue an apology.
"He realizes it was a mistake," Thomas said. "We've asked him to send out an apology to those he sent (the email) saying it was improper for him to do that."
The use of school resources for a political campaign could potentially result in a Class B misdemeanor, Thomas said, but the decision to file charges would be made by a county or city prosecutor.
"We have this from time to time and we do our best to let them know that, in our view, it was inappropriate," Thomas said.
But Norton said that more needs to be done to hold educators accountable for innapropriate political activity.
He said the incident at Geneva Elementary is the latest in a long line of abuses where educators have violated state law with little consequence.
"I know it's in Alpine," he said. "I assume it's everywhere, where teachers and principals who clearly know the rules can flaut them without ever having repurcussions."
He said Conley's actions were clearly unethical, if not illegal. But Norton stopped short of saying the principal should be criminally charged.
"I don't know what they should face, but they should face something, and certainly the public should be well aware of this," he said.
Wright said a Class B misdemeanor is probably too severe and that a monetary fine may be more appropriate for a first offense. But he echoed Norton's concern that educators have been given too much leniency for innapropriate political behavior.
"This is a consistent pattern of how Alpine School District has behaved," he said.
In addition to a formal apology, Conley said he plans to reimburse the school for the cost of using a school computer for personal and political reasons.
He said he has a dollar figure in mind but declined to provide a specific amount until he is able to consult with his supervisors at the district.
"I've done all I can to make amends and I think I've done that," he said.