09/22/04 — Campaign ad must change, officer says

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Campaign ad must change, officer says

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 22, 2004 2:01 PM

School board Chairman Pete Gurley has been told to change one of his campaign flyers after his opponent filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections.

Joseph Hackett, contender for Gurley's at-large seat, filed a complaint with the Wayne County Board of Elections on Tuesday, alleging deceptive campaign practices.

In the complaint, Hackett said that one of Gurley's recently distributed campaign flyers gave the impression that Hackett contributed money to pay for the flyer. The flyer outlined Gurley's record and included several statements gleaned from Hackett's campaign materials and included the reference "Paid for and approved by Joseph Lee Hackett for Wayne County Board of Education At-Large."

Hackett said he received a call from someone who had seen the flyer, asking "if I helped with this ad."

He called the advertisement a defamation of his character, "mudslinging at its worst."

"He's distorting and twisting my statements and what I stand for to suit his campaign," he said. "I had nothing to do with this. I was not connected, and I did not pay for it or give my approval for this advertisement."

Gurley said he feels he did nothing wrong. He said he had used the "paid for" statement to show that Hackett's statements were authentic.

Gurley said he had seen his name used in several of Hackett's releases and when he chose to do the same, he had copied Hackett's statements, and the disclosure, word for word from one of Hackett's own flyers.

"I wanted to make sure I could say to people that he said this," he said. "I picked it directly off the sheet.

"I didn't change his grammatical errors or anything."

Gurley said that only about two dozen of the flyers went to homes in the northern end of the county. He said he essentially redistributed information Hackett had already made public.

"I don't see where anything illegal has been done," he said.

Kim Westbrook-Strack, deputy director of campaign reporting, said the situation was different from what her office typically sees.

Most of the time the complaints deal with candidates who failed to put on their adds who paid for them, she said. "The remedy is that we ask the candidate that violated the statue to address it in a public way, stating that they omitted it.

"This is different, but it's something that may be a consideration."

She said Tuesday afternoon she said she had not studied the complaint and was uncertain if it fell under the category of "misrepresentation of authorization." This morning, she ruled that the disclosure statement could be considered misleading.

She told the News-Argus that she had recommended that Gurley remove any statements referencing "paid for by Joe Hackett" from all future campaign materials and asked that he make a public declaration statement.

Gurley said she had suggested that he take out a small advertisement in the newspaper and that would satisfy the state Board of Elections.

"I'm working on it right now," he said earlier today.