Thursday, November 13, 2003
Jeff Troeger's opponent in the Nov. 4 election plans to file a complaint with the Routt County District Attorney's office because of e-mails Troeger sent to Steamboat Springs School District employees on Election Day.
Brian Kelly, who lost to Troeger in the two-way race for the School Board's District 2 seat, said he believes the e-mails were ethically questionable and could be illegal, depending on the outcome of a possible investigation by the District Attorney's Office.
A woman who answered the phone at the District Attorney's Office on Thursday afternoon said the office has received a couple of complaints about the e-mails, but has not received any formal, written complaints. As of Thursday, no employees of the District Attorney's Office were investigating the matter.
More than 200 school district employees received the e-mail on Election Day. The e-mail consisted of a picture of Troeger with his two sons and asked voters to vote for him. The e-mail also included Troeger's e-mail address and a link to his Web site.
Troeger was able to send the e-mail to every district employee without typing in every individual address because he correctly guessed the district's group e-mail address. The e-mail also was sent to some county and city employees, as well as other people in the community, by typing in individual e-mail addresses.
Kelly said he is concerned the e-mails could violate election laws regarding electioneering -- campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place -- and use of public property for campaign purposes. Two district buildings served as polling places.
Troeger could not be reached for comment Thursday. When asked about the issue last week, Troeger said he was surprised that some people believed his e-mails were inappropriate. Last week, Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said she checked with the Secretary of State's Office, which informed her that Troeger's e-mails didn't violate election laws. Weinland was out of town and unavailable for comment Thursday.
Troeger also said last week that he was not surprised by the opinion Weinland received from the Secretary of State's Office that his e-mail did not violate election laws.
Rick Daily, a Denver attorney with experience in election law, agreed the e-mails probably did not violate specific election statutes, such as electioneering. There is a possibility, however, that the e-mails violate hacking and impersonation laws because the sender information on the e-mails makes it appear as though the notes were coming from the district, not Troeger, Daily said.
While Kelly acknowledged it is impossible to determine what effect Troeger's e-mails had on the election, he said people in the community question Troeger's decision to send the note.
"There's not a person I've talked to who ethically thinks this is right," Kelly said. "I think Jeff should have known better. He teaches technology at the college."
Kelly, who said he hasn't spoken to Troeger about the issue, plans to file a complaint with the District Attorney's Office soon. He said he will accept whatever decision the office makes.
The school district will not file any complaint against Troeger or involve itself in the issue, Superintendent Donna Howell said Thursday.
Kathleen Nardi, the district's director of technology, sent an e-mail to employees a couple of hours after Troeger's note appeared in their inboxes Nov. 4. Nardi's note said the group e-mail address wasn't intended for outsider use and that a security measure was put in place to prevent it from happening in the future.
"I just really believe in many ways it was an inappropriate use of district communication tools," Nardi said. The group e-mail address is intended as an internal communication device for the district, Nardi said. Individual employee e-mail addresses are posted on the district's Web site and are intended for anyone wishing to contact a district employee to be able to do so.