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CPCC leaders say ‘vote yes’ bond email crossed line

After being taken to task by Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, Central Piedmont Community College officials acknowledged Monday they shouldn’t have used a public account to forward an email from the “ Vote Yes for Education Bonds” campaign.

State law prohibits employees from using public time and resources to campaign for or against ballot measures, including the bonds on the Nov. 5 ballot for CPCC and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The “vote yes” campaign is run by business and education boosters, including the Charlotte Chamber and the local advocacy group MeckEd, who hope to raise $300,000 to campaign for approval of $290 million in bonds for CMS and $210 million for CPCC.

Monday morning, CPCC President Tony Zeiss’ office emailed college board members a message under the “Vote Yes” banner. The message outlined ways to get involved in the campaign, such as volunteering for the campaign, putting out yard signs or making a donation.

James quickly sent a reminder: “Providing factual info is OK – sending out a ‘Vote Yes’ banner and propaganda is not.”

He included a copy of a memo sent to county commissioners and employees reminding them that if they choose to campaign for or against the bonds, they should do it on their own time without using county resources.

“The bond campaigns are responsible for getting the word out,” James wrote. “Governments are not allowed to use their resources (people, computers, e-mail, etc…) to take a position on the bonds even if individuals can personally take a position outside of work. This rule is a good one and protects the public and taxpayers.”

CPCC spokesman Jeff Lowrance said James is right. He called it “an oversight on our part” when the college forwarded the email at the Chamber of Commerce’s request.

“We won’t forward any other ‘Vote Yes’ message moving forward,” Lowrance said.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms
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