In possible ethics breach, McHenry County Dems conspired with teachers to recruit students for anti-gun rally
McHenry County Democratic officials, who organized last year’s March For Our Lives anti-gun rally in Woodstock, conspired with high school teachers to recruit students for the rally, emails obtained by the McHenry Times show.
In so doing, they may have violated the state ethics act, which places restrictions on political activity by school district employees. The rally, held March 24 on Woodstock Square, moreover, turned out to be little more than a fund-raising scheme for the party, records show.
In one instance, Cathy Johnson and Ruth Scifo, both members of the executive board of the county Democratic party, sent an email to Woodstock High School English teacher Heather Brown on March 12 of last year explaining that they were organizing the march and rally in Woodstock. They attached a March For Our Lives flyer, and asked that it be distributed to the students and staff. They further said they had “feelers” out to several other area high schools.
In another instance, Kelli Wegener, a Democratic member of the McHenry County Board, sent an email dated March 3 to Huntley Community School District 158 officials, saying that they did not want to involve the districts in what she characterized as a “grass roots” movement, but “we are looking to involve students in the planning. We would like to see a large teacher presence there also.”
The email message does not identify Huntley as the recipient; it appeared in response to a FOIA request of emails to the district.
The McHenry Democrats advertised the March 24 event on their website, which included a link to donate not to March For Our Lives but to the party.
March For Our Lives was established after the February 2018 murder of 17 at a Parkland, Florida high school. The group is registered to lobby in Illinois. In 2003, the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act was amended to cover school district employees with many of the same restrictions state employees face, according to Illinois State Board of Education spokesperson Jackie Matthews.
“Public Acts 93-615 and 93-617 enacted in 2003 made comprehensive changes to the Act and required all units of local government and school districts to adopt ordinances or resolutions regulating political activities and the making and accepting of gifts in a manner no less restrictive than the provision of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act,” Mathews wrote in an email. “School districts therefore have adopted policies addressing this requirement.”
When questioned about ethics policies adopted by Woodstock High School's district, Community Unit District 200, Kevin Lyons, a spokesman for the district, hung up on a reporter.
For her part, Heather Brown wrote to the McHenry Times in an email: “We were involved in the National School Walkout that took place on March 14th last year [ a separate event from the rally]. I don't recall receiving any information from Democratic officials.”
She did not respond when reminded of the contents of the email she received from Johnson and Scofi. A request for a comment sent to the McHenry Democratic Party went unanswered, as did a request sent to Kelli Wegener.
One Second Amendment supporter, who asked not to be identified for fear of harassment commented: “Can you imagine if the GOP asked teachers to distribute brochures that support the NRA [National Rifle Association]. The Dems and the media would be all over us.”