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San Jacinto News-Times - Local News

Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company

 

Statements by state republican executive has school attorney calling for retraction
San Jacinto News- Times

By MARTHA CHARREY
San Jacinto News-Times
editor
mcharrey@eastex.net

COLDSPRING – Shortly after an apparent resolution to a situation involving the San Jacinto County Republican Party and the Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District (COCISD) was made the State Republican Executive Committeeman for Senate District 3 David Bellow gave new life to it by posting “erroneous” statements on his Texas GOP Vote website which was then picked up by Google. Several weeks ago San Jacinto County Republican Party Chair Sean Hanson rented Jones Hall, a facility owned by COCISD, to hold their annual Reagan Dinner which has been advertised as a $50 per person fund raising event featuring State Senator Dan Patrick. Following rental of Jones Hall and advertisements about the upcoming fund raising event Hanson said about two weeks ago COCISD Superintendent LaTonya Goffney informed him that she had received a written complaint and telephone calls objecting to the use of school property for political fund raising functions and that she would talk to the school district’s attorney Wayne Haglund, Lufkin, for clarifi cation of any laws or policies that might be involved prohibiting the use of the school facilities under the circumstances. Meanwhile, according to Hanson, Haglund made a recommendation to Goffney not to allow use of the school property for the republican dinner. Hanson said Monday, “There is no school policy against a political organization using school facilities.” Hanson said the recommendation was wrong and not for the benefi t of the county, calling it “pure politics.” The argument relates to Texas Statute Sec. 11.169, Electioneering Prohibited. “Notwithstanding any other law, the board of trustees of an independent school district may not use state or local funds or other resources of the district to electioneer for or against any candidate, measure or political party,” Hanson said as he explained his interpretation of the law. “The complaints were made by mischievous individuals trying to abuse Goffney and the Republican Party,” Hanson said. Hanson said he was not told who made the original complaint to Goffney or who called her to make complaints about using the facilities. Hanson said he met with Goffney last Tuesday and it was agreed he could address the issue with Haglund. “Our attorney called Tuesday and sent a letter of understanding Wednesday to the COCISD attorney (Haglund) addressing the issues. During the call Tuesday, the COISD attorney (Haglund) agreed to review his recommendation and discuss the issue with the superintendent and provide an answer to us on Friday,” Hanson said. “We didn’t hear anything from Haglund Friday,” he said. “Since no response was provided to our attorney, he will contact Wayne Haglund on Monday morning to get a response in writing,” Hanson said. By Monday morning; however, it was thought that a resolution to the situation was reached by all parties. During an interview Monday afternoon Haglund told the San Jacinto News-Times, “I’ve spoken to the Angelina County attorney who is representing the San Jacinto County Republican Party and we came to an understanding to allow them to go forward to use the school facilities for their function.” Haglund said he would have called Hanson personally to inform him of the decision but in an attempt to save the school district money, Goffney said she would call and give Hanson the news. Shortly after receiving news that the Reagan Dinner would be held in Jones Hall, regardless of complaints, a story by State Republican Executive Committeeman for Senate District 3 David Bellow appeared on his Texas GOP Vote website with a headline stating, “Texas School Illegally Kicks Republican Party out of Lawful School Auditorium Rental Contract.” The story was picked up on Google shortly afterwards. In his story, Bellow states, “The San Jacinto County Republican Party had a contract to rent the COISD School Auditorium in Coldspring for a Republican Dinner with elected officials like State Senator Dan Patrick. “The contract was agreed upon by the school superintendant and the deposit was paid. It is common for all types of organizations to rent this public school auditorium for events. “The Democrat COCISD school attorney Wayne Haglund did not want the Republican Party to be able to lawfully rent the school auditorium, so he told the school that renting the auditorium would break state law. He told the school to send the deposit back and tell the Republican Party of San Jacinto County to hit the road.” Bellow goes on to state, “This school attorney is unlawfully discriminating against the SJC Republican Party by not allowing them to rent the facility based on political affiliation and the school attorney is also denying the Constitutional rights of Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Speech.” Responding to Bellow’s accusations, Haglund said, “I have never had any contact with Bellow or with Hanson and I would like a retraction in writing and an apology.” Haglund said the statements he is accused of making were not made by him. “We (Haglund and Republican Party attorney) worked out a compromise and had an understanding that the event would go forward. We worked it out between mature persons as professionals and thought it was resolved.”

 

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