October 9, 2010 (Alpine) - The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to protect Chris Neucomb's right to run for Alpine School Board. He was appointed to fill a vacancy and is running for re-election. A retired naval officer, now a federal employee, he is barred by the Hatch Act from partisan political activities. California school board elections are nonpartisan, and Neucomb is campaigning in a nonpartisan manner. Yet the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has warned it may find him in violation and declared that “a nonpartisan election could become partisan” if any candidate in the race seeks or advertises a political party's endorsement.
If found in violation, Neucomb could be forced to withdraw from the race, resign his federal position, or face enforcement action. He is asking a federal court to protect his First Amendment right, and asked that we publish his open letter to voters.
Dear fellow Alpinians,
Many of you have heard that I am engaged in a lawsuit regarding my campaign to remain on the Alpine School Board in this upcoming election. I also know there have been many questions, rumors, and, unfortunately, misinformation floating around our town. Please visit this website, http://aclusandiego.org/news_item.php?article_id=001058, to get the facts on this issue.
Additionally, I would like to make a few points of clarification regarding my lawsuit.
1. First and foremost, I am confident that I am not breaking any laws and I have asked the court to confirm that. I have informed the Hatch Act enforcers in the Federal Government of all developments in this campaign and I have followed every guidance/directive they have given me.
2. The Hatch Act states that I, as a Federal employee, am not allowed to run in partisan elections based on concerns of maintaining a nonpartisan civil service. The California Constitution states school board elections are nonpartisan. I have maintained my nonpartisan independence in this election. Therefore, by law, I should be authorized to run in the school board election. Additionally, sitting on the Alpine Board of Trustees has no relationship with my Federal employment (nor any Federal employment) which is why nonpartisan elections were not the subject of the Hatch Act. I think it is important that I run and I think it is important that I stay on the Board. Please review my record for the one year that I have been on the Board and I hope you will recognize that my actions, new ideas, and commitment to our kids, schools, and District are worthy of asking for your vote.
3. However, my fellow citizens of Alpine might very well lose that opportunity to vote for me based on the actions of other candidates and an interpretation of the Hatch Act that I believe is wrong. After 23 years of service in the US Navy, I am NOT advocating that my fellow candidates nor the political parties be denied their freedom of speech. Three candidates (Ms. Henke, Mr. Perricone and Mr. Dickie) told me they won't seek endorsements if it means I get kicked out of the election. I have thanked them for their concern and desire to give the citizens of Alpine all the choices on the ballot. However, I have told each of them that they should do what's best for their elections and accept any endorsements that will help them. I am honored to share the ballot with these community leaders and we are all fortunate that they are running for the school board.
My concern is not the Hatch Act but the interpretation of the Hatch Act that allows candidates to eliminate other candidates. I feel it is the voters' duty/obligation/right to eliminate candidates at the voting booth. I am appalled that this interpretation of the Act actually denies the voters their duty/obligation/right and grants that duty/obligation/right to other candidates in the election! I will not stand idle and allow this to happen.
4. I am also concerned that Alpinians may "waste" their vote if I should get elected and cannot serve. I am trying to get this resolved in a timely fashion so I can get the word out to the community if I am going to be able to run and serve or if I need to get out of the election. I hope to use all means and methods to get this word out as soon as a determination is made. Regardless of the Hatch Act outcome, I still consider a vote for me to be a wise vote. It will either result in me sitting on the Board and/or the community sending a clear and distinct signal to the Board that we are tired of cut/cut/cut actions and that we want Board members that are willing to work outside of the box in order to solve our problems and issues. It is time we start developing and implementing solutions that bring money and more students into our District. A vote for me will either continue my year of hard work, new ideas, and out-of-the-box thinking and/or send a directive to the Board that the citizens of Alpine are not going to accept the practices of the "good old days!"
In closing, I would like to address the kids of Alpine. I want you to know that I am actively working for you as a current School Board member. I hope to continue doing that after the November election if I should win. If I don't continue on as a Board member, I will still continue on as your advocate. I am also actively working to protect your rights so when you reach voting age, you will be able to vote for ALL the candidates, not just the ones that were able to eliminate the other candidates. That is what our Democracy is all about and I promise you I will do all I can to ensure you won't be denied your voting rights.
For the kids,
Alpine Union School District Trustee/candidate