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Pasco County students aren't to be used as campaign labor

Give Rick Scott's campaign credit for being brazen. It wants schoolkids to try to earn community service hours by volunteering for the Republican gubernatorial candidate. And a Pasco County School District administrator was only too happy to oblige the misplaced plea for free help until Times staff writer Jeffrey Solochek started asking questions.

However, by the end of the day Tuesday, Pasco's eSchool principal had apologized and rescinded her earlier e-mail to all students alerting them of the opportunity to walk precincts, make phone calls or do other tasks for Scott's campaign. Good move because principal JoAnne Glenn's initial e-mail violated school district policy, which prohibits soliciting support for candidates during work time or on school property.

It's a sound rule patterned after the state law that makes it a misdemeanor for people to solicit or accept political contributions in a government-owned building. That Glenn was unaware of the school district rule or that common sense didn't kick in is disconcerting, but it's certainly not the first time Pasco's schools, government buildings or public employees have figured into political campaigns.

An ex-county commissioner once had a county secretary distribute information about his upcoming political fundraiser from a county fax machine. On another occasion, that same commissioner — now deceased — talked to a longtime acquaintance about arranging a campaign fundraiser. The problem was this conversation came inside the commission chambers in Pasco County Government Center during a recess in an ongoing commission meeting.

Sheriff Bob White had no problem allowing off-duty deputies to wear their uniforms and appear in a political commercial for Charlie Crist's 2002 campaign for attorney general. White gave the go-ahead even though his department's own general orders state agency members "will not engage in political activities while on duty or in agency uniforms."

More astutely, the Pasco County School District declined Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink's request earlier this year to use Gulf Middle School for a campaign commercial shoot. Scott's campaign, however, went beyond seeking a political backdrop to seeking a political windfall — free teenage labor.

Clearly, "let's get to work'' doesn't mean there is always a paycheck involved.

Pasco County students aren't to be used as campaign labor 09/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 23, 2010 9:24pm]

    

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