Almanac

News - November 8, 2006

Menlo Park: Incumbent slate endorsement causes stir

• Parents protest co-president of school foundation endorsing candidates.

by Rory Brown

Like a lot of influential Menlo Park residents, Ted Schlein is supporting one of two political camps in the City Council election.

But Mr. Schlein is also board co-president of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, and the use of his title in supporting candidates John Boyle, Lee Duboc and Mickie Winkler, has created a stir.

"Join me in voting for Boyle, Duboc and Winkler ... They have a plan to preserve and improve our community — without raising your taxes," says Mr. Schlein, on a flier paid for and mailed to residents by the three candidates' campaigns.

Mr. Schlein could not be reached for comment before the Almanac's deadline.

Although Mr. Schlein's endorsement may help the three candidates garner votes, parents are questioning why the co-president of a nonprofit organization is using his title in supporting candidates in a contentious council race at the same time the foundation is looking for donations.

"[Mr. Schlein] using his name probably alienated some potential donors," said parent Dan Burke. "I think you have to question anyone that uses a volunteer organization for the political gain of others."

He also labeled the quote credited to Mr. Schlein on the flier "a little ridiculous and misleading," as there is a utility tax measure on the ballot.

Laura Rich, who is president of the school board and works regularly with the foundation board, said Mr. Schlein's endorsement of the candidates is within his rights.

"It's made clear on the flier that it's [Mr. Schlein's] personal opinion," said Ms. Rich. "[Mr. Schlein] broke no rules, he ran it by people ... it's not a foundation endorsement in any way."

She acknowledged that the flier did make some parents "uncomfortable," and the foundation board plans to discuss, and potentially reconsider, its guidelines concerning political endorsements at its next meeting.

She said that parents who choose not to donate to the foundation because of the flier are "adding to the polarization" and "hurting the children."

The foundation is scheduled to hold its first "donation day" of the 2006-07 school year on election day. Drop boxes will be at local schools supported by the foundation, in hopes that when people go to school grounds to vote, they will also give to the foundation, Ms. Rich said.

Maria Hilton, the other co-president of the foundation, is listed as a supporter of the incumbent slate on campaign literature paid for by the candidates, but her role with the foundation is not listed.

John Boyle is also a member of the foundation board.

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