Tata criticizes school board candidate's actions

Staff writerOctober 7, 2011 

— Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata accused today school board candidate Jim Martin today of releasing a misleading press release on how the schools chief has dealt with charges of inappropriate politicking at schools.

After Tata announced last week that he was investigating Enloe High School’s Key Club for posting volunteering links for Martin’s campaign, Martin issued a press release questioning the review. Martin also released a series of e-mails which he argued showed that Tata had been slow in responding to his complaint of politicking on campus by his opponent, Cynthia Matson.

Tata said at his weekly news conference today that he had to set the record straight. He charged that Martin had omitted e-mails showing he had promptly responded to the candidate’s concerns.

“I’m setting the record straight,” Tata said. “He put out an inaccurate press release. I asked him to correct it. He refused. He put out, the only way to call it, an e-mail string that had emails removed from it. A reasonable person could assume that was intended to create a false impression.”

Martin declined to respond to Tata's remarks.

"I choose not to debate this issue in the news," Martin responded today in an e-mail message.

Martin, an N.C. State professor endorsed by the Wake County Democratic Party, is running against Matson, an ITT College director endorsed by the Wake County Republican Party. They’re seeking the District 5 seat being vacated by Anne McLaurin.

It’s one of five school board seats on the ballot Tuesday.

Following a complaint last week from Matson, Tata launched an investigation into how Enloe’s Key Club had posted links on its website for students to volunteer for the campaigns of Martin and Susan Evans.

Tata had the link shut down and investigated the actions of the club’s two advisors. He said today that the investigation determined no disciplinary action was needed because the advisors, who are teachers at the schools, weren’t familiar with the rules on politicking.

Martin issued a press release last week arguing that the Key Club should be allowed to post the links because it’s part of the International Key Club, which is an independent organization.

Tata said today that because the Key Club is a school-sponsored club they have to make sure it remains neutral. School board attorney Ann Majestic has said that student-initiated groups such as Young Republicans or Young Democrats don’t have to be neutral because they’re not school sponsored.

In his press release, Martin pointed to how he had sent e-mails in August complaining that Matson was handing out campaign material on school campuses. He said in the press release he had received no reply from Tata.

Matson said she stopped handing out the material after she was told it wasn’t permitted.

Tata said the e-mail string that Martin provided to the media left out e-mail responses he had made to Martin within 37 minutes of his complaints.

“I don’t care if it’s a Democrat, an Independent or a Republican,” Tata said. “If somebody says something about my staff or me that is untrue, I’m going to correct the record. Frankly I gave Dr. Martin two opportunities to correct the record himself, and he chose not to.”

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