Local ISD Superintendent’s Electioneering Prompts Complaint

Castleberry Independent School District building | Image by CISD

A complaint has been filed with the State of Texas against Castleberry ISD’s superintendent for allegedly illegally electioneering on behalf of State Board of Education member Pat Hardy, who used to teach in the school district.

A February 19 email, obtained and reported on by The Dallas Express, has now become the basis for an official complaint against Superintendent Renee Smith-Faulkner.

The email, which appears to have been sent by Smith-Faulkner to other district staff through her official email account, encourages those employees to vote for Hardy and against candidates who are in favor of school choice. In addition to her role on the SBOE, Hardy has served as the legislative liaison to the Castleberry ISD Retired Teachers Association, the president of which provided the political points and research that Smith-Faulkner references in her email.

The complaint, which was filed on February 28, cites the Smith-Faulkner email and states that the superintendent of the district, which is situated in western Fort Worth, “sent an email to various ISD employees from her ISD email account that violated the prohibition against electioneering from an employee of a political subdivision.”

The complaint alleges that the email broke the law, noting, “Using the CISD email system is the expense or authorization of expense of public funds for political advertising in violation of the Election Code. Mrs. Hardy’s race is uniquely called out in the email and [a] derogatory comment made towards her opponent.”

The complaint also states that Smith-Faulkner was once a student of Hardy’s and includes minutes from a May 2022 Castleberry Retired Teachers Association meeting where Hardy was identified as the legislative representative.

The Office of the Attorney General has acknowledged that it is prohibited by a recent Court of Criminal Appeals decision from pursuing election code violations criminally. However, Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed several civil lawsuits in the last few days against school districts across the state that have allegedly engaged in unlawful electioneering, as reported by DX, including Denton ISD and Frisco ISD.

On Thursday, Paxton sued Castleberry ISD and Denison ISD for “illegally using official resources to promote certain political candidates and policies,” according to a news release.

Denison ISD’s official website allegedly “expressed its support or opposition for certain political candidates and stumped for its preferred policy agenda.” The district also posted that its school board had adopted a resolution “endorsing certain political measures,” reads the release. “These lawsuits are part of an ongoing effort by Attorney General Paxton to ensure that Texas elections are not illegally swayed by public officials improperly using state resources.”

By Friday, Paxton had secured injunctions against Castleberry ISD and Frisco ISD to stop any illegal electioneering. All parties agreed to the injunction order against Castleberry ISD, though Smith-Faulkner did not admit any wrongdoing.

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