E-mail exchange part of recall controversy

HOWELL, Mich. - Another e-mail controversy has emerged in Howell Public Schools, this time related to an effort to recall three school board members, according to radio station WHMI-FM and the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

The station posted a copy of an e-mail exchange between school board President Jeannine Pratt, who is named on recall petitions, and Doug Norton, a former district teacher and former president of the Howell Education Association. The exchange describes a July meeting of recall organizers at which two recall opponents counted cars in the parking lot to gauge attendance.

After Pratt sent an e-mail to Norton estimating attendance at 16 people, Norton responded, "Bummed we didn't have someone inside. I'll work on that. We can put this down. ... Thinking we should shadow petitioners," according to the exchange posted by the station. He also asked Pratt to provide wording for an anti-recall flier to hand out, according to the posted exchange.

Norton retired as a district teacher two years ago, according to the Press & Argus. He told the Press & Argus that his actions were taken as an independent citizen and not related to the district's teachers union. He also said he was not involved in the mailing of a post card from the union to its members that encouraged them not to sign recall petitions, WHMI reported.

Pratt, Vice President Debi Drick and Secretary Ed Literski are named in recall petitions because they voted in favor of firing first-year Superintendent Ted Gardella, the station reported.

It was not clear how the radio station obtained the e-mail exchange, but both media reported that Pratt apparently mistakenly sent it to a member of Positive People for Howell Schools. Some called the exchange intimidating, but others told the Press & Argus the matter was overblown.

WHMI-93.5 FM, "Recall Attorney Says E-mails Reveal Possible legal Violations," July 21, 2009

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "Verbal bombs fly in Howell recall war," July 22, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Judge: Union e-mails are public record," Oct. 20, 2008