My View: Right Wing Law Group Alleges Parcel Tax Campaign Violations by District – But Complaint Doesn’t Hold Water

Banner at the District Office

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – The Davis Joint Unified School District this week received a letter from the Dhillon Law Group on behalf of Beth Bourne, alleging that the district was using “public resources in order to urge voters to adopt Measure N, a parcel tax that would fund District operations.”

They write, “As school districts are prohibited from using public resources to advocate for the adoption of ballot measures, we write to demand that the District cease its illegal conduct immediately.”

And add, “California law makes clear that educational agencies like the District may not use public funds to advocate for candidates or ballot measures in elections.”

However, the letter includes photos of the banners in question, for example: “The following banner was posted outside the District’s headquarters on B Street. If the banner was procured using District funds, such use of funds would have been illegal as the purpose of the banner is to urge the public to vote for Measure N. And even if no public funds were used, hanging the banner on District property nonetheless constitutes the use of District equipment for a proscribed purpose.”

They conclude: “The District’s conduct is a clear violation of California law, and its actions are compromising the integrity of the forthcoming election as it relates to Measure N. On behalf of Ms. Bourne, we therefore demand that the District (1) immediately cease and desist any and all ongoing or planned uses of public resources to urge the public to support Measure N (or any other ballot measure or candidate); (2) take immediate action to ensure that all campaign literature posted in violation of Cal. Educ. Code, § 7054 is removed, including, without limitation, the signs, banners, website, and video discussed above; (3) instruct all of its employees of its obligations regarding the use of public funds under Section 7054; and (4) confirm in writing that it has complied with these demands.”

But there is one problem with this complaint.  Nowhere on the banner does it mention Measure N or an election.  It is simply in essence a “brought to you by” sign.  It is permissible and not considered electioneering.

The letter posts in total 16 different photos but none of them refers to Measure N or urges the public to support the parcel tax.  Instead, it simply states, “Parcel Taxes Fund Our Exceptional Programs.”

There is nothing improper about that.

As the District said in response: “We believe the information and materials referenced are appropriate and aligned with the district’s responsibility to provide clear and transparent information about programs and services that are funded through the voter-approved parcel tax, but we take all allegations seriously and are reviewing the concerns carefully.”

It did not help matters that the original Davis Enterprise article reported, “Measure N opponents accuse district of illegal campaigning” and ran the article with a photo of the Measure N signs, which are not the signs being displayed on the district property.

Recognizing their errors, the Enterprise issued a correction: “An earlier version stated the banners and flyers on district properties were specifically for Measure N banners. The banners and flyers reference parcel tax funding more generally. “

Missing in all of this is who is behind the letter.  Beth Bourne for over a year now, has been leading Moms for Liberty, complaining about the schools and state mandated policies related to LGBTQ and trans-youth.

Perhaps more interesting is who is representing Bourne in the effort now that seems to be targeting critical parcel tax funding for DJUSD.

The Dhillon Law Group is led by Harmeet K. Dhillon.

Dhillon is an RNC National Committeewoman from California—“one of the Golden State’s three members of the Republican National Committee.”  She lists herself as a member of the 2020 Trump Advisory Council.

An article in the Chronicle last year noted that she is a “culture warrior in the courtroom” and “could be the Republican Party’s next leader.”

According to Joe Garofoli, “She found her way into the GOP base’s heart by filing cases with roots in California, lawsuits that attempt to skewer the ‘woke’ and expose ‘cancel culture,’ endearing her to conservatives who are anxious and angry about how the country is changing.”

He continued, “Her legal battles, and the favorable coverage they’ve gained from right-wing media, have catapulted her beyond her roots in the California Republican Party, in which Dhillon has held leadership positions for more than a decade.”

He later added, “Her work — which includes leading the 2,500-member National Republican Lawyers Association — has endeared her to the nation’s most powerful Republican, former President Donald Trump, someone who lives in a near-perpetual state of aggrievement.

“Her firm represented Trump allies before the Jan. 6 commission, including his former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn invoked the Fifth Amendment multiple times before the commission, even when asked if he “believed in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America.” Dhillon’s firm called Flynn’s questioning ‘political theater’ and ‘harassment.’”

She also solicited funds for Trump’s post-election legal defense, “STOP THE STEAL! Please chip into our Trump election defense fund,” she tweeted.

The Guardian last year reported that “RNC committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon takes $120,000 salary from non-profit Center for American Liberty.”

They called her a “fixture on Fox News who has garnered support from the likes of Matt Gaetz, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham; she also helms a non-profit that appears to have directed more than $1m into her law firm, Dhillon Law Group.”

The Guardian reported, “The Guardian has found that at least $1.32m has been transferred from the CAL to her law firm, Dhillon Law Group, in a move one charity expert described as ‘problematic.’ Additionally, state and federal filings show Dhillon takes a $120,000 salary from CAL for a two-hour work week.”

They reported in a follow up article, “The revelations further blur the lines between Dhillon’s non-profit work, her legal career and the political ambitions that saw her challenge the incumbent national RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel, in an election held last January.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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1 Comment

  1. Walter Shwe

    The Moms for Liberty and Republicans are out to decimate our public school system by using lies and misinformation. Their ultimate aim is to have private school welfare.

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