Poway Unified employees are being reminded not to use district resources for political purposes following a flurry of emails regarding the recall effort aimed at longtime board member Andy Patapow. Complaints were also lodged with the San Diego County district attorney’s office, according to those interviewed by district attorney investigator Vincent Giaime.

“On Tuesday of this week, the San Diego County district attorney’s office contacted Poway Unified’s general legal counsel regarding unlawful use of district email. It is my understanding that our principals and directors are being advised to remind all employees to not use district resources or emails for political purposes,” said Poway Unified board President Kimberley Beatty. “A memo will also be issued to all employees. I was also advised by the DA’s office that at this juncture, immediate steps should be taken by district administration to stop the use of district resources for political and campaign purposes and that if this continues, the DA’s office may intercede.”

The first recall-related email came Oct. 6 from board assistant Wendy Anderson, who forwarded remarks from Patapow to district administration, principals and the school board. Leaders of the Poway Federation of Teachers followed with a proclamation of support and a plea for all 1,600 teachers to email the school board praising Patapow and asking board members to publicly support him at Monday’s board meeting. More than 80 emails were sent to the board.

Tom Moore, a Poway resident who’s been a vocal critic of school district leadership, complained to the district attorney Friday about the emails and said he too spoke to Giaime this week.

“I decided to make a formal complaint to the district attorney’s office on public corruption to stop this illegal activity by PUSD, (teacher’s union) representatives and teachers,” Moore said. “(Union) leadership should have advised the teachers of the potential punishment for violating state election laws.”

Attorney Dan Shinoff, Poway Unified’s contracted general counsel, confirmed staff members were being reminded of state laws barring the use of district funds and equipment for political purposes, including missives to support or defeat specific political candidates.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said she could not confirm or deny the existence of a potential investigation.

Recall organizer Keith Wilson, who wants to replace Patapow with someone who will vote to fire Superintendent John Collins, said he plans to make a third attempt to get the recall officially under way. The recall notice has been invalidated twice by the Registrar of Voters due to a lack of registered voters on the form.

Ashly McGlone

Ashly is a freelance investigative reporter. She formerly worked as a staff reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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