By Marsha Sutton
A lawyer once told me he would rather defend rapists and murderers than dive into the ugly world of education politics. Although joking (sort of), I take his point.
Having written about education for the last 18 years and suffered more than my share of abuse for the positions I have espoused, I vowed never again to enter into a debate about the merits of one candidate over another for school board seats.
That was until I learned that words I had written over three years ago had been dug up and used, actually misused, on a hit piece mailer. These words were reprinted without my permission or knowledge, taken out of context, and included to push the agenda of a candidate I do not support.
Furthermore, the quote expressed my anger at a unanimous vote taken by an entire school board, not the one individual the hit piece targets.
Using my words in this way is deplorable, deceptive and, sadly, likely very effective – especially considering that the mailers were sent to voters in North County who reside in communities beyond the readership area of this newspaper and may never see this column.
Vying to replace Sue Hartley on the County Board of Education for District 5 are Doug Perkins and Rick Shea. Three hit pieces supporting Shea have been mailed in the last few weeks, all of them slamming Perkins, while Perkins has had one distributed that never mentions his opponent.
Just on the surface, knowing nothing else about the two candidates, which would you support? The one twisting facts to relentlessly blast his opponent, or the one refusing to engage in negative advertising?
It’s the second mailer, which oddly enough I never received, that contains my quote. The first and third pieces appeared in all their nasty glory in my mailbox, but not the one with my name on it. I learned about it only from others.
The fragmented sentence quoted in the piece is this:
“A monumental misuse of taxpayer money and an embarrassment for the local community.” — Marsha Sutton, Del Mar Times
This is the full quote, which ran in a column published Sept. 1, 2011: “The irresponsible allocation by the Del Mar Union School District of the Federal Education Jobs Funds during a financial crisis is a monumental misuse of taxpayer money and an embarrassment for the local community.”
The point of that 2011 column was to alert the community to the Del Mar Union School District’s decision, supported unanimously by all five trustees and then-superintendent Jim Peabody, to spend a one-time allotment of $500,000 in Federal Education Jobs Fund money by giving cash bonuses of $1,000 to all full-time employees in the district.
Although the misallocation of free money still aggravates me, what aggravates more is the implication in the mailer that my anger was directed solely at Perkins, one of the five trustees.
To extract a phrase from something written nearly three years ago, and use my words to give the false impression that I support Shea, is despicable.