Monday • October 31, 2022
“Ethics, Shmethics!” – The Concerning Disregard of the HCPSS Ethics Policy by a Political Action Committee Co-Founded by Board of Education Candidate Dan Newberger
By Steven Keller
By Steven Keller
The Howard Progressive Project is at it again, moving on from disregarding the Howard County Code of Ordinances by using a replica of the Howard County seal in three Primary Election campaign ads to now disregarding Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Policy 2070 – Ethics by featuring three HCPSS employees in General Election political ads in which they attack two HCPSS Board of Education candidates and endorse two others. One of the candidates endorsed by the HCPSS employees in these ads, Dan Newberger, co-founded the Howard Progressive Project PAC, heavily donated to it, and even served as its Treasurer.
A few opening questions and observations…
Let’s dive into this situation, starting with a brief recap of the previous time that the Howard Progressive Project PAC disregarded Howard County law:
Four months ago, in June 2022, the Howard Progressive Project PAC repeatedly used a replica of the Howard County seal in three Primary Election campaign ads that the organization published in support of District 4 County Council Candidate Janssen Evelyn.
The usage of the county seal for political purposes has been outlawed since 2004 by the Howard County Code of Ordinances. This issue was covered in detail in a prior HoCo Watchdogs post: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Concerning Usage of the Howard County Seal in Three Pro-Janssen Evelyn Election Campaign Ads”.
The organization was never held accountable for the publication of these three political ads by either the Howard County Government or the Maryland Board of Elections.
Now, during the 2022 General Election season, the Howard Progressive Project has proceeded to publish three Board of Education political ads that disregard Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Policy 2070 – Ethics .
According to page 4 of HCPSS Policy 2070,
To summarize the pertinent language in this Policy:
“All employees who are campaigning for a political candidate may not associate their HCPSS position with the endorsement of any candidate.”
In the following 2022 General Election political ads that the Howard Progressive Project recently published on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, three different HCPSS employees serve as narrators and as featured video guests throughout each ad. In every ad, the HCPSS employee announces their official title clearly,
“I…am a Howard County Public School Teacher/Educator”
, and the video provides a clear label of their name and official HCPSS title overlayed as they announce their status as a Howard County Public School Teacher or Educator:
The recent failure by the Howard County government to seek accountability for the Howard Progressive Project PAC’s political usage of the Howard County Seal in three 2022 Primary Election advertisements emboldened this organization to proceed to disregard the HCPSS employee Ethics law in typical “ends-justify-the-means” style politics as they rolled out General election advertisements in support of Dan Newberger and Jacky McCoy.
The fact that the PAC that Dan Newberger co-founded, served as Treasurer for, and heavily donated to is now facilitating HCPSS employees to disregard the HCPSS Ethics Policy in an attempt to gain votes for him is deeply concerning.
It’s a particular twist of irony that both Newberger and McCoy received an “Ethics Ballot” endorsement by The People’s Voice, LLC in 2022 and that another heavy donor to the Howard Progressive Project PAC, current Board of Education member Jen Mallo, received this same “Ethics Ballot” endorsement in 2018.
Why have Dan Newberger, Jacky McCoy and Jen Mallo not voiced their concern about this clear disregard of HCPSS Ethics Policy? Board of Education members need to be both knowledgeable of the HCPSS Ethics Policy and actively help to ensure it is adhered to. Even though these ads may improve Newberger and McCoy’s chances of being elected, an honorable and ethical prospective community leader would actively denounce and distance themselves from such unethical political activities.
The 2022 General Election early voting period began on October 28, 2022. With each day that these pro-McCoy and Newberger election ads remain published online with their direct endorsements from current HCPSS employees, the risk remains high that county voters who view these videos will be subliminally influenced by endorsements that disregard official HCPSS Ethics Policy — the very county organization that McCoy and Newberger are running to represent.
In the concluding thoughts section of the HoCo Watchdogs article on the Howard Progressive Project’s prior incident, the following was stated:
Political tactics such as these have no place in Howard County. Allowing these acts to go unaddressed and unaccounted for will only encourage similar or worse actions by future political candidates and representatives, to the long-term detriment of the County as a whole.
Sadly, this concern came true only a few months later and is as true now as it was then. The more situations like these go unaddressed, the risk grows of ever bolder and more egregious election-related violations that will severely impact County elections and lead to ever-increasing negative consequences for County residents both now and in the future.
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