A campaign commercial urging a yes vote on the April 5 tax referendum for Riverside-Brookfield High School was taken off the air Thursday just one day after the Landmark inquired about the ad, which was airing on the school’s TV station.
Also on Wednesday outspoken former school board candidate Christopher Robling questioned the legality of the ad at a forum about the referendum held at Komarek School.
The 30-second ad was created in the offices of RBTV by program supervisor Gary Prokes and a recent RB graduate who works part time for RBTV. Prokes did the voiceover narration on the ad, he told the Landmark on Wednesday night.
The ad consisted of graphics and narration and ended by urging voters to “Vote Yes” on April 5.
The ad ran as often as four times an hour for the last couple of weeks on RBTV. The ad was sponsored by the Communities United for RBHS (CURB) the campaign group formed to advocate for passage of the referendum. The ad ran free of charge. RBTV does not accept paid advertising.
RB officials described the ad as a public service announcement and said that they were running the ad as a public service for a community group.
But on Friday, Interim Superintendent David Bonnette, after consulting with the school’s attorney, made the decision to permanently pull the ad from RBTV.
“We are not going to run that any longer,” Bonnette said. “In talking with the school district’s attorney, while there isn’t necessarily any legal violation here, his advice to me was just not to proceed down that path and just err on the side of caution here and just to not air those kinds of public service announcements.”
State law clearly prohibits the use of school district resources to urge a yes or no vote on any referendum.
David Morrison, the deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and a resident of Riverside, said that running the ad on RBTV for free was illegal.
“The ad that you’re describing to me qualifies under state law as an electioneering communication, and the school cannot provide that kind of support,” Morrison said.