College president who used public resources to campaign gets slap on the wrist

Schoolcraft College's president, as well as several administrators and faculty members, were under investigation by the Michigan State Department.

The president was cited for “improperly using public resources to expressly advocate for the passage of a ballot question."

A Michigan college president allegedly violated campaign and election law in the November elections.

Schoolcraft College president Dr. Conway Jeffress and other administrators’ efforts focused on trying to pass a tax increase that would have brought in millions more dollars for the college. 

The Michigan secretary of state cited Schoolcraft College president Conway Jeffress for violating Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) §169.257 by “improperly using public resources to expressly advocate for the passage of a ballot question,” according to the conciliation agreement provided to Campus Reform by the Michigan Secretary of State, along with other lawsuit information. 

He was ordered to pay the State of Michigan $75 dollars after its investigation closed, as part of a conciliation agreement.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Mich State Dept investigates college for potential campaign finance violations]

On November 6, Campus Reform reported the allegations against Jeffress by the complainant, Karen Woodside. The allegations included the misuse of public resources to “expressly advocate,” using employment time to campaign, and bribery involving Madonna University. Woodside also accused Schoolcraft administrators Todd Stowell, Cheryl Hagen, and Frank Ruggirello of misusing public resources in their official capacities. 

Jeffress’ alleged bribery included a promise to Madonna University not to pursue the addition of four-year Baccalaureate degrees for “just two years” and their support of the tax increase.

Jeffress’ attorney Henry Nirenburg called for the dismissal of the complaint in full, arguing that Jeffress’ communications did not embody advocacy, claiming that the president, “as an appointed public official, is exempt under [the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA)],” and alleging that the MCFA’s “mass mailing” provision does not account for emails.

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Woodside put forth new allegations on November 15, such as professor Michelle Randall offering extra credit for students who voted, Stowell’s invitation and recruitment of instructors to bring classes to left-wing group NextGen America’s community service event and posting of pro-tax increase yard signs on school grounds.

In the conclusion of the investigation, only Jeffress was found in violation of part of MCL §169.257. The president was ultimately ordered to pay $75. 

Other allegations against Dr. Jefferess and other administrators were dismissed due to the inability of State Department to enforce §169.257 (3) after it was ruled unconstitutional and the inability to use a campaign finance violation to delegate criminal punishment of bribery under Michigan Election law. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SergeiKelley