SCCOE Trustee Joe DiSalvo Used Public Resources to Solicit Campaign Contributions

Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Joseph Di Salvo illegally used county resources to aid his re-election bid, according to records obtained by this news outlet.

In nearly half a dozen emails sent from his official Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) email account in July, Di Salvo solicited campaign donations and re-directed potential supporters to his campaign website.

The 12-year Area 4 trustee, faces County Office of Women’s Policy advisor Ketzal Gomez and political newcomer Lucia Garcia in the Nov. 3 election.

“Since the beginning of June, I have raised from supporters, family and friends approximately $15,000 toward a goal of $40,000-$50,000 from now until the election this November 3, 2020,” Di Salvo wrote in a July 20 email. “Please go to trusteedisalvo.com and check out my website along with testimonials from my endorsers. If you believe in me and my work I ask for you to contribute what you can afford to the effort to continue my voice on the County Board of Education.”

Sean McMorris, a consultant with good government agency California Common Cause, says the state law “is clear that public resources cannot be used ‘for campaign activity, or personal or other purposes.’”

“While using a government email account for re-election fundraising might fall within the minimal use exception in the law, depending on the circumstances, it likely violates the letter and certainly the spirit of the law,” he said. “That said, many would agree that an elected official using their government email to fundraise for their re-election campaign is unethical, regardless of whether or not it is unlawful in all instances.”

In an Aug. 24 memo, SCCOE Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan gave trustees, her employees and charter school operators an annual reminder to refrain from using county resources—including email accounts—for political activities.

“The law prohibits any misuse of public resources or personnel for political activities, no matter how small,” she wrote.

Several weeks later, Dewan appeared to have caught on that Di Salvo broke the law.

In an Oct. 1 letter, Dewan said she received complaints with allegations about Di Salvo’s political activities, both of which she confirmed to be true. The first complaint, received Sept. 21, said the trustee had listed the Office of Education’s Ridder Park Drive address as his official campaign headquarters on his website. The address has since been updated.

The second complaint, which came from SCCOE’s technology division, was about Di Salvo using his county-issued email account to solicit campaign donations.

“Your use of SCCOE’s address and internal email system benefits your campaign and has the potential to confuse prospective voters into assuming you have an official endorsement from the SCCOE,” Dewan wrote.

Di Salvo could not be reached for comment. However, in a Oct. 5 email he told Dewan that he knows “the law and policy well."

“[I] have never used my SCCOE email to solicit campaign contributions with intentionality,” he wrote. “I have always intentionally used, as you use in all my digital correspondence from [email protected]

Dewan did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

3 Comments

  1. This is just more dirty politics. Yes, very dysfunctional, beginning with their HR Dept. hiring and promotional opportunity processes. SCCOE is trying to get rid of the 3 board members who ask hard questions. Joe DiSalvo is one of them. Questions about the budget, supporting employees. Unlike the 4 who sit on that board for their own political gain, saying YES to everything.While millions have lost jobs, Healthcare and homes during the pandemic and fires, SCCOE spends millions of taxpayer dollars on litigation fees, WHY?? We need someone to ask questions, HOW MUCH? WHY? Giving $10K raises at the expense of laying off workers at the same time, forcing them on unemployment, food lines and not to have Healthcare. Who does this? There needs to be stricter guidelines of hiring people to oversee millions of taxpayer monies. If a school board has no Oversight of the superintendents spending, what’s the use of having a board? Governor Newson and CDE need to take a look at the amount of money going into that office, especially during these very critical and difficult times in the state of California. Governor Newson needs to Redirect tax dollars to school districts that serve THOUSANDS of students, into Healthcare and helping those who lost jobs and homes, because all COE is doing with the majority of the millions received, is making the rich, richer, $10k raises is not helping those in desperate need of a job. $10K could have gone to a classified part-time position, $130-$150k could have created 6 classified jobs (not 2 management positions) What are these so called Manager positions doing? What are they doing with schools closed and no students in schools? What and who are they managing, how many people? What is the accurate number of students served by COE? Is it more than the school DISTRICTS in SCC? This is Excessive spending and a waste of California taxpayer money. Residents of Santa Clara County I urge you to vote for Joe DiSalvo, the most qualified to sit on SCC BOARD of Education. Let me reiterate, this is nothing but DIRTY POLITICS. Vote for Joe!!

  2. Sorry, my earlier comment made it seem like there were only 2 management positions making $130-$150k. The COE has hired an Excessive amount of Management level positions during the “Covid crisis alone”, which could have created at least (10-20 classified positions) to do the same and even more than whatever the so called management level positions are doing, just fluff in job descriptionsto make it sound good. Really, what are they doing? The residents of Santa Clara County need to be asking as well as the ELECTED board members sitting on that board, not just “YES” politicians making themselves feel important.

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