Ethics investigation against North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson gathers steam

The North Carolina Ethics Commission is pursuing an investigation of complaints that Superintendent Mark Johnson violated the State Ethics Act by using his department’s resources to advance his own private interest.

Multiple complaints were filed earlier this month after Johnson sent hundreds of thousands of emails and text messages to public school families and employees trumpeting his opposition to Common Core.

The timing of the campaign raised eyebrows since Johnson had been almost silent on Common Core throughout his tenure as superintendent, choosing to launch his vocal opposition just as voting began in the primary for Lieutenant Governor–an office he is seeking.

The contact information used by Johnson appeared to have been taken from Power School, a statewide database which includes data collected by individual schools that is also accessible by the Department of Public Instruction.

Those who filed complaints have begun hearing from the Ethics Commission’s executive director Perry Newson, who is collecting background information on details such as which sections of the Ethics Act are alleged to have been violated and what expectations of confidentiality come with data stored in Power School.

NC Senate Education Chair Rick Horner has also voiced his concerns about Mark Johnson’s use of privileged contact information for campaign purposes after Horner’s wife, a public school teacher, received an unsolicited campaign text message from the superintendent.

In a public Facebook post on Thursday, Senator Horner said it appeared “at best both poor judgement and a misuse of the information if collected by our public schools.”

In our highly polarized political times, it’s good to see a member of Mark Johnson’s own party publicly expressing concerns about unethical campaign practices.

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