Moline mayoral candidate Sangeetha Rayapati is condemning a campaign flier mailed this week that accuses her of covering up an incident at Moline High School.
A teacher was placed on administrative leave in November pending investigations into allegations students viewed a video of the teacher having sex on social media. The Dispatch-Argus and Quad-City Times broke the story Monday.
The president of the school board and a challenger to incumbent Stephanie Acri in the April 6 election, Rayapati has not commented publicly on the case, citing confidentiality policies. After a monthslong police investigation, prosecutors this month decided not to press charges.
"(Acri) knows that laws and procedures prevent all governing bodies and elected officials from discussing personnel matters," Rayapati said at a press conference. "Yet she has chosen to smear our beloved district for personal gain."
Acri declined to say Tuesday if she had prior knowledge of the mailers. She denied responsibility for the fliers but echoed their criticism.
"Her (Rayapati's) statements today actually raise more questions than she answers. For example, what 'administrative process' or 'administrative regulations' prevent the school board from telling the community — for more than four months — that children received pornographic materials? Isn’t there actually an affirmative duty to inform parents whose children may have been in the path of exposure?" Acri said in an email. She declined to address follow-up questions.
At the press conference, Rayapati accused Acri of using the high school as a political football to distract voters from a track record of poor management at City Hall.
"Her twisted comparisons between personnel issues and funding are evidence of either a lack of understanding school district structure and organization or a blatant political move to undermine a community partner," Rayapati said.
District officials and union representatives familiar with district investigations say Rayapati is following an established process and that commenting publicly before an investigation is concluded would have been premature.
Susan Hafner, president of the teachers union, the Moline Education Association, said the school board followed normal policies in this case. Hafner said the district couldn't have acted before investigating the situation by interviewing various sources through due process.
"Due process is so an allegation can't be made and a person is just terminated without any investigation, hearing multiple sides of the story," Hafner said. "The decision will be made after the full investigation, first by the police department and now by the district, is complete, and then they will make their final decision. The teacher has the right to tell their side of the story."
The Moline-Coal Valley School District also sent out a news release Tuesday, stating that the teacher involved was placed on leave Nov. 9 and that the district received the results of the completed criminal investigation in early March. The teacher will remain on leave until the district concludes its own investigation.
Who sent them?
The mailers were paid for by “The Committee for Better City Government."
Established in 1999, the committee claims to be nonpartisan, though its critics have characterized the group as wealthy Republicans seeking to buy elections.