A campaign by State Fair Community College to protect the college’s interests at its Lake of the Ozarks Campus has led to a fine from the Missouri Ethic Commission for violations to the state’s campaign finance laws.
SFCC was fined $100 by the Missouri Ethics Commission on July 24 for failure to include who paid for campaign materials and advertising by SFCC in opposition to a plan to annex the Camdenton School District into the Ozark Technical College (OTC) taxing district.
The measure was defeated by voters in the June 2 election by a vote of 3,151 no votes to 989 yes votes.
State Fair has served the Lake region for more than 35 years at one of its satellite campuses.
SFCC purchased billboard advertising asking voters to reject the ballot measure to allow OTC to build an estimated $20 million facility that would be used to serve lake area students and expand workforce development in the area. It was to be funded by a $.20 tax levy on each $100 of assessed valuation.
OTC purchased a billboard reading, “You Have a Dream, We Have a Plan – Ozark Technical Community College.”
SFCC countered OTC’s advertising purchasing a similar ad which read, “You have a Dream, We have a Plan. Without Raising Your Taxes – State Fair Community College.”
A complaint was filed against SFCC when the $9,705 SFCC billboard created by Callis Marketing was installed in August 2019, according to officials from SFCC.
On Friday, SFCC issued a statement responding to the finding of the Missouri Ethics report that fined the college for not including “paid for by” statements on a college webpage and billboard during last year’s election in Camdenton.
“There exists a gentleman’s agreement between Missouri community colleges that you do not advertise in another college’s service region,” said Brad Henderson, executive director of Marketing and Communications at SFCC. “Their billboard in our parking lot was a clear violation of that, so I wanted to remind the community that SFCC is still committed to serving the lake area as defined by our service region.”
In October 2019, the Camdenton School District voted to add the question of annexation of the district into the OTC taxing district.
According to Henderson in the statement provided to the Democrat, “After this ballot initiative was approved, both OTC and SFCC created a webpage on each college’s respective website containing FAQs and information about the April 2020 ballot issue. Neither of the colleges’ page contained a ‘paid for by’ statement.”
After SFCC received notice from the State Ethics Commission, both OTC and SFCC added “paid for by” statements to their respective pages, Henderson added.
Friday, SFCC President Joanna Anderson issued the following statement regarding the matter.
“I am disappointed that a complaint was filed about one billboard that was in place before any ballot initiative was proposed. The bigger ethical issue is another community college trying to take over part of SFCC’s service region where we have provided classes for the last 36 years. SFCC would never intentionally misrepresent itself or deceive any of its stakeholders,” Anderson said. “When we became aware of the complaint, we corrected the verbiage on our website and added the paid for by SFCC statement.”