Did Milford PAC Violate Election Laws In Last School Board Election? One Milford Parent Says Yes. Did Denn’s Office Agree?

Election Law, Milford School District

Last May, citizens in the Milford School District elected Yvette Dennehy to the Milford School District Board of Education.  As I reported at the time, Dennehy won by a landslide.

Milford: Dennehy 386, Evans 149, DelRossi 44

But was there something going on behind the scenes?  Milford resident Jenn Cinelli-Miller thinks so.  She wrote a complaint to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office of Public Trust for a legal opinion (which does not appear on the Attorney General website).  The opinion, seen below, was dated July 20th, 2015.

After the Attorney General’s office ruled on Cinelli-Miller’s complaint, she wrote to the media.  A letter appeared in the Milford Chronicle.  Cinelli-Miller gave me permission to reprint her letter here for context in this article:

Throwing in the towel

I grew up in Camden and graduated from CR. I then attend Wesley College in Dover and relocated to the Washington, DC area.   I spent almost 10 years working for the Federal Government before coming back to Delaware. When I decided to move back I looked at many areas but decided on Milford for many reasons. Milford reminded me of what Dover and Camden were when I was growing up – small and community oriented. I can’t say that now about where I came from but I can say it about Milford. But Milford has one really big problem – cronyism.

I always hope that we can get past this disease but I find, in Delaware especially, that it is impossible.   I moved here in 2006. By 2008 I was involved with Morris Elementary’s PTO and helping with events. I continued to get involved in education statewide as well as locally. I served on the Citizen’s Oversight Committee (CBOC) for the Milford School District from 2010-2014 and continued to attend meetings until recently. I was invited to serve on the University of Delaware’s Autism Education Committee for the Blueprint for Action that was developed to improve services statewide for children and adults on the spectrum. I have attended Individual Educational Plan meetings with other parents and I have met with (then) Lt. Governor Denn, the Director of Delaware’s Homeland Security and State Board of Education member and numerous Senators and Representatives to discuss issues in education in Delaware.

Why am I providing all of this information? Because I am so fed up and angry with everything I have heard and read in regards to the referendum I want you to understand how I got to this point. One of the recent letters to the editor asked “Where Were You?” I was working hard and volunteering for education – where were you? Until a year ago I had never even heard of you. You and another board member, at the recent community meeting, responded to my pointing out that Buccaneer Tomorrow had not distributed flyers throughout the town – as you had claimed, stated that it was “my job” to help. No, no it isn’t. My job #1 is raising my child. My job #2 pays my bills. I am a volunteer and have been for years. Welcome to the party.

In regards to the other Board member, I don’t know him personally, but at a community meeting a few years ago he approached me and told me “change causes chaos.” Not sure I want anyone who believes that around educational decisions. With no change you remain stagnant. Education should be constantly changing and advancing especially with our constantly changing world and technology. Which leads me to the Board – you all are elected officials. If you can’t handle criticism and you keep remaining defensive you should not be on the Board. Your skin needs to be much thicker and you need to be less defensive especially when community members are making very valid points. This Board has made several bad decisions and failed to listen to the community as a whole. I personally can say “I told you so” about many of those decisions. Your failure to even listen to the CBOC – an advisory committee – is proof that you have no desire to hear anyone else’s opinion.

I can only praise one Board member – Renate Willey – for asking questions and trying to do what is best for the students and the District as a whole. The other letter to the editor was appalling as it insulted students. However, I would agree with a community member who posted on Facebook “consider the source.” This letter should not have received a response – most importantly not from the Superintendent of the District. I have asked repeatedly that she stop responding and stop putting comments out that are not helpful. She responds just as the Board does – defensive and alienating. Stop – just stop!   I have tried for years to help. I have made points that have been scoffed at but then the same points are made by other community members and you ignore them as well. This District is dysfunctional. We need help and you refuse to ask for it from all members of the community. You ask for it from cronies. You ask for it from people who post pictures of them and their friends with the caption “We are Milford” under it and there are only 10 people all the same age in the picture. Really? Last time I checked Milford was made up of more than 10 people and of many different ages, nationalities, beliefs and personalities. That is what makes us a community. So it is with much sadness that I throw in the towel. Its someone else’s turn to take the wheel and try to steer this ship back on course.

With much love for Milford, the District and our Teachers, Staff and students

Jenn Cinelli-Miller

A few weeks later, she picked the towel back up and wrote a letter to several different media outlets in Delaware.  Not one of the newspapers or websites posted her letter.  She asked me to run it, which I am today.  I’m also including the email she sent to Delaware media.

From: Jenn Cinelli
Date: Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 9:42 AM
Subject: Letter to the Editor
To: melissasteele@capegazette.com, Trish Vernon <thv@capegazette.com>, newsroom@capegazette.com, Publisher@seafordstar.com, newsroom@newszap.com, Andy West <awest@newszap.com>, letters@delawareonline.com, cbarrish@delawareonline.com, dan@delaware1059.com, “Finney, Mike” <mike.finney@doverpost.com>
Cc: dennis.kelleher@state.de.us, allison.reardon@state.de.us, coe_vote@state.de.us


My name is Jenn Cinelli-Miller and I am a resident of Milford, DE.  I am writing to you to correct the record about the Milford School District and the School Board Election held in May 2015.  Recently, the Milford Chronicle stated in an article written by its Editor that the District was “Cleared” of any wrong doing.  He went on to try to make my reporting the election misconduct seem trivial and the elected candidate even claimed that she was “exonerated.”  I find it interesting that she is able to speak to the media but not to the Attorney General’s office.  I served almost eight years at the Federal Election Commission in DC and ended my service as a Senior Compliance Analyst.  I take the election process seriously which is why I contacted the superintendent of the District in April 2015 to let her know that the candidate was receiving an unfair advantage by being given the platform of the referendum when the other candidates, who also supported the referendum, were not given the same exposure.  She ignored my concern and I finally contacted the Commissioner of Elections who advised me to file a complaint with the Attorney General.  Additionally, the letter from the Attorney General’s office dated July 20, 2015, states “If  the district knew that a member of Buccaneer Tomorrow intended to run for school board and they were using the referendum election to further that  effort, allowing them to participate in district-sponsored events might constitute misconduct on the part of the district, particularly if other candidates for school board were denied equal access.”  The letter goes on to state that nothing found in their investigation revealed that the District had any knowledge of the candidate’s intent to run.  On April 29, 2015 and again on May 3, 2015 the candidate appeared in local news publications (Milford Live and the Milford Beacon respectively) announcing her candidacy for the School Board.  I didn’t realize that an investigation would not check the public record for the facts.  Also, said candidate filed her Statement of Candidacy for the School Board election on March 4, 2015 and proceeded to participate not only as head of the Buccaneer Tomorrow PAC but also spoke at each and every public event and presentation on behalf of the District.  If this is not election misconduct I don’t know what is and it should not be allowed to continue.  This type of behavior is shameful and there should be consequences for it – at the very least removal of the elected candidate and a new election.  I ask that you publish the attached letter from the Attorney General’s office in its entirety and let the people of Milford decide.  I continue to fight for fair, honest reporting and elections.  The people have a right to know the truth.  
Thank you,
Jenn Cinelli-Miller, Milford

It sounds like Cinelli-Miller isn’t willing to throw in the towel quite yet on this issue, nor do I think she should.  What say you Delaware?