Is School Board Member Grace Decker Violating MCPS Ethics Policy?

by Travis Mateer

In a recent Missoulian article about Jacob Elder’s “journey” from Democrat to Independent, a little quote from Grace Decker caught my eye. Grace Decker is both a non-profit employee of United Way AND a MCPS school board member, so in both capacities she should be AVOIDING overt political activism. It even says so in this policy (PDF):

Avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest, and refrain from using my Board position for personal or partisan gain;

Despite this clear directive, here’s Decker in a recent Missoulian article shamelessly discussing her Facebook activism:

Elder has made it a point to block many people on his social media accounts, which led to the creation of a Facebook page called “Blocked by Jacob Elder,” leaving some to wonder why he will not answer their questions.

“Blocked by Jacob Elder” started in June.

Grace Decker, who started the group, was somewhat taken aback by being blocked and having commenting abilities limited for asking straightforward, non-offensive questions, she said.

Decker started the group with the intention of finding out how widespread this response from Elder was, she said. It grew to include 189 members.

I added the emphasis to show where I believe a violation of the MCPS ethics policy occurred. It’s the part where Grace Decker inappropriately inserts herself in a local political race in order to impact a candidate vying to be the BIG PAPA of the purse strings.

There’s also her work at United Way to consider because of limitations to political activism required of organizations that file for tax exempt status under 501(c)(3). From the link:

Organizations that are exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are also absolutely prohibited from engaging in political activity that directly or indirectly supports a political party, political action committee or a candidate for office. That prohibition includes supporting a particular candidate or party in an election, urging others to support such candidate or party and hosting an event at which only some candidates for a particular office are offered an opportunity to speak.

In Virginia, a school board member by the name of Beth Barts resigned under pressure from pissed off parents for VERY SIMILAR activities. From the link:

The group Fight For Schools and other organizations alleged that Barts was involved in a private Facebook group that violated the School Board’s Code of Conduct and local laws after the page’s members allegedly tried to attempt to reveal private information about—or doxx—parents as well as opponents of critical race theory and similar ideologies.

I would VERY MUCH like to see Grace Decker get Barts’d over her brazen disregard for MCPS ethical considerations. To help with this effort to bring accountability to MCPS please consider donating to this Go Fund me page. It’s been a month since the last donation.

Thanks for reading.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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6 Responses to Is School Board Member Grace Decker Violating MCPS Ethics Policy?

  1. TC says:

    I noticed that as well. At first I was stunned that a local”leader” would be so brazenly active in political support but then I remembered this is Missoula. Our good Missoula Liberal Elites feel they can do whatever without any recourse. I mean, whats the stupid public going to do about it? They know better what we “need” and will go about providing that (public opinion be damned).
    I thought about contacting Jeff Mangan (MT Political Practices) but he has proven to be a shill for Liberal candidates (see complaints lodged prior against Engen, McDermott, et al).
    I would like to see Ms. Decker called to account for her overt political activities (Mayoral race, Covid policies, et al) but unsure where to turn. Governor’s office, State AG, perhaps. If you have viable pathway to an accountability I’d happily contribute to a GO FUND ME.
    Please advise and thank you

  2. Greg Strandberg says:

    Quentin Rhodes is the first name that comes to my mind when I read this. Another option is filing a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices, but since that outfit is run by Democrats, good luck. As with most case-studies in society today, if it’s a Democrat…we’ll give them a pass. If it was a Republican, the corporate media would discuss it 24/7. The hypocrisy is glaring, everyone with half a brain can see it, and we’re starting to see society change because of it.
    They aren’t standing up, they aren’t making a stand, and they aren’t getting vocal. Instead, they’re just not going along. It’s a passive resistance. Just ask Southwest.

    Let’s Go Brandon!

  3. This is much ado about nothing. You are overlooking some essential elements of an ethical violation and of improper political activity by a 501(c)(3) organization (many of which I repesented for many years).

    There is nothing in the indirect quote of her in Jordan Hansen’s story that smacks of impropriety. Whether it comports with the best interests of United Way or MCPS, is up to those organizations to decide, if deemed by either of them to warrant scrutiny. It’s certainly not a matter for COPP.

    The mere fact of being Executive Director, an officer, or member of Board of Directors of a 501(c)(3) organization, in no manner restricts an individual’s exercise of personal United States and Montana Constitutional poliiical rights on the person’s own expressive behalf. The extreme stretch of misinterpretation here is very odd for those who deem themselves opponents of political repression and censorship. Wishing that the COPP Commissioner could or would sanction a person for lawful exercise of free expression on the individual’s personal behalf, is even more far-flung from the espoused philosophies of militant anti-vaxxers and champions of a person whom our Mayor and some City Councilors caused to be jailed and prosecuted for the person’s adamantly expressed opposition to City TIF chicanery.

    Were Ms. Decker to use her United Way position in Mayoral race communications, in a manner implying that she were speaking on behalf ot United Way, then United Way’s 501(c)(3) status would potentially be jeopardized. Your posited construction of law is so extreme that it would support the levying of COPP sanctions upon persons serving on NGO boards, for the act of making a small donation to a political candidate solely on their own, behalfs.

    Similarly, the mere fact of serving on a public school board does not dispossess a person of her state and federal constitutional expression and political rights.

    As always, the fact that an activity is constitutionally protected does not necessarily make it wise, advisable or ethical in all contexts and situations. Your experience of a City Councilor who also served on the Board of Directors of a 501(c)(3) where you were formerly employed, going to your workplace and vilifying you in front of supervisors for your off-work political expression in a poem critical of the City Council, was a clear and outrageous example of the improper, unethical use of both positions by that City Councilor and NGO Board member.

    The stark contrast between that episode, and what is complained of here, is like proverbial night and day.

  4. Pingback: School Board Trustee Mike Gehl Is Exposing The Cheap Theatrics And Empty Posturing Of MCPS And Its Missoulian Media Jim Enablers | Zoom Chron Blog

  5. Pingback: School Board Member, Grace Decker, Hilariously Frames Herself As Non-Political In Daily Montanan Op-Ed | Zoom Chron Blog

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