Wisconsin superintendent candidate emails questioned

Kerr Underly
Pictured (L to R): Deborah Kerr, Jill Underly

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin schools superintendent candidate Jill Underly used a school district email account to collect personal email addresses from superintendents across the state two weeks before she launched her campaign.

Underly used her Pecatonica School District account twice to gather contact information from the superintendents just before she launched her campaign last year, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday. The emails were provided to the newspaper by the campaign of Underly’s opponent, Deb Kerr.

Kerr and Underly face off in the April 6 election. The winner will lead the state Department of Public Instruction. The race is officially nonpartisan, but Kerr is backed by Republicans and Underly is supported by Democrats.

Both campaigns have been squabbling over emails as the election nears. The State Journal last week reported that Kerr had used her school account when she was superintendent at Brown Deer to solicit private business shortly before leaving that job.

Underly’s emails asked superintendents for their personal email addresses so she could send them something later that she didn’t want to send over her district account.

“This is standard practice, to make sure taxpayer resources aren’t utilized and was done specifically to comply with state laws regarding use of public email — she is literally saying, don’t email me at work, talk to me only on my personal email,” said Underly campaign spokeswoman Alanna Conley Conley.

Conley did not address why Underly used her public email account to contact other superintendents, rather than her private email.

In a statement, Kerr said Underly was illegally campaigning using government resources. However, her campaign spokesman Ethan Hollenberger said the campaign does not plan to file a complaint with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

“She clearly does not understand the law,” Kerr said. “This is not ‘standard procedure’ as she suggests. Intentionally skirting state law is not a standard procedure. Anyone who thinks or says so is disqualified from holding public office.”