voting stock ballot election

A robocall message to West Feliciana parish voters denouncing the local School Board's bond issue on the May 4 ballot was made to appear as if it came from the school district.

It’s unclear how many residents received the calls, which were placed the day before the election, nor is it known who actually placed the calls. But it didn’t appear to have an impact on the measure, which passed with 54 percent of the vote.

West Feliciana Parish Schools Superintendent Hollis Milton reported the matter to the Louisiana Public Service Commission because the number shown in the caller ID was that of the school district.

“What disappointed us was they used our number from the school board office so it would be on your caller ID that it came from us, and that’s problematic,” he said.

The district uses robocalls for instances like event reminders, schedule changes, emergencies and school cancellations, he said, so many parents and teachers would have that number saved or it would be recognizable.

He said it does not appear that the district’s robocall list was tampered with, based on his discussions with others who have and haven’t received the same message.

“In a campaign you’re going to have things happen like that. Whoever it was didn’t announce who they were, and in robocalls you have a responsibility to do that but even still I wouldn’t have made a report based on that alone," Milton said. "It was the fact they spoofed our number, that was the part that wasn’t on level with me.”

Secretary of State press secretary Tyler Brey said Thursday his office had not received any complaints.

Milton reported the election robocall to the  the offices of Louisiana Public Service Commission District 2, which includes West Feliciana Parish. A representative from the office said they were aware of the issue and were working with the district to find out more.

Voters on May 4 approved the $52.6 million bond issue to finance a new elementary school replacing the aging Bains Elementary and for major improvements to the high school.

Milton told the School Board at a January meeting that Bains Elementary needs extensive renovations and there is room for another building wing. But, he said, parking and other infrastructure issues would still exist. Now approved by voters, the new school will be built on land adjoining West Feliciana Middle School and fronting U.S. 61.

The elementary school project is slated for $42 million, with the rest likely going toward a freshman academy at the high school, a complete renovation of the high school’s career and technical education building and a renovation of the auditorium.

“We’ve been very fortunate, the overall bond proposal was extremely positive," Milton said. "Any time you have a new tax, that’s always difficult but the simple fact a tax for the school was looked upon with a lot of enthusiasm from parents, we’re just excited.

“We didn’t change course because of the robocall, but regardless of the outcome of the election I thought it was important someone was notified that the school district’s number was being used in that way.”


Follow Emma Kennedy on Twitter, @byemmakennedy.