- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

Two George Mason University faculty members did not violate state guidelines by sending e-mails supporting the bond referendum for higher education, school officials said.
Along with the highly publicized transportation referendums in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, Virginians will be asked to approve $900 million in bond initiatives for improving public colleges and universities. If the bond initiative passes, George Mason University stands to receive $80 million for research centers and development.
Gov. Mark R. Warner's office this year released guidelines detailing what state employees can and cannot do in advocating for passage of the bond referendum and the transportation referendums. The guidelines were made in consultation with Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore's office and Foundation 2002, the group promoting the bond referendum, said Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the Democratic governor.
The e-mails, which were obtained by The Washington Times, were sent by Mark Grady, dean of the law school, and R. Darrell Peterson, assistant director of organization and training. The e-mails asked for volunteers at the polls on Election Day and for permission to post signs on front lawns.
"Actions must be in the nature of providing information to the public. The information can show the benefits that would result from passage of the referenda as long as the potential disadvantages are also provided i.e. the fiscal obligations being incurred through the debt," the guidelines state.
Mr. Hall said any sanctions incurred as a result of violating the guidelines would be administered by the offending individual's employer, and not the executive branch.
"We have been very careful to make a difference between education and advocacy," said Tom Hennessey, chief of staff to GMU President Alan G. Merten.
The e-mails sent by Mr. Grady and Mr. Peterson did not outline specifically the fact that debt would be incurred.
In an Oct. 2 "Dear Colleague" letter to fellow law school professors, Mr. Grady said the need to pass the bond referendum was "acute."
"It's important to us, as George Mason will receive $80 million for new and renovated classrooms and new research space," Mr. Grady wrote.
He added that "the timing of the bond makes sense. Interest rates are low. It will not jeopardize Virginia's AAA bond rating and no new taxes are required to fund the bond."
In a telephone interview, Mr. Grady said he was sending e-mails to educated adults who would assume a debt would be incurred. "It's totally implicit to a group of law professors; it's self-evident," he said.
Mr. Grady said he felt he violated no law because the e-mail and the system were "free" and he was not wasting state resources.

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