By Collin Roth
A Media Trackers open records request revealed that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s wife, Kris Barrett, who taught at Dover Elementary used her Milwaukee Public School email account to twice lobby Democratic lawmakers and a third time to recruit fellow teachers to campaign against County Executive candidate Jeff Stone. The use of a taxpayer funded email account for such political purposes is a gross misuse of resources and forbidden by the Milwaukee Public Schools Employee Code of Ethics as well as the MPS Staff Acceptable Use Policy.
On Monday February 14, 2011, Kris Barrett emailed Democrat State Senator Spencer Coggs and Democrat Rep. Tamara Grigsby to encourage them to vote against Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. The title of the email was “a teacher’s voice” and Ms. Barrett decried that “we are all under attack.” The content of the emails can be seen below:
In March of 2011, Ms. Barrett used her MPS email account to contact five fellow teachers about campaigning against former County Executive candidate and current Republican member of the State Assembly Jeff Stone. This email was sent the night the Senate voted to approve the Budget Repair Bill 18-1.
When a fellow teacher asked if Ms. Barrett had seen the news that night (the passage of the Budget Repair Bill), Barrett answered “Unfortunately, yes. Oh my God. What country is this????”
The use of an MPS email account for political purposes such as lobbying Democratic lawmakers and recruiting fellow teachers to go campaign certainly violates the Milwaukee Public Schools Employee Code of Ethics. Section 7 of the Code of Ethics reads:
(7) Political Participation
Employees of the MPS are encouraged to participate in the political process. Employees can be members of, or officers in, a political party. They may contribute to political candidates, either with financial resources or in donation of services, provided donations do not utilize MPS equipment, time, or work product. MPS employees may allow their names to be used on lists of supporters for candidates for public office, but such use of employees’ names must not imply MPS endorsement.
In addition to the Employee Code of Ethics, Ms. Barrett also appears to have violated the MPS Staff Acceptable Use Policy for the use of the MPS network system and computer resources. Section 2 of the MPS Staff Acceptable Use policy can be seen below and “political or campaign materials” are listed as an unacceptable uses for an MPS email account.
Ms. Barrett is not the first public school employee to have used taxpayer funded resources for political activities. Public school teacher and Democratic candidate for State Senate Shelly Moore had a complaint filed against her by the Republican Party of Wisconsin after numerous emails were sent from her school account concerning recall activities for Republican State Senator Sheila Harsdorf. In one telling email, Moore wrote “We’re not supposed to use school email, but since all of our rights are being taken away, I don’t frankly care.”
With her husband Tom running as the Democratic nominee for governor, Ms. Barrett has already intentionally inserted herself into the political fray according to Politico. And on April 15, Ms. Barrett’s name was on a Tom Barrett campaign email entitled “Pink Slip.” Ms. Barrett wrote:
Like so many other teachers across Wisconsin, I was appalled when Scott Walker chose to devastate public education with the deepest school cuts in Wisconsin history as part of his ideological civil war.
As someone who has seen firsthand Scott Walker’s ruinous record, and my husband Tom’s commitment to doing what’s right, I can tell you that no one will fight harder than Tom Barrett to restore workers’ rights, protect education, and end Scott Walker’s war on women and families.
Kris Barrett was laid off from Milwaukee Public Schools at the end of the 2010-11 school year and now works in Wauwatosa. Kris Barrett’s husband Tom Barrett earned the Democratic nomination for governor on May 8, in a four way Democratic primary.