News

Niekamp chastises Erwin for referendum-related comment on radio show

Quincy School Board member Melvin "Bud" Niekamp and Board President Stephanie Erwin
Posted: Oct. 23, 2014 8:13 am Updated: May. 13, 2015 6:21 pm

By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Quincy School Board member Melvin "Bud" Niekamp chastised the board's president, Stephanie Erwin, during the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting for a comment she made on an Oct. 1 morning radio show.

Niekamp walked to the podium in the Ellington School gym and claimed that Erwin said all board members supported the $89 million school facilities referendum that the board agreed to place on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"I voted no against it, and another board member (Richard McNay) did, too," Niekamp said.

Niekamp said he subsequently sent an email to Erwin.

"I said, ‘Why don't you contact all the news media and let them know that you misspoke?' But she never did do that. So that makes me look bad, because I made a promise way back in 1982 that I'm going to spend money wisely."

Niekamp, who plans to seek a ninth term in the April 2015 elections, said he was speaking up now because "I just want to set the record straight that I did not vote for it."

After Niekamp returned to his seat, Erwin explained what happened on the radio show and referred to it as "a silly matter." She said the radio show host had asked her if any board members opposed the $89 million bond issue.

"I indicated that yes, there was one. I did not indicate a name. I said there was one who was opposed to the financing, but not the plan," she said, referring to McNay, who would have preferred to see a sales tax -- rather than bonds -- used as the funding source.

"I am so sorry that I forgot that Bud voted no. So I did not mention Bud's name," Erwin said. "My apologies, Bud."

Erwin said Niekamp became adamant that the issue be straightened out publicly.

"He thought it would hurt his re-election possibilities," she told the audience.

At that point, board member Jeff Mays spoke up and made a reference to the state law that prohibits School Board members and district employees from publicly campaigning either for or against school-related issues once the issue gets placed on an election ballot.

"Two years ago, I voted against the working cash bond," Mays said, referring to the $6.2 million question that was ultimately approved by Quincy voters.

"I made a statement at the very next meeting that I voted against that bond, and I was taken up to the State Board of Elections on charges that I was stating a position after the bond issue had been put on the ballot. Bud, for this, I'm not going to file any charges. You've always been straight up, and your position is very clear. I think the matter is closed at this point."

Niekamp responded: "I have no comment."

-- ehusar@whig.com/221-3378