MOCKSVILLE, N.C. — In the last several days, Davie County residents received a flier in the mail urging them to vote “no” in the $54.5 million school bond referendum May 6.
The flier, paid for by the Davie County Republican Men’s Federation, included photographs of renovation projects at Statesville High School and West Forsyth High School, intended to show prospective voters that renovating Davie County High School is the most fiscally responsible way to deal with the school’s problems.
But half the photographs featured in flier are not of renovated projects but of new building projects — at other schools — a mistake that has added to the acrimony and distrust swirling around this hotly debated issue.
Danny Correll, who created the flier, said he mistakenly downloaded the wrong images and didn’t realize his error until it was too late.
“Stack Bibles as high as you can stack up,” Correll said. “This was not intentional. It’s just an honest mistake, and we apologize for that. There was no intent to deceive anybody.”
Correll is president of the Davie County Republican Men’s Federation, a separate organization from the Davie County Republican Party although much of its membership is the same. The federation is supporting candidates who oppose the school bond referendum, including Robert Wisecarver and Richard Carter for county commissioner; and Glenn Mace and Jeff Plott for school board.
The photos in the flier show renovations at Statesville High School, but one of the photos is of the new gym at West Iredell High School.
Correll said he searched for the terms “Statesville High School renovation photos” in Google and downloaded an image of a gym without checking to make sure it was Statesville’s.
He said he made a similar mistake looking for photos to illustrate the renovations at West Forsyth High School. Two of the three photos he used are of a new auditorium and science labs at West Forsyth High School — in Cumming, Ga., a school built in 2007.
Correll said he taking responsibility for the mistakes in a letter and advertisement in the Davie County Enterprise Record this week.
The mistakes were a topic of conversation in the county, with some Facebook commenters wondering whether it was a deliberate attempt to mislead people.
Lori Smith, a member of the 1 New Davie High Referendum Committee, said that using pictures of new building projects to show how well a renovation project can work is a “reckless use of misinformation.”
“The inaccurate information in the flier represents a superficially and very carelessly researched investigation of their supposed renovation plan,” Smith wrote in an email.
She called on the group to reach every voter who received the flier.
“Without doing so, untruthful information due to negligence is no better than untruthful information with intent,” Smith wrote.
What to do with Davie County High School has been an issue in the county for more than 10 years. Voters overwhelmingly rejected school bonds in referendums in 2003 and 2007 for two high schools. The bond question this time around asks voters if they will support one new high school, which would close the current high school in Mocksville.
Correll said he has heard little attention given to what he calls misinformation in a flier created by the 1 New Davie High committee. That flier was also mailed to residents throughout the county.
He pointed to a line in the opposition’s flier that said the high school could be paid for with an 8.9-cent increase in property taxes.
Davie County commissioners said last year that they would increase taxes by 11.5 cents if the bond passes, arguing that they cannot ignore other needs in the county. However, that tax rate is subject to change.
Such an increase would create a burden for people, making renovation the most cost-effective way to fix the problems with the county’s high school, Correll said.
That, he said, is the main message of the flier.
“The facts remain the same,” he said. “Yeah, there were three wrong pictures.”
Smith said she stands by the facts in her committee’s flier, countering that an 8.9-cent tax increase would pay for the school.
Josh Lawson, a public information officer for the State Board of Elections, said the First Amendment allows for wide leeway in what can be said in a political campaign, an issue that is being debated now in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The job of the board is to ensure the entities are filing their reports accurately, not to ensure the accuracy of what they say,” Lawson said. “Is it true or untrue? The First Amendment lets speech get out there, and it’s up to the voters to decide what is important to them.”