(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comment from Monty Bennett)
School board races are typically nonpartisan affairs, but some Park Cities residents say they’ve received flyers supporting Highland Park ISD place 1 trustee candidate Kelli Macatee that featured partisan rhetoric against her opponent, Doug Woodward.
Macatee said Friday evening that the flyer was produced by a political action committee (PAC) and not her or her campaign.
A flyer shown to People Newspapers refers to Woodward as a “New Jersey Liberal,” who, it claims, “says #1 Quality For Teachers is Diversity, Not Teaching Qualifications” and “recently worked as P&G’s ‘Diversity Officer,’ whose materials stated that all white people are racist, just for being white.”
Woodward’s campaign website indicates that he worked for Procter & Gamble after college.
Woodward in a video posted on his campaign’s Facebook page called the idea that he ‘would support race over quality in the hiring of a teacher’ “absurd.”
“We live in a very divided time, sadly, and there are often times outside groups that get involved in elections,” Macatee said about the flyer. “As I stated emphatically, my campaign (or I) had nothing to do with the flyer. I have been working very hard and my message is resonating and I feel like I enjoy widespread support across a lot of our community.”
Sources who saw the flyer said it appeared to be from Metroplex Citizens for a Better Tomorrow. According to the Texas Ethics Commission website, the PAC was formed on March 29, and its treasurer is Monty J. Bennett, CEO of Ashford Inc., a hospitality services firm. The address for the PAC, 14185 Dallas Parkway, Suite 1100, is identical to the address listed for Ashford Inc. on its website.
When he responded to People Newspapers’ request for comment Sunday through Ashford, Bennett didn’t confirm or deny involvement in the flyer, but took issue with our reporting.
“Everyone knows that there’s really no point in responding because the left-wing media’s bully culture is to twist whatever anyone says into making a conservative look bad and a lefty look good,” he said. “Everyone also knows that Kelli is the conservative and Doug’s the lefty. There’s no point in countering the misrepresentations and distortions in this article. I will be shocked if even this whole quote is included. And journalists wonder why no one likes them. That’s why I had to launch the non-profit ‘Dallas Express’ newspaper.”
He didn’t elaborate on what he took issue with.
In February our sister publication, D Magazine, reported that Bennett is now the publisher of the former historically Black-owned news site The Dallas Express. That same site published nearly verbatim a letter we also received from one of Macatee’s supporters, Eric Swanson. His letter addressed concerns about a recent endorsement letter for Woodward that had been signed by several past PTA presidents.
A separate post on D’s blog, Frontburner, reported that it appeared that Bennett had paid to place favorable stories about his company (after backlash about the company receiving PPP funds) in local news sites owned by Metric Media News network, which is owned by Brian Timpone, a former TV reporter.
One of those news sites owned by Timpone, Dallas City Wire, posted a story this week alleging that Highland Park ISD middle schoolers had been forced to participate in surveys about gender identity, which district officials said was untrue.
Early voting in the Highland Park ISD place 1 election to replace board president Jim Hitzelberger runs from April 19-27, and election day is May 1.
People Newspapers deputy editor Bethany Erickson contributed to this report.