Campaign photo stirs controversy in Florence

2010-04-29T00:00:00Z Campaign photo stirs controversy in Florenceby SEPP JANNOTTA - Staff Reporter Ravalli Republic
April 29, 2010 12:00 am  • 

A digitally altered photograph on websites connected to Jim Shreve, a candidate for Ravalli County Commission in District 1, has ignited something of a tempest in the Florence-Carlton School District.

The original photograph was a group picture of the students, teachers and staff in the schoolyard of Florence-Carlton Elementary school, taken five years ago for the school yearbook by former Florence-Carlton trustee Rick Paris. The altered image is a composite with a superimposed and smiling Shreve and a banner which appears to be held by the students that reads "Vote Jim Shreve for Commissioner."

Shreve is currently serving on the Florence-Carlton School Board, though his term expires next month. He is not seeking reelection.

When Florence-Carlton superintendent John McGee contacted Shreve on Tuesday and complained that the district felt it was improper to use a photo of students for political purposes, McGee said Shreve refused to take down the image.

Saying the photograph had been "changed and manipulated" and was used without the school district's knowledge or consent, McGee said he explained to Shreve in no uncertain terms that "the students in our school district do not publicly support the candidacy of any candidate for political office."

Paris, who served as a trustee from 2007-2008 and quit after claiming that the district finances were being mismanaged, said the district has no right to dictate how the photograph is used.

"It's my picture," Paris said. "So I can do anything I want with it."

McGee said, after hearing from unhappy parents and teachers, he called Ravalli County Attorney George Corn, the Helena office of Dennis Unsworth, the state Commissioner of Political Practices, and officials with the Montana School Boards Association.

Dennis Unsworth said Wednesday his office had been receiving calls from people in the Florence-Carlton district.

But because it was not about the disclosure of campaign finances, the issue was not really a matter for his department, Unsworth said.

For his part, by Wednesday Shreve had posted a new Rick Paris photo, this one with his photo superimposed on another image showing children. In that photo children are running across grass in an apparent Easter Egg hunt, again with language touting his candidacy. Paris declined to say where that photo was taken.

Shreve said he wasn't clear if the use of the photographs violated any law.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I understand the law, but I'm not the person who's going to break the law" knowingly, Shreve said.

Shreve pointed out that the photograph of the elementary students had been altered in a similar fashion last year to campaign for a teacher the school administration was planning to cut loose.

Nobody cried foul then, Shreve said.

"And I'd say, if (it's not a crime) now, then I want the people who are creating this issue to stop it and maybe even apologize to me," Shreve said.

Nonetheless, after being interviewed by the Ravalli Republic about the matter on Wednesday afternoon, Shreve called back to inform the paper that the offending image had been taken down from his Facebook page.

In its place was the same Florence-Carlton Elementary School image, but now altered to blur out the children. The banner and candidate remain visible.

Eric Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the Montana teacher's union, said even with the faces blurred out, using the photo for a political use is inappropriate.

"It was still a gathering of people for one event and he's using it for another purpose," Feaver said. "It doesn't matter whether the faces are fuzzed out. They were there to celebrate a school and they ended up celebrating a political candidate. So that is wrong."

Feaver said he'd heard complaints from a half dozen teachers.

Given that the district has parents fill out paperwork that allows them to stipulate that their children may not have their photos used for any kind of publication without expressed permission, McGee said the school was concerned about liability.

"The School District is now taking action and will pursue any and all remedies at our disposal to protect the students trust," McGee said, in a statement e-mailed to the Republic. "This is a very serious issue for the Florence-Carlton School District and is viewed as a misuse of our students for political gain."

Whatever measures the district takes, McGee said any censure or action with regard to the Shreve's standing with school board would have to come from the trustees.

Cristi Migliaccio, a mother of two students at the school, said viewing the photo as a parent left her feeling like her kids had been violated.

"I don't feel like my kids should be pimped out for an election campaign," Migliaccio said. "And besides, my kids, being 6 and 8, have no political position. They don't even know who Mr. Shreve is."

Migliaccio admitted that because she is an out-of-district parent, it was tough to speak out against a trustee who could theoretically vote not to allow her children into Florence-Carlton schools.

"But as a parent I have to defend the rights of our children," she said.

Clem Work, a constitutional scholar and media law professor at the University of Montana, said the use of digital manipulation using programs such as Adobe Photoshop in this case creates a dishonest image.

"A lot of people will recognize this as dorky photoshopping, but a lot of people won't," Work said. "He's deceiving voters with a photo that purports to say ‘these kids and the school are for me.'"

While the use does not constitute a copyright violation, Work said the legal line that Paris and Shreve might have crossed rests with in the area of false-light privacy.

"It's putting them in a wholly different context than they had bargained for or willingly entered into," Work said. "It's not necessarily a negative context but it is a false context."

Still, Work wasn't sure if case law in Montana would support any legal claims on false-light privacy grounds.

"Is it an ethical breach? Hell, yes," Work added. "He's adapting a routine photo of school kids for his own political campaign without any foreknowledge by any of the parties. It just seems kind of crude."

In a letter on the Republic's opinion page, a group of parents, teachers and staff members of Florence-Carlton School voiced their objection to the photo being used by Shreve for his campaign.

"As faculty we were under the impression the photo was for the yearbook only, not for Mr. Paris' or Mr. Shreve's personal use or gain," the letter says. "We feel it is a violation of privacy for all in the photo.

"Mr. Shreve emphasizes honesty and respect in his campaign website and biographical information. We feel that using the photo and caption, "It's great to have the younger generation behind my campaign" implies that the students and faculty of FCS support Mr. Shreve for commissioner. It is not honest or ethical for him to commandeer a photo and speak for us."

Log on to RavalliRepublic.com to comment on this and other stories.

Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or sjannotta@ravallirepublic.com.

 

Copyright 2015 Ravalli Republic. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. bigger picture
    Report Abuse
    bigger picture - May 04, 2010 10:50 am
    There are a myriad of training tools accessible to school board members that clearly outline what is and is not appropriate behavior. Mr. Shreve has either decided to ignore those rules or is ignorant of the responsiblity of being a school board trustee. It concerns me that he very well could continue to act in this willfull manner if he is elected in his current race.
  2. Look to our kids future
    Report Abuse
    Look to our kids future - April 30, 2010 11:07 pm
    If you put as much energy into making our school a better place, instead of pointing fingers at everyone else, imagine how powerful that would be. If you dislike our school, administrators, teachers and coaches, please MOVE. All of the allegations against the school have yet to be proven. The biggest mistake that Jim made was being associated with Rick Paris . The fact that a man can come into this town and rip it to shreds, makes me ill. Move back to New York Rick, or better still, I hear they need photographers for the “National Enquirer”.

  3. luckypenny
    Report Abuse
    luckypenny - April 30, 2010 4:24 pm
    It is completely irresponsible and unethical to utilize a photo containing minors without parental consent-- and it is REPULSIVE to use it for political and personal gain. That is the issue. Anyone not smart enough to understand that has no business being in office.

    If you could snap a photo and publish anything you liked for commercial use, Nike would have done it ages ago.
  4. Common Sense
    Report Abuse
    Common Sense - April 30, 2010 1:31 pm
    Black Sheep: "The main problem at Florence is the "good old boys club" Sam Baerlocher is the president of that club . Nothing there will ever change until the community wakes up!"

    Thank you "Black Sheep", your quote sums it all up....people blaming individuals instead of taking up the responsibility of PRODUCTIVE communication and problem-solving like successful people should. THAT is the "main problem" in Florence.
  5. Skip R
    Report Abuse
    Skip R - April 29, 2010 8:13 pm
    If I can't believe what I see, I won't believe what you say. Maybe you can insert an image of Abe Lincoln shaking your hand next week. Lucky for you those kids can't vote.... too bad about the parents!
  6. shocked again
    Report Abuse
    shocked again - April 29, 2010 6:45 pm
    Black Sheep its the Superintedent who is filing the law suit not a former board member, get your story straight. This entire issue is over the fact that Mr. McGee didnt get his mill levy passed. So let pick on Mr. Shreve, the person who called a spade a spade. The Mill Levy was to pay for the teachers raises & their insurance, not for anything else in the district, since that was brought out and the levy was shot down, Mr. McGee has a past of shooting down past board members, I know I am one!
  7. black sheep
    Report Abuse
    black sheep - April 29, 2010 3:58 pm
    The Florence School is so unfortunate that former board members don't just go away, stop filing frivolous lawsuits against the school. They want you to believe they are looking out for the best interest of the children but they are not!They are poison. Really Jim Shreve, take the picture down! How simple is that? Idiot! The main problem at Florence is the "good old boys club" Sam Baerlocher is the president of that club . Nothing there will ever change until the community wakes up!
  8. jturner
    Report Abuse
    jturner - April 29, 2010 3:42 pm
    big cheif: Learn some proper grammar and spelling and perhaps people will begin to take your' opinions seriously. How am I supposed to believe that Jim Shreve is a smart, competent individual if it appears his backers are a band of idiots.
  9. big cheif
    Report Abuse
    big cheif - April 29, 2010 2:37 pm
    It sounds like Mr. Shreve has been consistant for three years as a board member. You don't have to be liked to be a great board member. Time after time Mr. Shreve has brought up the issue that John McGee don't know the policy's or can't take the time to read them. Mr. Shreve has constantly and fairly enforced the policy's which he took oath to do. He has stood up to the Teachers Union and protected the interest of the Dist. Tax payers. If you do not know him you should not judge him.
  10. ForWhat'sRight
    Report Abuse
    ForWhat'sRight - April 29, 2010 12:34 pm
    It's completely inappropriate for a school board member to exploit students/staff as tools for his own campaign ambitions (not to mention the issue of breached professional photographer ethics). Not only is he using this photo of the kids/staff taken expressly for the purpose of the school yearbook many years ago, he is also fraudulently using the school's main page photo & graphics as if to convey that the school & everyone in it fully supports him for commissioner. Please vote against him!
  11. photoartist
    Report Abuse
    photoartist - April 29, 2010 12:10 pm
    Jim Shreve: Lose the picture! At best you look cheap (you could have hired a professional to make this ad) and you appear to have acted unethically. You need permission and compensation to put that picture up. Call PPA (Professional photographers of America) and ask their advice. "It's my picture so I can do anything I want with it." Is not legally or ethically correct. School board: Hire a professional!
  12. Montana
    Report Abuse
    Montana - April 29, 2010 11:26 am

    Wow, this looks like a concerted effort to dismiss their concerns. Anyone who knows Mr. Shreve’s knows he is not capable of thinking inside OR outside the box.  PLEASE get to know the candidate before your vote. Lucky my child is not in that picture. I would be pitching a hell of fit.

  13. Just My Opinion
    Report Abuse
    Just My Opinion - April 29, 2010 10:06 am
    Wow, a commissioner candidate that is thinking outside the box (or thinking at all). While I understand the concerns of some parents, it looks more to me like a concerted effort by some school employees that don't like Mr. Shreve's politics.
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