This past election season brought a surprising turn of events in a Granite School Board race, as incumbent Dan Lofgren was challenged by convicted sex offender Richard Wagner Jones. Lofgren won his reelection bid, and now a state lawmaker wants to permanently ban felons from running for local school boards or the State Board of Education.
“This is absolutely about [Mr. Jones]” says Representative Carol Spackman Moss (Democrat, Holladay), whose new legislation, HB 64 – Felon’s Right To Hold Office, would enact the ban. “During my campaign, I made a pledge to my constituents and the PTA network that I would run this bill and make sure something like this can never happen again.”
According to current Utah law, a felon is not allowed to vote or run for office until their sentence and parole have been completed. 67 year old Richard Jones was convicted of sexually abusing a child in 1990 after offering summer science and math classes in his home, for which he served 5 years in prison and an additional 10 years on probation. He is still on the sex offender registry however, and is barred from visiting schools until 2015 when his name will be removed.
Technically, members of the Granite District School Board are not required to visit a school, their primary function being budgetary matters. But during the course of the election several current school board members commented that they frequently visit schools, meeting with teachers and administration officials, to better understand how to complete their duties on the school board.
“I just couldn’t understand why he would run for that office.” says Moss, who’s district encompasses Granite School Board district 1. “I applaud anyone getting involved in public service, but why choose that specific office that would put him in close contact with children? Every parent and PTA member I spoke with over the last year asked me to run this bill so sex offenders can’t be on a school board.”
Moss’ bill does not prohibit convicted felons from running for any office, but keeps its scope narrowly focused on local school boards and the State Board of Education.
Richard Wagner Jones ended up losing the Granite School Board election in District 1 to incumbent Dan Lofgren by nearly 78%, but did manage to garner a total of 4,507 votes. Mr. Lofgren refused to discuss the issue during the campaign, and likewise turned down our request for comment, but Mr. Jones told reporters that it was all in the past and no one needed to be worried about him anymore.
“I just don’t think it’s right.” says Representative Moss. Here at UPC, we agree. School board members may not be required to visit schools, but every year the members of the Granite School Board speak at the various high school graduations. It’s hard to imagine a convicted sex offender speaking to a child’s graduating class.
To contact Rep. Moss, Click Here
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill