By Allison Ross
Note: this post has been updated.
Two years after Palm Beach County School Board member Jenny Prior Brown got elected to her District 4 seat, some unexpected donors tried to make contributions.
Jenny Prior Brown.
Last night, an online portal that Brown used to use to have donors contribute online received four donations of between $20 and $25 each — and the list of donors is somewhat peculiar.
One donor is Robert Kanjian, a former school board member whose wife, Anne, ran unsuccessfully against Brown in 2010. The Kanjians (including their children) spoke up at this week’s school board meeting on behalf of South Olive Elementary Principal Hank Smith in regards to an ongoing dispute between Brown and Smith.
Meanwhile, South Olive Elementary parent April Milner, who has led efforts to support Smith in recent weeks, also gave Brown a contribution. As did Deborah Pope, mother of a South Olive student and an employee at Kanjian’s company, Title Matters, and Melissa Nash, who is also listed as an employee of Kanjian’s Building Solutions company on the company’s website.
Milner said she made her donation because she wanted to extend an “olive branch” to Brown. Milner said she has nothing personal against Brown, and only wants to ensure that Smith be left as principal of the West Palm Beach school.
Kanjian also said he wanted to show that his involvement in the issue at South Olive was not about politics. “Neither myself nor my wife will be a candidate for the school board in 2014. Nor will we accept the appointment in the event Mrs. Brown leaves office early,” Kanjian said.
When told the site was from her 2010 election bid and not for a bid for 2014, he said there was nothing on the site that said that. He added that he would love to, as a constituent, sit down and talk with Brown about what’s good and what can be improved about schools.
A call to Pope has not yet been returned. Nash, when reached by phone, said she was driving and would call back.
Brown’s campaign consultant, Rick Asnani, said the account that was attached to the online web portal was closed after the election, so the four donations were rejected and returned to the donor’s accounts.
“Her campaign has not taken any money,” Asnani said. He said the campaign had asked that the web portal be taken down after the election but it was accidentally left up. He said it is now dismantled.
State law states that candidates who are elected must, after 90 days, dispose of any funds remaining in their campaign accounts and not accept further contributions. They don’t have to close their accounts but, in order to begin accepting campaign contributions again, they must file new paperwork, said Chris Cate, communications director for the Florida Department of State.
Brown said she has filed nothing for a 2014 re-election bid and is “not in fundraising mode.”
“This is pure politics. That’s all this is,” Brown said. “They know this is an old account and they’re trying to create some new political controversy. But this is dirty politics. That’s all this is. They know full well that’s all this is.”
In a later statement, Brown added:
“Bob and Anne Kanjian knowingly and willfully engineered a personal and disgraceful attack upon my character and integrity as an elected official by concocting an entrapment scheme they knew was baseless and misleading.”