New Albany-Plain Local Schools Superintendent Steve Castle said any use of his district e-mail account to conduct business for the New Albany for Kids political-action committee was "minimal and inadvertent."

New Albany-Plain Local Schools Superintendent Steve Castle said any use of his district e-mail account to conduct business for the New Albany for Kids political-action committee was "minimal and inadvertent."

He also said district officials are looking into policies regarding use of district e-mail accounts.

Castle and other school district officials used their district e-mail accounts to conduct business for New Albany for Kids during last November's levy campaign.

District e-mail accounts are taxpayer-funded.

ThisWeek obtained records indicating Castle's use of his New Albany-Plain Local School district e-mail address, scastle@new-albany.k12.oh.us, to conduct levy-campaign business.

According to the Ohio Revised Code section 3315.07, "No board of education shall use public funds to support or oppose the passage of a school levy or bond issue or to compensate any school district employee for time spent on any activity intended to influence the outcome of a school levy or bond issue election."

He sent an e-mail at 5:07 p.m. Nov. 3 -- the eve of election day -- to New Albany for Kids members and to former district communications director Carole Dorn-Bell, district treasurer Brian Ramsay and board members Diane Goedeking and Mike Klein from his gmail account, informing them of the use of AmeriContact, a local calling service, to place "get out the vote" calls on Nov. 3. He also sent the e-mail to his NA-PLS e-mail account and to Ramsay's public e-mail address.

Castle told ThisWeek via e-mail June 23 that his role with NAFK was as a private citizen, not as the superintendent.

"Obviously, a superintendent has a role with all citizen advisory committees, which is a valuable means of having citizen input," he said. "However, there is no doubt that I played a role as a private citizen and, like the majority of those who voted in November, wanted to see the operating issue pass."

He has said the NAFK campaign committee was a citizens advisory committee authorized by the board. NAFK have countered that the committee was entirely separate from the school district.

Castle said he does not think he violated Ohio law by using district e-mail accounts.

"I am aware of the statute. It is the reason why we had separate e-mail accounts, contracts, a committee structure and agreements in the first place," he said.

The separate e-mail account was a gmail account from which the Nov. 3 e-mail originally was sent.

"A separate account was set up and used for campaign purposes," Castle said. "To the extent any campaign use of the district account occurred, it was very minimal and inadvertent and probably occurred in the heat of the last few days of the campaign. We are currently reviewing whether any inadvertent use of district resources took place, reviewing our policies and will address any identified issues."

NA-PLS board members heard an introduction of a new e-mail-use retention policy during their June 22 business meeting. Members are expected to adopt the new policies in July.

Kelly Neer, an assistant campaign-finance administrator with the Ohio Secretary of State's Office, said the issue of legality comes down to the appropriate use of public tax dollars.

He said legality is determined by the time of day a specific situation occurred and whether public equipment, such as a computer, smart phone or e-mail server, was used to conduct PAC business.

Debbie Klug, NAFK treasurer, said that when she received the e-mails, she was more concerned with the fact that Castle had made a decision for the PAC's campaign committee without consulting its members and less concerned about the e-mail account from which his message had come.

Cheri Lehmann, former head of the NAFK campaign committee, agreed.

"We had an understanding of Ohio law, and for that reason, we were not comfortable meeting in the superintendent's conference room and during school hours," she said.

Lehmann said no meetings were held on school grounds during school hours.