(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) On March 15, a year to the day after the all-Democrat Arlington County Board rejected a controversial plan to add lights to its football and baseball fields, Bishop O’Connell High School made a $350 contribution to the campaign of Republican County Board candidate Mark Kelly, according to public campaign contribution records.
In a statement issued late this afternoon, Michael J. Donohue, Director of Communications for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said the donation was made by a school employee using school funds. The check was intended to be a donation from an individual, however, and not a donation on behalf of the school itself, according to Donohue.
The Diocese learned today that a member of the staff of Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington County recently used a school check for the sake of convenience to purchase a set of tickets to a political fundraiser for a candidate for local office. This was a significant error in judgment on the part of the school employee as well as a clear violation of diocesan policy. Though all of the $350 in school funds were reimbursed by the employee, Chancery and school officials are presently reviewing the matter, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.
One local Democratic official raised a red flag about the donation, which seemed like an unprecedented, symbolic gesture from the school, until the Diocese clarified the record.
“I’ve never seen this, a school giving a donation to a political candidate,” the official told ARLnow.com.
Donohue said Diocese policy specifically prohibits political donations, which would be a violation of the church’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
“Diocesan policy absolutely prohibits church entities to contributing to any political campaigns, either on behalf of or opposition to any candidate,” Donohue said. “That’s reflective of the IRS code.”
A Bishop O’Connell spokeswoman was reached via phone before this article was published, but declined to comment.
Kelly ended up losing the March 27 special election to Democrat Libby Garvey.
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