Three and a half weeks ago, I saw on the State Board of Elections website that there was a second candidate for the non-partisan Howard County Board of Education: Saif Rehman. Saif Rehman was not a name I recognized, so I went to the campaign website listed on the Board of Elections website: Vote4Rehman.com. I immediately noticed that the website was incomplete. Other than the blue and yellow “Elect Rehman” campaign sign logo there was little on the website about Saif Rehman or his campaign. It was hard to even find Rehman’s first name.
There were many template spots — “Candidate About Information Goes Here,” “INSERT SLOGAN HERE,” “IMAGE FOR ARTICLE GOES HERE First 2-3 sentences go here,” and “INSERT AUTHORITY LINE HERE.”
While Scott’s E Blog said that having the authority line on T-Shirts is always a good thing, having an authority line space that just says “Insert Authority Line Here” is a really bad thing. It also violates Maryland law.
I also noticed how partisan the website appeared with photos of Governor Hogan,
a GOP Maryland Republican Party logo, and a Republican video.
The register to vote link was also highly partisan taking the user not to the Howard County Board of Elections but to http://www.register.gop/register, a project of the Republican Governor’s Association and the Republican National Committee among other partisan organizations. The About page says in part that “The site is built on the .gop domain and serves as an example for the type of online organizing that takes place on the preferred domain for all Republicans on the web.”
This all seems rather curious for the non-partisan Howard County School Board race.
I also noticed the photos on the website; one looked a lot like Annapolis. This also seemed a strange choice for someone running for school board in Howard County.
After Scott Ewart posted the announcement of Saif Rehman’s candidacy, I began to realize that the photos of the candidate on the website was not Saif Rehman.
This was not the person on Saif Rehman’s Facebook page either. A Google image search showed what was really happening. Not only was the website an incomplete template which Rehman says on his Facebook to: “Stay tuned for the official launch of the Campaign website, social media sites and kickoff event” but Rehman stole the website from another candidate: Mike Pantelides, Republican Mayor of Annapolis. Now things made sense–the photos of Governor Hogan, the views of Annapolis, and the GOP links.
So while it is one thing to use the same template campaign website builder as Pantelides, it quite another to lift a version of it and post it live for several weeks on the internet as your own website.
Is this site meant to be live? Does Rehman know? Why have none of friends and supporters told him? Most importantly, where are the donations from this incomplete website going? The donation page says that it “This campaign has raised 23% of its goal” with a background of a photo of an historic party convention. Really, it has said 23% for several weeks. Are campaign contributions going to the Rehman campaign and being accounted for properly?
Being a member of the School Board is a difficult job. There is a tremendous amount of information and complicated decisions to be made. The unawareness of an incomplete website raises questions about the ability to deal with the complex details in a budget approaching $1 billion or polygons and redistricting. Lifting someone else’s work sets a bad example for the students in regard to plagiarism. Not following the law in regard to the authority line sets a poor example for the students and raises questions about the ability to follow the law. Following the law by the Board and former superintendent has been a core of much of the conflict, lawsuits, and debate in the County regarding the school system the past several years.
On September 8, I reached out to Rehman on Facebook: ” I am drafting a blog about your website. When are you planning the official launch?” He replied, “give me till end of next week for official website and social media sites launch.” I did; he did not. After more than another week, there is still nothing substantive on his website, Facebook or Twitter. There are no posts about the issues with the school district particularly the hot topics of APFO, redistricting, and development. There is nothing about Rehman’s background. His logo says he has a PhD, but for all I know that could be in almost anything. His Facebook has photos of what appears to be a wife and children, but as seen above, photos on a campaign website do not have to have any relationship to the candidate. Rehman has not made a substantive post on Facebook since his campaign announcement on August 24–three and a half weeks ago. His friends wished him a happy birthday. Hey, “happy birthday,” but that says nothing about being a member of the school board.
There was no deadline for Saif Rehman to file for his candidacy last month. If the website and other social media were not ready Rehman could have waited until they were. Or the unfinished website could have had a message of “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon.” Or have no website at all. It has been noted that the Team 13 Delegation members do not have active campaign websites. These are better options than a totally poorly executed website that violates state law. You only have on chance to make a first impression, and I for one am not impressed. If a student turns in work that was not finished, they should expect a bad grade. The Vote4Rehman website premiere gets an F.