A candidate for the Indianapolis Public Schools board resigned from his position as president of the Indiana Young Democrats this spring amid a controversy over his unauthorized withdrawal of $3,800 from the group’s account.
Daqavise Winston told Chalkbeat he made the withdrawals but said they were a mistake and that the controversy is not relevant to the school board election. He has repaid the organization.
Five months after the incident, the 26-year-old former IPS behavior specialist filed to run for school board, saying he wants to ensure families who have been ignored have a voice in the school system. Winston is challenging incumbent Venita Moore for the IPS District 2 seat, which represents the north east side. The board is charged with deciding policies in the 33,000-student district, overseeing the superintendent, and signing off on the budget.
Winston took over as president of the Indiana Young Democrats in January. Three months later, other board members of the group said that he withdrew $3,800 from the Young Democrats’ bank account without authorization and asked him to resign his position, according to an email obtained by Chalkbeat.
“This situation, frankly, has caused us to lose confidence in your ability to lead the Indiana Young Democrats,” several board members wrote in the email to Winston.
Winston withdrew the money in increments of $300 and $500 over a period of three weeks in March, according to public campaign finance reports filed by the Indiana Young Democrats.
Winston told Chalkbeat he inadvertently withdrew the money because he mixed up the Indiana Young Democrats debit card with one he had for his personal account at the same bank.
Four seats for the IPS board are up for election. The vigorous campaign is inspiring acrimony on social media and drew over $200,000 in spending from charter-friendly political action committees that support the current administration.
Winston, who has raised $3,100 for his campaign and has called for the district to stop new partnerships with charter schools, said the emergence of the Young Democrats conflict less than two weeks before Election Day is a political smear campaign designed to undermine his candidacy.
“I didn’t abuse my position when I was leading the Young Democrats. That was an accident that happened, and we fixed it promptly,” Winston told Chalkbeat. “There was no harm or intention to do harm.”
When the withdrawals were first discovered, Winston gave the same explanation to other board members, according to the email. They asked Winston to repay the missing money. When he did not meet their deadline, the vice president, treasurer, secretary, and national committee representative sent a joint email asking him to resign.
Winston said the deadline only gave him one day, which was not enough time for him to make the transfer in part because some banks were closed due to the coronavirus. But Winston said the controversy eventually led him to resign his position.
He began repaying the group in April, and by May 18 he had paid back all $3,800, campaign finance documents show.
In response to an interview request, Indiana Young Democrats Executive Director Christopher Roman emailed a statement from the executive committee: “An irregularity was discovered by our Treasurer, was addressed by our board in accordance with our Bylaws, and our organization has closed the chapter in this matter. Under our new leadership, our focus continues to be electing young Democrats up and down the ballot.”