Arun Puracken, a Prince George’s County school board candidate, was sued Friday by a woman alleging that he resides outside the district he is running to represent and has falsely claimed he lives in a Brandywine property that she owns.
Rhonda Pugh, a Clinton resident, said Puracken listed his address as a house she owns when he filed for candidacy, even though she has “never received any payment” from him and they have no “relationship, business or personal,” according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Prince George’s Circuit Court.
In her lawsuit, Pugh notes that in its initial campaign finance report, Puracken’s campaign cited an address in Bowie, outside the district, when reporting a loan he made to the campaign.
She is asking the court to prevent Puracken from identifying her property as his residence and remove him from the ballot in November.
Puracken, who is running against incumbent Sonya Williams in District 9, wrote in an email that he has never met Pugh but has “been paying monthly and have a room at the home that I would use.”
He called the lawsuit a “politically motivated way of sabotaging my campaign” and said he has lived in Pugh’s property at 12025 Cross Road Trail for the past year. He said he pays rent to Russell Bogle, whose mother has rented the property from Pugh since 2013.
Pugh alleged in the complaint that Bogle allowed Puracken to use the address to qualify for the race in District 9. She said she has owned the property since 2005 and rented it to Lynne Bogle since 2013.
Puracken said the dispute “seems to be a landlord-tenant issue” and that he plans to remain on the ballot.
Prince George’s Council member Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) said he was disappointed when he learned about the lawsuit and wished there had been more state oversight of candidate qualifications.
“There has to be more integrity, but beyond that, the rules have to be rules — it’s the state’s job to enforce them,” he said.
Puracken and Williams were the top vote-getters in a four-way primary race in the district. Their race is one of four that voters will decide Nov. 6, following an election season that has been dominated by discussion about how to improve the jurisdiction’s struggling schools.
Infighting on the board — which since 2013 has been a hybrid model that includes both elected and appointed members — has spilled into public view, and the new board will vote on a permanent replacement for former schools chief executive Kevin M. Maxwell, who resigned amid controversy.
Puracken is a native of Prince George’s and a middle school teacher at the public Accokeek Academy in the district. He said this summer that his time in the classroom opened his eyes to inequity in the school system and “negligence” by the board.
Puracken, a graduate of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, said he favors a return to a fully elected school board.
Williams, a civil engineer, said this summer that the board has been hurt by a lack of stable leadership, and she does not think it matters whether members are appointed or elected. She was appointed to an open seat in 2014 and elected to a four-year term a year later. She said she is running for a second term to continue addressing issues such as aging infrastructure in the district’s schools.
Williams did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit against Puracken.
via Washington Post