|

Board member’s spouse is a teacher: Conflict of interest? (Part 2)

In my previous post the question was – Is it a conflict of interest if the spouse of a member of the Board of Education is a teacher and receives a salary negotiated with that board and the board member is covered under the health insurance plan of the spouse?

Many would believe that if this relationship is not a conflict of interest, what is? What actions should the board member take when issues such as salary negotiations and payroll, that benefit both the spouse and the board member’s income, come before the board for action?

Even if the board member abstains from the vote on issues that directly benefit them monetarily, one would believe that the member must also refrain from deliberations with other board members that might influence their vote.

In abstaining is that board member adequately representing their subdistricts on issues that might affect those constituents, such as reduction in programs versus union concessions to reduce deficits?

The Illinois Education Association’s opinion is that members of the board of education in the state of Illinois are considered to have a conflict of interest in the position of board member, only when their spouse is directly impacted as an individual, not when it affects all the members of the union, such as across the board raises or benefits, even if the board member has pecuniary interest in the outcome.

An investigation of Attorneys General opinion in the state of Illinois on this issue reveals that on April 30, 1976 William J. Scott, Attorney General’s opinion was that, “considering then whether the board member has a conflict of interest, I am of the opinion that he does, and have advised in other contexts that the interest of one’s spouse may be attributed to one’s self and be a prohibited interest.”

“There is a natural and probable sharing of assets between spouses. This probability of sharing is sufficient to create a conflict of interest in this situation.” This ruling was made under Paragraph 3 of the Corrupt Practices Act.

In another case, Tyrone C. Fahner, State of Illinois Attorney General opined in October, 1980 that a contract did not fall under the same opinion for a Mayor and his wife’s contract but it did reference another case in the Appellate Court for the Fifth District in the People versus Simpkins (1977) that in this case that a conflict of interest did not exist where a mayor’s wife was an employee of and paid from the city treasury.

Roland W. Burris, Attorney General of state of Illinois on June 21, 1993 having reviewed the issue ruled when a commissioner, even appointed, was covered by Paragraph 3 of the Corrupt Practices Act, “but that a wife’s interest in a contract is not necessarily the husbands interest, provided the contract is not mere subterfuge for his own pecuniary interest.” and since the husband had no ownership in his wife’s firm, the awarding of the contract was not a violation of the Act nor a conflict of interest.

There is interesting reading on this subject by Paul W. Thurston at the University of Illinois and his conclusion in July 1977 was the uncertainty of the conflict-of-interest laws in Illinois regarding spousal relationships. I could not find any further cases of spouses married to school board members and am not familiar with any legislation in the 105 ILSC 5/ school code which further clarifies the issue for our state or any Illinois State Supreme Court decision on the issue.

In other states like Kansas, however, “No conflict of interest arises because candidate for county has a spouse who is a teacher in local school under opinions stated in Opinion 80-16, and even more to the point, “Unified school district teacher may also serve as a school board member; school district is not a business or person as defined. 90-21 Also school teacher may serve on board of education of teacher’s school district. 91-5 And finally, Board of Education member whose spouse is teacher on teachers’ negotiating team; no conflict of interest.

And in Ohio, the Ohio Ethics Commission’s advisory Opinion No. 82-003 states, “Section 2921.42 of the Revised Code does not prohibit a school board member, whose spouse is a teacher and a member of the teachers’ union in the school district, from voting on a master contract between the school district and the teachers’ union.”

In Greenon Ohio, three school board members are currently married to teachers in the Greenon district (November 22, 2010). Even though it may be legally acceptable, the three board members usually abstain from issues that might even be perceived to be a conflict of interest.

Excerpt:

Ethics laws specifically prohibit board members from voting in some instances, said Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the Ohio Schools Boards Association. For example, she said, when approving a bargaining unit contract, board members married to teachers must abstain if they get health insurance through their spouse or if their spouse is a union officer or on the negotiations team for the union.

The Ohio Commission ruled that, Division (A)(1) of Section 2921.42 of the Revised Code prohibits a school board member, whose spouse is a teacher in the school district, from authorizing, voting, or otherwise using the authority or influence of his office to secure approval of an individual contract with his spouse. This is the same position initially taken by the Illinois Education Association.

On further review the opinions, rulings and actions taken by board members in this situation has yet to be determined in a definitive way, at least everywhere but Kansas.

Due to the legal uncertainty on this issue and the varied opinions, rulings, etc., it will be up to the community to observe what votes are taken, the results of those votes and if so inclined, one may expend a lot of time and money to get a higher ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court. Government courts, however, have a tendency to rule differently under the law than what might be perceived by the public.

Share:

7 Comments

  1. It can be a conflict. Having worked in school districts in the state. The board member come home and share information discussed at board meetings and the spouse can share what the staff is saying. It is also can be a conflict when a chairman of a school PTO has a spouse on the school board.

  2. Looks like you been loophole hunting. lol. Do you have a personal problem with Mrs. Powers? Do you know Mrs. Powers, or her husband? Sure feels like you’re trying to stir up some trouble. Just what the Rockford schools need. Lets slam the new board member for caring about our schools when her husband already cared. Talk about some nasty no good people. I’m sick and tired of seeing both a husband and a wife that care about the education of our kids.

    This is silly. You have nothing on the lady so you go digging for a loophole. Can’t find anything that works so you end your post fishing for someone willing to fund a supreme court challange. lol.

    Overall not a bad post. You managed to insult the integrity of judges, teachers, and school board members.

  3. Hey Joe, I’m just a taxpayer, and I say this STINKS. This woman, your friend obviously, will be in a position to share confidential information regarding the boards negotiating position with her husband and his union. Such sharing will result in enriching her husband, thereby herself.

    If you want to get robbed, go for it. I don’t. The only thing “silly” is your cover-up attitude, rather typical in this state, I’d say.

  4. Ted Biondo

    Joe, I do not know Mrs Powers. I do not know her husband. I thought that the readers of this blog would be interested in what was out there legally on conflict of interest in this situation and I think I covered it well. You can say what you wish, but I will continue to keep these issues in the light of day, not hidden as they have been in the past.

    The thing that I don’t understand is why taxpayers paying $13,500 per child doesn’t deserve your praise also about caring for children, only your friends care.

    Also, why is watching out for the taxpayers rights considered insulting. The truth in these situations are frequently insulting to the people who have to pay taxes. I intend to tell them the reason why so I guess that’s insulting to you.

    I will continue to provide transparency concerning the district’s negotiations with the teacher’s union, especially in light of their contributions and who was and was not elected – including coverage on the contract language which I know well having dealt with it myself for years.

    These issues will no longer be done out of sight bewteen the board and the REA with the taxpayers simply paying more and more each year in property taxes without knowing the reasons why. And if the contract concessions are not forthcoming, then at least the readers of this blog will understand.

  5. How was this issue hidden? Was she trying to hide who her husband was? She never addressed the issue before the election?

    Both you and John bring up my friends. I don’t know anyone that has anything to do with Rockford schools. Not a teacher, not a student, not a lunch lady. Matter of fact I grew up in Rockford but went to a private school. I have no ties. Just an outsider watching how you guys roll in Rockford.

    I find it interesting that rockford lacks good leaders. I find it interesting no one will step up and help the city. But when you see blogs like this you understand. The lady hasn’t even started her term, or even made a vote, and this blog has been dedicated to casting her in a negative light.

    I’m not saying this lady will do a good job. I don’t now. But atleast let her do something of record before you start the witch hunt.

  6. Ted Biondo

    Joe – did you read my previous blog. The candidate’s Statement of Economic Interests presented to the Winnebago County Clerk had N/A filled out for all the statements implying no economic interests. Some of the Illinois Attorneys General didn’t think that. But in other states “anything goes.”

    Also, I co-chaired the successful KidsWin school referendum and co-chaired two successful Rebuilding Rockford one-cent sales tax referendums bringing in over $350M for the schools and the city.

    Don’t assume that because I question things that do not seem right, that means that I cast all things in a negative light.

    What have you done to help the city or the schools or do you just gripe at those of us who take a stand to help and yes, to criticize?

    Again, you totally ignored my comment on transparency. Don’t you think the facts ought to be brought out, so informed decisions can be made on the issues? I wanted to emphasize the situation so that future actions by that board member and others on the board would be looked at with all information available.

    I thought this issue needed to be brought out before the board assumes their positions and I thought I gave the subject a fair representation of the law. It’s just information. Why do you seem to be upset by facts and information?

  7. “Joe – did you read my previous blog. The candidate’s Statement of Economic Interests presented to the Winnebago County Clerk had N/A filled out for all the statements implying no economic interests. Some of the Illinois Attorneys General didn’t think that.”

    Some? So it would be a true statement to say some attorney generals agrees their is no Econmoic interest?

    Good to see you using the foxnews go to smear starter “some.” Some people think Ted has his own agenda. Some people think Ted is a communist. Some people think Ted supports nazi’s. Not hard to play the “some people think” card. It is so easy to paint someone in a negative light when you play the “some people” card.

    Since some attorney generals feel it is a conflict maybe you could name a few of these attorney generals. Lets see their comments on this case. Who are these some people?

    Bottomline is you’re just stirring up trouble. You fear Mrs. Powers swings the board to favor the teachers. You’re playing the part of the union thugs you complained about. The election didn’t go your way. Deal with it. The people have spoken.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA Image

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>