D-16 changes conflict of interest policy | PostIndependent.com

D-16 changes conflict of interest policy

Amanda Holt MillerWestern Garfield County Staff

One way to get around going against a policy is to change the policy. That’s what school board members found, after being confronted with a conflict of interest policy when board member Jody Williams took a position as the kitchen manager at Grand Valley High School in August.The Garfield County School District No. 16 board voted to change its “school board member conflict of interest” policy Tuesday night. There is no longer a policy in place to prevent board members from serving as district employees.Gary and Jeanette Munyer both addressed the school board as members of the community Tuesday night. Gary Munyer is one of nine candidates running for three open seats on the school board.”I want to know how and why you decided to go against your own school board policy,” Jeanette Munyer asked, referring to the board’s decision to employ one of its members, Jody Wlliams as the kitchen manager.Gary Munyer cited a section of the school board policy having to do with “conflict of interest,” which says the board can’t hire a member as an employee of the district, nor can a member be paid for work rendered to the district, “except for services rendered to the Board as provided by law.”Superintendent Steve McKee later passed out copies of the current policy and a recommended revision sent by the Colorado Association of School Boards along with a letter from the district’s attorney Pat Mooney.McKee explained that he spoke with Mooney about the legality of hiring a board member in September 2004 when Williams first indicated she might be interested in the position. Mooney advised the school board that there is nothing illegal about hiring a board member.McKee said the exception “for services rendered to the Board as provided by law” seemed to permit the board to hire a member as an employee.”At no point in time was anyone here trying to slip by anything,” McKee said. “That was his interpretation to us and we trusted that.”McKee said the recent inquiries into the policy caused him to “second-guess” the legality of hiring a board member and he went back to Mooney and asked him to find the author of the “school board member conflict of interest” policy at CASB.McKee discovered that the intent behind the policy was, in fact, to prevent board members from being employees and employees from being board members. The exception in the policy allows compensation for board members who serve as secretaries or treasurers, etc. for the board. McKee said CASB said the policy was so frequently misinterpreted that the organization released a revised version.”As it relates to present policy, the way it’s written and interpreted by the author, it’s not right to employ a board member,” McKee said.McKee advised the board and audience that the policy is not based on law and the school board is not required to include it in its policies. He said the board had three choices. It could adopt the revised version of the same policy, making Jody Williams’ position as kitchen manager at GVHS against policy. They could also table the discussion, making it a decision for the incoming board. Or they could remove the related language from the policy, allowing the district to employ board members. Jody Williams read a personal statement, expressing her hurt and saying that she felt this circumstance made her the victim of “personal character assassinations,” something she never expected when she signed on either as a board member or the kitchen manager. She then excused herself from further discussion to avoid a conflict of interest.Ronald Palmer made a motion to remove the language which prohibits board members from being district employees from the “board member conflict of interest” policy. The board voted unanimously to remove the language.

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