Richard Lowe: Conflicts raise questions
November 26, 2015
During the Nov. 23 meeting of the Steamboat Springs School Board, I tried to point out what I think to be some inherent and obvious conflicts of interest that, left unchallenged, would have put the school board in a precarious position in the future.
Steamboat Springs School Board of Education Policies, Governance Process 11, item 2, 3a, clearly states, "Steamboat Springs School District paid employees are prohibited from serving on the board."
Could this be any clearer? Yet, Ms. (Michelle) Dover chose to ignore this and failed to resign her position as a teacher before this board was seated, elected officers/committee chairs and conducted business. As a matter of fact, Ms. Dover nominated Ms. (Margaret) Huron as board president.
My position is this invalidated the first meeting Nov. 16 and any business that was conducted. In addition, if the board were to continue to conduct business during Monday's meeting, Nov. 23, then this could put the board in jeopardy of having this meeting's results invalidated, including the refinancing of the bond that was on the agenda.
By the way, that is exactly what Ms. Huron and Dover supported doing last night. During board discussion, it became clear that, while Ms. Huron did resign this past week, she failed to notify the board and document doing so.
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Secondly, a conflict of interest is defined as "when a public officer is unable to be devoted with complete loyalty and singleness of purpose to the general public interest." Moreover, whether real or perceived is not the question, it is the same thing. During the Nov. 16 SS School Board meeting, then-sitting President Roger Good asked each of the three newly elected board members if they felt they had a conflict of interest. Ms. Rush, past president of the school labor union, Ms. Huron, whose daughter is one of the negotiators with the school board on labor contracts and Ms. Dover, whose issue is addressed above, all replied, "no." Really? Remember, the definition of conflict of interest, real or perceived, says they must be devoted with complete loyalty and singleness of purpose to the general public interest.
There is a different point to be made here though. Ms. Rush, Dover, and Huron all merely responded to a question by Mr. Good. They did not disclose anything, as reported in the Steamboat Today … they merely answered questions when asked. Then, Ms. Dover nominated Ms. Huron to serve as board president, a vote was taken and they all moved on.
"Nothing to see here … move along please."
The SS Policies, Item 6, also states, "A board member may request an advisory opinion from the secretary of state concerning issues relating to personal conduct and potential conflict of interest."
I am also on record last night asking either Mr. Andrews or Good to pursue this very question with the secretary of state.
Having Ms. Rush, Huron and Dover answer this question is a bit like having the fox guarding the henhouse. What the secretary of state needs to ascertain is this:
■ Can Ms. Rush be objective or execute her fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the public when bargaining with district staff with "complete loyalty" to the community, not the school union?
■ Can Ms. Huron be objective or execute her fiduciary responsibility when participating in and signing off on labor agreements when negotiating, in part, with her daughter?
■ Can Ms. Dover's resignation be remedied with a simple "do over," or is there a more severe interpretation of her lack of disclosure?
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