(Ken Small) – Although the Clark County School Board typically runs its meetings with two attorneys on the dais with the School Board they are still not following the law. This example exemplifies that the Trustees are simply unable or unwilling to read and comply with the law.
During the School Board meeting that occurred on June 24th I presented the obvious and commonly known laws for disclosure and recusal to the Trustees. After going into as much detail as the minimal time would allow I was surprised to hear two of the Trustees later disclose before voting. This was the first time for any disclosure in my recollection of years of school board meetings. Trustees Wright and Moulton disclosed that they have family members working for the school district just before voting to give their family members a raise.
If I had not just lectured them on the law they almost undoubtedly would have not disclosed at all. Wright’s disclosure told attendees that she should not have voted to give her husband a raise. Therefore, public attention turned to her family’s employment situation.
Among other things the law (NRS 281A.400 and 281A.420) states “A public officer or employee shall not participate as an agent of government in the negotiation or execution of a contract between the government and any business entity in which the public officer or employee has a significant pecuniary interest.” State law refers to a “Pecuniary” (money) relationship between the official and entities such as a contractor or contract. This could be a family member who works under a contract with the school district or a former employer against who’s account her mother would be collecting unemployment benefits. This would also include such instances as where an accounting staff member’s work product was later used to justify contractor “Extras” or payments. A School Board member would not properly vote on work prepared by her mother.
It was then discovered that Wright had previously disclosed that her mother had worked for a contractor in her election disclosures. Wright’s mother lives with her. The prominent contractor, who constructs millions of dollars of construction for the School District, had employed Wright’s mother in the contractor’s accounting department prior to Wright’s being seated on the board. Since Wright’s being seated on the school board, Wright has voted to grant the contractor additional money beyond their original bids…. Voted to grant them work (contracts). Wright voted on decisions that would have necessarily created the probability of the contractor doing more or less work for the school district… all without disclosing the pecuniary relationship or abstaining from voting.
A comparison of the law and Wright’s voting record leaves little doubt that she should have ethically disclosed and or recused herself many times until projects that her mother had done accounting on had completed collection from the District.
It will be interesting to hear the state ethics commission’s interpretation on broader decisions that Wright made. She voted to make revisions to the School District’s $5 billion bond program. She decided to use the district’s money to build big projects as opposed to small when the contractor’s staff knew that this particular contractor bids large projects (as opposed to small.) She voted to bid 4 unneeded schools to open for the 2010-2011 school year. She voted to sell $100 million in bonds for more school construction. Dollar amount totals for these votes will exceed the felony threshold by law.
Just a small percentage of “Steering” of a $5 billion bond program can make a huge difference. With numbers so large and failures to disclose so consistent the School Board’s “Who cares” attitude about complying with the law is troubling for tax payers. School Board President Terri Janison and Vice President Carolyn Edwards recently had ethics complaints against them for the same problematic approach to following the law. This is symptomatic of having a School Board run by people who have never managed anything over the size of a household budget. When an organization with a $2 billion budget and a $5 billion construction fund follows the rules like an elementary school PTA it is time for the voters to step in and elect someone to do something about it.
You can read my complaint on my web site. www.KenSmallBigChange.com
(Ken Small is a Republican candidate for Clark County School Board District F and a recognized Educational Facility Planner)