Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ethics Complaint Report #1

The outside ethics counsel has delivered the first of two or three reports on ethics complaints brought against the superintendent for her failure to disclose her affiliations with non-profits with business with the District in the proper and timely manner required by law.

This first report has to do with the superintendent's seat on the Board of the NWEA, the company that publishes the MAP tests the District bought.

The outside ethics counsel concluded that the superintendent "did not violate the ethics policies of Seattle Public Schools ("SPS") by being a member of the board of directors of NWEA and not disclosing that board membership before the SPS first voted on the NWEA contract." The ethics counsel goes on to write that, as a matter of best practice, the superintendent and School Board members should disclose their non-profit board memberships and refrain from participating in matters related to those non-profits, but that "the current SPS ethics policies do not require such affirmative disclosure."

The ethics counsel basically held that since the superintendent had no financial interest in NWEA or the contract, that she did not have a beneficial interest, as prohibited under RCW 42.23. The ethics counsel specifically chose not to consider whether the superintendent had a remote interest, as defined under RCW 42.23.040 (she did), because the ethics counsel does not believe that a remote interest is a prohibited interest.

The counsel writes "The remote interest statute operates as an exception to the prohibition on beneficial interests, and if there is no beneficial interest to begin with, the remote interest statute is inapplicable."

I simply disagree with that conclusion. I think that the remote interest statute stands as an equal with the beneficial interest statute, not as subordinate to it.

This conclusion is sure to be duplicated in the two following complaints that are so similar and hinge on an exactly analogous set of facts. They are only slightly more complicated because the superintendent included the NWEA on her disclosure and left the Alliance and the Council of Great City Schools off of it. Nevertheless, the counsel is sure to reach the same conclusion, that since the superintendent was not compensated by these non-profits, she has no beneficial interest in them and therefore none of this stuff matters - not the non-disclosure, not the participation in the decision to contract with them, none of it.

Aside from some tongue clucking about "best practices", the outside counsel basically says that the board's policies don't require the superintendent to disclose (apparently neither does the law, according to the outside counsel), so they weren't broken. One policy, F06.00 High Expectations, is held out for special ridicule.

Mr. Treat says that he intends to post these decisions on the district web site. I'm sure he will.

25 comments:

Chris said...

Let's ask the board to change the policy to include remote interest.

mirmac1 said...

I've asked the Board to change the policy to add the no-brainer that District employees shall comply with all state and federal laws.

It is true that remote and beneficial interests are both prohibited without full disclosure before formulation of any contract. RCW 42.23.050 states clearly: "Any officer violating the provisions of this chapter is liable to the municipality of which he or she is an officer for a penalty in the amount of five hundred dollars, in addition to such other civil or criminal liability or penalty as may otherwise be imposed upon the officer by law."

I'm afraid that outside counsel is going to have to tie herself up in knots 'splaining the Superintendent's conduct.

Guppy said...

I think it's time to let it go now.

MAPsucks said...

No Guppy, that's what they want! You should read the consoling emails MGJ got when she had to resign from NWEA! Oh, the humanity! She was the poor suffering martyr, persecuted by us evil lawful citizens. They're living in another world there on Lander. And they hate it when reality tries to rain on their parade.

Eric M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric M said...

When I described the Supe's involvement with NWEA and the MAP test to a 10 year old boy, he had no trouble whatsoever discerning that a moral line had been crossed.

I still contend, and this also seems as obvious as the hand in front of my face, that just because Goodloe-Johnson hasn't pocketed any money YET from her secret machinations, she hasn't had to foreswear any future gain, after she moves on from setting our district on fire. And that's how these things work. Ask any former DC politician turned lobbyist. Scratch my back now, I'll line your pockets later.

The MAP test, by the way, remains mysterious. Teachers at the high school level have received ZERO training this year, to compliment the hour-long training they received during the course of last year. What was the test for? Nobody is using MAP test results for a formative assessment, to modify instruction. It's just not happening. And not because teachers aren't working hard. Parents, taxpayers, what did you get?

It's a 5 million dollar white elephant.

And, jeez, wouldn't that 5 + million dollars look pretty good now?

Guppy said...

It is time to let this go now. I don't agree with the outcome either, but an outside ethics counsel has concluded that MGJ was within her rights. Neither the school board, or the law, require the superintendent to disclose her affiliation.

Let's move on now.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised at all. Outside does not mean independent. This woman knows who is paying her bills, and probably wants to keep this line of business for herself. Finding against the Sup on the first complaint out of the box, where agreement with the complaint equals reporting that she believed the Sup violated state laws was never going to happen.

Anna

mirmac1 said...

Frankly, the way the Ethics policy is written, an axe-wielding mass murderer would be found ethical as long as he had no interest in his victims. Seriously.

mirmac1 said...

And Guppy, the RCW IS the law.

Chris said...

In my line of work, our ethics policy is to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. And we run on a much smaller percent of taxpayer money. The difference? We care about our reputation and what our clients think. It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask SPS to raise the bar to, oh, say, the level of state law.

Guppy, I AM willing to let this one go. It's endless future repeats of this scenario that I'm hoping to avoid.

ParentofThree said...

MGJ - master of walking right up to the line, spitting over it, but never ever crossing it.

Charlie Mas said...

It is my understanding, despite the report from the outside ethics counsel, that RCW 42.23.040 is the law.

That law does say that a municipal officer is not interested in a contract, within the meaning of RCW 42.23.030, if the officer has only a remote interest in the contract. BUT in order to qualify for this "remote interest" exemption, the interest must be properly disclosed.

The Superintendent's seats on the various boards was NOT properly disclosed. Therefore she does not qualify for the exemption. Therefore the fact that these interests are merely remote interests doesn't matter.

The outside ethics counsel raises a very sharp and lawyerly distinction between serving as a DIRECTOR of a non-profit and serving as an OFFICER of that non-profit. Apparently a Director is not necessarily an officer. You and I may regard this as a distinction without a difference which should not matter, but it appears to be her most effective defense.

From my review of law, incredible as it may seem, Directors of corporations are not necessarily officers of that corporation and vice versa. The law frequently makes reference to the Directors and officers of corporations, making it clear that they are two sets of people.

I have been through the state law on corporations and have yet to see any definition of Directors that makes it clear that they are officers. On the contrary, I find lists of officers which do not include the Directors.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was on the Board of these non-profit corporations, but she was not an officer of them. Since she was not an officer, it appears that RCW 42.23.040 does not apply to her. Since it does not apply to her, she cannot have violated it. She does not even have a REMOTE interest in these non-profits. Her interest in them can only be measured financially and, of course, she has no financial interest in them.

Case closed.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Don't be too hard on Guppy. Because, of course, he/she is right; it's done as a process.

But the stain will always be there. She knows it and doesn't care (except that a lot of people made a big deal of it). But she forgets about what it looks like ethically. She forgets what other elected officials might think.

It goes to the heart of trusting her and believing her. Those things can come back to haunt her.

MAPsucks said...

S'funny, NWEA has stronger disclosure requirements in their bylaws than Seattle School District policies.

MAPsucks said...

But Melissa, it's so unfair to her! (snark)!

MAPsucks said...

But Melissa, it's so unfair to MGJ!

http://www.scribd.com/doc/48589835/Do-Gooder-extraordinaire

MAPsucks said...

NWEA has more stringent disclosure requirements than the Seattle Public Schools.

http://www.nwea.org/sites/www.nwea.org/files/resources/NWEA%20Bylaws_Amendment%20One_Apr08.pdf

Meg said...

I filed an ethics complaint about the NWEA/conflict of interest, too. I also disagree with the findings.

But I also agree with Guppy - it's time to let it go.

Eric M said...

What are we letting go, exactly? The NWEA conflict of interest? What do you mean by letting go? If that means giving up on a lawsuit, yeah, OK, probably, that dog ain't gonna hunt, legally, anyway.

But are we supposed to forget about it entirely, Guppy? I don't forget about stuff like that, sorry, and neither do a lot of the public. It's wrong, and it stinks of cronyism, like a lot of Goodloe-Johnson's moves. So, no, I don't think I'll be letting go of that one.

The MAP test? Because we still do that to kids, 3 times a year. So I don't think I can let go of that one, because we're still saddled with it.

You can let go, if that makes you happy, but I put each one of these things in the evidence room for use when needed.

Meg said...

Eric - maybe I should have phrased it differently. Because when I said "let it go," I guess I mean "file away in case it could be useful later."

MAPsucks said...

Well, having lost in court on a motion for summary judgment in court last Friday due to "mootness", it's hard to let the MAP appeal go. And it's turning my hair white(r)! Well, I'm not a quitter. The judge acted like she wanted to just get the hell out and hit happy hour.

How can something be moot when it was illegal to begin with? It's like saying, "ah well, can't try the slasher because the victim's already dead. There's no remedy."

I say sew the head back on! Would we let our kids get off that easy?! (Well, I wouldn't).

So an appeal costs $$$. It's worth it to bring sanity back to our school district. So what if outside legal counsel has to use bizarro logic to excuse MGJ's shenanigans. If we just rollover doesn't that "embolden" (to use W's favorite term) the usurpers?

Guess I'll have to sell the Rolls...

Dora Taylor said...

The conflict of interest is G-J's affiliation with the Broad Foundation.

G-J got on the NWEA board to make sure that testing would happen that could be measured over a broad spectrum of grades and schools. The test was not designed to evaluate teachers but I suppose she thought that it would do for her purposes.

That's in place now and because of that we now have "report cards" for all schools which will identity all "failing schools" which will in the future, according to Broad/Gates/Arne Duncan's plans, be turned into charter schools.

There is legislation proposed just to do that. Check out House Bill 1546 which for some reason I cannot tag onto due to weird technical difficulties thanks to this blogger server.

Marie Goodloe-Johnson will get paid even bigger bucks with a promotion from the Broad once everything is in place and she can leave us behind for even better digs.

If you care to cut and paste, go to:
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2011-12/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/1546.pdf
to see the bill in full.

elrobotomuerto said...

Yes, pigs at a trough. The board did what it was told to do - they didn't need to read the instruction, because they had legal counsel do it for them. And so without any question they signed their names truthfully to a document that would have been better used as kleenex for blowing in.

Not one board member raised a moral objection, although the ethics that they used was no better than a common criminal's. What better service for Seattle residents than keep the well-connected fully employed.

elrobotomuerto said...

Yes, pigs at a trough. The board did what it was told to do - they didn't need to read the instruction, because they had legal counsel do it for them. And so without any question they signed their names truthfully to a document that would have been better used as kleenex for blowing in.

Not one board member raised a moral objection, although the ethics that they used was no better than a common criminal's. What better service for Seattle residents than keep the well-connected fully employed.