I filed an Ethics complaint against Director DeBell for his participation in the discussion of the MOU with the Alliance for Education despite the fact that he sits on the Alliance board.
The District's Ethics Officer, Mr. Wayne Barnett, dismissed the complaint because Mr. DeBell's service on the board of the Alliance is ex officio. That is, he isn't there as himself but as the president of the school board and therefore there is no conflict of interest because in both capacities his duty of loyalty is to the District. Mr. Barnett also cited analogous decisions by the federal Department of Justice. This is, it would appear, well-traveled ground in the Ethics business and it has been determined that situations like this are not conflicts of interest. In short, exceptions are made when the person's ties to the other institution is a direct consequence of their work for the District. Case closed.
I am grateful to Mr. Barnett for a prompt, detailed, and clear explanation. I understood everything Mr. Barnett wrote and I agreed with the rationale completely. I still don't like it. While the rules may have been followed, the situation is clearly dirty.
The Alliance for Education is not just a fundraising group. They are an advocacy group. Their advocacy efforts, which started small a few years ago, have grown to become their primary focus. Why is it that the Alliance for Education, alone among all of the local education advocacy groups, gets to have an MOU with the District by which the District provides a quarter of the District leadership team - two of the eight - to the Alliance board? What if Parents Across America, CPPS, LEV, Stand for Children, Teachers United, or any of the dozens of other advocacy groups asked for that in an agreement with the District? By what right or rationale is the Alliance for Education, alone among advocacy groups, entitled to this distinction? This question was never raised.
Also, the Alliance for Education gets a lucrative no-bid contract from the District for providing fiscal services to school fundraising groups. The contract is worth over $100,000 a year for processing less than 10,000 transactions - that's more than $10 per transaction. Even a price-gouging ATM has only a $3 fee. Given the appearance of a conflict (if, technically, no violation of the ethics rules), the least that the District could do would be have a competitive process for the work. Nope. District policies don't require a competitive process for financial services and they don't use one. This question was never raised.
So there is no need for the Alliance to break the Ethics rules, they are already getting everything they want without breaking the rules.
Wouldn't it be great if Sue Peters and Dora asked for an MOU with the District that would make the superintendent and the president of the Board ex officio members of the board of the local chapter of Parents Across America? Wouldn't it be great if the CEASE coalition did the same, and CPPS, and every school PTA? For that matter, why doesn't the League of Education Voters or Democrats for Education Reform or Teachers United ask to have the superintendent and the president of the board sit on their boards as well? By what right could the District deny them after having granted the same to the Alliance? What's so special about the Alliance for Education that they should get this benefit that no other group gets? Come on, wouldn't your PTA like to have the superintendent and the school board member from your District sit on your PTA board and come to all of the meetings?