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Conflicts of Interest on Board of Education

By Kerri Provost

January 19, 2012

First on the agenda for Monday evening’s City Council meeting: discussion of who will be replacing those appointed to the Board of Education.

Israel Flores, Ada Miranda, Pamela Richmond, and David MacDonald — all appointed by former Mayor Perez — are up for replacement, as is Sharon Patterson-Stallings, who was appointed by Segarra.

Before this can be passed through, City Council must weigh in on a matter for which former Mayor Perez received much criticism: conflicts of interest, especially those that present themselves by one individual holding two or more positions in City government.

Some residents and members of the Board of Education are finding that conflicts of interest — real, perceived, or invented for political leverage — are currently impeding the ability for the Board of Education to appropriately conduct business.

In late December, Assistant Corporation Counsel Melinda B. Kaufmann, advised Board of Ed Chair David MacDonald — who was sworn into his position on City Council in January — to avoid conflicts of interest. From the Hartford Municipal Code, she cited:

She also pointed to the concern of there being an appearance of conflict of interest, a matter also noted in the Municipal Code:

She continued to caution MacDonald that holding a position on both the Board of Education and City Council was “fraught with potential conflicts of interest as the City Council provides funding for the Board of Education.”

Kaufmann’s memo to MacDonald states that there is nothing prohibiting one person from fulfilling serving on the Board of Education and City Council simultaneously; however, deeper into Sec. 2-902 (E) of the Municipal Code, it plainly states:

Already, MacDonald has voted on items that the City Council will have to consider in its budget, such as the expansion of Achievement First and the takeover of managing Great Path Academy.

Before the vote on the latter, two Board of Education members appeared to be singled out for potential conflicts of interest — a former CREC employee and one who is currently a CREC Council Member. Because the Hartford Public Schools had already won the bid, there was no existing conflict of interest; in fact, the decision to take up Great Path Academy, currently managed by CREC, was something that was never voted on by the Board of Education until after someone had already entered HPS into the process.

There is speculation that the pressure to abstain from this vote was due to the expectation that both individuals would vote against the decision for the Hartford Public Schools to take on one more project.

While those members of the Board of Education were asked to abstain from voting, no such direct request was made of MacDonald. After some discussion with the Assistant Corporation Counsel on this matter, only Elizabeth Brad Noel ended up abstaining from voting on this issue.

Those are a few of the current issues arising from conflicts of interest. On Monday, City Council will consider how future conflicts of interest might affect Hartford.

In the style of former Mayor Perez, Pedro Segarra will be attempting to appoint himself to the Board of Education, a move that would also be fraught with conflicts of interest and throw of the already threadbare system of checks and balances.

In addition to himself, Segarra has selected Hartford’s Director of the Department of Families, Children, Youth, & Recreation, Dr. José Colón-Rivas. Hartford Public Library’s CEO, Matthew Poland, is also on the list for those Segarra hopes to appoint, along with Cherita McIntye who works as the Director of Executive Learning and Development at ESPN. Attorney Richard Wareing, who has served as Director of the Hartford Parking Authority and as Chair of the Hartford Charter Revision Commission, also made the cut.

Of these selections, only Colón-Rivas appears to have a background in education.

The City Council meeting on January 23rd begins at 7pm in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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