It's troubling that nothing in law or policy prevents a Hartford city council member from serving on the city's school board at the same time, according to an opinion rendered by the corporation counsel's office.
Something should prevent it. That kind of dual service is a bad idea -- "fraught with potential conflicts of interest," as Melinda Kaufmann, an assistant corporation counsel, wrote in her opinion. A prohibition should be added to the city charter the next time it's revised.
Being a member of both the council and the board of education would present nothing but conflicts, considering that the council provides funding for the school system.
We're not persuaded that former Mayor Eddie Perez's membership on the board of education -- he appointed himself -- was in total good for the schools, although he named a reformer, Steve Adamowski, who did wonders as superintendent. A mayor's authority to appoint a majority of board of education members should be quite enough power.
The question was raised by Board of Education Chairman David MacDonald, a Democrat who was sworn in last week as a member of the city council. Mr. MacDonald said he was only seeking clarification from the corporation counsel and did not intend to seek another appointive term on the school board. His board of education term expires Jan. 31.
There is nothing in the city charter, board of education policies or state statute prohibiting Mr. MacDonald from both boards, Ms. Kaufmann wrote. But, she added, he couldn't vote on any issues that create a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict.
Constant recusals would make for a very weak school board member -- and a council member tempted to carry water for the school system.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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