Ethics panel finds no wrongdoing in donation School board member gave program $20,000

September 29, 1995|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,SUN STAFF

A school board member did nothing wrong when he donated more than $20,000 to help pay for a French language immersion program at Crofton Woods Elementary, although the decision might not have been wise, an ethics panel has found.

The panel found "no fault" with Michael A. Pace's donation but said that "the remote possibility that the public will perceive a conflict of interest may be reason enough for a board member to avoid the problem in the first place by simply not making a contribution."

The panel, which gave its decision to the board Wednesday night, also said that the board violated its own procedures in approving the program. Board policy requires that its meetings be governed by "Robert's Rules of Order," a book of standard parliamentary procedure.

The procedural problem arose when the board reconsidered the issue of the French immersion program after the measure had been defeated earlier in the day.

Robert's Rules of Order say that after acting on an issue, a panel may not take up the subject again without someone on the prevailing side calling for a motion to reconsider the initial question.

In this case, Mr. Pace, who was in the minority, made a new motion to approve the program provided that the community raised some money to offset the costs.

L Mr. Pace was out of town and could not be reached yesterday.

The ethics panel wrote that by disregarding basic procedure, the board "created the appearance of impropriety in making and voting on motions and opened itself to scrutiny of its intentions as to impartiality and independent judgment."

In addition, the panel recommended that the board create a policy prohibiting donations such as Mr. Pace's unless the intent to contribute was disclosed in public session before a vote.

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