Thursday at 4:30 the DISD Board of Trustees will hold a called meeting that will include a closed session:
...to deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee; including evaluation of the performance of the Superintendent of Schools.
In the aftermath of the audit, the budget crisis, the RIF, continued TEA sword rattling, and the rehiring of over 50 teachers, speculation abounds about Dr. Hinojosa's relationship with the Board and his future at DISD.
It appears to me that this event has pushed from public consciousness the fact that at the regular Board of Trustees meeting at 5:30 the last item on the discussion agenda, item 15, calls for action on the Board's revised ethics policy. This revision had been a pretty hot topic prior to the audit results and then the surprise budget crisis. In light of the recent difficulties faced by the DISD, it seems that the revisions of this policy are an excellent place for the DISD to take affirmative steps to restore public confidence in District leadership. Oops. Review of the policy reveals another missed opportunity.
The policy goes to some trouble at the beginning to define what constitutes a conflict of interest. To my amazement, however, the policy then goes on only to require reporting of said conflicts, not prohibition against them. Huh? Conflicts of interest are allowed as long as we all know about them? Public knowledge or not, the term conflict of interest is pretty descriptive and self-explanatory, and avoiding same would would seem to be the safe, logical position to take. But not at our School District. I am equally surprised to find that the Editorial Board of the Dallas Morning News, while not altogether happy with the proposed policy, likewise doesn't call for prohibition of conflicts of interest.
The City of Dallas is hardly the model of efficiency and fairness, but they do have a pretty clear cut, straight forward ethics policy that I got to look at up close and personal while serving on a committee that was revising rules and procedures for a City commission.
To summarize, you may NOT have a contract with the City of Dallas if you or a close relative have ownership interest in the contracting company and you are:
- Elected to City Council or the Office of Mayor or,
- Were appointed by City Council or the Mayor to a City Board or Commission or,
- Are a City employee.
Period. If it's not a financial hardship to serve on Council and abide by this policy, then why is it a hardship to serve on the Board of Trustees and do likewise? Husbands and wives cannot work in the same department, but Trustees can have DISD contracts? Senior staff can't live outside of DISD boundaries because of the message it conveys, but Trustees can have active conflicts of interest? This looks very, very wrong to me.
Now I don't see where the current DISD policy has anything to do with our current problems and I certainly don't think any of our current Trustees are receiving unfair or preferential treatment in contracting. But an organization like DISD, with the problems it has and the lack of public confidence it is facing, should be striving to run the tightest ship of all. Yet time and again, that's not what we're seeing.
Oh, and it looks like at least Trustee Carla Ranger agrees with me.