Nichols’ job may prevent participation

Bill Keys, Madison, former member Madison School Board

Thursday’s State Journal reported on the Government Accountability Board’s warning of potential conflict of interest should Nichelle Nichols serve on the Madison School Board.
Nichols will be unable to work fully with her colleagues, because her election may affect her employer, the Urban League of Greater Madison, should the Madison Preparatory Academy proposal return to board agendas or other items dealing with funds received by the Urban League, such as the Schools of Hope project.
When I served on the board, our attorney instructed me to avoid Madison Teachers Inc. negotiations and not even be in the room during discussions. As a retired teacher, I benefited only from the life insurance policy provided by the district. Even so, discussions or votes on MTI benefits would violate state law.
I had to avoid any discussion or votes taken regarding the district’s appropriations to Kajsiab House, which received a district grant to work with Hmong families. I volunteered there, but it was one of the programs in the Mental Health Center of Dane County, my wife’s employer.
Nichols, whose integrity is intact, will find herself more restricted than I was, and will be excluded from significant board work that may be construed as benefiting her or her employer.
Arlene Silveira will not be affected by such potential conflicts, another reason she will be a more effective board member.

Much more on Bill Keys, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

One thought on “Nichols’ job may prevent participation”

  1. I found the arguments of conflict of interest that Keys makes quite tenuous, and only in particular, narrow circumstances should he have been found in conflict of interest. I also find that the suggested conflicts which prevented BIll from participating in certain aspects of governance to be inappropriate.
    Bill’s description of what he was told to be conflict of interest seems to border on a definition of disinterest, which no BOE members should be accused of.
    I would presume that board members, especially those retired, regardless of the role they played while active in the district should not be disqualified from participating on any but the most directly personally beneficial items. Minimum integrity of Board members must be both demanded and presumed, and if they cannot accept the role of Board member and put their prior positions and loyalties aside, then they must not serve in any capacity, instead of expanding the definition of conflict of interest to absurd lengths.
    What is concerning about the description Bill paints of conflict of interest is who it would seem to exclude from the prohibitions. Say, someone is elected to the Board who is an advocate of privatization, but has no financial interest in privatization. There would be no conflict of interest — quite an absurd result.
    Board members must always serve in a fiduciary capacity in the interest of the health of well-being of the public education system and students, which implies support of teachers and staff who deliver the services, but always keeping in mind the primacy of the students first.
    It is important that Board members bring differing views to the table which will allow for deeper understanding, and hopefully better decisions. But, bias has no place.
    I don’t find any of the current candidates have a problem with conflict of interest that would disqualify them from fully serving in that capacity.
    I hope my sense that Bill Keys’ arguments are genuinely due to some misunderstanding of conflict of interest rules, rather than Bill being the propagandist for MTI and the local Democratic party in their attempt to scuttle Nichols.
    Voters need to decide on the best candidate based on substantive information, not on the irrelevant subtle attacks that seem to be surfacing.

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