It is the ethical and legal duty of all School Board members to avoid conflicts of interest as well as the appearance of conflicts of interest.
“Conflict of interest” means a situation when a board member’s private interests, as distinguished from the board member’s interest as a member of the general public, would benefit from or be harmed by his or her actions as a member of the board.
In order to comply with the obligations thus imposed, the Board and its members will adhere to the following recommended standards.
- A Board member will not give the impression that he or she would represent special interests or partisan politics for personal gain.
- A Board member will not give the impression that he or she has the authority to make decisions or take action on behalf of the Board or the school administration.
- A Board member will not use his or her position on the Board to promote personal financial interests or the financial interests of family members, friends or supporters.
- A Board member will not solicit or accept anything of value in return for taking particular positions on matters before the Board.
- A Board member will not give the impression that his or her position on any issue can be influenced by anything other than a fair presentation of all sides of the question.
- Board members will be familiar with, and adhere to, those provisions of Vermont education law which define School Board powers and govern Board member compensation and public bidding processes.
C. Avoiding Conflicts
- Vermont law prohibits a school board member from being “regularly employed” by the supervisory union or its member districts as an employee. (See Administrative Procedures)
- When a Board member becomes aware that he or she is in a position that creates a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest as defined in state law or this policy, he or she will declare the nature and extent of the conflict or appearance of conflict for inclusion in the Board minutes, and will abstain from voting or participating in the discussion of the issue giving rise to the conflict.
D. Complaints of Conflict of Interest
- When a conflict of interest claim against a Board member is brought to the Board in writing and is signed by another Board member or a member of the public, and the Board member against whom the claim is made does not concur that a conflict in fact exists, the following Board procedures will be followed.
- Board members may discuss conflict of interest concerns that a member may have a conflict of interest regarding a specific agenda item; however it is the member’s decision that controls whether the member participates in the matter or recuses him/herself. The Board does not have the authority to prohibit a member from participating in a matter. If the member votes on the matter, the vote must be counted even if the Board has voted to “censure” the member.
16 V.S.A. § 262(d) (Election of officers)
16 V.S.A. §557 (Gratuity/compensation prohibited)
16 V.S.A. §558 (Eligibility for election to school board)
16 V.S.A. §559 (Public bids)
16 V.S.A. §563(20) (Powers of school boards)
See 16 V.S.A. §563(20). “...establish policies and procedures designed to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.”
Administrative Procedures for Policy #7205
There are positions that need not be filled by an “employee”. Municipal governments fill many statutory positions by appointment of private contractors. The lack of regularity in hours worked and absence of supervision by the appointing authority satisfy the standards commonly used by the IRS for private contractors. For contracted positions, an RFP (request for proposals) could be issued by a board. A board member may respond to the public RFP, and the SVSU or its member districts may review the responses and award the contract. A Board may award a contract if it so chose, to a board member under 16 VSA §557(b). If a board member has responded to an RFP, the board member should not participate in any discussion of this issue or resulting votes. (Boards should note, however, that the customary positions filled in school districts do not meet the standards to qualify as private contractors.)