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Fischer resigns from proofreader post in Washington County Public Schools

December 17, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A candidate for the Washington County Board of Education has quit her job as a proofreader for Washington County Public Schools after she says her ethics were called into question.

Jacqueline B. Fischer resigned from her one-year contract with the school system on Thursday. She also turned in her resignation that day from the facilities and enrollment advisory committee.

Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner said during a public meeting Tuesday that a candidate with a contract with the board is subject to the board's authority, and questioned whether that was a violation of board policy. At that meeting, Wagner sought a "legal opinion" on whether that candidate should step down from the race or leave the position. She did not name Fischer in her complaint.

Fischer said Sunday that she does not believe her contract would have prevented her from running for a seat on the board, but decided to resign so there would be no question of her integrity.

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School system spokesman Will Kauffman said Fischer's contractual association with the school system would not prevent her from running for office, as long as she disclosed her association with the system. Fischer says she did.

While Fischer was present for only part of Wagner's comments, she said she has seen a recording of the meeting, during which Wagner's comments were made.

Fischer, 61, who lives near Clear Spring, served on the board from 2002-06, but lost her bid for re-election in the 2006 general election. She has filed as a candidate in the 2008 election, which is a nine-way race for four open seats. The primary election is Feb. 12.

Fischer's contract as a proofreader was set to expire in July, and she says she has not worked for Washington County Public Schools since September, when she completed revisions to the master plan.

Fischer says she has an attorney, but has not filed a lawsuit or taken any legal action. Her attorney did send a letter to Washington County Public Schools officials asking that the broadcast of the Tuesday meeting where Wagner made the comments not be aired, she said.

The taped broadcast did not air.

"(Fischer) has retained legal counsel, and the matter of the videotape is under review," Kauffman said.

Fischer says her attorney advised her not to speak to the media about specific comments made by Wagner during that meeting.

"I have an attorney because I don't know where this is going to go from either side," Fischer said. "I'm protecting myself."

Wagner said a candidate violated a board policy that states, "Members of the Board of Education shall be elected from the citizenry of the county irrespective of party affiliation, but no person shall be elected who is in any way subject to the board's authority."

Fischer said her plan was to resign from the facilities and enrollment advisory committee and from her job as a proofreader if she was elected in 2008. She said she did something similar when she was elected to the Board of Education in 2002. She was working as a substitute teacher at the time, but resigned after being elected to the board.

Fischer says she filed new paperwork Friday morning with the Washington County Board of Elections and with the school system saying she was not financially indebted to the Board of Education.

On Dec. 3, she filed paperwork saying she was subject to the authority of the board, but that if elected, she would be required to show proof that the contract had been terminated.

Fischer said there were no ethical violations and no conflict of interest, and that she will continue to run for a seat on the board.

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