Washington County school board delays vote on ethics policy

August 18, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Board of Education has postponed a vote on a proposed ethics policy that would guide the elected body.

The school board was expected to vote Tuesday, but will now discuss the policy during a public business meeting in September.

A committee reviewing the policy was scheduled to discuss it last week, but chose not to. The school board has been considering changes to its ethics policy since July.

The proposed policy includes restrictions on school board members who have potential conflicts of interest when participating in contract negotiations, personnel matters and other items, according to documents.


The draft of the policy allows a school board member to participate in collective bargaining matters if the board member's spouse, parent, child or sibling is affected, as long as the board member discloses that information. The board member then has the option of recusing himself or herself from participating.

Board members Wayne D. Ridenour, Paul W. Bailey and William H. Staley have family members who work for Washington County Public Schools.

In an e-mail sent to policy committee members in late July, Ridenour listed several criticisms of the proposed policy. That e-mail was obtained at last week's committee meeting, but was not discussed by school board members.

One of Ridenour's suggestions was to eliminate a section of the altered policy that restricts employment of former school board members. The proposed policy states, "(School board members) may not be employed by Washington County Public Schools for at least six months following the member's departure from the board by resignation or the end of the member's term in office."

Ridenour stated in his e-mail that this section could "harm the system." He stated that if there was a need for a particular skill and a former or present school board member could not be considered, it could be "counterproductive."

Ridenour also criticized proposed restrictions on school board members' participation in personnel matters as "unnecessary." He stated that conflicts of interest can occur with relationships not included in the policy, which lists only spouse, parent, child, brother or sister.

Board member Ruth Anne Callaham also had concerns about the policy that she submitted to the committee. Among them was a concern she shares with Ridenour.

"Listing family members assumes influence by some people and ignores other people," she stated. "Spouses do not always share economic gain, and a person not listed may actually have great influence over someone."

If you go ...

What: Washington County Board of Education public business meeting where a proposed ethics policy could be discussed

When: Sept. 4, 1 p.m.

Where: Washington County Public Schools central office, 820 Commonwealth Ave., Hagerstown

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