District 6 Trustee - Dallas ISD
Presented Thursday, April 24, 2008 at Dallas ISD Board Meeting
Conflict of Interest of Board President Jack Lowe
Sometimes we must speak inconvenient truth simply because it is the right thing to do. I believe this is such a time.
There is a difference between what is legal and what is right or ethical. For example, the doctrine of “Separate But Equal” was once legal in America. However, it was never right, and finally on May 17, 1954, nine judges dressed in black robes took a moral stand and declared that “in the field of education, the doctrine of separate but equal has no place.”
This Board now has the opportunity to declare that in Dallas ISD the doctrine of mixing “private gain with public service” has no place.
On Sunday, April 20, 2008 an article appeared in the Dallas Morning News under the headline “Dallas ISD hands millions in contracts to top leaders’ firms.”
In that article the Board President is quoted as saying “to ask the company to support me while I’m doing this rather time-consuming volunteer job (at DISD), and also to walk away from a significant chunk of business, was not something I was willing to do.” Is that an accurate statement of what Trustee Lowe said? If so, I am greatly troubled.
Because some don’t like the message–they attack the messenger. Since the article was first published last Sunday, at least one Board Trustee has made several accusations against the Dallas Morning News. Yes, this is the same Dallas Morning News that has regularly been a cheerleader for Dallas ISD and has supported practically every agenda of this administration. Just yesterday, the Dallas Morning News editorial staff again endorsed the May 10th bond proposal.
This board is now faced with an ethical choice–to correct a situation that is not right or to cover it up and refuse to correct it because doing so serves a political agenda.
This is not a question of what is legal. It is a question of what is right and ethical. Ethics has always been a higher standard than politics.
Two months ago on Thursday, February 28, 2008 at our monthly Board meeting, in order to strengthen community confidence as we approach the May 10th Bond election, I requested that our Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy (BBF A Local) be placed on the agenda for review and revision. At that meeting, the Board President agreed to do so.
I submitted the following one sentence Ethics Policy Reform for the full Board to
consider at the Board Briefing:
Proposed Addition to BBFA (Local) — Ethics - Conflicts of Interest
“After April 24, 2008, the Dallas ISD (the District) may not contract with a business entity in which a Trustee or anyone related to the Trustee has any financial interest.”
Today is April 24, the day I had hoped the full Board would vote on this proposal. Make no mistake, I am well aware of the current dynamics of this Board and how decisions are sometimes made.
It is likely the majority of this Board would have voted against this proposed ethics policy. Yet, this matter must be cleaned up in order to remove this new ethical cloud now hanging over this Dallas ISD Board and its current President.
The Ethics Reform I requested did not appear on the Board Briefing agenda until April 10th — two weeks ago. Then an effort was made to refer it to a committee that I was asked to chair–but in a manner that I believe violated Board policy. After waiting two months, it was expected that this matter would be handled as most others–by the full Board at the Board Briefing.
But there was no discussion of the policy recommendation I had made–only extended discussion about delaying the matter to a subcommittee. I later declined to chair that subcommittee because of reasons I have already shared. It appeared to have been created in a manner which violates Board policy.
The reform I presented was based on the policy of the largest school district in Texas–Houston ISD. In 2004, 4 years ago, Houston established a policy that prevents elected School Board Trustees from doing business with Houston ISD while serving in office. Today I have distributed a copy of the 2004 Houston ISD ethics policy to every Board member.
Prior to the Board Briefing on April 10th, I also presented information to the Board from Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, who in 2003 stated that it is clearly unethical for Board Trustees to do business with the school districts they represent while in office–either directly or indirectly.
Now the Dallas ISD Board must act on this matter with full integrity. The Board should adopt a tough Board policy to end the unethical situation which currently exists, or the District should not contract with any business entity in which the Board President has a financial interest–as long as the current Board President serves as Trustee of Dallas ISD.
Either one or the other. That is the ethical question before us. We must work to build trust and confidence in the community.
This is a serious and necessary matter to address.
President Lowe, I ask that you again schedule this ethics reform proposal I have submitted to be placed on the May Board Briefing action agenda and for a vote at the Board Meeting in May.
This is my request.
I await your reply.