Friday, March 14, 2008

more drama, this time more well-founded

Conflict over conflict of interest
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror

Willows — Discussion about the actual proposal before the Willows Unified School District trustees Thursday — to cut four jobs — took a few minutes at most.

But debate raged about conflicts of interest, centered around board member Susan Domenighini, also the principal of Glenn County Office of Education charter school William Finch, which competes with WUSD for students.

“As we face these incredibly difficult choices, we’re at risk of bleeding kids,” said Laurel Hill-Ward. “Finch is the competition.”

But other board members wondered how this applied to them.

Brandon Thompson pointed out that at his day job as county chief probation officer, he received $36,000 from GCOE to pay one of his officer’s salaries.

Alex Parisio noted that his mother-in-law is a teacher at Willows Intermediate School.

And he asked what would happen if the children of chairwoman Sherry Brott wanted to take creative woods, a class being cut from Willows High.

Advising the board, counsel Matt Juhl-Darlington centered warnings on “perceived conflicts of interest” instead of delving the details of what exactly constituted one. He made care to note that he wasn’t “acting as a lawyer.”

In the end, Ms. Domenighini recused herself from a vote on cutting jobs.

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