Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Conflict of Interest.

One of the rituals for School Board Candidates in Worthington is the screening/interview process for potential endorsement by the Worthington Education Association, also known as our local teacher's union. The endorsement generally comes with a campaign donation.

I've screened with the WEA before and even received their endorsement in 2005. This year, I decided not to screen and not to accept the endorsement even if it was offered. This is the letter I wrote to Mark Hill, the President of the WEA explaining my reasons.

Mark -

Thank you for the offer to screen for the endorsement of the Worthington Education Association in the upcoming school board election. I regret that I must decline, and I thought I'd take a few moments to explain why.

There is nothing wrong with an employee association endorsing candidates at any level. There is, however, in my opinion, an ethical problem for a school board candidate seeking or accepting an endorsement, let alone money, from an organization representing individuals where an employer/employee relationship exists.

In the weeks, months and years to come, the Worthington Board of Education will be called upon to negotiate salaries, benefits and working conditions in good faith with the WEA, to ensure fairness to both employee and constituent in personnel matters, to ensure both fairness and efficacy in employee evaluations and vote on or get involved with a myriad of other issues that directly impact the members of your organization. The Worthington community needs to know that any decisions I make have not been influenced by your endorsement or a campaign contribution and the only way to absolutely guarantee that is to not participate in this process.

That said, nothing in this letter should be construed as "Marc doesn't want to talk to the teachers". As you know, you and I have worked collaboratively in a variety of situations, including many years on the district's Shared Solutions Committee, Race to the Top committee and the Teacher Evaluation Design Committee. I would anticipate that such collaboration would continue if I am privileged enough to be re-elected.
Best wishes,
Marc Schare
Worthington Board of Education.
This was a personal decision. I am in no way suggesting that any of my fellow candidates would make decisions based on receiving (or not receiving) the endorsement or campaign contributions. I am saying that the practice of an employee union subject to collective bargaining essentially selecting their employers and then negotiating with those they selected is problematic. It is the very definition of a conflict of interest. The union has every right to endorse whoever they want - the conflict of interest is strictly on the candidate.
There are lot of perceptions, and misperceptions, about unions, both locally and across the state and the country. In my 8 years as a Board Member in Worthington, I've come to value our district's relationship (and my personal relationship) with our employee organizations. Obviously, strong relationships between the Board, administrators, teachers and other staff is essential to the learning process. My position on the endorsement is not intended as an anti-union statement. It is simply that Worthington School District residents have a right to know that my actions representing them will be free of any conflicts or even the appearance of a possible conflict of interest. You might agree or disagree, but that's why I made the decision I did.

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