Looks like the Houston ISD Board will be reconsidering ethics reform after all, as reported by Ericka Mellon at the Chron.
The proposed policies would require trustees to disclose in writing when they or certain family members work for a company or a nonprofit group seeking HISD business. The trustee also could not discuss or vote on those deals.
The current rules require trustees to disclose conflicts only with companies that employ their parents or children. The proposal extends the requirement to trustees’ siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, great grandparents and great grandchildren.
Trustees still are deciding disclosure rules regarding “the appearance of a conflict of interest,” such as a contract involving a vendor who is not family but is a close friend of a board member, said HISD trustee Juliet Stipeche.
This is a good thing that is a long time coming.
The proposed policies also would require trustees to abstain from voting on deals involving vendors who had donated more than $500 to their political campaigns during the prior year. In addition, vendors would be barred from donating during the bid process until a contract was executed.
The city of Houston has a similar blackout period for donations during the bidding process but does not mandate abstention from votes related to campaign donors.
And while Houston ISD gives us the opportunity to decide on $2 billion in bonds to build some 21st century facilities, Houston ISD trustees should take the opportunity to bring campaign finance rules into the 21st century, too.
The new proposed ban would apply to many more vendors and would require significantly more monitoring. Many trustees, for example, do not even list on their campaign donation forms the names of a donor’s employer, even though the state-mandated document asks for that information. Trustees also do not file their campaign reports in a searchable format.
Stipeche said she would like HISD to move to a searchable, electronic system like one the Texas Ethics Commission uses for state officeholders. She said she wants trustees to consider filing personal financial disclosure statements. (I wrote in 2008 about school board members being exempt from this requirement.)
Now, it’s the voters turn to tell their Trustee to support ethics reform. Find your Trustee here and contact them.
As I’ve stated previously, ethics reform needs to be approved before voters can make a decision on the bond.