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December 7, 2011 at 9:28 PM

Seattle School Board takes up new ethics policy

The Seattle School Board introduced a new ethics policy Wednesday, calling it an important next step in an effort to prevent another financial scandal like the one that rocked the district last spring.

The policy, drafted by new district ethics officer Wayne Barnett and modeled on the City of Seattle’s, would replace a decade-old policy that officials classified as vague and non-comprehensive.

In particular, the proposedpolicy would strengthen provisions barring conflicts of interest and retaliation for making ethics complaints.

And, for the first time, the policy would apply to school board members as well as all district employees.

Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, pointed to the conflict of interest section as the most important change.

“(The old policy) did bar you from misusing your position, but it didn’t bar you from participating in a matter in which you had a conflict of interest,” he said. “This does.”

Some community members have raised concerns about conflicts of interests in the district. Most recently, some feared that former Director of Facilities Fred Stephens was involved in the district’s controversial decision to sell the former Martin Luther King Elementary School to the lowest bidder, First African Methodist Episcopal Church — Stephens’ church.

An audit released by the state in October found that Stephens did not participate in the decision-making process and the district acted lawfully.

The board will formally vote on the new policy next month.

Comments | More in Education | Topics: Fred Stephens, Martin Luther King Elementary School, Seattle Public Schools

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