Washington Evening Journal

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 16, 2018

Candidates asked about conflict of interest

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL | Sep 01, 2017

At the Washington School Board candidate forum held at the Washington Perfoming Arts and Events Center Wednesday evening, candidates were asked about how they would handle something if there was a direct the conflict of interest.

The question about conflict of interest came up because two candidates, at-large candidate Jason Hamilton and District No. 5 candidate Kelly Wieland, are married to teachers employed in the district.

Moderator Ed Raber said one question audience members asked about was how would candidates married to an employee of the district draw the line with conflict of interest relating to salaries and collective bargaining, since it directly affects their households.

“Where do you draw the line on percieved conflicts of interests — whether you vote or feel that you have to recuse yourself?” Raber asked.

Wieland said this was a good point to be brought up. She said she would love to be a member of the school board and would keep whatever was discussed at the board meetings separate from her family life. Her husband, Chad, who is a teacher in the district, doesn’t come home every day after work to discuss things that happened at school.

“And that’s something we did talk about when I was considering running, is making sure that even though our worlds are going to blending and colliding together, that he has his stuff to do and I have mine,” Wieland said.

Particularly with collective bargaining and Chapter 20, Wieland said she would represent all of the educators in the district — not just her husband. She said the option the current school board chose — to go directly into the handbook rather than maintaining a master contract — wasn’t the only option available.

“If elected I would like to make sure we continue those dicussions,” Wieland said, “hear why that did occur, maintaining my stance on doing what’s best for the school district and not so much my husband as a teacher as well, and keeping those worlds very separate from one another.”

Disctrict No. 5 incumbent Heidi Vittetoe said board president Eric Turner does a good job recusing himself when he has a conflict of interest.

“And I would also like to say when I came onto the board we were a messed up bunch,” Vittetoe said. “We fought about everything and it’s good to have respectful debate. It’s not good to not feel you have a team to work with and so however this goes I hope everybody can be respectful of both boundaries and the importance of listening to one another.”

Having respect with each other is not only good for the board but the community, she added.

District No. 2 incumbent Dana McDole said she agreed with Vittetoe. An open mind and collaboration with everybody’s interest at heart is needed.

“It isn’t just one subset of people,” McDole said. “We have amazing teachers in our district.”

The state of Iowa was still one of the best public educational systems around, she added. Finding ways to reward teachers for their hard work and finding ways to boost their morale.

“I have had a lot of people in the community ask me, ‘Don’t you think that’s a conflict of interest?’” McDole said. “I guess it depends on the person. I personally feel it would be difficult to separate myself from collective bargaining when it affects my household and income and be a part of something going in knowing that’s one of the main things I’m concerned about.”

District No. 2 candidate Catherine Glinsmann said she had worked with the school board many years negotiating contracts and had always been very impressed with how they dealt with a conflict of interest that may have come up. She said she trusted Wieland and Hamilton would be professional and follow the rules of confidentiality if they’re elected.

“I really trust that won’t be an issue,” Glinsmann said, “but I agree with Heidi and everybody that it’s important the board works together as a team, along with the community, the parents, the teachers and the students.”

Hamilton said he would follow the code of ethics and morals. As a business owner he doesn’t go home and talk to his wife, Dana, about issues he’s having with clients.

“That’s information for me and my client and that won’t change,” Hamilton added. “In this position I won’t jeopardize my integrity for a person gaining in collective bargaining issues or getting the foot in the door for collective bargaining.”

He has experience working with union members and non-union members.

“As far as the collective bargaining issue, yes, I believe we should maintain collective bargaining,” Hamilton said. “I will stand up on that. I do not feel the current board did exhaust all options and have everybodys best interest at heart when they chose not to sign a contract before a deadline, when school district’s in our area did choose to do so.”

This showed the current school board was biased and what they really cared about, he added. The reasoning behind the decision to do this showed how they felt about the teachers in the district.

“As far as being able to sit on the board and having opposed decisions and being passionate about my views and what I feel, I’ve always been able to step outside of the box and look at situations from every angle,” Hamilton said. “That’s helped me have a successful marriage [and] a successful business. I always have to step outside of the situation and how my client sees the situation and try to remedy them to better fit both of them.”

Board member Dana McDole said she had a few questions because it seemed there were accusations made agains the current school board for decisions they made. She asked Hamilton if he contacted any of the school board members or superintendent to ask why they did what they did. She also asked if he had attended any of the school board meetings to find out more or to hear what the discussions were about.

“No, I did not,” Hamilton replied. “I did not attend any of the meetings. All I know is the outcome like I stated in my statement two minutes ago. I did not know why they chose to do that. I do not know what their motives were, but I do know what the outcome of that was and it’s not pro-teacher. It’s not pro-community.”

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