Letter to the Editor: Brookes has conflict of interest

I was very disturbed to discover a conflict of interest in the upcoming election. Public officials should be held accountable to the highest standards of ethics and should avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Therefore, I question why Beverly Brookes could be considered qualified to serve as a school board birector for Region C of the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District.

Ms. Brookes’ daughter is a teacher in Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and a former coach of one of the girls’ athletic teams. If Brookes were elected, she would be in a position to influence how much her daughter was paid through the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union and hire/fire her daughter’s ultimate supervisor: the Superintendent of the School District. This is clearly inappropriate.

In fact, Pennsylvania law squarely addresses such obvious conflicts of interest. The State ethics Commission has interpreted the Ethics Act as precluding school board members from taking part in contract negotiations where members of the immediate family are district employees. See, e.g., Van Rensler, Opinion of Commission No. 90-017, School Law Information Exchange, Vol. 28, No. 5 (1991). The Ethics Commission has also ruled that such a conflict precludes officials to obtain information that could impact collective bargaining negotiations, including salary information. See, e.g., Mattie, Advice of Counsel No. 91-508, School Law Information Exchange, Vol. 29, 28 No. 36 (1991).

You don’t need to be a lawyer to understand the problem with an elected official being able to award her child a raise or other benefits. However, Brookes, who has secured the Democrat nomination for school board, has not addressed this issue publically. Does she think no one is paying attention? I am paying attention as are many other community members.

Even if Brookes announces (after this issue was brought to the public’s attention) that she will not participate in negotiating with teachers concerning compensation nor with the hiring/firing of the superintendent, one must wonder exactly why Region C would want one of its three elected school board members precluded from participating in the most important decisions that a school board director actually makes: teachers’ contract and the selection of the Superintendent. In other words, if Brookes wins this election, Region C will lose a vote on the issues that matter the most.

I find it unfortunate the Brookes has not previously disclosed this conflict to the voters at large. I find the potential loss of our “voice” even more troubling. This issue needs to be addressed. The Chadds Ford Community deserves answers.

Lisa Carman
Chadds Ford Township

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