Three former local elected officials filed a complaint today alleging that Madison Metropolitan School Board President Gloria Reyes violated school district ethics policy by voting to approve a new contract with the Madison Police Department while she is employed by the City of Madison.
The complaint was filed by former Madison alders Brenda Konkel and Andy Heidt, and former Dane County Supervisor Andy Olsen late Tuesday.
The contract, which calls for the school district to pay about $350,000 for an educational resource officer (ERO) to by placed by the Madison Police Department in each of the four main high schools, was approved during a five-minute meeting with no public comment on June 11 by a 4-3 vote.
Reyes made the motion to approve the contract and voted in favor.
The complaint points to School Board Ethics Policy 9000, which states, “No employee or member of the Board of Education whose non-district employment or independent contracting is compensated by a district vendor shall participate in or attempt to influence the district’s purchasing process in matters involving such vendor.”
In this case, the vendor is the City of Madison, which is also Reyes’s employer, and Reyes participated in the district’s purchasing process by voting to approve the contract, the complainants contend.
Reyes is employed by the City of Madison’s Community Development Division. The two parties to the ERO contract are the school district and the city. The Madison Common Council has not yet approved the contract.
In an email to Madison365 Monday, MMSD attorney Matthew Bell said the term “vendor” in the ethics policy refers to any entity that provides either goods or services.
“We do not specifically define ‘vendor’ in the policy so if interpretation were required we would assign a common (i.e. dictionary) meaning to that term,” Bell wrote. “For example, a standard dictionary definition of ‘vendor’ is seller, and yes, I would include a seller of goods or services as a vendor. Also, voting to approve a contract, if a vote is required, most likely would be construed as participating in or influencing the purchase process.”
The district’s ethics policy states that board members who have a conflict of interest must state the nature of the conflict and not participate in any discussion or votes on the matter of the conflict; it even says they should leave the room.
Reyes abstained from votes on previous contracts because she was deputy mayor under Mayor Paul Soglin, a position in which she regularly worked with the police department. Reyes is a former Madison Police Department detective.
Ethics policy does not make the next steps clear, however. The policy calls for discipline or even dismissal for district employees who violate ethics policy, but does not indicate any consequences for board members who violate it. It also does not indicate whether a vote could be vacated or retaken.
The elected officials filing the complaint recommend a revote.
“As former elected officials with training and experience in ethics laws and conflicts of interest, we recommend that the matter be resolved by reconsideration of the SRO contract by the Board, with the School Board President abstaining from all motions, discussions and votes,” they wrote. “We also recommend that all members of the Madison School Board attend ethics training as soon as possible.”
Messages left with Reyes and several other board members were not returned Tuesday evening.