Teacher can’t serve on Douglas school board | RecordCourier.com

Teacher can’t serve on Douglas school board

by Christy Chalmers, Staff Writer

Douglas County School Board trustee-elect Randy Green can’t take office and teach at Douglas High School, a judge ruled Friday.

District Judge Michael Gibbons said current state law prevents Green from serving on the board if he wants to continue teaching in the district, where he has worked for 23 years.

“There is a problem, and it’s not minor in nature,” Gibbons said as he explained his decision. “This is a decision made very reluctantly by the court, but it is something I believe the law requires.”

Douglas County voters overwhelmingly picked Green, a government teacher, for the Area 4 school board seat in November. The school board sued, citing state laws and concerns that allowing Green to serve would expose the board to legal problems.

Green has 30 days to decide, but said he doesn’t plan to appeal the decision.

“This is the way the system works, and Judge Gibbons answered my questions,” he said after the hearing. “My gut instinct right now is to not drag this out.

“I don’t want the voters to feel like their vote was wasted,” he added. “I still think I could serve without a conflict of interest. I just don’t want to turn this into a battle. It’s time for me to continue to do the things I need to do.”

During the three-hour hearing, school district attorney Bob Cox cited state laws that prohibit people from serving on boards that govern or award contracts that carry a financial interest for the people receiving them.

As a school board member, Green would be involved in yearly negotiations for teacher contracts and he would also help evaluate Superintendent Pendery Clark.

“You can’t be serving two masters at one time,” said Cox. “You can’t be the boss of the boss.”

Green’s attorney, George Keele, argued many public officers are faced with decisions that can affect them personally, but they aren’t forced out of office. Plus, other school board members have spouses who are employed by the district.

“In an enlightened society, people will do the right and the honorable and the just thing,” he said.

Keele suggested Green could recuse himself from contract negotiations or abstain from evaluations of his superiors, but Gibbons said that wouldn’t be enough.

“I’m sorry about how this has come down,” Gibbons told Green. “The law is that if a potential (conflict of interest) is there, that’s enough.”

He also noted separate laws address board members whose spouses work for the entity a board governs.

Though Green can’t be sworn into office, he will get a certificate of election showing that he won the seat.

The remaining school board members will be responsible for filling the Area 4 seat. The board can seek applicants, interview them and make a decision after the 30-day appeal period ends.

John Raker, who was appointed to the seat in December 1998, has said he won’t re-apply.

The school board also must decide if it will force Green to pay the district’s court costs. Cox said the board will probably discuss the fees when it meets Jan. 9.