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Opinion

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EACS board sweeps aside ethics concern

Terry

What do you do when your government board’s code of conduct includes a provision clearly in conflict with a member’s ethical conduct and behavior?

If you’re an East Allen County Schools board member, you simply change the code of conduct to eliminate the standard.

That’s precisely what the board did this month when it was pointed out that board member Stephen Terry’s position with a local charter school posed a troubling conflict of interest.

Terry, a consultant for the Timothy L. Johnson Academy, has publicly urged the school district to take over sponsorship of the charter school now that Ball State University has indicated the academy will be closed at the end of the school year. Terry earned $51,250 from the taxpayer-funded charter school in 2012.

Sponsoring the charter school would place tremendous demands on the East Allen district. An administrator likely would need to be reassigned or hired to oversee the struggling school. If the district were to follow school turnaround procedures favored by the state, in fact, it would hire a management company to operate the school and replace most administrators and staff.

But as a consultant hired by Leona Group, the for-profit education management company that runs Johnson Academy, Terry has a vested interest in ensuring the school continues its business relationship with the company.

The East Allen code previously stated that board members “must represent unconflicted loyalty to the interests of the ownership.”

“This accountability supersedes any conflicting loyalty such as that to advocacy or interest groups and membership on other boards or staffs. This accountability supersedes the personal interest of any Board member acting as an individual consumer of the organization’s services,” the provision states.

But after this page noted Terry’s clear conflict in an editorial published Feb. 10, the board voted to adopt a new code, without the clearly stated conflict of interest provision.

The move to buy out Superintendent Karyle Green’s contract followed, with Terry a key figure in negotiations for her buyout.

As an EACS board member, Terry earned $5,360 last year. He also is eligible for health insurance coverage provided by the school district, but his status under the district’s plan was not immediately available. He also is senior pastor of New Life Church of God.

Terry has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

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