Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Closer Look at Indiana's Conflict of Interest Laws: Have Felony Offenses Occurred at Plymouth?

Did Samuelson commit a Class D felony?
Plymouth Superintendent Dan Tyree has been spending days trying to convince patrons that he sent public records to me when, in fact, I never received them.  Let's not get sidetracked with Tyree's falsehoods when there are bigger issues at hand, including an alleged Class D felony conflict-of-interest that was revealed in the November 18, 2010 board minutes.
"Dr. R Smith, Mr. D Schoof and Mr. Doug Copley, of Tremco Corporation reported on the proposed project.  A PowerPoint presentation was made by Dr. R Smith which was prepared by Umbaugh & Associates outlining the proposed capital improvements....Member L Pinkerton made a motion to approve the Project Resolution.  Member L Holloway seconded the motion...Secretary T Samuelson again voiced his conflict with Umbaugh & Associates as an employee and stated he was still going to vote given this association with Umbaugh & Associates was stated into the record...The motion passed unanimously," read an excerpt from the minutes.
So, now that the conflict-of-interest has been admitted to, lets take a closer look at the facts.  Tyree and his cronies would have you believe that filing a conflict-of-interest statement magically makes such an alleged felony offense disappear, but that's not what the law says at all.

What the law says is that the state takes conflicts-of-interest so seriously that not only are public officials required to refrain from promoting, discussing, or voting on matters where he or she could potentially derive a profit from, but they are to notify the State Board of Accounts, in writing, of any potential conflicts-of-interests.

This heads up to state auditors is for the purpose of verifying later that the public official refrained from voting on a matter involving a potential felony conflict-of-interest.  There would be no purpose for a conflict-of-interest law at all if public officials could simply sign a form releasing them from liability.

In addition, a conflict-of-interest statement is required to "be filed within fifteen days after the final action on the contract or purchase with; (a) the state board of accounts; and (b) with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the governmental entity takes final action on the contract purchase."

Was a statement filed with the Plymouth Circuit Court within 15 days of Samuelson's conflicted vote on the roofing materials contract?  We'll check it out and get back to you, but even if it was filed, it doesn't make a potential Class D Felony go away if, indeed, Mr. Samuelson profited as an Umbaugh & Associates partner when he voted for the foolish roofing materials contract.

Was this Mr. Samuelson's only conflict as a Plymouth School Board member?  We're checking that out, too.

Readers can access the entire Indiana Code at this State Board of Accounts link, entitled, "Accounting and Uniform Compliance Guidelines for Indiana Public School Corporations."

Readers can also access the Conflicts-of-Interest policy for Indiana University at this link.  The University has zero tolerance for the type of behavior demonstrated at Plymouth School Corporation.

I spoke with a seasoned school board member-friend of mine who said that ignorance is no excuse for what happened at Plymouth School Corporation recently.  He told me that the professional associations for school board members and superintendents offer law seminars where conflicts-of-interest laws are clearly expressed and defined.  School board members are also provided with ample documentation of their responsibilities as they pertain to Indiana laws.

The citizens of Plymouth deserve better than this.  Not only should they expect laws to be complied with, but they should expect to be treated with dignity and respect when they exercise their rights to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

It's time to hold your elected officials accountable for their actions.  And Mr. Tyree, you can continue to call me names and spew your venom while I continue to dig up the truth.

Oh, and here's a post script for Mr. Tyree.  I completed all of this before 8 a.m.  You know what they say about the early bird catching the worm? 

Now, I'm off to live my rich, full life, which includes caring for grandchildren, advocating for abused children in my community as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, and enjoying the fact that I can sleep at night.

1 comment:

Bradley said...

Diana,

If the school corporation sent you the information you requested by email or mail, there would be, presumably, a record of this information being sent to you. There would be an email record available for you to see through their technology department. If sent by mail, I would imagine the corporation would have been smart enough to have sent the highly-valued ($100 I believe you had said they said) information via certified mail only. If this is the case, the certified mailing would be easily tracked also (with your signature on a slip they would have received back as you know).

Of course, the school corporation's story can be easily validated by you by a public records request showing the information was sent to you in some form -- which I believe the corporation would be more than happy to oblige!

As an aside, I am concerned the information you requested to view (only) costs so much money -- especially as you only wanted to view the information (a bedrock of open government) and did not need the information, at this time, to be put on a drive and mailed or emailed to you. I would wonder if this amount of money would have to be accounted for in the case of an audit?