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Hune Addresses Conflict of Interest Law at Brighton School Board Meeting

Superintendent Greg Gray said Brighton the new law does not apply to the Brighton Board of Education.

Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, attended a Brighton Area Board of Education meeting Monday night to address Public Act 606 of 2012, also known as the Conflict of Interest law.

Hune authored the bill that ensures that a school board member, legal counsel or consultant would have to disclose whether he or she has a conflict of interest and exactly what the conflict is, then abstain from voting.

It was one of many bills passed during the Legislature's lame-duck session in December and was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Jan. 8.

"I think it's good public policy, I think it's the right thing for the taxpayers and ultimately, I think it's the right thing for the children too," Hune said.

The new law describes family members as not only spouses and children but adopted children, parents, siblings and in-laws as well. It is not a conflict of interest if a board member has children attending district schools.

Superintendent Greg Gray previously said the new Conflict of Interest law is not an issue for the district, as there was only one school board member with a family member employed by the district, Treasurer Jay Krause, and that he did not vote on a contract because the position was grant-funded.

The law was modeled after policy governing Intermediate School Districts, according to Hune, who worked in tandem with the Michigan Association of School Boards to pass the bill.

If there are too many board members who are conflicted, there is a provision in the law that reduces the number of votes needed to pass a contract. So, if six board members had conflicts of interest, one person could approve a contract.

Hune said he doesn't see a situation like that happening, however.

Mixed reactions

Brighton resident Jim Placido thanked Hune for the legislation during the Call to the Public segment of the meeting.

"He's addressing a system that is screwed up without getting into individual names," Placido said. "Anytime you have a system where the Teacher's Union is allowed to advocate, support, buy signs, put up signs and back a candidate, at negotiation time you have the Teacher's Union sitting at both sides of the table. As a board, you're job is to be stewards of the taxpayers' money. And that is not the case when the taxpayer is not represented at the board. This is 50 years overdue."

However, Brighton Education Association President Ellen Lafferty posed several questions to board members addressing Hune's legislation.

One of which was what about why other government bodies, such as city councils and township trustees, were not included in the bill.

Hune said that Snyder mentioned that ethics reforms are possible during his State of the State address.

"The bill only addressed the revised school code so we couldn't put municipalities and county commissions into it," Hune explained.

Lafferty also called into question if whether board members who are property owners should vote on millage proposals as it would affect their earnings through property taxes. She also questioned Hune's status as a legislator in Lansing.

"As the chair of the state of Michigan's Insurance Committee whose top campaign contributions in the amount of $17,000 came from the insurance industry, shouldn't you be excluded from any vote related to Blue Cross Blue Shield?"

School Board President Miles Vieau interrupted Lafferty, saying Hune was there to address the school board, not to answer questions from the public and suggested Lafferty send her questions and concerns to Hune's office.

Hune can be contacted through email at SenJHune@senate.michigan.gov or by mail at Senator Joe Hune, P.O. Box 30036 Lansing, MI 48909-7536.

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