APS Ethics Panel Member Resigns to Protect Chairman El


(APN) ATLANTA — A fourth member of the Ethics Commission of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, David Dorsey, has resigned, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

In Dorsey’s letter of resignation, he writes that APS BOE Chairman Khaatim El appears to be guilty of violating Board policies, but that Dorsey would rather resign than find him guilty because he believes it is best for the school system.

Previously, APN reported on the resignations of Ethics Commission Chairwoman Susan Pease Langford, as well as Members Julia Neighbors and Karen Woodward, in April 2010.  These three resignations rendered the Commission incapable of having a quorum or of functioning.

Four pending complaints involving Board Chairman Khaatim El and Members Courtney English, Yolanda Johnson, and Nancy Meister, have yet to be fully investigated.

These four complaints were filed by an APS parent, Janet Kishbaugh, and each involved the four Board Members accepting pro bono services from the Alisias PR firm while considering Alisias for a contract with APS.

APN first reported on the Alisias conflict of interest issues in December 2010 and January 2011, which also caught the attention of AdvancED/SACS CASI in their report in which APS lost their full accreditation.

Kishbaugh will likely need to resubmit her complaints once the Commission is re-constituted.

Based on standing APS practice, certain BOE Members are responsible for nominating Commission Members.  But this has not happened yet, and it has been two months.

In other words, there is currently no mechanism to hold BOE Members accountable and the Board Members have failed after two months to take the necessary steps to reactivate that mechanism.

And there are currently four Members serving on the BOE who potentially may not be eligible to serve, if they have committed violations that would have led to removal, had there been an Ethics Commission still in place.

Dorsey’s resignation letter stated: “Those sworn to apply written law may encounter a case in which being faithful to their duty will require them to commit a grave individual injustice. But to circumvent explicit law under any pretext is a greater attack on the rule of law than such an anomaly. There is, however, another appropriate response in a case where either decision has grave consequences for society as a whole. It may be legally proper, ethically necessary, and socially constructive for an adjudicator to resign rather than render a judgment, declaring the principle at stake.”

“There is a case currently before the Ethics Commission of the Atlanta Public Schools alleging a conflict of interest. At the time the Board member recommended approval of a proposal for public relations efforts in support of official Board policies, he [here Dorsey is referring to El] was receiving pro bono services from the same company for the same purpose,” Dorsey wrote.

“Thus in the process of fulfilling his responsibilities, he made a technical mistake, i.e., he failed to recuse himself from making a recommendation regarding a proposal before the Board. The intent as well as the result was in pursuit of his responsibility for the benefit of the Atlanta Public Schools and without any personal benefit. Indeed, as soon as an issue was raised, he sought a judgment on impropriety from the Ethics Commission. It is my conviction that there was no possible intentional conflict of interest,” Dorsey wrote.

“Nevertheless, I refuse to violate the letter of the law by voting to exonerate the accused.  If holding the accused responsible entailed only a serious injustice to one whose actions were honorable, I would consider it a necessary consequence in defense of Law. But I will not commit this injustice to an individual when either decision would also have profoundly deleterious consequences for many critically important issues which the Board of Education now faces,” Dorsey wrote.

“Therefore, I hereby resign from the Ethics Commission of the Atlanta Public Schools,” Dorsey wrote.

The fact that Dorsey admits his unwillingness to find Board Members guilty when he believes their intentions were good, calls into question his previous rulings, for example, in the recent case involving Courtney English.

One Board Member told APN weeks ago that the Board was reconsidering its process in nominating Ethics Commission Members, and whether there was a better way than the current process, which is for the Board Members to nominate people to police them.

At last night’s APS BOE meeting, former APS parent Kim Kahwach, who had previously filed a complaint against English, inquired of Chief Strategy and Development Officer Alexis Kirijan as to when new Ethics Commission Members would be appointed.  Kirijan said she would forward Kahwach’s concerns on to Board Administrator, Howard Grant.

(END / 2011)

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