Censure leads to ethics complaints
New London School Board investigation finds no violation
By John Faucher
Two ethics complaints were filed against New London School Board President Terry Wegner following the board’s vote to censure school board member John Heideman on Nov. 8.
The two complaints were made by citizens between Nov. 9 and Nov. 19.
Both alleged that Wegner violated the board member code of ethics and the board policy on conflicts of interest when he cast his vote Nov. 8, to censure Heideman.
The complainants both argued that Wegner should have barred himself from voting on the censure matter, because he was related to the complainant.
Wegner removed himself from the investigation of that complaint and he did not have contact with the family member who was the complainant.
At the Nov. 8 board meeting, Wegner handed over the meeting to School Board Vice President Pete Bosquez, who also investigated the complaint.
When the motion to censure Heideman went up for a vote, neither Wegner nor Heideman recused themselves on Nov. 8.
At the Nov. 22 board meeting, Bosquez began by explaining his role as investigator of the two new specific complaints and he gave reference material on the policy, legal reference and relevant definitions referred to in his findings.
“After reviewing policy 165(12) and 165.1 and the cited legal references, it is clear they both require Mr. Wegner or the initial complainant to gain something of value from the vote,” said Bosquez.
“Mr. Wegner did not perform the investigation, draft the resolution of censure, make the motion for censure or second the motion for censure. Mr. Wegner only exercised his legal right to debate and vote on the issue in front of the board. The vote in question was only a condemnation of another board member’s action. Nothing of value was given or transferred. Mr. Wegner’s was only one of seven possible votes and he took no action that he was not legally entitled to,” said Bosquez.
Bosquez also explained that he verified with the district’s legal counsel the need for something of value to be gained in order for a conflict of interest to exist.
“Legally, a conflict of interests did not exist. The complaints cannot be described as illegitimate; however they are based on confusing the term conflict of interest that has a legal definition, with personal bias.
“No policy exists prohibiting a board member from voting on a matter that they have strong personal feelings for,” said Bosquez. “Based on the review of policies and information outlined, Mr. Wegner did not violate board policy and no further action is required.”