In our final blog post for 2015, we’re taking a look at the last of the most common conflict-of-interest questions OSBA receives on its hotline: board members who hold more than one public office. Previous weeks have covered scenarios where:
- the individual currently works for the district,
- the individual has a family member working for the school district, and
- the individual is employed by a company that has an active contract with the district.
As a reminder, OSBA attorneys cannot provide a legal analysis of the specifics for a board member, but we can point you to resources that explain the law and its restrictions. When specific conflict of interest questions arise, OSBA recommends contacting your board counsel for a legal opinion.
Board-members elect serving in another public office
Conflicts of interest can arise if a board member serves in more than one public office at a time. Statutory prohibitions include serving as a board member and any of the following:
- the school’s dentist, physician, or nurse (R.C. 3313.70)
- the county prosecutor or city solicitor in a jurisdiction with territory that includes any portion of the school district (R.C. 3313.13)
- a city council member or village council member in a jurisdiction with territory that includes any portion of the school district (R.C. 731.02 and 731.12, respectively)
- a technical college trustee (R.C. 3357.05)
A recent enactment of the General Assembly created R.C. 3313.131, prohibiting a member of a board of education from serving on the governing authority of a charter school. (See G.A. 130 Am. Sub. H. B. No. 2, effective February 1, 2016)
Where there is not an explicit statutory prohibition on an individual concurrently serving in another public office, a person still may be barred from serving in both public offices if a conflict of interest exists. To determine whether a conflict arises, the Ohio Attorney General (OAG) examines seven factors:
- Is either of the positions a classified employment within the terms of R.C. §124.57?
- Do the empowering statutes of either position limit employment in another public position or the holding of another public office?
- Is one office subordinate to, or in any way a check upon, the other?
- Is it physically impossible for one person to discharge the duties of both positions?
- Is there a conflict of interest between the two positions?
- Are there local charter provisions, resolutions or ordinances that are controlling?
- Is there a federal, state or local departmental regulation applicable?
OAG Op. No. 79-111. Examples of conflicts of interest under the fifth question include divided loyalties, conflicting duties, or competition for the same dollars and resources.
The OAG maintains an index of compatibility opinions that archives the formal opinions the OAG has issued on the compatibility of public offices. If checking the index, be certain to check both the compatible and incompatible sections – a position may be listed in both because the OAG has issued more than one opinion on the compatibility of offices, overruling the initial determination.
Learn more at the New Board Member Academies
Ethics is among the many topics that will be covered at OSBA’s New Board Member Academies around the state in January. OSBA staff will be presenting sessions on Sunshine laws, boardsmanship, media relations and social media, policy, lobbying, finance, transportation, and labor management issues during the two-day workshops. It’s not too late to register your new board members! You can do so here:
- Southwest (Miamisburg) – January 9 & 10
- Northeast (Independence) – January 9 & 10
- Northwest (Perrysburg) – January 23 & 24
- Central (Columbus) – January 23 & 24