Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Conflicts of Interest

I wrote In March about salary supplements being paid to employees of the Monroe County School Districts.

Today's editorial in the Key West Citizen brings an update to the story. Consultants hired by the school district found fault with the process of granting supplements, as did the Monroe County Auditor, and now the Florida Auditor General has done so.

The Citizen editorial makes a sideways reference to "nepotism" in the system. What I think that refers to is the fact that the wife of Superintendent Randy Acevedo receives a $22,000 supplement in addition to her salary of $39,000 as a District employee. It's news to me that supplements are granted exclusively by the Superintendent, and are not reviewed or approved by the MC School Board. The $22,000 supplement to Mrs. Acevedo is the largest single supplement given in the District.

There is a clear conflict-of-interest present in this situation, in my view. I'm not even certain that it's proper for Mrs. Acevedo to have remained in her position with the District once her husband was elected Superintendent. I am very certain that it isn't proper for the Superintendent to be able to grant his wife any improvement in her position. I'm surprised that the School Board hasn't already exercised that oversight, which is their responsibility.

The Citizen editorial is on the mark in its opposition to having the administration conduct a review of the compensation system. It's setting the fox loose in the henhouse. It isn't enough for public officials to avoid true conflicts of interest. They must also avoid the appearance of conflict.

What was Acevedo thinking?

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