William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (October 9, 2017)—Long time Gloucester City resident John Driscoll, who was elected to the City Board of Education in November 2015 has announced his resignation. During most of those two years, he was limited to what he could do because his sister worked as a part-time teachers aide for Source4Teachers a company the Board has hired to provide that service.
Because of the alleged conflict, he could not be involved with such things as personnel matters, employee contract negotiations, the hiring of the school superintendent, and Source4Teachers.
Driscoll was more than qualified to be a member of the Board of Education. He was a former vice-principal and a Special Education teacher at another school district, and he worked as an officer in the U.S. Department of Education. He has a Master's in Special Education and he is presently finishing up his Doctorate in Innovation and Leadership in Higher Education classes this semester. He is working on his dissertation and plan on graduating in May. He was a former Gloucester City Police Officer.
In his letter of resignation, dated August 16, 2017 to Board president Edward Hubbs, he wrote, "I did understand my sister worked for Source, but did not realize that it would have such a significant effect on my participations as an Elected Official as I understood other board members to have family working for the school district and Superintendent Rafferty having members of his family working for the district."
"I am often at a loss for an explanation when I am asked by Gloucester City citizens and the Gloucester City school population as to why I do not know who has applied for the position of Superintendent or what is the progress on contract negotiations," he said. (Note: At the time the Board was interviewing candidates for the position of school superintendent)
Regarding the conflict issue, Driscoll reached out to the New Jersey School Board Association and the Ethics Commission for a ruling on the matter.
September 26, the School Ethics Commission handed down their seven-page decision that favored Driscoll.
The Commission referenced NJSA 18A: 12-24 which states No school official shall use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges, advantages or employment for himself, members of his immediate family or others.
Furthermore the Commission stated, "However, without any representation that specific District personnel, such as the superintendent or a building principal, have any influence over or can affect her employment in the District, without any representation that your sister's salary is affected by or tied to contract negotiations with the local union, it would not be a violation (emphasis reporter) of NJSA18A:12-24(b) for you to participate in any and all issues concerning District personnel, the superintendent, or the budget.
At the bottom of this article there is a screen copy of part of that ruling.
We asked Driscoll several questions about his situation on the Board and the Commission's ruling.
CNBNews: What made you reach out to the School Ethics Commission?
DRISCOLL: I didn't think that the administration could be correct in their assessment of the facts. If someone like me is considered conflicted than anyone on the school board should be considered conflicting.
Why not consider members who are voting on extracurricular activities at the schools, who have children attend the Gloucester City Public Schools be conflicted, or taxpayers who constantly vote against things, even things that are needed be conflicted
or parents who approve of homeschooled kids being able to play sports at school or ones who approve enrichment programs their children attend.
There are a lot of good people volunteering their time on that school board, but their time shouldn't be wasted. We are a small town and need to utilize our board members. Keeping the board involved is important and I felt totally out of the loop on important issues. It is one thing when you have a sister or a son who are directly working for the district and you are voting on a raise or a personnel matter for them, or you supervise them directly day-to-day, but this was too much of a reach. So, I felt compelled to get clarification.
CNBNews: Did you think those in charge were punishing you?
CNBNews: Do you feel vindicated?
I am glad that I cleared this up. Just knowing the facts will help whoever volunteers on the board in the future. Also, it takes away any doubt that something unethical was happening, which looks better to the public. After all, they are the ones paying the taxes whether we are talking about local taxes, state or federal. This kind of transparency is good. Being as honest as possible doesn't always make everyone happy but it is the correct thing to do.
CNBNews: Do you think Rafferty, Hubbs, the board members, knew all along that your sister and sister-in-law were not considered as employees of the district?
DRISCOLL: No. Many board members voiced the fact that they thought that the conflict concerns may be taken too far, even if it was approved of by ethics which we now know it is not.
Keep in mind;
This is a volunteer position
People are elected to it
You have to live in town
And you have to be willing to take time away from your family to do it
There is no reward for doing it, only satisfaction that you did the right thing
It is a small pool
You want qualified, yet diverse board members to make it successful. If half of your board is conflicted in voting or researching decisions you are limiting yourself and not serving the students, staff or taxpayers to your best ability.
CNBNews: Is Leonard Wood the Board’s solicitor?
DRISCOLL: Parker McCay Firm is the solicitor. Their representative said that there were many changes to the ethics requirements and wanted to err on the side of caution or something to that effect.
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Below is a screen shot of page 3 and part of page 4 of the letter to Driscoll from the New Jersey School Board Association and the Ethics Commission