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School trustee: Im so honest I squeak

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The Ellis County Press

LANCASTER - Conflict of interest allegations alleged over trustees foundations ties are brewing in Lancaster. School Board Trustee Ellen Clark, District 7, is currently serving on the non-profit Lancaster Education Foundation as president while serving at the same time on the Lancaster School Board.

During the Oct.12 LISD board meeting, school employee Connie Fowler requested she step down as president of the Education Foundation.

Fowler noted Clark has been an asset to the community for many years as a volunteer and community leader.

"According to this districts policy BBFB [local] this is a conflict of interest. 

"In the policy it states, No public servant shall not intentionally or knowingly offer, confer, agree to confer to another, solicit, accept or agree to accept a benefit. 

"As consideration for the public servants decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion as a public servant," said Fowler.

In the basic guidelines for the Foundation, it is found that the purpose of the Foundation is to raise money through the Employee Annual Fund Drive, annual Gala, through solicitations memorial/honorarium gifts and grant writing, all benefiting Innovative Teaching Grants. 

"I am so honest I squeak," said Ellen Clark, owner of Town Square Realty, who leases property to Profile Commercial, the same company who sells the school districts real estate.

Fowler commented solicitations by a board member for any reason is a violation of school board policy even if it for a great cause such as the Foundation.  

"This is a conflict between the role of a board member that over sees the policies and procedures of the district and the ultimate goal of the Foundation which is to raise money for the district through solicitations," said Fowler.

At first attempt, there wasnt a conflict of interest form found for Ms. Clark and a few other board members on the LISD Web site.

Immediately following a few emails to Anita McParkland, communications director for the district and Dana Marable, interim superintendent, all forms were posted under the trustees contact page online.

"We do have conflict of interest forms signed by all board members, they should be posted on the Web site today.

"I spoke with an attorney from the Texas Association of School Boards and he said he can see no conflict in Ms. Clark serving on the school board and serving as the foundation president," said Marable.

Board of Trustees President Carolyn Morris feels perception is key.

"She needs to choose one or the other, either way she is still helping kids," said Morris.

Clark claims there is no conflict.

"Maybe you know a law I dont, I have donated over $10,000 of my money, where is the conflict?" questioned Clark.

"Financially its not going to help me. If it helps me, it helps everyone else," said Clark.

Other Foundation members include: Vivian Chastain, owner of Bienvenidos restaurant, Nannette Vick, former ISD board member; Sue Mendoza, former ISD board member; Marie Elliot, former ISD board member,Joe Johnson, Lancaster chamber of commerce executive director; Arnie Knecht, owner of Ed Jones stock brokerage franchise; Fred Orr, former executive with Gallagher Construction, major contractor on LISD building projects.

"I probably should have never even talked to you, because I know you are going to twist it. The reason is you all (The Ellis County Press) go after people and you’re after me now," said Clark.

"Thank you."

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