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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Follow-up to yesterday's posting, RE: The Scranton School District

As a follow-up to yesterday's posting, I was asked about my feelings regarding challengers for open school district board seats receiving political contributions from district vendors.  It's a reasonable question, so here's my basic thought:  I don't think that it's necessarily problematic for a challenger to receive contributions from vendors.  Why?  Well two reasons come to mind:
  1. It's entirely reasonable that a challenger may not, in fact, know which businesses have contracts with the school district.  I can't find such as list on-line at the Scranton School District website (link HERE).
  2. There is no guarantee that a challenger will, in fact, win (and therefore end up being in a position to influence district vendor decisions).
There are a slew of other reasons why this is okay as well, but the bottom line for me is that elected officials MUST be held to a HIGHER STANDARD of conduct than the rest of us...challengers included...precisely because they are trusted with public money.  

The above noted, I do believe that the "higher road" here would be for a successful challenger (who has received money from district vendors...knowingly or otherwise) to return contributions from district vendors or donate amounts equivalent to those contributions to charity. 

What about a challenger actively soliciting money from businesses that they know are district vendors?  Yeah, that doesn't pass the smell test, but in reality there is no perfect system for preventing all graft, and it's simply not possible to legislate something like "honorable intentions".  At best I think we can and we should be reasonable in how we approach things like preventing "pay to play".  The current system under which a sitting director like Bob Sheridan can actively solicit and receive contributions from district vendors represents a door that is simply too wide open to impropriety.  

As noted yesterday, Director Sheridan should return his district vendor contributions and refuse any future contributions as long as he is a sitting director.  

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