The county school board found that Interim Superintendent Verletta White violated ethics rules regarding financial disclosure of consulting fees, Baltimore County Public Schools announced on Friday afternoon, Feb. 23.
The board accepted recommendations put forth by the school system’s Ethics Review Panel, finding that two of six allegations of ethics violations against White were valid.
The panel ruled that White violated financial disclosure rules by not reporting outside payments she received for four years worth of consulting work done for Chicago’s Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI).
She also violated policy, the panel noted, by participating “in her capacity as a school official.”
The ethics panel did, however, acknowledge that the financial disclosure forms could be “confusing.”
While “the Financial Disclosure Statement Instructions, which is a separate document from the Financial Disclosure Statement, indicates that consulting activities were required to be reported on Schedule H of the statement,” the panel noted, “the truncated instructions at the top of Schedule H on the Financial Disclosure Statement were confusing and unclear as to whether consulting fees, such as the type received by White, were required to be reported.”
The panel ruled that two other allegation concerning lobbying were without merit, noting that ERDI “did not engage in ‘lobbying’ with the Board of Education or the Baltimore County Public Schools.”
Ruling that White violated ethics rules, the panel recommended what it called “White’s proposed solution” — that White’s financial disclosure forms from the 2013-14 through 2016-17 school years be amended, that she no longer participate in ERDI programs and that she not engage in outside consulting work while acting as interim superintendent.
No other action will be taken against White, and she has not been charged with any crimes.
The school board voted to accept these recommendations at its Feb. 20 meeting.
The solution, the board noted in a release, “should assure the public that the conduct of public business is not subject to improper influence or the appearance of improper influence and that White’s impartiality and independent judgment will be maintained.”
For her part, White noted that she is glad the issue has been resolved.
“As I have said, it was an honest mistake,” she stated. “My focus has been and continues to be serving the students of Baltimore County Public Schools and ensuring that this great school system remains focused on effective instruction for all students.”
“I am pleased that this matter has been brought to a close,” noted school board chair Edward Gilliss, adding, “I continue to have confidence in Mrs. White’s leadership and in her focus on students and staff.”
White was named interim superintendent after then-Superintendent Dallas Dance resigned abruptly last April. Her term, effective July 1, 2017, is slated to end on June 30.
Dance was recently indicted by a grand jury on four counts of perjury stemming from his failure to report outside income on several years worth of financial disclosure statements, including payments received from a firm under contract with the school system.
In the wake of that indictment, several lawmakers, including the District 6 state delegation and Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7), have called for an independent audit of Baltimore County Public Schools.
The school board has indicated that it is currently looking for a firm to aid in the process of searching for a superintendent, though it is still possible that White could be given the position permanently.
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