Valpo ethics panel dismisses school board complaint

2012-08-14T19:48:00Z 2012-08-14T21:21:05Z Valpo ethics panel dismisses school board complaintBy Phil Wieland, (219) 548-4352

VALPARAISO | Saying that ethics charges filed against members of the school board don't apply to any of the definitions of an ethics violation in the Valparaiso city ordinance, the city's Ethics Commission voted Tuesday to dismiss the complaint.

The commission met in closed session for almost an hour before taking its open vote.

The complaint was filed by former School Board member Brigid McLinn during June, while the City Council was interviewing candidates for the appointed position she held. The council later voted to replace her with retired principal Paul Knauff.

Commission Chairman Dorothy Bass said she and the commission's lawyer, Eric Mathisen, met with McLinn on July 2 about the complaint and later notified her it would be discussed at the commission's August meeting. The board member or members cited in the complaint also were notified of the complaint.

Bass said the nature of the ethics charges or the people against whom they were filed could not be revealed unless the board found there was probable cause a violation had occurred and that a public hearing would be held.

After Bass explained the four options the Valparaiso ordinance makes available for handling a complaint, three of which involve reasons for dismissing it, member Julie Harvey moved for dismissal on the grounds "the complaint does not allege facts sufficient to constitute a violation."

Member Tim Sutherland said the commission looked at all the categories listed in the ordinance — such as nepotism, misuse of public property, gifts and other issues — but could find nothing that covered the issues in the complaint. Bass added, "They were not in the same ball park."

"Even if the facts are as detailed in the complaint, there is nothing that demonstrates unethical behavior," Bass said. "Bad process perhaps, but not unethical."

The vote was 4-0, with member Jim Spanopoulos absent. Voting for dismissal were Bass, Sutherland, Harvey and Linda Reyes-Popovich.

McLinn could not be reached for comment.

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