Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Kevin Levitas promoting ethics on the school board
With sincere apologies to John Heneghan, Kevin Levitas is my new hero! As reported in this week's edition of The Champion, Kevin, a state house representative from District 82 in DeKalb, has introduced some important legislation that will impact our school board and certainly our schools. Called "The DeKalb School Board Transparency Act", the legislation would subject our board members to an ethics commission designed to prevent conflicts of interest such as the one Gene Walker had this past year which sparked a lawsuit against him and the Authority filed by the Board of Education.
Walker, while serving as the chair of the DeKalb Development Authority, used over $21,000 in campaign contributions from the Sembler Company to win a seat on the DeKalb County Board of Education. Ironically, he did this at a time when the school board was discussing whether or not to endorse a Development Authority planned $51 million tax abatement for the Sembler Company. This action, seen as a huge conflict of interest by many voters, was the pivot point for finally bringing an ethics law for the board to the fore.
Walker vehemently defended his two positions, but eventually resigned from the Development Authority. He is quoted in an earlier interview with The Champion as saying, “It’s a dead issue with me.”
Now, in the recent interview with The Champion (linked at the top of this article) Gene has tried to minimize and brush the proposed legislation aside, calling it "frivolous".
"Walker said he has never spoken to Levitas about the legislation and called the lawmaker’s efforts “frivolous.” Walker has said he resigned from the authority because he and other authority members felt he had become a distraction. Walker said he did nothing illegal or wrong and disclosed contributions he received from Sembler.
“Every contribution I receive I report on a financial disclosure statement, and universally, every place, transparency or full disclosure is the anecdote for the appearance of a conflict of interest,” he said. “There’s much more important things [Levitas] should be working on.”
As has been reported at Atlanta Unfiltered, although Gene Walker did disclose the Sembler $21,000 campaign contribution, he only did so two days after winning his seat on the school board in a runoff. When questioned about the delay in reporting, he is quoted in the article as saying, “I was trying to win. My time was better invested in shaking hands than in filling out forms.” Georgia law requires candidates to report contributions promptly so voters have access to that information before casting their ballots.
Laws such as this one posed by Levitas are vital in order to give power to the people - where it belongs. We simply have to be certain that our representatives are looking out for the needs of the people - especially when our children are concerned.
Kevin has to pre-file this legislation and garner enough support at the State to make it law. Please, contact your local DeKalb legislator and let him or her know that you want this law passed. If you are not certain who your elected officials are, click here and you'll be given all of them, from Obama to your state rep.
Thank you Kevin!