Shelton's Approval did not Avert the Conflict
Katte Improperly Skirked Council Approval
It is a salutary doctrine that he who is entrusted with the business of others
cannot be allowed to make such business an object of profit for himself.
---Commonwealth v. Withers, 98 S.W.2d 24 (Ky. 1936)
A final report issued by the Office of Educational Accountability on August 13, 2015, concluded that former Meadowthorpe principal Joel Katte had a conflict of interest when he took a position as a paid consultant for the Franklin-Covey/The Leader in Me (LIM) program. The conflict of interest was not removed when he received permission from the district to serve as a consultant. Yet OEA's remedy extends only to Katte and the Meadowthorpe School Council, despite the fact that Shelton, Human Resources Director Melodee Parker, and Director of Elementary Principals Loraye Jones were aware of his paid consultant position.
The district's support of Katte lead to the raising and spending of thousands of dollars without Council approval in violation of state law. KRS 156.480 (2) reads:
No employee of any county or independent school district with decision-making authority over the financial position of the school district shall have any pecuniary interest, either directly or indirectly, in an amount exceeding twenty-five dollars ($25) per year...in supplying any goods, services, property, merchandise...of any nature whatsoever for which school funds are expended. If any person specified in this subsection receives, directly or indirectly, any gift, reward, or promise of reward for his influence in recommending or procuring the use of any goods, services, property, or merchandise of any kind whatsoever for which school funds are expended, he shall upon conviction be fined not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred ($500), and his office or appointment shall without further action be vacant.
Fayette County School District Board Policy 03.1721, "Conflict of Interests" essentially quotes state law, yet district staff attorney Shelley Chatfield told OEA that while she did not find Mr. Katte's consultant work to run afoul of Board Policy, she felt it "was not the best practice" for him to continue as a paid consultant.
The OEA found that Katte "received indirect benefits for his consultancy arrangement. He acted as a paid consultant for the Covey organization from spring 2013 through summer 2014, during his tenure as principal. While Mr. Katte was a consultant, the Covey company was paid school funds, such as Meadowthorpe Leadership Day proceeds and Fayette County School District money, for LIM expenses. Mr. Katte was paid by the Covey organization during the same time period for his LIM consultant work. There is legal authority to conclude that Mr. Katte's arrangement constituted an indirect conflict of interest."
Despite Katte's assertion that his troubles at Meadowthorpe had nothing to do with his decision to accept a district staff position, had he remained, it seems likely that he would have been exposed to possible legal action that could have led to the loss of his appointment as principal.
Katte explained his reasoning for leaving Meadowthorpe saying, "I feel called to support the teaching staffs of the Lexington Day Treatment Center, Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center, and our Family Care Center that educates young mothers to ensure these programs' students receive a world-class education that will set each student up for a healthy, successful, and rewarding life."
View the full report here.
Hat tip to Erica.