A controversy has arisen over our unwillingness to participate in the Westerville Education Association’s endorsement process. Here’s the story:
Historically, WEA has endorsed Board of Education candidates, given them thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, and furnished them with volunteers with which to staff their campaigns. Because few candidates have the resources to compete with the union’s backing, WEA has been highly successful in electing those it has chosen. Most school board members elected over the past thirty years have been WEA-endorsed.
Following election, the union has generally found itself in the enviable position of negotiating its salary and benefit contracts with board members it has elected, many of whom also have had designs on re-election. Needless to say, WEA historically has fared better in contract negotiations than have the school district’s other three unions.
On August 22, 2013, WEA contacted all Westerville Board of Education candidates, offering an opportunity to compete for its endorsement. It asked each candidate to appear at an interview and to complete a questionnaire. The last question asked what WEA can do to help with their election campaigns.
The Code of Ethics of the Westerville Board of Education states that board members must “avoid conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof.” Obviously, taking campaign money and volunteer help from a union before negotiating its contract is a conflict of interest, and certainly has the appearance of one.
We contacted all of our opponents in the race. We pointed out that this conflict has existed for so long only because candidates ignore the ethical issues and accept WEA’s campaign help. We asked them to join us in ending this process by declining the offer, and in running an ethical campaign to regain the public’s trust. All five of our opponents instead chose to compete for the endorsement.
If a candidate will ignore the obligations of a board member during an election, what can we expect of him/her after gaining a seat on the board? In a private-sector company, violation of its Code of Ethics is grounds for termination. What recourse will taxpayers have at contract time?
We recognize WEA’s legal right to offer its endorsement and participate in the electoral process. However, we have reservations about its sense of responsibility, and the pressure it puts on teachers to work for the union’s candidates. Inferred by many teachers is the belief that to get promotions, political involvement is necessary. We do not believe the school district should be run in such a manner.
If you wish to read the letter we sent to the other candidates asking for their help in ending the conflict, please click here.
Click here to see the article written by ThisWeek on this issue.
Click here to see Luke Davis' response to the ThisWeek editor.
Click here to see Rick Mercurio's letter to the ThisWeek editor.
Click here to see the fund raising letter Mr. Mercurio mentions in his letter.
Click here to see the Columbus Dispatch September 25th write up on the topic.
Click here to see John Sodt's response to the Columbus Dispatch article.