(The Sentinel) – Shawnee Heights School Board Member Lauren Tice Miller’s additional responsibility as Director of Legislative and Political Advocacy for the Kansas Chapter of the National Education Association (KNEA) does not constitute a conflict of interest according to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission (KGEC).
Miller is a candidate for a third term on the Shawnee Heights board this fall.
From its website, KGEC defines conflict of interest as a two-tiered system:
Although the Commission is the enforcement agency for the state level conflict of interest laws and the Campaign Finance Act, the Commission’s jurisdiction under the local level conflict laws is advisory only. Pursuant to K.S.A. 75-4303a(b) and Opinion 1994-25, the Commission lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine complaints under K.S.A. 75-4301 et seq. Violations of the local level conflict laws are handled by the appropriate County or District Attorney or the Attorney General’s office by criminal complaint.
Mark Skoglund is Executive Director of KGEC:
“The local conflict of interest laws (K.S.A. 75-4300 et seq.) generally prohibit a person from participating in the making of a contract with an entity in which they have a substantial interest, though contracts let for competitive bidding and contracts where the rate is fixed by law are exempt (see K.S.A. 75-4304). Since the prohibition only applies to the making of a contract, I doubt there would be a scenario related to the hypothetical you offer in which the local conflict laws would apply. If they did, we would also have to consider whether the individual’s position constitutes a substantial interest, which would require that I have a better understanding of the federal tax status of the organization.
“The Ethics Commission has advisory jurisdiction over the local conflict of interest laws but not enforcement jurisdiction. If a local conflict of interest violation occurs, it is up to a DA or county prosecutor to bring an action.”
We asked the Director if his definition of “conflict of interest” precluded the possibility of an issue arising in an individual with these two responsibilities:
“I can’t imagine a realistic scenario in which the laws would apply to this hypothetical, since local conflict of interest laws are specific to the making of contracts.”
We reached out to Lauren Tice Miller for comment, and asked if she intended to recuse herself from any school board business involving KNEA issues. She did not respond.