Ethics review would help charter office
The school board has asked for an ethics review of charter school spending.
AFTER an audit raised questions about its spending, the office that oversees Hawaii's public charter schools tightened procedures and reporting on expenditures.
The state Board of Education's subsequent request for an opinion on whether previous spending by the Charter School Administration Office was in line with ethics rules will clarify what's proper for future accounting.
The board last week voted to seek a review by the Ethics Commission of the charter office's spending $41,611 for meals during conferences and meetings and three staff farewell parties between September 2004 and Jan. 12. Though not a huge sum, the charter office would benefit from the commission's counsel since it would not want even the appearance of financial misappropriation to cloud its reputation.
One expense that drew attention was a $97.07 tab for a lunch between the executive officer and a school board member. In addition to the pricey food, the school board was concerned about the perception that the officer, who is answerable to the board, was wining and dining one of his bosses.
The current charter administrator, Maunalei Love, said she thinks the cost was legitimate because school issues were being discussed. She indicated that there might have been more people at the lunch, but could not say for sure. In any case, Love says new rules require detailed information about expenses, which should eliminate such questions.
Board member Breene Harimoto objected to the ethics review, saying it is enough that the board has told the charter office to avoid high meal and travel costs. However, an opinion and advice from the commission would be reassuring to both officials and taxpayers.
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