*Local and frequent speaker at Board of Education meetings Bob Urbancik emailed this letter to Patch criticizing the Board of Education's lack of ethics.
Since Feb. 9, 1999 the members of the Smithtown Board of Ed were required to sign and follow Policy 2160-E. Sadly the present Board is operating without signing this required policy. The policy is an "Ethics Exhibit." I find this to be a very serious situation; especially when viewed with some recent acts of some Board Members.
The current Vice President of the Board, Mrs. Knox‘s actions stand out. Her husband is an accountant whose boss conducted an annual audit of the district for the last several years. After the most recent audit a member of the board claimed that the audit committee (which Mrs. Knox’s husband's boss was on) exceeded its authority. Mrs. Knox denied that. But, after several months it was found that the committee did exceeded its authority. But, Mrs. Knox still disputes that. The audit is done as an unpaid service to the district. I strongly believe that the district should accept the services of a new auditor (Mrs. Knox’s husband’s boss has been doing it for several years); if it was a paid position Mrs. Knox husband’s boss would not be allowed as the potential for a conflict of interest. I believe that the potential for a conflict is real even for this unpaid position. And with the district’s finding the committee exceeded its authority along with Mrs. Knox denial of this a solution is needed.
Clearly Mrs. Knox husband’s boss should not be auditing the district while Mrs. Knox serves on the Board. And to be clear Mrs. Knox husband is a member of a large firm and his boss is on the audit committee and this firm should not be allowed to audit the District.
Going over the district budgets for the last several years we learned that the District sometimes had reserves over $12,000,000 and raised our taxes while holding on to the reserves. Perhaps an audit by an impartial community member would point out how to use these reserves more wisely. At minimum it would eliminate a husband auditing work done by his wife.
The current President of the Board is a very honest, hardworking and fair person. And along with Mrs. Knox the Vice President she is a long serving board member. I have gone to many meetings and I strongly believe that Mrs. Waldron always followed the items of the ethics exhibit. But I believe Mrs. Knox clearly violated the ethics exhibit; which in part states “ avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest."
Mrs. Knox’s belief that her husband’s boss’s committee did not exceeded its’ authority continues after the District found that it did.
As a community we are entitled to fair and ethical treatment. The current situation needs to be repaired now. How can Mrs. Knox believe that her husband's boss can audit the district without the appearance of a conflict of interest? And how can her denials about the district’s finding not be a conflict of interest? And why did she not sign the required Ethics Exhibit? And since Mrs. Knox is a long standing board member how could she not know about the Ethics Exhibit. I found it ; it’s on the District’s website. I am not sure but I think Mrs. Knox was a Board member when the policy was adopted.
Another troubling matter is the lack of transparency concerning our school district. We are not getting the full information about important matters and the information we do get is delayed. With the loss of the $3.1 million dollars the district and the Board of Ed refused to give us all the details. This makes the need for an independent auditor a real priority for the community.
And recently several members of the community asked the Board of Ed to supply more copies of the expanded agendas for the public Board of Ed meetings. Our Board of Ed responded to eliminate ALL agendas. The district cited a new law that allows them to do so. But this law does not require the district to eliminate the agendas. Now if someone goes to a Board meeting for the first time there is no way to follow along. The expanded agendas provided useful information about what was happening in the district. I guess the Board of Ed doesn’t want us to have that information.
– Bob Urbancik