Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 28, 2009

Are “conflicts of interest” still conflicts when you make money off of them?

Filed under: Nov 18 meeting (where I was removed from office) — Editor @ 10:07 am

From the Westerly Sun – h/t Dorothy

Two committees, different entities

IT STANDS TO REASON THAT THE CHARIHO Re­gional School Committee and the Chariho Building Committee are different enti­ties. Beyond the most obvious difference — their names — they have distinct member­ships and roles.

So, it would seem, they are different enti­ties before the law.

Now, it is true that the two committees serve the same public and share many goals, such as turning the tri-town district’s $20.5­million capital projects into reality. But when you move in the realm of public office — or multi-million dollar projects — there’s no such thing as making too certain your legal ground is secure.

In legal matters, both panels turn to Ed­wards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge, a Provi­dence law firm. On a simple level, that makes perfect sense. If the firm is good enough to represent school officials, why not represent school building officials?

That argument faltered when the school committee was told by Attorney Jon M. An­derson that he couldn’t offer a legal opinion on an issue because it regarded another client — the building panel.

[Editor’s Note] – Jon Anderson is the attorney who told the Chariho School committee that I couldn’t serve on both the SC and Town Council because of “conflicts of interest.”

The very idea angered Andrew J. Polouski, a member of the school committee, who said that the primary function of the firm is to serve the elected board, and that the build­ing committee should have hired another firm.

Admittedly, it seems on the face of things that such a relationship might be the most efficient course of action, but in this scenario we’re also talking about a $20 million project and that has to take precedence over poten­tial savings of a fraction of that cost.

We find it odd that the law firm didn’t at least raise the issue of a possible conflict by serving both boards, however remote it might have appeared at the start. Neverthe­less, the local boards have a responsibility for considering potential or perceived con­flicts of interest in this kind of scenario as well.

It’s been tough enough for the school dis­trict to pass a bond in the first place; we hate to see preventable technical dilemmas get in the way of implementing the bond.

While the two panels are certainly on the same side, as School Committee member Ter­ri Serra noted, perhaps this bump in the road can serve as a caution sign to be on the look out for any other potential issues as this exciting project takes shape.


 Chariho continues to embarrass itself …



  1. I’ve stated it before, “The unfetterd access to legal counsel is not the “cat’s meow” the SC would have us believe.” It creates mnay problems with the decision making requirements(I know this is a stretch) of the SC.

    Comment by RS — September 28, 2009 @ 10:21 am | Reply

  2. So there’s 3 School Committee members on the Building Committee, if they require a different lawyer, how’s it different than BF being on the CSC and HTC?

    Comment by Gene Daniell — September 28, 2009 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

    • The difference, the SC didn’t want the accountability that comes with BF. It’s called an agenda.

      Comment by RS — September 28, 2009 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

  3. Hi!
    Question: Does the Chariho Act REQUIRE some school committee members serve on a building committee or is it just a tradition? I think some are required to be on the committee? Please advise.
    Another topic:The Public Utilies Commission is sitting at the Town Hall in Hopkinton at 6 P.M., TONIGHT to deal with objections from National Grid in regards to the desire of that utility on their plans in Hopkinton and recent town Council action.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — September 29, 2009 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

  4. Whatever happened to Attorney Henneous?

    Comment by formerbma — October 7, 2009 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

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