DeCotis puts kibosh on ethics brawl


It went from verbal brawl to closed lips, and it took little more than a whisper from the guy in charge. Brief comments Tuesday night by Fayette County School Superintendent John DeCotis appeared to effectively rein in charges and counter charges on alleged ethics issues by board members against board members in the past two weeks. But yet another splattering of those earlier comments were heard during the public comments portion of the meeting.

DeCotis said he had asked that the topic be put on the agenda in light of recent comments made that related to board ethics and possible ethics violations. Displayed on the screen were the current ethics policy, a sample code of ethics and items that an ethics policy should include.

DeCotis said he wanted to remind all five board members that the school system has an existing ethics policy and wanted to reiterate the provisions contained in it.

“I wanted to remind the board that a policy is in place and I hope they can adhere to it,” DeCotis said, adding, “especially since we have a superintendent’s search under way.”

With those comments the matter was settled, with those on the board apparently willing to let the matter rest.

But that was not all that would be said of the verbal brawl between board members Janet Smola, Terri Smith and Bob Todd at the previous board meeting. It was during the public comments portion of the meeting that the topic again appeared.

Fayette Teacher Joy Clark took her turn at the podium, giving her opinion that statements made by Todd at a recent press conference were political and that his behavior violated the ethics policy.

Also on the list to speak was Vanessa Birrell. Though she could not stay for the public comments section, Birrell did provide The Citizen with a copy of her comments. She referenced the “foolish spending” of Smith, Smola and Lee Wright in a number of 3-2 votes and she gave examples of “questionable” ethics of the part of Smola and Smith, adding her belief that they are handpicking board of education candidates.

Representing the Fayette Board of Realtors, representative Mike Faulkner said his board was present to express their concern over the recent bickering and political posturing in past weeks and in the hopes that board members would essentially speak with a common voice after a vote.

It is noteworthy that the Board of Realtors, at least in recent years, has not made the same request in any municipality or with county commissioners, even though the open disputes and verbal warfare that have occasionally been present at meetings and in the media in some of those governing bodies far eclipse anything heard from the mouths of school board members in recent weeks.

For his part, Faulkner after the meeting said that while uncommon, his statement to the school board was not an unprecedented move by the Realtors’ board.