It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education

The only thing more incredible than Governor Dannel Malloy’s decision to appoint Erik Clemons to the State Board of Education is the fact that Connecticut’s Democratic controlled legislature appears ready to rubber-stamp Malloy’s nominee despite the “Substantial Conflict of Interest” that should prevent him from serving on the Board.

There has been nothing but silence from Connecticut’s elected officials even though one of Governor Malloy’s recent appointees to the State Board of Education runs a company that is collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the very State Board that Malloy has appointed him too.

In two separate articles Wait, What? has outlined the conflict of interest associated with Malloy’s appointment of Erik Clemons to the Connecticut State Board of Education.

See:

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education. (2/16/2016

Malloy gives Charter School Industry another seat on the CT State Board of Education 12/23/2015

The issue is not whether Mr. Clemons is a “good guy” or that despite his close relationship with the Charter School Industry he is willing to work for the benefit of all students, parents, teachers and citizens.

The fact is Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman “signed-off” and appointed an individual who has a  “SUBSTANTIAL” CONFLICT OF INTEREST”  under state law.

According to Connecticut State Statutes;

“A “substantial” conflict of interest exists if a public official … or a business with which he or she is associated will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by virtue of his or her official activity. “

Erik Clemons is the CEO of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT).  In that capacity his salary and benefits are well in excess of $100,000

On May 7, 2014 the State Board of Education approved a “Turnaround Plan” for the Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School in New Haven.

That plan mandated that the New Haven Board of Education contract with Mr. Clemons and the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) for services at the Lincoln-Bassett School.

The “Turnaround Plan” approved by the State Board of Education failed to provide any mechanism for holding a competitive bid for that work.

Instead, the New Haven Board of Education was required to contract and pay Mr. Clemons’s company with funds that are annually approved and allocated by the State Board of Education.

To date, Mr. Clemons’ company has received two no-bid contracts totaling at least $517,128.

The Turnaround Plan is based on the premise that Mr. Clemons’ company would continue to be given annual contracts into the future.

As a member of the State Board of Education, Mr. Clemons would not only be in a position to vote on contracts that would directly be a benefit to himself and his company, but he would be responsible for overseeing the state agency that is monitoring whether the Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School Turnaround Plan is being properly implemented.

Even abstaining from voting on funding of his own contract isn’t enough to limit what is obviously a significant and on-going substantial conflict of interest.

The truth is that Mr. Clemons should not be a member of the State Board of Education.  Alternatively, if he really wants to serve on the State Board of Education then he must leave his position as CEO of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT).

Tomorrow – Thursday, February 18, 2016 – The General Assembly’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing and then an immediate vote on Governor Malloy’s appointees to the State Board of Education, including the nomination of Erik Clemons.

Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee

MEETING AGENDA

Thursday, February 18, 2016

11:00 AM IN ROOM 1A

Legislative Office Building

Click to view a list of the names and contact information of the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee

For more background about this issue, read: Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education.

Last November, Governor Dannel Malloy appointed Erik Clemons of New Haven, along with two other individuals, to the State Board of Education.  See: Gov. Malloy Appoints Three to Serve on the State Board of Education.

As interim appointees, the three immediately became voting members of the State Board of Education, although they must now be confirmed by the Connecticut General Assembly.  The legislature’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee will be holding a hearing, followed by an immediate vote, on Mr. Clemons and Malloy’s other appointees to the State Board of Education this Thursday, February 18, 2016.

When making the announcement, Governor Malloy and his press operation conveniently failed to reveal Erik Clemons’ close association with Connecticut’s charter school industry.

Clemons served on the Board of Directors’ of Achievement First Elm City Charter School until 2015.  Following his departure from Achievement First Inc., his company’s Director of Programs at CONNCAT, Genevive Walker, was appointed to serve on that same Achievement First Board.

Clemons is also a founding member and continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the Elm City Montessori Charter Schoola charter school that opened last fall after receiving approval from the State Board of Education. 

Both of these privately owned, but state funded, charter schools receive their operating money through the State Board of Education and the State Board is responsible for overseeing and regulating these and Connecticut’s other charter schools.

Of even greater concern, however, is that when Malloy appointed Erik Clemons to the State Board of Education, the Governor failed to report that Erik Clemons is the president of a nonprofit corporation that is collecting in excess of $500,000 in state funds as a result of a lucrative no-bid contract funded through the State Department of Education.

The incredible story dates back to May 7, 2014 when Governor Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education voted to adopt a “Turnaround Plan for the Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School in New Haven.

The plan REQUIRED that the New Haven School System contract with Erik Clemons’ Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT).  As head of ConnCAT, Clemons’ compensation package is well over one hundred thousand dollars a year.

The Turnaround Plan read;

“While Boost! Will continue to deliver community resources to students at Lincoln-Bassestt, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) shall serve as the schools’s anchor partner for afterschool programing.”

The Turnaround Plan required that the New Haven Public Schools “initiate a performance-based contract with ConnCAT by May 27, 2014.”

As a result of the State Board of Education’s action, the New Haven Board of Education approved Agreement 649-14 with Clemons’  Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) to “provide after-school programming, family and community engagement programs and school environment transformation at Lincoln-Bassett School from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.  The funds to pay for the $302,197.50 contract came from the State Department of Education’s “School Turnaround Program.”

A second contract (Agreement 478-13) between the New Haven Board of Education and ConnCAT, again using State Turnaround Program funds, authorized an additional $214,930.50 to pay for ConnCAT activities form July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

This annual contract is expected to be extended, yet again, in the summer of 2016.

In addition, using the state’s Lincoln-Bassett turnaround funds, the New Haven Board of Education also hired a New Haven architectural firm for $42,224 for “ConnCAT Project Design Services.”

Unfortunately, the only coverage of these issues has been here at Wait, What? in an article co-written with public education advocate Wendy Lecker, Malloy gives Charter School Industry another seat on the CT State Board of Education.

With the General Assembly’s Legislative and Executive Nominations Committee about to decide whether or not to confirm Mr. Clemons to serve on the State Board of Education, one would hope that other media outlets or legislators would step up and investigate the extremely serious conflicts of interest that should be keeping Mr. Clemons from serving on Connecticut’s Board of Education.

  • cindy

    Connecticut has reached ludicrous speed when it comes to ignoring voters, outright corruptions and lawlessness.

  • Bill Morrison

    Isn’t this exactly what we have been saying about the Malloy Administration all along? After all, his previous Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, had a personal financial stake in Achievement First Charter School Corporation while pushing cities around our state to authorize Achievement First schools, thereby presenting a clear conflict of interest. The pattern continues with this obvious corruption!

    • JJ Thorpe

      Now it’s my turn to say, “wait, what?” Please explain how Pryor “had a personal financial stake” in Achievement First (which is a nonprofit, not a corporation, I believe, and probably publishes audited financial statements). I don’t think their board members are compensated, and he couldn’t have been an employee or consultant while serving as commissioner. So that leaves his wife being compensated as an employee or consultant. Or is there something else I’m not thinking of? I’m truly curious.

  • jhs

    Apparently conflicts of interest are irrelevant to the power in Hartford. They can do pretty much anything they want. Who is to stop them?

    • JMC

      Certainly not AG Jepson, who began his tenure persecuting car washes and has not been heard from since.