Presented with complaints of alleged malfeasance on the part of Superintendent of Windsor Schools Dr. Jeffrey Villar and School Board President Doreen Richardson, the town board of ethics decided to toss out the charges against the education leaders Thursday night, finding no probable cause to substantiate the claims.
The ethics board based its decision on its determination that the complaints failed to meet all criteria required for it to issue an advisory opinion:
- Whether the allegations constitute a violation of the code of ethics;
- Whether there is substantial evidence "to warrant further proceedings;" and
- Whether the circumstances, official or employee "are governed by a collective bargaining agreement, personal employment contract, or other agreement policy... which would take precedence..."
The allegations were tossed out on the grounds that, "even if proven, would not constitute a violation of the code (of ethics), and there does not appear to be evidence that sufficiently warrants further proceedings," said board of ethics Chair Tim Fitzgerald.
Both Richardson and Villar said they were confident coming into the probable cause review following the special meeting at town hall.
"Quite honestly, I was confident going in that I understood my role and fulfilled my duties as I was supposed to, and I was disappointed that members of my board felt it necessary to take that step," Villar said of the board's Republican members filing the complaint.
The complaint, filed by Cristina Santos, Paul Panos and Pam DiGiore on December 7, alleged Villar and Richardson were in violation of board policy and bylaws concerning the scheduling of meetings, conflict of interest, and gifts and favors.
The leveling of such allegations, which were made with respect to the board's action to direct Villar to enter into a contract with Dr. Marlon James of Loyola University-Chicago to conduct an equity and excellence study at Windsor High School, laid bare rifts between board members on more than one occassion and came to a procedureal dead end Thursday.
Villar called the allegations and tension between board members "an unfortunate occurrence," adding that it "represents a significant hurdle for us to overcome."
"Quite frankly, I feel my personal trust has been violated," said Villar. "I feel I work hard to execute my duties in a way that's best for Windsor. I put a lot of time into doing that. I felt that (filing an ethics complaint) was unfair and, really, uncalled for. We're politicizing an issue when we should be talking about what's good for the children."
As far as moving forward and putting the issue of alleged ethics violations in the past are concerned, Villar said the events leading up to Thursday nights decision don't convince him he's heard the end of it; however, he's taking steps to do just that.
According to Villar, he has extended invitations to all members of the board of education to have individual meetings with him in an effort to ensure attention can be diverted from "adult matters," as he put it, and on the improvement of Windsor schools for the district's students.
Richardson said talks have occurred in the recent months to quell tension between board members and move forward with work to close the achievement gap, but such talks were unsuccessful.
To achieve positive discourse, "individual members of the board have to take responsibility for their duties and their roles as described in our bylaws, and (their duties) the people, quite frankly, expect," said Richardson.