Republican town council members Paul Panos and Cristina Santos claimed Board President Doreen Richardson and Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Villar violated a number of board policies when they led an effort to hire Loyola University's Dr. Marlon James — a hire approved by the board, 6-3, in September, according to a memorandum drafted by board of education attorneys.
Detailed in the memorandum are Santos' and Panos' allegations that Villar violated the board's purchasing practices and procedures (board policy 3100) and Richardson violated the board's conflict-of-interest bylaw (9270).
The board's attorney, Gary R. Brochu of Hartford's Shipman and Goodwin, the region's largest employer of lawyers, according to Hartford Business Journal, responded to the board on November 13, saying he found there to have been no violations of board policy or bylaws with respect to James' hiring.
According to Brochu's memo, Panos and Santos claimed Villar violated board procedure when he failed to interview or vet any candidate other than James for the equity audit the board sought to commission. In particular, Panos and Santos, according to Brochu, said Villar violated the board's policy to "seek at least three written quotations on any expenditures of $10,000 or more."
However, Brochu wrote to Richardson, James' hiring does not fall within the guidelines of expenditures that would require bid solicitation; furthermore, Brochu wrote the board reserves the right to waive bidding procedure "on a case by case basis," as noted in board policy 3100, and the board waived that procedure when it voted to authorize Villar to execute an agreement with James at its meeting in September.
Panos' and Santos' also claimed that Richardson violated conflict-of-interest bylaws based on "a personal relationship with Dr. James" and having "steered other board members in their decision to approve the proposal by Dr. James," Brochu's memo stated.
Despite the board's conflict-of-interest bylaw (policy 9270) stating "no board member shall use... his or her position on the board to influence a board member in employment or contractual decisions other an those routinely made by this board," Brochu said he found no violation based on the fact that "Mrs. Richardson informed the board of her relationship with Dr. James," and "Mrs. Richardson's relationship with Dr. James does not fall within any of the categories set forth in Policy 9270. Rather, as Mrs. Richardson has publicly disclosed to the board, her relationship with Dr. James involved inviting him to make a presentation to a community group a few years ago."
In addtion, Bruchu wrote, Richardson did not violate board policy by having an opinion on the hiring of James and 'attempted to influence fellow board members."