15 Tuesday Mar 2016
Recently the alarm was raised about an LA Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) directive that would disempower any Neighborhood Council (NC) from funding any Neighborhood Purpose Grant (NPG) that would go to any public school attended by any director’s child. Never mind the usual recusal process but in this instance the entire matter was to be barred from consideration by the entire NC.
This would effectively discourage any neighborhood parent from participating in the NC system. And it infantilizes the entire NC by declaring directors incapable of ruling impartially given any fellow members’ interest.
It turns out that the City Attorney’s office clarified this silly and inequitable ruling in the usual way, declaring NC directors to be responsible adults capable of recusing themselves from deliberations and votes with the same degree of morality expected from any conflicted party:
NPG’s for Non-Profit or LAUSD schools:
The Office of the City Attorney provides the following clarification regarding restrictions on providing Neighborhood Purpose Grants (NPG) to a non-profit or public school which a board member’s child attends.
The Office of the City Attorney does not believe that the conflict of interest laws would preclude a NPG being provided to a school for a general item that is available to all students, e.g., if the grant is for a playground, a board could award the NPG even if the board member’s child will use the equipment. However, the board member should disqualify himself or herself so as to avoid any issue under the common law bias doctrine and/or any appearance of a conflict. Disqualification means the board member may not nominate his/her child’s school to receive the grant, may not negotiate with fellow board members to nominate the schools of each other’s children, may not fill out the NPG application, may not discuss the NPG in or outside of a meeting with fellow board members, and may not present, discuss or vote on the NPG when the item is considered. Instead, the board member must recuse him/herself and leave the room immediately once the item is called for consideration by the board. The minutes must reflect the board member’s recusal.
On the other hand, a Neighborhood Council is prohibited under Government Code section 1090 from providing a grant to a school which that board member’s child attends if the grant will offset any identifiable cost for the board member or have any other distinct financial benefit to the board member or his/her child. For example, the board may not fund a field trip that a board member’s child would attend if the board member would otherwise have had to pay for his/her child to participate.