Conflict questions in Oak Bluffs race
A three-way race for one seat on the Oak Bluffs school committee took a couple of surprise twists this week with one candidate withdrawing and another seeking a legal opinion about whether he will have a conflict of interest, if elected.
The candidates named on the ballot are Melanie Bilodeau, an Oak Bluffs School parent who currently sits on the board of assessors; Melanie Marchand, also a school parent; and Bill McGrath, member of the financial advisory committee and a math teacher at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
Mr. McGrath said this week he intends to seek a ruling from the state ethics commission about whether he can serve on the school committee while employed as a high school teacher. A provision of Massachusetts general law says, "No member of a school committee in any town shall be eligible to the position of teacher...in any union school or superintendency union or district in which his town participates." The Oak Bluffs school district is overseen by James Weiss, who also serves as superintendent for the three other elementary school districts and the regional high school district. Each member of town school committees traditionally is also appointed to serve two years of their three-year term as a member of the regional high school district committee.
"If I'm elected and it turns out the ethics commission said absolutely no way," said Mr. McGrath on Tuesday, "then the worst that could happen is my opponent would be appointed. But I don't believe that's going to happen. If I thought that was going to happen, I would withdraw."
Mr. McGrath said that, if elected, and the ethics commission rules he would be in conflict, he would work part time, or resign his teaching position.
Also this week, in a letter to The Martha's Vineyard Times, Melanie Bilodeau said she is withdrawing from the race. "The economic situation being what it is, I have decided to seek employment within the school district. This would create a conflict of interest, and not allow me to serve fully on the committee," wrote Ms. Bilodeau, whose name will still appear on the ballot.