Listen Here, You Boneheads, We Ain't Broke so Don't Try and Fix Us

School board warmly embraces ethics commission

He continued, "The role of this ethics board would fall somewhere between law enforcement and the administration in educating the uninformed and guiding people who are perplexed about what the rules are, and, on occasion, punishing those who are miscreant. Just as the law-enforcement community cannot by itself deal with juvenile crime, we depend on some discipline, some direction in the home. This is an opportunity for the Dade County Public Schools to provide that discipline, direction, and education in its own house. As the Dade County Public Schools and as the example we want to set for the children of this community, you are in a unique position to provide that leadership."

Leslie Coller, a parent and member of the advisory panel that recommended an ethics commission, practically begged for leadership. "We feel very strongly, and there are an awful lot of people here today who speak to this, that you must go forward," she pleaded. "Please do that today."

Despite the fervor evinced by several speakers, Solomon Stinson expressed disdain for the notion of a powerful ethics commission. "I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'm against ethics," he clarified. "I'm all for ethics. I'm for ethics for the judiciary on down."

Solomon Stinson: "I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'm against ethics. I'm all for ethics"
Steve Satterwhite
Solomon Stinson: "I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'm against ethics. I'm all for ethics"

But Stinson saw a trap that could lead to a kind of double jeopardy for criminally charged school-district employees who manage to beat the rap. People who have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the courts, he proclaimed, should not also have to answer to an ethics board. "The other thing that really concerns me about an ethics commission," he continued, "sometimes what's ethical for one person is somewhat unethical for the other, depending on who comprises the ethics commission. I am for looking at recommendations as to how it would be structured, how it all comes together, and then we have something to talk about. I am not the least bit interested in creating a monster in this school system that you don't know what to do with and that you can't kill. Perhaps I'd feel different if I were an outsider, but having been a part of this school system as an employee for 36 years and having sat on this board for almost 4 years, I have little concern regarding the ethics and the ethical standards this board has adhered to over my entire longevity with the school system."

Stinson went on: "If in the minds of the people out there in the bigger community we should create this, then I think perhaps to allay any fears, we should go ahead and create it. However, when it is created, I am really, really concerned that we are not creating an I-got-you kind of commission, and if we don't get you legally, we get you ethically.

"Generally ethics commissions act on many anonymous kinds of complaints on professional practices.... I can sit down and write a letter on Nelson Diaz, or Joe Mathos, Carol Cortes, and Henry Fraind, and somebody will be out, perhaps, depending on the strength of the allegation. A case will be opened, and the ethics commission will be looking at 'em. I just want to clearly understand, clearly know the parameters of that ethics commission, and I want myself to be very, very clear that we are not setting up a situation where there are two bites at the apple."

Braddock, pontificating from his cold war-era orange swivel chair for the last time in his 38-year career on the school board, was adamantly opposed to an ethics commission but said he would bow to public pressure as other board members seemed inclined to do. "I have a hard time seeing an ethics commission here when we've already got one [at the state level] under which we operate," he argued. "You know, we are told constantly to operate like a business. How many of these businesses in Dade County have an ethics commission? Does the Miami Herald have one? Does Burdines have one? Do the airlines have them? If we are going to operate like a business, maybe we ought to operate like a business and not have an ethics commission unless they put them in, and then we'll say, ďWe'll operate like a business. We'll put in an ethics commission.'"

The real reason for an ethics commission, Braddock revealed, was not that the school district needed it but that the public wanted it. "I almost get the feeling that this is a knee-jerk reaction, reacting to the public. And I always have a hard time reacting to the public 'cause I'm not so high on the public," he sneered. "I never have been, and I'm not going to go out of office being high on the public. I've never thought we had a very bright public, and I've said that many a time. The public is a reactionary audience. The public reacts to an individual situation. When parents used to call me raising hell about something, I didn't worry about them raising hell. I knew I could outlast them. No matter how high and emotional they were about the issue, they were going to forget about it in half an hour, an hour, two or three hours. All I had to do is call them back at dinnertime when Mom was fixing that dinner, and she couldn't talk to me, and that finished the problem.

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