Los Angeles school chief moonlights as school supply exec

Why is it when public officials get caught in a clear conflict of interest that they always claim that they're "not involved" in decisions that benefit them financially?

I mean, who believes that? Maybe the guy's wife and kids but beyond that, it's giggle worthy. Why else do you think the guy was hired by the conflicting company in the first place? It's because he could steer some business their way.

No matter. LA unified schools chief Ramon Cortines also sits on the board of Scholastic, Inc - who just happen to supply the district with a reading program. Howard Blume writing in the Los Angeles Times:

Scholastic Inc. provides the main reading intervention curriculum for the Los Angeles Unified School District, a program that is part of the company's fast-growing educational technology business.

Cortines has disclosed his relationship with the New York-based company, and officials say he has avoided any decisions on Scholastic contracts.

Cortines' role, however, has generated criticism among some former senior officials and current employees. They said the corporate tie creates an appearance of impropriety.

"My objection is the perception it creates and the door it opens for others to do the same thing," said former school board member Marlene Canter, who sits on the city ethics commission and who said she admires Cortines.

Board members, including Canter, never examined his outside employment in the rush to elevate the respected Cortines from the district's No. 2 position after a board majority suddenly decided to replace predecessor David Brewer in 2008, she said.

No current board members expressed concerns.

"Ray has done all the proper things he has to do" in terms of disclosure, school board President Monica Garcia said. "It's never been something that's been hidden. I don't know what is interesting here." Echoing others, she added: "I never met a person with more integrity than Ray Cortines."

Except that Mr. Cortines' "integrity" apparently isn't tarnished by taking $150,000 a year to make sure Scholastic, Inc. remains a beneficiary of taxpayer largess. The fact that no one else on the board is bothered by this shows that each and every one of them would kill for an arrangement like Cortines.

And people wonder why our schools are as bad as they are?


Hat Tip: Ed Lasky