How Much Do Mayor Candidates' Interests 'Conflict'?
Potential conflicts of interest a topic on the campaign trail.
Do the three candidates' seats on other boards in the community conflict with the office of mayor?
The question first came up almost as soon as School Board member Mark Verhalen made clear his intent to run for mayor. But as the campaign has continued, it's also been asked of Tom Michalski, who sits on the Milwaukee Area Technical College Board of Directors, and Steve Scaffidi, a member of the Oak Creek Community Center Board.
The three had different things to say on the topic in interviews with Oak Creek Patch.
Verhalen said he does not plan to give up his school board seat if elected because the two governments are completely separate.
"The school system's a totally different entity than city government," he said. "What we do over there has nothing to do with the city. We dictate our own policy in dealing with the schools, teachers, curriculum, students. The city has nothing to do with things."
But Verhalen also said that serving in both capacities could improve the communication between the two entities on issues they work together on. Most notably, the recent discussions between the city and school district on a possible land swap next to Oak Creek High School has shown that a better relationship is needed, he said.
He could recuse himself in the event an issue presented itself, he said.
"I think it's a moot point. It's not a question," he said. "The question is well noted, but I don't think it's an issue. Just because I'm on the school board, does that negate me from trying to work anyplace else? Does that mean I can't serve on a committee for the sewage district or the Salvation Army?"
Verhalen also said his situation is no different than Scaffidi's and Michalski's.
Scaffidi, however, said he will resign from the community center board if elected, and remove himself from any other similar situations.
He said it's not enough to just recuse himself from specific votes or discussions.
"Mayor needs to participate. I'm all in," he said. "You're going to start excluding yourself from debates and voting because you have a conflict of interest? Immediately that throws up red flags for me. You've got some other allegiance that you have to weigh. I don't have that."
Michalski said he would consider giving up his seat on the MATC Board if it became too time-consuming to do both. But he rejected the notion of a conflict of interest, saying that state statute dictates that at least one elected official has to sit on the board.
"Any talk of a conflict of interest with me being up there, well you have to take that up to the state Legislature," he said. "And I can tell you that the state Legislature is not happy with the makeup of MATC Board of Directors. But when it's all said and done, they still want elected officials on the board.
"I think it works to the city of Oak Creek's benefit. Most of the students that attend MATC come from Milwaukee. The No. 2 city is Oak Creek. MATC has a campus right on Howell Avenue. We interact with MATC. It's another taxing agent - why wouldn't you want a representative from Oak Creek making sure that MATC is taxing the way you want them to tax and not going hog-wild?"