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GIRARD Conflict of interest on panel is alleged



Published: Sun, February 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The custodian's attorney questions the timing of the letter alleging conflict of interest.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- An attorney representing the Girard Board of Education believes a city health board member shouldn't be involved in issues dealing with city schools.

Atty. Bruce A. Zaccagnini raised a conflict-of-interest question about board member Alycia L. Homes-Naples in a Jan. 10 letter to Dr. James J. Enyeart, city health commissioner.

"I believe a conflict of interest exists," Zaccagnini asserted, noting she has a pending lawsuit against the school board.

Homes-Naples, a black custodian, contended in a federal lawsuit that she was demoted to an assistant custodian because of her race. As a result, she alleged, she lost wages, retirement benefits and had an undesirable change in work schedule.

Homes-Naples asserted she was told by the school district that the demotion was the result of a reduction in work force.

The court granted a summary judgment in favor of the school district Nov. 30, 2001, and Homes-Naples has an appeal pending.

What's in letter: Zaccagnini said in his letter to Dr. Enyeart that the conflict exists because Homes-Naples is a school employee who is suing the district and has demonstrated "her personal animosities toward the school district, school board members and employees."

The Cleveland attorney asserted the conflict should prevent her from participating in any manner in the discharge of her duties as they relate to city schools.

Specifically, he added, this includes access to any information other than the normal public access, her participation in any deliberations and discussions of issues with other health board members, voting on any matters, and her participation and-or supervision of health department employees regarding the schools.

What her lawyer said: Homes-Naples' Youngstown lawyer, Mark S. Colucci, said the timing of Zaccagnini's letter leads him to suspect it is in retaliation for filing the lawsuit against the board.

"If it is, we'll take the appropriate [legal] action," Colucci asserted. "I hope it isn't."

Mediation of the lawsuit, Colucci said, could resolve both issues -- settling the case will eliminate the conflict allegation.

He noted Homes-Naples won't abstain from voting on school issues, and she shouldn't have to.

Health board members are named to five-year terms by the mayor with the approval of city council.

Atty. Mark A. Standohar, who represents the mayor and health board, said he hasn't been asked for a legal opinion on the issue.

Standohar said he doesn't believe resignation is needed to eliminate the appearance of a conflict. Rather, he noted, she can abstain from voting.

yovich@vindy.com




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