For the first time ever, Sweetwater Union High School District coaches are being required to fill out statement of economic interest forms.
On Jan. 25, the department sent an email to all Associated Student Body advisors requesting they send California
Form 700 to coaches who, in turn, must submit completed forms by the end of 2012.
Similar to public officials, coaches are now required to keep track of the source of any income or gifts, along with a business address, date, value and description of gifts received, say district officials.
Finance Director Dianne Russo said the decision is an effort to be transparent.
“We want to make sure that we’re trying to do the best we can so that there are fewer opportunities for people to do things that seem innocent to them but cause a conflict of interest,” Russo said.
Earlier this month school board members participated in an hour and a half educational workshop, conducted by District Attorney Dan Shinoff, which focused on avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“Out of best practices, the board, board president and superintendent wanted to make sure that the training was provided,” Shinoff said. “I think it is simply a matter of public officials understanding an appearance of impropriety and also if they have a relationship that is in question.”
Fair Political Practices Commission rules state that if a coach or any other position participates in making governmental decisions, the position should be included in the agency’s conflict-of-interest code and therefore, the individual would be required to file a Form 700, said FPPC spokeswoman Tara Stock.
However, decisions about which positions should be included in a conflict of interest code are generally left up to each agency.
As defined under the policy for reportable income and gifts, a gift constitutes anything of value for which a person has not provided equal or greater consideration of $50 or more with a single source limit of $420.
Commonly reported gifts include tickets for entertainment, parking passes, food and beverage accommodations in direct connection with a conference or social event, rebates and discounts, and transportation and lodging.
Hilltop High School JV head softball coach Tim Tyler said he thinks the forms are a good thing.
“In light of what’s going on in politics in our world now … I think it’s important that we sign something,” he said. “You can’t be taking freebies and not disclosing it.”
District Grants and Communications Director Lillian Leopold said that while coaches oversee their own budget, they cannot negotiate contracts on their own.
“They have to contract with vendors that are already approved by the district,” she said.
Hilltop Athletic Director Nancy Acerrio has worked in the district since 1976 and agreed with Tyler.
“I think they are trying to watch the conflict of interest for personal gain,” she said. “There are companies out there that are trying to get schools to go with them.”
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