“The holding of public office or employment is a public trust, created by the confidence which the electorate reposes in the integrity of public officers. A public officer shall carry out his duties for the benefit of the people of the state.”
§ 24-18-103(1), Colorado Revised Statutes
CSI Schools are subject to numerous sources of legal authority and compliance obligations, including state and federal law, regulations, contractual requirements, and others. One thing that nearly all sources of law applicable to Colorado charter schools have in common is that they demonstrate a concern for how the organization will avoid conflicts of interest and how it will deal with conflicts when they arise. The Colorado Charter School Institute has created the Conflict of Interest Guidance and Sample Policy language on this page to compile various conflict of interest legal provisions applicable to CSI Schools and to assist schools in developing and implementing meaningful conflict of interest policies in response.
Why this matters to CSI schools?
A “conflict of interest,” at a high level, is any situation in which there is a reason to believe that the interests of those various roles are not aligned, and an individual’s ability to be impartial in their official duties could be called into question. Conflicts of interest are not inherently bad or indicative of any wrongdoing. As the General Assembly stated, conflicts of interest are an inevitable part of exercising public duties, and what matters is what you do when one comes up.
Having strong conflict of interest policies and effective implementation of those policies is especially important to CSI Schools for a few reasons. First, each Board Member for a CSI School is a fiduciary of public funds and is bound by the legal and ethical obligations outlined in this document. Second, as a CSI school, the organization is expected to maintain a high level of governance and oversight of its legal obligations as a function of its independence from a traditional school district. Finally, each Board Member, school leader, and employee of a CSI School should consider themselves representatives of the charter school sector. Improper actions by a single individual can be used to justify law and policy changes to reduce or eliminate charter school autonomy.
What you’ll find in the guidance
The CSI Conflict of Interest Guidance for School Boards and Administrators contains the following:
- Conflict of Interest Overview
- Types of Conflicts
- Legal and Contractual Obligations for CSI Schools
- Policy Components Checklist
- Sample Policy Language
What you should do
Following the guidance in the document will help CSI Schools and School Board Members ensure they are in compliance with law and best practices, avoid legal sanctions for violations, and avoid the negative publicity which can be associated with real or perceived violations of the public trust. However, this document is not intended to provide legal advice, and any questions regarding individual conflicts of interest should be directed to legal counsel for the individual or the school to determine how to apply the law to the relevant facts. If you have any questions or concerns as you develop, review, or revise your Conflict of Interest Policy, please contact the Legal and Policy Department and we will be happy to support you.