The new $22000 car that Spotsylvania County School Board member Dawn Shelley won thru a YMCA raffle raises conflict-of-interest questions. We emailed Dawn Shelley twice for comment and have not received a response. A screenshot of the email chain is below. Is it all just a coincidence that Shelly won a raffle for a brand new $22000 car?
There are three problems with the “coincidence argument” that Shelley supporters cannot overcome. First, Shelley received this prize from an organization that currently holds a contract with the school division. Second, the contract is up for renewal on August 1. Third, Shelley should have known better about a conflict of interest or the appearance of one. Afterall, Shelley constantly says at school board meetings that she knows the law and policy.
Here is the $22000 question. If someone gives you a $22000 brand new car, would you think of the person or organization more favorably? Could you be objective in your vote to issue or renew a contract? This is why conflict of interest laws exist. Below are relevant areas of state law. Carefully look at the definition of “gift”, “personal interest”, and what it says in 2.2-3108. A “gift” is anything of monetary value regardless of whether it’s won under the disguise of a raffle. A “personal benefit” is a financial benefit. School board members cannot have personal interests.
- Virginia Code 2.2-3108 states that “No person elected or appointed as a member of a local school board shall have a personal interest in…….(ii) any contract with any governmental agency that is subject to the ultimate control of the school board of which he is a member”.
- Virginia Code 2.2-3101 says that a gift “means any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value.
- Virginia Code 2.2-3101 says that a personal interest “means a financial benefit or liability accruing to an officer or employee or to a member of his immediate family. Such interest shall exist by reason of …….(iv) ownership of real or personal property if the interest exceeds $5,000 in value….”