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Conflict of interest forces new TUSD trustee to resign

Board has 60 days to fill open seat

Conflict of interest forces new TUSD trustee to resign

Newly elected Turlock Unified School District Trustee Lori Crivelli resigned her seat due to potential conflicts of interest with her family's businesses.


POSTED December 18, 2009 10:36 p.m.
Turlock Unified School District Trustee Lori Crivelli resigned her seat on with only one meeting under her belt on Wednesday due to a potential conflict of interest.
After being sworn into office at the Dec. 8 TUSD Board meeting, Crivelli sat in the audience instead of taking her place at dais. Her inactivity in the meeting was due to a potential conflict of interest, which resulted in her resignation Wednesday.
“It is important that as trustees we make those decisions free from any actual or even perceived conflicts of interest,” Crivelli said in a statement.
The issue in question was her family’s business relationships that could create a “potential conflict of interest in the future,” Crivelli said in a statement. The main potential conflict of interest was with her husband’s printing-screening business.
“After careful consideration, rather than abstaining from some decisions that could appear to be a conflict, I feel it would be in the best interest of Turlock Unified School District and my family if I resign my position as a Trustee,” Crivelli said in a statement.
TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto and the board of trustees accepted her resignation and said they understand how difficult the decision was to resign.
“We certainly appreciate how difficult this decision was for her, but respect her integrity and obvious concern for the school district by agreeing to step down,” Da Marto said in a statement. “Her enthusiasm and abilities will be missed.”
Her potential conflict of interest could have not been known before she was elected, said Frank Lima, TUSD Board president.
“These rules are not common sense rules,” Lima said. “They are very technical and strict. Until you are in office you don’t realize how strict they are and fortunately she found out early.”
Crivelli said she had a decision to make. She could either stay on the board and her husband could no longer work with the district or she could resign.
“This is not something an average person would know,” Crivelli said. “It took some research.”
“It is not a simple conflict of interest where she can just recluse herself,” said Josh Bernard, TUSD trustee. “It is not that simple. The laws causing her conflict of interest are complicated.”  
According to California Government Code Section 1780, the TUSD Board of Trustees must fill the vacant position within 60 days by appointing a replacement or calling a special election.
Lima said he expects the board to discuss their options at the Jan. 5 meeting.
If the board decides to have a special election, the district will have to pay for that election, Lima said.
“Under our current budget restraints, I don’t know if we can justify spending the money for a special election, but that is up to the board to decide,” he said.
If someone is appointed, they will not serve the rest of Crivelli’s term, which was for four years, Lima said. The appointed trustee will serve for about two years until the next general election to give the public the opportunity to vote.
Through the appointment process, the board can nominate someone and appoint them, or they can collect applications of people who are interested in the vacant position and interview them at a public meeting, he said.
The last person that was appointed was Tami Muniz. During her appointment, the board decided to solicit nominations and interviewed about three to four other people in public where Muniz was selected, Lima said.
The board could also decide to appoint the person who received the next  highest number votes in the November election. That person is Timm LaVelle.  
“There is no typical in appointing the next person with the highest votes,” said Timm LaVelle, former TUSD trustee. “It rarely happens and I don’t believe they will just appoint me. They will go through the appropriate process. This board goes by the book.”
If the board solicits nominations and applications to appoint a new trustee, LaVelle said he would consider applying. He said he would also encourage Tami Muniz, another former TUSD trustee who lost in the November election, to apply.
LaVelle said he is sorry for Crivelli because of all the hard work and expenses she put into her campaign to now recluse herself from the board.
“It is just a reminder to the community that this is a volunteer position,” he said. “People give up their time to serve the community. We get no money for serving on the board and I understand her decision because it can have a financial and time restraint on a family.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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