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Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Board member cleared of ethics violation

St. Marys schools

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - An investigation into a possible ethics violation for school board member Brian Little has been dismissed.
The Ohio Ethics Commission in November began an investigation over conflict of interest after Little recommended the higher of two bids for snow plow services from a company he had worked for part time.
The ethics commission recently sent a letter to county prosecutor Ed Pierce, saying its investigation did not find a violation. Pierce said he agreed with the finding and would not pursue the matter further.
In August, board members hired Whitney Painting and Sandblasting, St. Marys, at $947 per event to handle snow plow services for the district per Little's recommendation. After some board members objected to choosing the higher of two bids, Little argued for Whitney, saying the company was the more responsible choice and had worked for the school previously and he knew they could handle the job.
The other bidder was HDL Property Services, St. Marys, at $789 per event.
Resident Bob Valentine in November accused Little of the ethics violation, saying he should have abstained from voting since he worked for the company. Little initially denied working for the company but later admitted he had worked for Whitney on a part-time basis the last two years.
Little said he was on-call for snow events in February 2011 while on leave from work as an Auglaize County sheriff's deputy. He helped with three snow events during that month. He also worked for the company in April for a little over a week cleaning out propane tanks.
The law states a board member needs to abstain from discussion when he or she either currently works for or plans to work for that company in the future.
"Neither is true, so I didn't think it was a conflict of interest," Little had said. "I know the Whitneys, but I wouldn't get anything for recommending them. I just believed they were the more responsible choice."
Little on Monday refused to comment.
Superintendent Shawn Brown said he was glad the ordeal was over.
"I'm glad we have it behind us," he said. "We have bigger issues to take care of."
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