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Howard County school board appoints five new members to its ethics panel

The Howard County Board of Education approved five new appointments to its ethics panel on Thursday.

The appointees are Dean Christmon, Barry Frieman, J. Khalid Hargrove, Ellen Kwan Lewis and Camilla McFarlane. All five Howard County residents will serve five-year terms on the panel beginning July 1.

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The five-person ethics panel, made up of Howard County residents and not school system employees, oversees the district’s ethics regulations, which include conflict of interest, outside employment and gifts, among others. The panel also oversees financial and lobbying disclosures and sanctions as well as granting exemptions, providing advisory opinions and handling complaints.

They were selected by the board’s screening committee, composed of general counsel Mark Blom, human resources business partner Sandy Saval and school board members Jen Mallo and Sabina Taj. Seventeen people applied for the five spots, and 12 of them were interviewed.

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“The committee thanks all of the citizens who applied for this important position,” the committee wrote in a statement. “Each candidate possessed important skills and abilities that would have undoubtedly served the Board of Education. We remain indebted to the talented and dedicated citizens of the county who help the school board on a regular basis.”

The positions on the ethics panel opened up in April after the previous panel was dissolved. According to a former ethics panel appointee, the previous panel was disbanded after an advisory opinion it sent to the school board was leaked.

Also during the meeting:

  • Douglas Pindell, the school system’s purchasing director, informed the board that its nearly $2 million contract with Paragon Casework for the Hammond High School renovation project is ending. After the bid’s acceptance by the board April 30, the school system learned it did not comply with every aspect of the bid request. The school system will clarify the bid and put it back out soon with “minimal disruption to the project schedule,” according to a bids and contracts fact sheet provided to the school board. The renovation at Hammond, which is expected to cost $76.9 million, has been on the list for a renovation for about a decade.
  • The board approved a motion from Chair Mavis Ellis to “provide an opportunity” for board members to receive unconscious bias, conscious bias, racial equity, anti-racist and anti-bias training similar to what school system staff receives. The board also approved a motion from member Christina Delmont-Small to include students with disabilities in any equity or bias training.
  • The board approved a grant for nearly $500,000 from the Maryland Department of the Environment for two electric school buses.
  • Lastly, the board gave a proclamation to recognize outgoing student member of the board Allison Alston. Alston will attend the University of Virginia in the fall. Zach Koung, of Howard High School, will take over for Alston as the student member of the board for the 2020-21 school year. He won the student member of the board election over Long Reach’s Joshua Drasin in early June.

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