Friday, October 16, 2009

Oakland School Board Member Suddenly Quits

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Longtime Oakland School board member David Kakishiba announced that he's resigning from the board effective December 1 after a recent legal opinion by the district's new attorney determined that he has a conflict of interest. Kakishiba is the executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, a nonprofit that does about $1 million of business annually with Oakland schools, providing after-school programs. Although Kakishiba has been diligent about recusing himself from issues involving his nonprofit and the school district over the years, Jackie Minor, the district's new general counsel, determined that his dual positions with the nonprofit and the district represent a conflict.

The school district's previous general counsels, Roy Combs and Deborah Cooksey, came to a different conclusion. But much has changed in the past year with the school board now having authority over contracts because of the return of local control. For most of Kakishiba's time on the board, the district was under state control, so neither he nor the board had authority over contracts with nonprofits - or anything else.

Kakishiba told 92510 that he essentially had no choice but to quit, because the district threatened to stop processing contracts with his nonprofit unless he resigned from the school board or from the youth center. He said the school board likely will appoint a replacement for him sometime before February 1. And because Kakishiba's term ends next year, that new appointee will be able to run as incumbent in the June primary.

This is the second conflict-of-interest ruling from the new general counsel. Earlier this year, Minor determined that the wife of new superintendent Tony Smith had a conflict because of her high-level job with the Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools, which has been involved in multi-million-dollar contracts with the district, concerning its small schools program. According to the Trib, Smith's wife, Kathleen Osta, resigned her position with the coalition after Minor issued her opinion.

The school district is refusing to release the legal opinion that prompted Kakishiba to resign, citing attorney-client privilege. In fact, Kakishiba told 92510 that he wasn't even allowed to keep a copy of the document. But he said that Minor was apparently concerned that his position as school board member could influence district officials into giving preference to his non-profit over competitors, especially since the school board now has authority over personnel decisions. In addition, there's a concern that Kakishiba's colleagues on the board might vote for contracts involving his non-profit in the hopes of currying favor with him so that he would support issues important to them.

But in the end, it was ironic that the person who worked maybe harder than anyone to regain local control of Oakland schools was forced to resign once it happened. If Kakishiba had failed, and the district was still under state control, he would have likely been able to keep his position on the school board because it had no power over contracts or the hiring and firing of personnel.

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