Findings say Vice Chair Sarah Markey did not violate ethics statute
SOUTH KINGSTOWN — The Rhode Island Ethics Commission has determined that South Kingstown School Committee Vice Chair Sarah Markey did not violate the state ethics statute.
The committee announced this news on Tuesday, stating that its vote on the matter followed an “exhaustive investigative report.”
The complaint, filed against the school committee member in June, claimed that Markey, an assistant executive director at NEARI, should have recused herself and left the table on numerous occasions when National Education Association of South Kingstown (NEASK) President Brian Nelson and NEASK Vice President Mick Lefort presented before the school committee.
Deborah Bergner, who filed the complaint against Markey earlier this year, wrote that her “actions and conduct indicate a knowing and willful violation of the code.”
Markey had shared the submitted complaint on her official Facebook page in June, stating that she was “a fan of transparency” and wanted everyone to have access to it.
Although Bergner had listed numerous dates within her complaint, the commission concerned itself with two meetings in particular — Dec. 11, 2018, regarding a conversation about the school calendar, and Feb. 12, 2019, concerning a conversation about curriculum.
Nearly nine months after the commission voted to take the complaint under investigation, Markey again took to her official Facebook page to share the news of the commission’s findings.
“The work that the Ethics Commission does is vital to our democracy,” Markey wrote in a statement on Tuesday, shortly after the commission made its decision. “I entered into this investigation believing in the process, regardless of the outcome, because we need to ensure that private interests and money do not unduly influence the decision-making of elected officials.”
Markey expressed pride in her work as a union and community organizer, and thanks that the commission staff “took the time to understand how labor unions truly work and what my exact role is with NEARI.”
Unlike some other professions, Markey stated that she does not stand to make any profits from her decisions.
“Union leaders in South Kingstown do not qualify as business associates,” she wrote. “I recuse myself from collective bargaining with NEARI locals so that my values and beliefs in worker voice aren’t perceived as unethical and because that is what the advisory opinion I previously received from the Ethics Commission requires.”
“The ethics statute is not intended to be a political weapon to be used against our adversaries, but rather, it is a way to keep our elected official’s accountable to the voters,” she added.