The Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education on Monday (Sept. 26) approved an ethics disclosure resolution regarding board member Matt Blaylock and the use of his heating and air business by the district.
The resolution allows the school district to do business with Fort Smith-based Blaylock Heating & Air Conditioning on a limited basis during this fiscal year even though Blaylock is president of Blaylock Heating & Air Conditioning. The resolution notes that “in unusual and limited circumstances, a public educational entity’s board may approve a contract, but not an employment contract, between the public educational entity and the board member or the board member’s family if the board determines that the contract is in the best interest of the public educational entity.”
The district’s facility staff recently has had difficulty finding someone who can provide plumbing or HVAC service in a timely manner, and the district decided to bring the resolution to the board in order to put Blaylock Heating & Air Conditioning on the list of potential vendors.
The resolution states that”unusual and limited circumstances exist for allowing the District to continue to work with Blaylock Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. (the “Company”), in which Board Member Matt Blaylock (“Blaylock”) holds a financial interest, when there is a time-sensitive heating, air conditioning, plumbing, or other similar matter requiring the Company’s expertise and no other acceptable business is available within the time allowed.” The resolution stipulates that the total amount authorized for payment to the company will be less than $10,000 for the fiscal year.
“This is the last stop, not the first stop, when the district is not able to meet the needs through alternative sources,” said FSPS attorney Marshall Ney.
The resolution passed with a vote of 6-0. Blaylock recused himself from the discussion and the vote.
Last week, the Fort Smith Public School administration and its attorney said they saw no conflict of interest with a short advertisement spot that uses school employees in an advertisement for Blaylock Heating & Air. The radio spot has Ricky Smith, head basketball coach for Northside High School’s ladies’ basketball, and Eric Burnett, NHS head basketball coach, saying when it comes to heat and air needs, they call “782-8940,” which is the number for Blaylock Heating and Air Conditioning.
The district’s board governance policies do not specifically address conflicts of interest. They address how a board member should recuse from a vote if there is a conflict, and they address nepotism.
Blaylock said after consultation, including with the majority owner of the company, they decided to continue using the ads since they were running prior to his position of being on the board, and the intended purpose of ads.
In July the school board passed a motion to limit staff interaction with Turn Key Construction because it is involved with the district’s Peak Innovation Center. School Board President Dee Blackwell introduced the action “given the intersection of the recent flood at the Peak Center and the election of the Peak Center contractor’s principal to the Board of Education.” Sandy Dixon, who was elected to the board in May, is president and owner of Turn Key. Turn Key was the construction manager in charge of the first stage of the Peak Innovation Center construction project, which was completed in the spring.