Conflict of interest: Cole considers leaving school board |

Conflict of interest: Cole considers leaving school board

William Ferchland

After being appointed to the Lake Tahoe Unified School board three months ago, Hal Cole may be stepping down because of a conflict of interest.

Cole’s involvement with the board at Barton Memorial Hospital created a conflict of interest and a choice: stay with Barton or the school district.

And it appears Cole will stay with the hospital board where he is vice president.

“I didn’t know when I applied with the school board there was a problem,” he said.

Cole, a former mayor of South Lake Tahoe, was selected by board members to fill the seat of Doug Forte, who left earlier this year because of personal reasons.

Cole was interested in joining the school board because of his construction industry experience. The district is moving toward a facilities bond in 2008.

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He was sworn into the board March 27. He missed the first meeting in April and attended the second of the month. He then was absent the two meetings in March and wasn’t present at Tuesday’s meeting.

In all, Cole attended two out of seven meetings. There is no minimum requirement of board member attendance.

Cole said he was approached about the conflict by Superintendent Jim Tarwater at the end of the April 24 meeting.

“It’s pretty clear in the law he’d have to make a choice,” Tarwater said.

Cole said his involvement with Barton never posed a problem when he was on the South Lake Tahoe City Council, Sierra Conservancy Board or other governmental bodies. He said he would recuse himself when Barton issues were on the school board’s agenda but that didn’t appease the school district’s attorney, Allen Vinson.

“He told me if you have competing loyalties, the offices are incompatible,” said Cole, recalling the conversation he had with Vinson.

The board seat Cole occupied will be up for election in November. Cole has only given a verbal commitment he will resign from the board. It is likely the seat will remain vacant until voters choose a replacement in November.

Those who showed interest in the seat when Forte left were Cole, Larry Green, Laurie Kemper, Annette Lilly, John Nemes and Joy Rothschild.