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Attorney: King has no conflict serving as paid MUST director
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School board member Wendy King does not have a conflict of interest serving as the paid executive director of the nonprofit Manteca Unified Student Trust (MUST) that provides after school sports programs and supports the school farm, academics as well as the arts and sciences.

That is the opinion of a Manteca Unified School District attorney.

King has served for about a year as the paid executive director of MUST with an annual stipend of $20,000. MUST, starting this school year, receives $25,000 a year from the school district to help pay for coaching and referees. Prior to this school year, the school district paid for the cost of coaches.

The entire issue of real conflict - and perceived conflict - is being brought before the school board during their meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m.

District Superintendent Jason Messer on Saturday noted the attorney indicated there was only a remote chance that it was a conflict, if that, but that King may have to disclose her income from MUST on annual forms elected officials provide to the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The attorney also said King would have to recluse herself from any school board discussions or votes regarding MUST.

Messer said the board will need to address “perceived conflicts” that the situation brings up.

The decision to provide $25,000 this school year to MUST at the same time King was the paid executive director is the perceived conflict referred to by Messer.

Messer serves on the MUST board as well. He stressed he was not on the MUST board in an official school district capacity but as an individual. He noted as an independent non-profit MUST was under no obligation to inform the school board they had hired a paid executive director. He did add that several school board members were aware that King had become a paid executive director.

Messer said having MUST return the $25,000 could possibly eliminate any issues.

MUST was formed six years ago as an independent non-profit after the district dropped the popular Acorn League after school sports program due to revenue shortfalls. At one time the district spent close to $300,000 a year on the program with the biggest chunk of the cost paying teachers’ coaching stipends based on their salary that also went toward enhancing their retirement. Several MUST board members pointed out that the organization pays coaches and referees less than what the Manteca Parks and Recreation counterparts receive and significantly less than faculty coaches got when it was an Acorn League function.

Initially, King and then trustee Dale Fritchen were appointed by the board as their representatives. The MUST bylaws call for two representatives from the school district appointed by the board.

Messer said that hasn’t been done in recent years just as the school board hasn’t appointed trustees to 2-by-2 committees with the cities of Lathrop, Manteca, and Stockton. Fricthen is no longer on the school board while King continued to serve on MUST.

In the initial years, the district put up about half the cost of running the sports programs in a working relation with MUST. One year the amount came to $125,000. There was no possible issue of conflict, however, even though King was doing the lion’s share of the volunteer work at the time she wasn’t paid so there was no question of her receiving tax dollars as part of a pay check.

Messer said MUST is doing exactly what they promised to do by providing not just after school sports programs but also scholarships, sponsoring Planet Party, Veggie Fresh at the school farm, and helping with science camp funding.

A majority of the 14 member MUST board happen to be employed by the school district. Messer emphasized, though they were not representing the district per se but had a high interest in helping kids.

The chairperson is Roger Goatcher while Faustina Rosas is secretary. Carol Davis is the treasurer.

Other directors are Dee Ugarkovich, Messer, Ryan Costa, Steve DeBrum, Mike James, Kim King, Greg Leland, Tevani Liotard, Jaime Sanchez, Bill VanRyn, and Kathy Ruble.