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West, Goldman to Revive Charter School Proposal

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Dry matters of parliamentary procedure may soon enliven the Richmond School Board's ongoing tug of war about the city's proposed first charter school.


School Board member Keith West, whose Sept. 2 vote against the proposal still may prove a fatal blow to the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, says he'll present a new version of a disputed contract to the board. Only members who cast negative votes on an issue can request it be returned for later consideration.


West, who told Style he killed the proposal because in his view it seemed too restrictive, held a joint news conference Sept. 5 with mayoral candidate Paul Goldman to announce he'd use Goldman's assistance to rewrite the 26-page document.


West says that on Sept. 7 he asked to have his proposal considered by the subcommittee that would review it before going to the full School Board.


“‘I’ve already been talking with the Patrick Henry people to find out what they need,” West says. “We hope to have a draft contract by midweek.”


Should his attempt fail to return the proposal to the board for a second vote, “there's no clear path to a charter school,” West says. “This must succeed.”


Meanwhile, fellow School Board member Carol A.O. Wolf, who abstained from previous voting on the issue and criticized the board's chairman, George Braxton, for not doing likewise, has sent a letter to Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring seeking clarification on the state's conflict of interest rules.


Braxton and Wolf's husband are employed at LeClair Ryan, a law firm that has provided free assistance to the Patrick Henry group. 


“[The NAACP and Crusade for Voters] maintained that although the firm did not financially benefit from the legal work given to the group, LeClair Ryan's assistance in this matter could generate future business,” Carol Wolf wrote to Herring.


Wolf says her letter is intended is to clarify whether Braxton should abstain from the matter or if she is free to cast her own vote.


In an interview two weeks ago, Braxton said that the LeClair Ryan lawyer who was listed in the Patrick Henry proposal paperwork had not actually provided services and that he'd been advised by LeClair lawyers that the matter represented no conflict.


An e-mail response from Herring Sept. 8 avoids addressing Braxton's potential conflict, but confirms to Wolf: “It seems to me that since there is an appearance of conflict, your abstention is appropriate.”

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