“I believe my obligation, my responsibility, is to serve out my term,” he said.
Kakishiba’s original announcement, that he would resign from the board at the end of October, came in response to a conflict-of-interest opinion by Oakland’s general counsel, Jackie Minor. Kakishiba is also executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, which does lots of work in Oakland schools.
But Kakishiba said most of his board colleagues — who rejected the legal department’s recommendation in a 5-1 vote last week – and others in his district have since urged him to change his mind.
Board member Jody London said Kakishiba’s ability to “cut to the chase” when analyzing complex financial data will be critical for the district, which emerged from a six-year state takeover during the worst state budget crisis in years (or maybe ever).
Replacing him, she said, would have diverted time and attention from a more serious challenge facing OUSD: a projected deficit of at least $27 million for the 2010-11 school year.
The back story: Minor and an outside firm concluded that Kakishiba’s roles as board member and as executive director of a local nonprofit didn’t look good for the district — even though Kakishiba abstains from votes involving the organization’s contracts.
The attorneys said they found no ethical breach or evidence of wrongdoing, but that Kakishiba’s two roles created an opportunity for a conflict of interest to occur. They said public perceptions were especially important for the board now, as the board re-assumes its governing role.
The recommendation: Minor did not ask Kakishiba to resign, per se, but she recommended that the district stop doing business with EBAYC if Kakishiba stayed on the board. (A 2007 inquiry by a previous general counsel resulted in a different conclusion: that there was no problem as long as Kakishiba disclosed his relationship with EBAYC and didn’t vote on contracts.)
Last week, the school board sent a strong signal to Kakishiba by rejecting Minor’s recommendation, with only Board President Noel Gallo voting to accept it. (Kakishiba was not at the meeting.)
Kakishiba said he understood, philosophically, the lawyers’ explanation earlier this month that “the law doesn’t care” how noble or honest an individual public servant may be. In practice, he said, “I think it matters a whole hell of a lot.”