South Bay Digest

Inglewood : Coleman Refund Stalled

March 27, 1986

A measure that would reimburse Inglewood School Board member Caroline Coleman for $12,721 in attorney fees spent in her felony embezzlement trial failed in a 2-2 deadlock this week.

The measure will come up again April 7 when Trustee William Dorn, who was absent from Monday night's school board meeting, returns. He has supported reimbursement in past discussions.

Coleman and Ernest Shaw voted for reimbursement, Rose Mary Benjamin and William (Tony) Draper against it.

Several measures to reimburse Coleman have been removed from past board agendas because some members thought Coleman had a conflict of interest and should abstain from voting.

"I think she should abstain since this will obviously be of financial benefit to her," Draper said at Monday's meeting.

But one of the school district's attorneys, Artis C. Grant Jr., cited a State Administrative Code provision that allows school board members to vote on reimbursement matters even when they are directly involved.

"Reimbursement is not considered monetary gain under state statutes," Grant said.

Another school district attorney, Howard Nee, agreed that Coleman could legally vote but suggested that she abstain because of the amount involved.

Coleman, 48, had been charged with submitting phony expense reports to account for a $1,200 advance she received from the district to attend an educational conference in New Orleans in November, 1983. She was acquitted in Los Angeles Superior Court in January. Draper had taken the case to the district attorney.

The reimbursement measure drew jeers and boos Monday from parents in the audience, who said the money should be used for educational programs. District officials, however, say any reimbursement would be taken from the district's legal defense reserve and would not affect the general operating budget.

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