Ethicist: Don’t rush to judgment in Henrico schools investigation

Posted on: 11:42 pm, August 15, 2013, by

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) — A superintendent put on leave for allegedly exchanging questionable emails.

A school board member steps down. Questions are raised about close relationships between now former Henrico school board member Diana Winston, her husband and Superintendent Dr. Patrick Russo.

All took a trip together to Italy and once back, Winston would have been tasked with reviewing the superintendent’s employment contract.

On the surface, ethics expert David Brat says he can see how questions could arise.

“All of us are fair game. Public servants in public positions, it is fair to take a look” Brat explained.

Brat also said when you mix politics, close friendships and business decisions, there’s a good possibility that public scrutiny will follow.

In this case, he says there’s no benefit in rushing to judgment.

Questions about Winston’s husband’s company that had several contracts with the school system well before she was on the school board, have also been a focal point.

In a candid interview Winston told CBS 6 News that he and his wife have done nothing wrong.

He added, his wife did her due diligence by asking the county attorney if her husband’s business dealings with Henrico would be a conflict of interest.

Winston says the county attorney told his wife so long as she did not vote on a contract for her husband there wouldn’t be.

We attempted to confirm that with the county attorney on Thursday.

We were unable to make contact with him before news time.

However, Thursday evening in an email Joe Rapisarda told CBS 6 News he could not confirm what the Winston’s said.

He added, no one from his office advised the Winston’s of that.

In the meantime the Henrico Commonwealth ‘s Attorney Shannon Taylor, at the school board’s request is reviewing the situation for any potential conflict.

This week Taylor declined to comment on the matter, saying it is an ongoing investigation.

Stay with CBS 6 News for continuing coverage of this important local story.