The Arkansas Department of Education ("ADE") has received many inquiries from school districts regarding the whether they need to submit requests seeking the Commissioner's approval under Ark. Code Ann. § 6-24-107 when the district wishes to contract with the spouse or relative of an employee who is not an administrator or Board Member (1599 requests). ADE's practice has been to require requests for approval by the Commissioner when the spouse or relative of an employee of the district contracts with the district. Upon further review, ADE has determined that such requests are not necessary under the law.
Ark. Code Ann. § 6-24-107(a) says that it is "a breach of ethical standards of this chapter for an employee to contract with the public educational entity employing him or her if the employee has knowledge that he or she is directly interested in the contract." (emphasis added). The law applies to contracts with the employee, not with the employee's spouse or relative. Because the law does not include contracts with spouses and relatives of employees, districts do not need the Commissioner's approval when contracting with the relative or spouse of a school district employee, even if the contract will benefit the employee's household.
This decision does not impact the rules regarding when districts must submit requests for the Commissioner's approval when they wish to contract with an employee directly nor does it impact ADE's interpretation of § 6-24-107(f) related to transactions involving the purchase, lease, or use of computers, software, copiers, or other electronic devices from family members of an employee. ADE notified Legislative Audit of these changes on February 7, 2018.