An acrimonious dispute between the state Ethics Commission director and a Big Island Charter School has spilled into Circuit Court.

The case centers around William Boyd, an employee of Connections Public Charter School, whose involvement in a company that supplies lunches to the school is the subject of an Ethics Commission investigation.

“Mr. Boyd is a non-participating partner in his wife’s business which won a competitive bid to supply school lunches to Connections,” said a suit filed today in Hilo Circuit Court by Boyd and the school against the Ethics Commission and its executive director, Les Kondo.

“On occasion, when no other school employee was available, Mr. Boyd, in his capacity as a school official, would sign off on invoices submitted by his wife’s company, simply acknowledging that in fact the lunches had been delivered to an off-campus school site,” the suit continued.

Based on complaints from a “disgruntled former employee,” Kondo began an investigation into an allegation that “the school and Mr. Boyd used school resources and rigged a food service bid contract to benefit Mr. Boyd’s company,” the complaint continued.

“After a long, drawn-out investigation, the complaint morphed into conflict of interest allegations focused on Mr. Boyd,” the suit continued.

Kondo could not be reached for comment this evening on the suit.

Ted Hong, attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a press release that “Charter School employees fall outside the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission” and that the court should direct that the investigation be halted.

“Additionally,” said Hong, “the school passed an independent audit and clearly documented that no ethics violation occurred.”

A second suit was filed in Hilo against the school’s governing body, the Charter Schools Review Panel, and its chairman, Carl Takamura.

That complaint alleges that the panel and Takamura violated he state’s open meetings law and illegally attempted to prevent the school and Boyd from retaining private legal counsel.

Both complaints allege “that the Ethics Commission and Chairman of the Review Panel have conspired behind closed doors and developed a plan to force the school and employee to fire their attorney,” Hong said.

“This investigation and the Review Panel’s actions are a prime example of bureaucrats that still refuse to recognize and treat Charter Schools as independent and how hard Charter Schools have to fight just to protect their basic rights,” Hong said.

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