Nepotism or Politics?

The Orange County School Board just appointed a former board member, Susan Halkiotis, to fill a vacated seat until the next election. Halkiotis says she has no intention of running to keep the seat after the fall election. Sounds like an example of good government in action, right?

Problem is, Susan is married to Steve Halkiotis, who is the Director of Auxiliary Services for the school system, plus he's an Orange County Commissioner (they fund the schools). This means she could be in a position to vote on her husband's salary, among other uncomfortable situations.

Board member Randy Copeland reminded the board of the nepotism policy they recently put into place.

The policy, he said, should not allow husband and wife to hold positions so closely dependent on each other. "I believe we're placing ourselves in a position of saying, 'don't do as I do, do as I say do,'" he said. "I would be strongly opposed to seeking Susan, even though she's experienced."

Halkiotis' experience, however, was enough to get her narrowly appointed to the seat, after the board voted four-two in her favor.- The News of Orange, 4/29/04

Is this really a case of nepotism, as the News of Orange charges, or is it ideology or a lack of qualified applicants?

I don't know who else was up for it, but I might guess that if the Board wasn't comfortable with their politics, they have have felt they had no choice but to appoint Halkiotis. Anyone have more insight into this?




Good points Terri.

Mr. Newton must be spending alot of time in his closet. I attended and listen at 2 of the 3 public hearings on merger. I spoke at the second public hearing in Hillsborough against the school merger. Several of my comments were reported in the papers and on local radio I am told. Unlike a number of speakers from both sides of the issue who spoke whenever there was an opportunity for the public to be heard, I chose to speak once. Why, because I feel lucky if the commissioners will listen to me for 3 minutes. After my comments I spoke to some of the commissioners privately. I choose to work behind the curtain instead of grantstanding as some folks do. People were going to make up their minds on merger once the questions were answered. Getting the facts and listening has work well for me in the past and I will contunie to do so.

In 2002 I ran for County School Board, at our last forum in Chapel Hill the question was asked how each candidate had voted on 2001 school bond. I answered yes, Mr. Hartkopf and Mr. Copeland answered no. That was the first time anyone asked me how I voted, my answer did surprise a number of folks from both side of the issue. In 2001 I was invited to sit in on a meeting opposed to the bonds. I advise against opposing the school bonds if they expected to have any success in defeating the other bonds. I had not decided how I intended to vote on any of the bonds. I was a vice chairman of the bond committee in 1997 and Taxwatch of Chapel Hill asked me for my opinion then and I warned them to stay away from the opposing the school bonds They did and had some success in defeating the other bonds. Being opposed to school bonds in Orange County is almost certain defeat for anything else you are working towards.

Ms. Thompson's nomination of me to fill the vacant board seat did catch me off gaurd. I communicate with all the members of the school board on a number of issues. Ms. Thompson and I had discussed the vacant seat but no one other than Keith Cook knew how the seat would be filled. Ms. Thompson and I do not share the same view on merger but we can have a civil discussion on any issue.

Nepotism - certainly. Democracy - most certainly not. Hartkopf and Mulkey decidedly different - most certainly.

As the next highest vote getter in the last Orange County School Board election, Al Hartkopf would have represented the people's choice to fill the open seat.

Hartkopf and Mulkey represent different things indeed. Where was Mulkey during the merger hearings? Both Hartkopfs played key roles in the anti-merger debate from speaking at the public hearings to building anti-merger coalitions across our county. Mulkey's one letter to the editor concerning merger came only after the merger threat had been effectively shelved for the moment.

During the 2002 school board election, Mulkey represented himself in one light then later revealed another. This flip-flop lost him the support of his base and certainly contributed to his coming in substantially behind Hartkopf despite the fact that Mulkey had lived in the county for years and Hartkopf was a relative newcomer.

Add the fact that Mulkey was nominated to fill the vacant seat by pro-merger activist Dana Thompson and the already obvious differences of Hartkopf and Mulkey are most certainly solidified!

I don't know why everyone is so down on 'flip-flopping.' Learning is a process of change, so in one sense flip flopping could be explained as a result of learning. Learning could come through conversation with constituents and seeing the issue through their eyes, by reading, etc. It's easy when you're not directly involved in an issue to think one way and then learn that you need to revise your thinking as your level of involvement changes. The failure to learn/change/flip flop could be due to lack of interest in knowing how others think/feel, it could be due to stubborness, and it could be due to ego.

True representational government should reflect the will of the people rather than an individual perspective. So I have more prejudice against a politician who takes a stand and then refuses to budge even when that stance proves wrong or problematic.

I want a leader who is flexible, who listens, and who learns. I assume that means that people will *occasionally* change their opinions and their political stances.


It seems to me that Susan didn't want to be on the school board, that's why she didn't run for re-election, so why put someone back on the board who didn't want to be there in the first place? I don't think the conflict of interest with her husband is nearly as important as the question I posed---why didn't they put someone on the board that had demonstrated interest and demonstrated public support--say the next highest vote getter from the previous election. I don't think any Board is improved by putting a "place keeper" in there. They need a vested member.

Let me try to fill in some of the holes on this issue.

First there were no "appicants" everyone was nominated by a present school Board members. Those people were Susan, Al Hartkopf who was the next highest vote getter in 2002 election, Rick Kennedy former school Board member, and myself who finished behind Al in the 2002 election. Both Al and myself were interested in filling the seat. We both showed up for the two meetings where this was discussed. Speaking for myself I have attended school board meeting off and on for the past 2 years when my scheduled permitted. I had no problem with Al getting the seat as the next highest vote getter. I don't always agree with where he stands on all the issues. So I left my name in the running as a compromise.

Mr. Copeland makes a very good point about the policy they have in place. They tell the employees one thing and do another. In my opinion that is not good leadership.

In the County school system's proposed budget there is money ($47,000) set aside for raises for Directors. The questions has been asked but not answer does this include Commissioner Haltiotis as Auxiliary Director. This brings into question as a commissioner is he voting on his pay raise? He does get a supplment for his current position. Dr. H. will tell you about an opinion from the Attomey General that is some 15 years old that there is no conflict of interest relating to his employment and being a Commissioner. That oponion was given when he was a principal at Orange High not as an Auxiliary Director.With all due respect to Dr. H. I cannot recall him showing favors to the County school system over the City system in my almost 2 decades of living here.

On the issue of Barry Jacobs vacant seat if he wins? I spoke to 2 commissioner who told me that in the past the Party has put forth 2 or 3 names that the Commissioner picked from.Which they liked because it took them out of the process to some degree. In another words someone else did the dirty work they came along and swept up.

Sorry for the long post folks

I'm more interested in how the commissioners are going to replace Barry Jacobs.

This will be an important replacement.

How will they do that???

whoever finishes third in the general, 3rd in the primary???

That will be a much bigger issue.


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