School Board member accused of having conflict of interest - WNEM TV 5

School Board member accused of having conflict of interest

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) - Delena Spates-Allen is the CFO of World Overcomers Church International in Saginaw. On the church's website, Spate-Allen is listed as part of the organization's "Dream Team."

Spates-Allen is also the Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Saginaw Public Schools, and a Trustee on the Board of Ed.

In the fall of 2014, board members announced it would consider shutting down one of the city's two high schools.

TV5 has reported extensively on the public debate and strong community reaction that ensued after this announcement regarding the uncertain fate of Saginaw and Arthur Hill High Schools. Last week, interim Superintendent Dr. Kelly Peatross made the recommendation to close Saginaw High School.

Several sources, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted TV5 about a possible conflict of interest as it pertains to Spates-Allen's vote at next week's board meeting.

We interviewed a woman who stated she is a former school district employee.

“The responsible thing to do is they don't vote on this measure on the 18th.”

The unidentified former district employee interviewed with TV5's Gino Vicci to address, what she called, a “growing concern” among parents, students and residents that Spates-Allen should not be a part of a decision to close either Saginaw or Arthur Hill High School because of her affiliation with the church's plan to build a school.

“The conflict is that if a person can decide to close a school, they can directly profit from it because they need a student body.”

The former employee stated that Spates-Allen was not only making decisions for the district, but was also involved in the planning and development of a Christian Academy within city limits.

“If anyone has an interest in building another school, they shouldn't be voting.”

The I-Team's Gino Vicci contacted Spates-Allen to clarify her relationship with the Church and its plans to build a school.

During that conversation Spates-Allen stated that this was not the first time she was accused of having a conflict of interest as it relates to her obligations with the district while on duty as Chief Financial Officer of World Overcomers Church International, or WOCI.

Spates-Allen denied having a conflict of interest. She explained that she was not connected to the church's plan to build a school nor would she benefit financially from the development or operation of the academy.

CORRECTION TO TV STORY: It was reported grade levels at the academy would range from kindergarten to 5th grade, but according to Spates-Allen, there were never any plans to expand beyond a private academy for children from birth to five-years-old.

According to WOCI's website, at approximately 3:00p.m. Friday, Spates-Allen was listed as CFO and there was an operable link to a PayPal page connected to the church.

WOCI has encouraged the public to donate to the church in order to help fund the project.

Spates-Allen also stated the church was owned by her daughter, a minister at WOCI.

Spates-Allen continued by saying the vision to build the academy was her daughter's and that it had nothing to do with herself, despite being listed as CFO of WOCI.

During that same telephone interview, Spates-Allen expressed that she was in favor of closing Saginaw High School.

When asked if she would state this on camera, Spates-Allen declined.

The district must figure out a way to trim roughly six million dollars in expenses in order to maintain access to much-needed state funding.

The State Board of Education is mandating the Saginaw School District follow through on its debt consolidation plan.

Since announcing the possibility of closing one of the high schools, residents, students and parents from Saginaw High School have showed up to board meetings to try to prevent either school from closing. 

“The state is not requiring us to close a school, so why are we doing it?”

The former district employee stated that she would not only like Spates-Allen to recuse herself from voting and she would also like the entire vote to be canceled because she believes the state is not requiring the district to do so. The unidentified employee insisted that there are better options, given the district acquired valuable real estate from the collapse of the Buena Vista School District.

“I would like to see the vote not occur.”

NOTE: After TV5 interviewed Spates-Allen, we visited the link to the donation page, as shown in the video story, and it could not be found. After the story aired, the I-Team revisited the page and the link was working.

UPDATE: Spates-Allen emailed TV5 and expressed that her views were misrepresented. Spates-Allen when on to state that the website was working and was unaware of any interruptions to the site . In addition, she explained that she only meant that still planned on voting and did not indicate which way she would vote. 

Note from TV5's Gino Vicci regarding Spates-Allen's negative response to the story: "The story was an accurate representation of a phone interview I conducted with Delena Spates-Allen on Friday. After she refused to share her views on camera, I repeated back to her how I planned to characterize her comments for clarification because of the sensitive nature of the allegations against her. I also encouraged her again to speak on camera a second time, but she again declined."

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