ROCKVILLE – An oversight body known as the Ethics Panel, which reports to the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education, has a new member as of late June.
New Ethics Panel Member Lisa Jones Toms is an attorney for non-government organization Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) who lives in North Potomac.
Prior to her work at FINRA and her one year of private practice, she worked for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 2000 to 2005. The SEC regulates FINRA.
Toms said she wanted to become a member of the panel, since she is a county resident and a parent of children enrolled in MCPS.
“I felt that this was a unique opportunity to serve, you know, in addition to what I regularly do in my regular day job,” Toms said.
One responsibility of the ethics panel is reviewing financial statements for hundreds of people employed by MCPS for policy compliance. Board of Education Chief of Staff Lori-Christina Webb said the panel reviews at least 300 financial statements each year.
“They review(ed) over 300 financial disclosures this year; the number of meetings are dependent on the number of requests for opinions or complaints,” Webb wrote in an email. “This past year (the) panel met four times.”
All board members and several top MCPS officials must complete disclosure forms annually, according to MCPS.
The Ethics Panel has five members. Currently, the members of the ethics panel include Toms, Susan Beard, Daniel Fisher, Woo Lee and Elizabeth Simon.
Toms said she just saw the opening in an MCPS newsletter and believed it would likely be similar to what she does at her job – only as a volunteer for the school system – and so she decided to apply.
“(The position would entail) just some involvement that, you know (…) is very similar to what I do now, in terms of the legal level assisting with cases of that nature, just in a different industry,” Toms said. “I thought (it) would be a great fit for me.”
She has nine-year-old triplets who attend Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. She said she has been pleased with the school and that the leadership of the school principal Pamela Nazzaro has impressed her.
Toms said both education and studying law have been important to her for a long time, and she believed the Ethics Panel position was an opportunity to combine the two interests.
The last time the panel received new members was in 2018.
The board amended its ethics policy in 2017 to ensure it was compliant with newly amended state law, Board Member Pat O’Neill (District 3) said.
The school board had no discussion before voting to approve Toms for the Ethics Panel position during the June 24 board of education meeting. “We just voted on it, because the profiles (of the applicants)– they came to us ahead of time, and during closed session we decided on the person who was going to replace the person who left the ethics panel,” said Board Member Judy Docca (District 1).
Toms will serve up until June 30, 2022, according to the board resolution. The board of education established the Ethics Panel on February 29, 1984, and in 2002 increased the size from three members to five members. All members serve three-year terms.
Brought up in New Jersey, Toms moved to the D.C. Metro area to attend law school. As for her hobbies, Toms said she enjoys, not in order, reading novels, staying fit and playing tennis
MCPS ethics are outlined in the school system’s ethics policy, also known as policy BBB.
The Ethics Panel in MCPS is not related to the Montgomery County Ethics Commission, which provides oversight of county employees and county government.