MMA requested to show support for reinstatement of Trustee Larry Killens

Larry Killens

MINDEMOYA—The Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) will be forwarding information it has been provided regarding the suspension of Rainbow District School Board Trustee Larry Killens to Island municipal councils for consideration, asking those councils to send a letter of support to the chair for the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) for Trustee Killens, asking to have the trustee reinstated to the board, if they see fit.

“I agree that we as municipalities are concerned that the board has not done anything concerning providing representation from Manitoulin Island on the board for the next five months. We have lost our representation and I think we would all hope the board will look at finding a solution to this, and that this issue remains a concern for Island people,” stated Jack Clark at an MMA meeting last week. This came after Kagawong resident Kim Bilbija made a presentation to the group on her concerns with Island Trustee Larry Killens being banned from attending any RDSB meetings until after his term on the board is complete.

“Thank you for accepting my request to speak at this meeting of the (MMA) about the censure and barring of our elected school board trustee Larry Killens by the RDSB,” said Ms. Bilbija. “To give some background, I first became aware of this issue because of a posting on social media, S.O.S. (Save Onaping Falls Schools) July 4, 2018 which said that, ‘the one trustee that fought ferociously for schools and students was just banned from attending any more meetings.’ I contacted our trustee Larry Killens to ask if he was the trustee that was referenced, and he said yes, that he had been barred from attending any future meetings of the school board.”

“The following morning I called the RDSB offices to ask that if Larry was no longer our representative, who would be representing Manitoulin Island’s interests at the board table,” said Ms. Bilbija. “I was first asked if I was with the press, and when I said that I was not I was told that everyone was in meetings and someone would return my phone call.”

“Doreen Dewar (RDSBV) returned my call and left a voice mail message. I will play that message for you now to listen to, so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding as to what was said,” said Ms. Bilbija, who played the message for the MMA. In it, Ms. Dewar said that Mr. Killens continues to be the elected trustee for Manitoulin. She also explained that all board trustees represent all areas of the board she along with all board trustees can be contacted in regards to concerns or issues.

“The same day I wrote an email to the chair of the board asking for clarification because I could not understand how a person who has been barred from attending and participating in board meetings could continue to represent the interests of his constituents. I also asked for proof of the alleged five previous violations of the Code of Conduct referred to in the Motion that was passed by the board on July 3, 2018,” continued Ms. Bilbija.

“On Friday, July 6, the chair sent an email again assuring me that trustee Killens continues to be the elected trustee for Manitoulin Island and referred me to Policy No. GOV-O5 on the board website,” said Ms. Bilbija. “I downloaded the referenced policy, and after reading it I had a number of questions about it, not only with regard to our trustee, but to all trustees on the board. I sent an email to Chair Dewar posing my questions, quoting sections of Policy GOV-05 and copied all trustees, as well as the municipalities of Manitoulin, our provincial member of parliament Mike Mantha, the new Minister of Education Lisa Thompson, and various newspaper publications. Of particular interest is Section 13.1 Sanctions. It says that the board may impose one or more of the following sanctions: a) censure of the trustee, b) barring the trustee from attending all or part of a meeting of the board or a meeting of a committee of the board; or c) barring the member from sitting on one or more committees of the board, for the period of time specified by the board.”

“The board is not, in my opinion, following procedures in their own policy, item b) indicates one meeting not all future meetings. As an example, you may have a juice box would indicate one juice box,” said Ms. Bilbija.

“On Monday, July 9, 2018 Chair Dewar acknowledged receipt of my email, advised me that all procedures had been followed in respect to Policy GOV-05 Code of conduct for Board members and again quoted the Motion that had been passed at the July 3 meeting. I forwarded her reply to all municipalities, Mike Mantha, Lisa Thompson and newspaper publications,” continued Ms. Bilbija.

“Absolutely none of my questions were answered,” she said, noting 10 days later she still had no reply.

“I would ask the members of the (MMA) to bring this matter forward with the emails I have provided for discussion at  their next municipal meeting,” said Ms. Bilbija. “I would further request that a motion be brought forward to have this association send a letter of support for trustee Killens to the chair of the RDSB, and the same motion be submitted to all local municipal councils for them to vote on. She said MPP Mike Mantha agrees “whole heartedly” that the fact the people will not have an elected official to represent their concerns and perspectives is greatly disturbing. “Please add your voice to his and make it known to the RDSB that the constituents of Manitoulin want to have their elected representative reinstated.”

MMA Chair Ken Noland said the MMA had sent an email to Ms. Dewar asking if she would like to attend the MMA meeting, but did not receive a response.

Hugh Moggy cautioned, “I don’t know how much we can be involved as the MMA. If individual municipalities (councils) want to vote (on sending letters to the RDSB) they can do this individually. That would be okay, but we (MMA) have no authority to do this.” And, “we don’t know the details as to why (Mr. Killens) was dismissed. I would like to know exactly what brought this whole thing about.”

“I agree,” said Al MacNevin. “I don’t think we can get involved, for one reason, we don’t have all the facts in front of us as to what took place. I assume the board’s decision was carried out with confidential information. We can’t debate the information because it is confidential up to now.”

It was pointed out Mr.  Killens appealed the board decision. Subsequently the Recorder learned  that the  board  passed two motions at a July 19th meeting confirming its earlier decision, without Mr. Killens being in attendance and being able to speak directly to the board on the issue.