School board motion to pre-emptively silence trustees gets rejected

Larry Killens says proposed amendments to code of conduct were aimed at him

MANITOULIN—The Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) decided not to pursue an amendment to its code of conduct, which if passed would have given the board the power to take action to exclude certain board members from in-camera meetings. However, a local trustee on the board, who believes the motion was aimed at him, says the decision is not a victory.

“I don’t look at this as being a victory,” stated Larry Killens, after the meeting Tuesday evening. “We are a board in crisis, and one of the reasons I say that is that we haven’t dealt with the $1 million Freedom of Information access issue concerning the construction of a proposed bubble dome in Sudbury that was being looked at, at the same time the board was looking at 12 schools up for possible closure.”

“We will continue to look at closing programs and schools if we don’t fix things up in-house within the board,” said Mr. Killens.

At the board strategic planning committee meeting earlier this week, committee chair Dena Morrison called the motion, but not one committee member raised their hand to move the proposed amendment, said Mr. Killens. He said when he asked about who and where the proposed motion had come from, board chair Doreen Dewar said they are the result of the chair and the board’s compliance with the Ontario Ombudsman’s review of numerous complaints from Mr. Killens against the board. It was further reported that Ms. Dewar said that she does not support the amending of the Code of Conduct and that it was carried out in compliance with directives from the Ombudsman.    

“In my mind, this motion is aimed at me,” stated Mr. Killens, in an interview with the Recorder earlier in the week. “Since 2012 I am not aware of any accusations being cited that I have been charged for breach of confidentiality, except for one case in which I was accused in 2015. However, this complaint and supporting documentation and its validity was trashed by the Ontario Ombudsman, and is why I wondered why this motion was brought to the table.”

He was referring to the proposed policy change considered by the RDSB which would have seen excluding board trustees from in-camera discussions if “a breach of confidentially by a trustee is likely to occur,” based on “past actions.”

A draft of changes to the code of conduct entitled, ‘potential breach of confidentiality procedure’ was included in the agenda from the board’s March 7 strategic planning committee meeting. Trustees were asked to pass a motion to bring the issue to the regular board meeting where, if it had passed, it could then be adopted as policy.

Mr. Killens said the motion would have been in conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it didn’t say a trustee had been in violation of a policy but potentially could be.

“I looked up the definition of pre-emptive that said serving or attempting to try and disable the enemy. I guess I’m the enemy,” said Mr. Killens.

Mr. Killens says he was kept out of in camera meetings, especially those involving union negotiations, starting in 2015, but recently had that decision overturned by the provincial Ombudsman.

CBC News reported on March 6, 2017, on the proposed motion and quoted Andrew Sancton, a professor emeritus at the University of Western Ontario who specializes in municipalities and closed door meetings, that he was surprised to read the motion. He told CBC News he had never seen anything quite like this before. He explained, people do get concerned about the possibility of things being leaked from in camera meetings and sometimes they have very good reason to be concerned about that. But he also said anyone who leaks private information should be reprimanded, something that’s difficult to do before an actual leak takes place.