Trustees pass conflict of interest guidelines at special meeting
In probably one of the shortest meetings ever of the Board of Trustees for Boundary School District 51, the board tied off a few loose ends for the close of the school year. The main decision they made was to accept their conflict of interest guidelines as presented to the board in April of this year.
The guidelines have been a topic for the trustees, and have become a hot topic as Kris Sabourin, a trustee from the West Boundary is now faced with limited decision making powers since her husband has taken over the role of president of the teacher’s union. The board decided to deal with the guidelines in a closed meeting on June 15 facilitated by two lawyers, Bill Holland from the Okanagan Labour Relations Board, and Wendy Harris Q.C. from Harris & Co., who provided legal advice. “The point of the guidelines is to help the trustees with any potential non-pecuniary conflicts of interest that are covered under common law. As we’ve discussed before, the school act covers all pecuniary conflicts of interest. So this is just to assist us if any matter comes before us that we could potentially be in conflict with non-pecuniary (issues) because they’re not spelled out in the school act,” explained Teresa Rezansoff, board chair. While the board agreed at that meeting on the wording of the document, both trustees Sabourin and Vicki Gee raised concerns about certain wording in examples used in the guidelines prior to the formal vote. The examples listed in the document addressed issues such as having a child in a school under consideration for closure, trustees relationship to a teacher or union representative, a disciplinary matter that may involve a close friend or relative, or a situation where a professional relationship may exist. Gee raised a question about the example of school closures and felt that the wording was ambiguous. Sabourin questioned the use of examples in the document at all. “When we first looked at these guidelines it was asked at the time, from me, why did we have examples in these guidelines – no other policy gives us examples. So I was wondering if we could strike the examples out of it now,” said Sabourin. There was no support from the other trustees to change the document and the motion to approve the guidelines was passed with Gee and Sabourin against. Outgoing Boundary District Teacher’s Association (BDTA) president Carol McQuarrie said she believes that the whole guideline was targeting one trustee despite the claims of the board that the process was not a deliberate attempt to silence Sabourin whose husband is the incoming president of the BDTA, and maintained that the school act already outlines all the necessary procedures. “It’s all about perception, and why would you limit (a trustee)? People elected those people. If this was a large community where we didn’t know everyone, then I would say maybe they have a concern to do that,” said McQuarrie. “Teresa (the chair of the board) said this wasn’t about any one trustee, it’s about all the trustees. This has never been a problem until this election. That issue never came up. Sure it’s a good review but, you know what, its right in the school act.” The board passed two other items at the meeting including the district literacy plan for 2010 – 2011, and an updated role of the trustee policy. The board also bid a farewell to McQuarrie after her years of service with the BDTA as the June 22 meeting was her last in her term as president