Two more Toronto Catholic trustees face conflict-of-interest allegations

  • November 13, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - It's déjà vu all over again, says the head of a Toronto-based Catholic parents' group, as two Toronto Catholic District School Board trustees are being hit with conflict-of-interest allegations.

“Here we go again. I mean, when is it going to end?” Murielle Boudreau, chair of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, told The Catholic Register.

Boudreau was speaking in the wake of conflict-of-interest allegations filed against board chair Angela Kennedy and trustee Barbara Poplawski Nov. 3 in the Superior Court of Justice. Parent Arnalo Amaral filed the complaint. Amaral, chair of the Catholic School Advisory Council at St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School, alleges Kennedy and Poplawski violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act by debating and voting on budget motions while their children were employed at the board.

The allegations come after a previous board chair, Oliver Carroll, had been found guilty in February of 10 conflict-of-interest offences which led to his removal as a trustee. Carroll was found to have voted on budget matters he should have declared a conflict on because he had a daughter employed as a teacher at the board.

“Parents have to clean up this board because the (Ontario education) ministry is not willing to do it,” Boudreau said.

The first court date is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 1.

Amaral, who has two children attending Toronto Catholic schools, filed the application because he felt that “enough was enough” with conflict-of-interest practices at the board, his lawyer, Stephen D'Agostino told The Register.

The court action, said D'Agostino, could cost his client tens of thousands of dollars. But he said Amaral feels it is worth pursuing. He is seeking the removal of Kennedy and Poplawski from their posts.

In a joint statement, Kennedy and Poplawski denied they “acted inappropriately.”

“We have served faithfully as trustees of the Toronto Catholic District School Board for a cumulative period of 38 years,” the trustees said, Poplawski since 1978 and Kennedy since 2000.

The allegations are connected to a May 14, 2008 board meeting which was also the subject of the  previous legal action against Carroll.

Both trustees said they will pay their own legal costs, not the board. Kennedy and Poplawski added they will continue with their roles as trustees and will “serve our constituents while this matter is pursued.”

“We have confidence that our actions will be vindicated,” they said.

Michelle Despault, spokesperson for Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, said she was unable to comment on the case because it is before the courts.

The legal action comes after the board has been under provincial supervision for more than a year. The Ontario government took over the board in June 2008 for failing to balance its budget and after allegations surfaced of some trustees inappropriately using public funds.

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