Toronto trustee guilty of conflict of interest

By 
  • February 11, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - An Ontario Superior Court judge has found Toronto Catholic school trustee Oliver Carroll guilty of conflict of interest charges and ordered his removal from the board.

But Carroll said he would be appealing the decision and will file a motion to stay on as trustee while the appeal is being processed.

On Feb. 6, Justice Jane Kelly ruled that Carroll had “committed a number of acts of conflict of interest” when he participated in discussions and votes on budget decisions in April and May of last year instead of declaring a conflict. Carroll was also chair of the board's budget committee.

Last May, Carroll introduced a budget motion and gave a statement to carry a $5.2-million deficit forward which would have prevented program cuts, including teacher layoffs. In an affidavit, the former chair said he understood that he couldn't participate in those discussions because of his daughter's employment as a teacher with the board. But, he added, “I did not understand that I could not participate in general budget discussions involving matters other than teacher layoffs.”

According to court documents, Kelly wrote there were several instances where Carroll received advice on whether he would be in a conflict of interest position but that he “simply chose to ignore it.”

“As such, the defence of error in judgment is not available to him,” Kelly said.

“There was some confusion as to where the line was and from the point of view of the court, you crossed over. I didn't understand where the line was. Fair enough,” Carroll said.

“I'm sorry it's all turned out (this way) on a personal level and board level. I would have obviously not participated,” Carroll added, referring to discussions and budget votes related to teacher layoffs.  

Board spokesperson Mary Jo Deighan told The Catholic Register that the board has 60 days to “identify a process to fill (Carroll's) seat” and has not yet decided on whether it will call an election or appoint a replacement. Carroll was removed from his position with the board on Feb. 6.

Carroll said he was not sure if he will run again, but he didn't rule out doing so. The judge didn't bar him from public office.

In his defence, Carroll argued that although he made a mistake in judgment in participating in the budget discussion, he said he acted in “good faith.”

Catholic ratepayer Michael Baillargeon, who brought the application against Carroll, said in an interview that the court's judgment was “fair” and “consistent.”

“I think that the decision of Justice Kelly is landmark as far as trustees go,” he said, adding that it should send a message to all trustees that conflict of interest laws can't be contravened.

Meanwhile, Murielle Boudreau, chair of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network , said the group will be writing to provincially appointed board supervisor Norbert Hartmann about consulting Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins as it considers a replacement for Carroll.

“We need to be careful now. If we want our Catholic board to continue, we have to have solid Catholic leadership,” she said.

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