Catholic parents 'fed up' with Toronto trustee scandals

  • August 26, 2010
Angela KennedyTORONTO - Catholic parents are looking forward to the Oct. 25 municipal elections so they can elect a new slate of trustees, says the head of a Toronto parents’ group.

Parents are “fed up” with hearing of another trustee scandal, said Murielle Boudreau, chair of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, in response to news that Toronto Catholic District School Board chair Angela Kennedy had been found guilty of conflict-of-interest charges.

“We want Catholic supporters to be really ready and do something about it, to recognize that these trustees failed and that (voters) can bring about change through their vote,” Boudreau told The Catholic Register.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Lois Roberts ruled on Aug. 19 that Kennedy breached conflict-of-interest laws when she voted against staff layoffs in May 2008. Two sons of Kennedy’s worked with the board. Roberts also ordered the removal of Kennedy from her seat, the second trustee to be ousted over conflict allegations.

Last year, former chair Oliver Carroll was removed after being found guilty of 10 conflict-of-interest offences after voting at the same meeting on the same issue against the layoffs. He had two children working for the board. The judge ordered him to pay almost $50,000 to help cover the legal fees of Michael Baillargeon, the ratepayer who brought charges against Carroll.

As for Kennedy, the judge said the decision on cost would be made after another conflict-of-interest trial involving trustee Barbara Poplawski, who also voted at the same meeting despite having a daughter employed with the board. Her trial is expected to begin the week of Sept. 13. She was the second trustee charged in the action launched by Catholic ratepayer Amaldo Amaral.

Kennedy said she was surprised and “extremely disappointed” in the outcome but will not seek re-election, adding she hasn’t decided if she will appeal the decision.

“I hope that for the sake of Catholic education and for the sake of our students, this decision will allow the board to move forward in a positive way and that they can start to focus on governance and advocacy,” Kennedy said.

In the ruling, Roberts recognized Kennedy’s “long and distinguished service on the board,” adding that “the present situation appears to have been the first and only time that it is alleged that she breached the Act.”

At the end of the 2008/2009 fiscal year, with the board facing a $16.7-million deficit, the province took over the board after trustees voted against teacher layoffs and failed to balance its budget. Some trustees were also under a cloud of suspicion regarding their expense accounts. Under supervision, trustees have no decision-making powers.

The board has 90 days to fill Kennedy’s seat but isn’t allowed to call a by-election so close to the municipal vote on Oct. 25.

Parent Kevin Morrison said the board needs to appoint a new trustee by the time school starts.

“I have a lot of respect for Angela (Kennedy) but during these past few years during supervision, it’s been a difficult time for people with kids in the ward,” he said.

Morrison, who is running for trustee in Kennedy’s ward, said he hopes the outcome of the ruling will signal a new start for the board.

“We are not only fighting to restore public trust (but also) to get on with the business of educating our kids,” he said.

Board spokesperson Emmy Milne said the board would be issuing a press release once board supervisor Richard Alway decides how the seat will be filled.

A decision could come as soon as Aug. 26 at the next board meeting, after The Register’s deadline.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.