A litany of Toronto trustee indiscretions

By 
  • October 13, 2010

TCDSB logoTORONTO - Two Toronto Catholic trustees have been removed from the board, another could soon follow and many others have been embroiled in a spending scandal that has engulfed the Toronto board for almost three years. Below is a timeline of the major events.

Dec. 2007: Catherine LeBlanc-Miller is acclaimed board chair and, following several media reports about trustee misspending, she asks the provincial government to examine trustee expenses.



Feb. 2008: Trustee Christine Nunziata, who is alleged to have billed the board for her honeymoon trip, is  removed from the board after missing three consecutive meetings.

May 2008: A government report by Norbert Hartmann on trustee expenses, titled “Enhancing Public Trust and Confidence,” finds that the 12 Toronto trustees acted outside the law when they approved more than $1.2 million in expenses. His report also finds that the cost of running the Toronto board is the highest in the province for Catholic boards at an average of $107,218 per trustee.

"Trustees ... provide themselves benefits and services that are not provided by the Education Act, incur expenses unrelated to their responsibilities as board members and exercise powers to allocate funds that are not provided in legislation," Hartmann wrote. These included voting for medical, dental and life insurance coverage and a car allowance,

Among ineligible expenses noted in the report, Hartmann highlighted a $7,577 tuition fee for a master's degree charged by former chair Oliver Carroll.

June 4, 2008: Despite TCDSB trustees voting to end spending abuses, the Ontario government takes over the debt-laden Toronto Catholic board, appointing Hartmann as provincial supervisor, and hires Ernst and Young to conduct a forensic audit of trustee expenses. The decision removes all decision-making powers from trustees.  Toronto's deficit is erased by laying off 85 teachers and 32 support staff in January.

Aug. 28, 2008: Norbert Hartmann issues a report, “Strengthening Public Trust and Confidence: A Call to Stewardship and Service,” in which he says a “culture of entitlement” existed among TCDSB trustees regarding their expenses from 2003 to 2006.

Nov. 12, 2008: A forensic audit by Ernst and Young LLP finds almost $30,000 in questionable spending by TCDSB trustees. Education minister Kathleen Wynne turns over the report to Toronto police. No charges are ever laid. Among the questionable expenses: alcohol, internet gaming, car washes, sports equipment and personalized vehicle license plates.

The audit did not identify trustees by name. Board Chair LeBlanc-Miller admitted that she paid back $775 in ineligible expenses. Matching online expense reports with figures from the audit revealed the following ineligible amounts charged by trustees:

 

  • Ann Andrachuk — $136 ineligible expenses
  • Oliver Carroll — $365 ineligible expenses
  • John Del Grande — $110 ineligible expenses
  • Catherine LeBlanc-Miller — $775 ineligible expenses
  • Maria Rizzo — $796 ineligible expenses, $540 potentially ineligible
  • Paul Crawford — $2,146 ineligible expenses
  • Joseph Martino — $1,783 ineligible expenses, $2,113 potentially ineligible
  • Sal Piccininni — $1,170 ineligible expenses, $13,804 potentially ineligible
  • Angela Kennedy — $753 ineligible expenses, $37 potentially ineligible
  • Barbara Poplawski — $1,012 ineligible expenses

 

A copy of the report entitled “Trustee Expense Reconciliation” can be found on the board’s web site at www.tcdsb.org.

Nov. 13, 2008: TCDSB director of education Les Nemes issues a letter to parents saying that the board understands “the upset and anger” over the scandal which has plagued the board.

Jan. 22, 2009: During a board meeting, Oliver Carroll makes a thumb-sucking gesture to mock trustee Maria Rizzo, who yells back at him in return. It was also alleged that Carroll swore at former chair LeBlanc-Miller before the meeting began. At that meeting,  Angela Kennedy is elected chair by an 8-4 vote against LeBlanc-Miller.

Feb. 6, 2009: Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane Kelly orders Carroll removed from the board after finding him guilty of 10 conflict-of-interest charges. In May 2010, when Carroll chaired the board's budget committee, he voted against teacher layoffs. Because he had two children employed as Toronto teachers he was deemed to be in conflict.

Aug. 24, 2009: Richard Alway, former president of the University of St. Michael's College, is appointed as the board's supervisor after the sudden resignation of Hartmann.

Nov. 22, 2009: Board Chair Angella Kennedy and trustee Barb Poplawski say they will fight a court challenge and allegations of conflicts of interest.

Aug. 19, 2010: Ontario Superior Court Justice Lois B. Roberts orders the removal of Kennedy after finding her guilty of conflict-of-interest when she voted on the same issue as Carroll. The judge said the vote could have affected the employment of Kennedy's two children with the board.

Oct. 22, 2010: Poplawski appears in court to defend herself against conflict-of-interest accusations. A verdict is pending.

 


 

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