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Financial ethics and reputational damage at the TCDSB

TORONTO – Monday’s special (otherwise known as urgent) meeting of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), convened to deliberate and make a determination on a Report by the Integrity Commissioner (IC), as required by law, did not turn out as planned. 

As indicated in a previous column, the Report had all the appearances of being a thinly veiled “hatchet job” targeting, first, trustee Di Giorgio, secondly, trustee Del Grande and third anyone else who does not share the wokist view of what should happen to Catholic education. It had all the earmarks of the “weaponization” of the IC to intimidate certain trustees.

Trustee Di Giorgio was “investigated” for a fabricated, alleged breach of the Trustees’ Code of Conduct for statements wrongly attributed to him by the Corriere and then to sanction him accordingly. This tactic had been used in late 2020 to besmirch trustee Del Grande and reverse a previous finding of innocence on a case brought against him, without going to judicial review as required by law.

The previous IC had refused to investigate. The rest is history: the TCDSB is now in Court to determine whether, among other things, it acted contrary to due process against one of its own. A lawsuit for libel and defamation is sure to follow. The trustees involved are not covered by any TCDSB insurance.

Monday night, Del Grande led, on privilege, with objections to having been included in the Report, citing vexatious and malicious intent by the IC (Principles Integrity) for perpetuating a manufactured negative image of his record without any justification. He noted, for the benefit of everyone, the absence of liability insurance for trustees, and the consequences absent such coverage in the event of a lawsuit like the one in which he is currently embroiled.

Di Giorgio served notice of his ongoing objection to being targeted by the IC for having questioned the legitimacy of the IC’s “contract”, expired October 1, 2021, and not renewed. Di Giorgio also objected to the IC’s reluctance to publicly name the “member of the public” who launched the complaint against him leading to the “investigation” by the IC and the subsequent Report.

What followed (see video at https://tcdsbpublishing.escribemeetings.com/Players/ISIStandAlonePlayer.aspx?ClientId=tcdsb&FileName=tcdsb_encoder_Special%20Board%20Meeting_2022-05-16-05-53.mp4) was roughly 90 minutes of screaming, shouting and “procedural gamesmanship” characteristic of, and dominated by, trustee Rizzo, supported by her cronies (De Domenico, Di Pasquale and Liberal candidate Li Preti). The public session was filled with fireworks. The provincial leaders’ debate was placid by comparison.

During the exchanges, the public learned of a $50,000 fine levied against Rizzo in a grievance brought against her and the Board by the former president of the Teachers Elementary Catholic Teachers (chronologically, prior to Rizzo and her cronies levying a charge of breach of Code of Conduct against Del Grande in 2019).

The issues emerged that surfaced could best be described as touching on bias, encroaching on material conflict of interest, verging on corruption – all clouded by obfuscation if not outright cover-up. Neither the outside counsel (BLG, whose objectivity was questioned), nor the IC with a material interest in the outcome, nor the Parliamentarian who attempted to offer dispassionate advice on procedural were successful in calming the atmosphere. They “passed the buck” often.

It could not have been helpful when it was brought to the assembly’s attention that trustees Kennedy and Li Preti, two candidates in the Provincial election were present. Kennedy’s chances at election may be slim but Li Preti is in a three-way fight for election. Any reasonable person would have expected them to be with their campaign teams on debate night either build morale or knocking on doors.

The issue was that the Director had sent out an email letter, which was read in public, advising everyone that both trustees would recuse themselves during the writ period. He was clearly surprised to see them there – as, no doubt were their party leaders and their campaign teams. The Director, clearly embarrassed, fumbled for an adequate response.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed. Trustee Crawford “pulled his rear-end out of the fire”, as the saying goes, when she proposed the assembly move into Private session to discuss matters dealing with Del Grande’s and Di Giorgio’s objections to the matters contained in the Report.

Just as they were moving to private session, Kennedy felt obliged to apologize for having caused the Director any embarrassment.

Trustees resolved to deliberate in Private session (away from the scrutiny of the public) from whence they returned after midnight to vote publicly on what they had determined.

(click on the image to enlarge it)

The outcome? They deferred to a later date, following the appointment of a new [impartial] investigator. The current IC will probably still collect his fee of $230 per hour for seven hours of his presence ($1,610.00) for the evening. BLG is probably in the range of twice that or more.

The meeting was supposed to last until 9:00 PM. A good use of educational funds?

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