theBreaker has obtained a copy of the Vancouver School Board’s Feb. 17 report by a lawyer hired to investigate allegations that elected trustees bullied senior staff.
The report was released via freedom of information just four days after VSB awkwardly released an executive summary that did not name names.
Though Roslyn Goldner’s report is heavily censored, it is critical of chair Mike Lombardi and ex-chair Patti Bacchus, two of the four Vision Vancouver trustees re-elected in 2014. All nine trustees were fired Oct. 17 by Education Minister Mike Bernier after months of bickering over a budget deficit, a government-ordered audit and an aborted study of cost-saving school closures.
Goldner’s report also cited the bungled implementation of the PeopleSoft payroll program, a “shared services program with the Department of Health and Public Service that was shepherded by Telus. The project was complex and according to some [censored] staff was implemented too soon resulting in confusion, overpayments and near pay fails.”
As for the allegations of a toxic work environment, Goldner wrote that the “board… was dominated by partisan politics and the advancement of a political rather than district agenda.”
“While witnesses described the events of 2016 as creating a perfect storm, which led to the unprecedented situation in which all members of the senior management team left the workplace on leave, the majority of witnesses described a history of board dysfunction and bullying and harassment in the workplace. The consistent view expressed by witnesses, a view supported by the audit, was thea the systemic issues within the district created an environment in which board dysfunction was the norm and was tolerated, condoned and even rewarded.”
“Some trustees engaged in yelling, name calling and table pounding while others responded to their colleagues with eye-rolling and audible sighs. Some trustees routinely tweeted throughout meetings, conduct that was described by many witnesses as disruptive and disrespectful. While witnesses agreed that not all trustees behaved badly the board did nothing to intervene or to indicate that this conduct was inappropriate and unacceptable. This behaviour manifest at committee meetings and in private and public board meetings.”
The Sept. 26 public meeting was when things came to a head, Goldner wrote.
“According to witnesses, Trustee Bacchus then asked a series of questions related to other budget expenditures pointing out that many processes were undertaken without a dedicated budget and if this were the case then why could this not be done for the additional consultation. Witnesses reported that Trustee Bacchus paused after her questions as the audience laughed at the discomfort of the Superintendent. There was no intervention from any trustees and no attempt to restore order by trustee Lombardi in his capacity as chair…”
Goldner wrote that all nine trustees agreed to be interviewed and were interviewed after they were fired and replaced by an appointed trustee.
“Ex-trustee Lombardi had been criticized in his role as Chair of the Board for his failure to maintain order in meetings and a failure to promote respectful exchange of ideas and information.
“Several trustees acknowledged that the conduct of Trustees, both NPA and Vision Vancouver trustees, in private board meetings was disrespectful and rude. Several Trustees noted that the stakeholder representatives who attended committee and board meetings were also highly partisan and used these meetings to promote their agenda to ‘get rid of the Liberal government.” It was noted that there was a lack of objective, independent people at meetings.”
The report described meetings with consultants over the proposed school closures. (The name of the consultant, Context Research Ltd., does not appear in the version of the report that was released.)
“Several [censored] trustees advocated for the use of town hall meetings to facilitate public input. Several witnesses reported that the consultants strongly recommended against this approach as not being an effective way to engage the public or to gather reliable and representative input. The consultants noted that this forum largely attracts a partisan and politicized audience that is already decided and not representative of a cross section of the affected population.
“Several witnesses reported that staff were not in favour or town hall meetings… also , some staff expressed concern about security at these meetings but this was dismissed by the board.”
Read the Goldner report below.