Should Niagara school board trustees be allowed to voice their opinions to the media freely?

CKTB - News - Kate Baggott

Should school board trustees be allowed to voice their opinions to the media freely?

That's the question being raised following a case in Niagara in which a DSBN Trustee was accused of breaking the board's code of conduct for speaking to a local paper.

Kate Baggott, who was elected in the October election, represents St.Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Back in January, Baggott was quoted in the St.Catharines Standard saying requesting the creation of a Director's Performance Review policy.

After speaking with the paper she was accused of breaching two terms in the code of conduct: 'Trustees shall discharge their duties...in a manner that will inspire public confidence' and '...no trustee shall speak on behalf of the board unless expressly authorized by the Chair...'

The matter was discussed at last night's school board meeting and eventually died on the table.

Baggott's lawyer, KR Davidson tells CKTB's Tim Denis this is the first allegation of a breach, and it exposed holes in the code of conduct.

Davidson says the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows Baggot to express her opinions as a publicly elected representative.

He says the allegation was unfounded and he would like to see a review of the code of conduct.

The St.Catharines lawyer says Baggot should have been allowed to speak to the media in the first place, and no complaint should have ever been made.

He is also criticizing the way the investigation into Baggott took place, saying fellow Trustees and the Board Chair should not be investigating one of their own.

Davidson says an integrity commissioner, or third party should have been brought in.

Ed Smith from a Better Niagara, says it is unfortunate that the Board Chair didn't clear the air at last night's meeting instead choosing to be silent.

He says it seemed like a pre-determined silence across the board, and that seemed strange.

Smith says instead of this answering questions, this sparks more, and greater questions.

He says they are now going to test the transparency of the DSBN Board by issuing Freedom of Information requests.

Smith is also worried about increased security at the meeting last night.

To hear KR Davidson's full interview with CKTB's Tim Denis, click here.