Keep the door open

It didn’t take Dave Kircher long to stir the pot at the Rainy River District School Board.
Ever since it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of dollars went missing from Fort Frances High School over several years, Kircher has been spearheading a crusade demanding better accountability on the part of the board and administration.
And obviously his message struck a chord as he was elected overwhelmingly to one of the two Fort Frances seats on the board in last October’s election.
Just three meetings into the new board’s term, Kircher finds himself at the centre of controversy over whether he violated the Trustee Code of Conduct by revealing details of a behind-closed-doors discussion over the former board’s decision to amend the contracts of senior management by quadrupling the severance payout for dismissal.
The change occurred after the 2010 elections when only two of the seven elected trustees were returning to the board.
Under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, 1996, the public sector is now more open and accountable to taxpayers.
The act requires all organizations that receive public funding to disclose annually the names, positions, salaries and total taxable benefits of employees paid $100,000 or more in a calendar year. Other parts of the contracts are not made public, but do have a financial burden on Ontario taxpayers.
With only two members returning to the Rainy River District Board of Education following the election, it would have been more appropriate for the former board to forward a recommendation to the newly-elected board along with a rationale.
The Ontario Municipal Act, which does not govern boards of education, clearly defines what lame duck municipal councils can do following municipal elections.
Under the Ontario Municipal Act certain restrictions apply, one being that a lame duck council cannot make any expenditure or incur any liability that exceeds $50,000.
The potential liability has been stated by Kircher at $1.3 million.
Kircher has fought for more openness and accountability in board actions. Perhaps in the future, board members will think twice before going in-camera and closing the doors on public scrutiny.