By Tim Kalinowski on January 10, 2018.
Dick Mastel showed unequivocally why his is the chair of the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education at Tuesday night’s public meeting, as he took on accusations levelled at him by Trustee David Leahy at the December meeting of the board.
At that time, Leahy stated Mastel “may have violated my privilege” as a trustee by ruling his motion out of order in November to reverse the MHCBE superintendent’s decision to increase assignable time to teachers, and by seeking legal advice on the notice of motion from Alberta School Boards Association.
First of all, Mastel reminded Leahy the trustee himself had declared a ‘conflict of interest’ on staffing decisions twice before, because his wife still worked for MHCBE. He then corrected Leahy’s interpretation of the facts.
“I met with central office in the days that followed (your notice of motion on assignable time),” said Mastel to Leahy. “And their bewilderment over your proposed motion was the same as mine. We couldn’t understand how you are going to make this work, having by now stated twice a conflict and/or pecuniary interest. Was the motion legal? We didn’t think so, but we’re no experts. In the days that followed central office called ASB legal services for an opinion … The chair did not call ASB legal; central office did. A right they have to exercise at their discretion.”
Mastel said after central office staff had shown him a copy of the legal opinion from ASB, which had stated Trustee Leahy was likely in a conflict of interest, the chair had sought a meeting with the ASB legal adviser, who happened to be in Medicine Hat on another matter, to fully understand the opinion.
“I told (the representative) I was going to allow the motion to stand, believing from my (informal) discussion with other board members the motion would fail anyway,” explained Mastel. “(The representative) said that would cause a problem because it would put you, David, in a position of violating the School Act, and risking danger of disqualification from the board.
“‘Far better,’ (the rep.) said, ‘to rule the motion out of order.’ So the chair, by ruling your motion out of order, saved you from facing a possible disqualification action. A fact you seem to have forgotten.”
Mastel then went on to critique Leahy’s public conduct and confrontational style in matters of board governance, equating it to bullying.
“We (other trustees) have invested the time and effort to build up a professional relationship, which is absolutely mandatory to work as a trustee, and you have not,” Mastel said. “You’ve shown no interest in it. Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. And you certainly don’t seem to have gotten the hang of it so far … It will not come as a surprise to you that there is no apology forthcoming. I will not back up one millimetre from what I said and did.”
Mastel went on to express the hope for a new start with Trustee Leahy, but also vowed to defend staff and other board members who might come under attack from Leahy in the future.
Leahy was given an opportunity to respond to Mastel’s critique.
“I felt you were very personal in attacking me,” he said. “I don’t think I have ever attacked you personally in a board meeting. I haven’t talked about your character … We don’t have to like each other to get our business done. Frankly, I think we have done pretty good in our first few months in terms of getting business done.”
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