Investigator to scrutinize Catholic school board
A provincial supervisor could be brought in to oversee the Toronto Catholic District School Board if an investigation shows that trustees are still mismanaging the board's money.
By the end of the week, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne will have a better idea of whether bringing in a supervisor to oversee affairs at the TCDSB is necessary to get the board back on track financially.
She will be consulting with an investigator who started reviewing finance and management practices at the TCDSB on Monday.
Pierre Filiatrault, a former school board senior business official, will be working with an auditor from the provincial education ministry over the next week.
Wynne appointed Filiatrault, who has done consulting work for the province before. He is to determine whether the board is making enough progress in dealing with a spending controversy and ongoing budget problems.
"By appointing an investigator, I am declaring publicly I have lost confidence in the board's ability to manage its financial affairs," the Toronto Star quoted Wynne as saying on Sunday.
Wynne told CTV Toronto on Monday she's upset the board hasn't reacted to the spending scandal with urgency.
"I would have expected that on May 7, when the report came out, that on May 8, those practices would have stopped and there would have been some urgency demonstrated in dealing with those things," she said. "That didn't happen and that for me is one of the big concerns is that that urgency wasn't there."
She said it wasn't until she stepped in asking for the report that the board sprung to action.
"The whole culture of the board seems to have not taken this seriously," she said.
Catherine LeBlanc-Miller, the board's chair, said she was not surprised by the ministry's announcement.
"When we met on Friday, the minister expressed concerns with the lack of change in culture of the TCDSB trustees as well as the direction the board has taken towards the balancing of its 2008-09 budget," she said.
The TCDSB has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday at 7 p.m. to discuss the board's budget and trustee protocol.
Earlier this month, the board came under fire for inappropriate spending. Adviser Norbert Hartman found the trustees had spent $1.2 million on expenses, the highest per-trustee cost in the province.
The expenditures included fridge magnets and the hiring of household members.
Hartman made several recommendations, including a process to prevent double-billing and requiring purchasing department approval of any contract for the purchase of goods and services worth more than $500.
The ministry has the following concerns with the board's performance:
- A lack of control over trustee expenses and practices;
- Lack of a clear plan to implement Hartman's recommendations of May 7; and
- A failure to meet the targets of the balanced budget plan
According to a ministry press release, the investigators are also to make recommendations on next steps, including the possible appointment of a supervisor to run the board's finances.
"Given the seriousness of the problems facing this board, I need to see more than good intentions. Significant change is needed, and it's needed now," Wynne said in a news release. "Every dollar we invest must be spent responsibly to provide a high-quality education for our students."
LeBlanc-Miller said: "If it takes a supervisor to restore public confidence in our board and the result is accountability and transparency, I welcome this next step. Our Catholic school supporters and the general public deserve this as a minimum."
The board runs chronic deficits but has so far pledged not to lay off any staff or cut its literacy and kindergarten programs.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss