TORONTO - Principles Integrity, a firm that has been providing the TCDSB with legal advice relative to Trustees’ Code of Conduct issues (the Integrity Commissioner, IC), today provided the TCDSB with written notice that it will no longer provide services to the school board.
Its contract, worth a stated $63,000 per annum had expired October 2021. It has not been made clear whether that sum represents a one-time retainer, or it is an annual ceiling for services calculated on its $230 per hour service fees it charges clients. Neither they nor the TCDSB thought it necessary to advise each other of the expiration. Email requests for comment to the TCDSB have gone unanswered.
Ironically, Principles Integrity continued to “investigate” complaints filed against trustees by members of the public and other trustees.
While its reports have in the past tended toward confidentiality “to protect” the privacy issues of the parties to the investigations, recently their “dispositions” – findings and conclusions – have been reported publicly to the Board.
Some, including the Corriere Canadese and its publisher, have suggested that this might be construed as a “weaponization” of the role of the Integrity Commissioner’s office to beat down criticism, legitimate or perceived. Such criticism reached a peak at a Special meeting of the Board on May 16, 2022.
Two trustees, Daniel Di Giorgio and Michael Del Grande objected vehemently to what they considered unfair and unjust targeting and “investigation” by the IC and whoever authorized the public presentation of the IC’s Report prior to it being discussed “in camera” by trustees.
In a heated and acrimonious debate in public session, both trustees cautioned that their reputational rights were being swept aside and that they would seek legal remedies. During the debate, concerns regarding the availability of insurance coverage for trustees surfaced. They have none. The responses from the Director and his outside counsel speaking on behalf of the Board said: too bad for you.
The IC’s Reports have been seen as a “whitewash” of the trustees most frequently the subject of complaints by the public. Moreover, they have the appearance of being excessively favourably disposed to the position of certain trustees whose positions on issues pertaining to the social-cultural aspects of Catholic schools and parental rights have been disruptive.
Their legitimacy to hold office has been questioned in our pages, but the Corriere has never filed a complaint, as required in order for the IC to engage. Yet Principles Integrity conducted an investigation into our claims that trustee Rizzo did not fulfill the residency requirement to seek and hold office in the Board.
What was the public interest? That interest, or the absence of it, prompted some fair-minded trustees on Monday to “defer” to a later date the consideration of the IC’s report relative to the [unsupportable] allegations leveled against trustees Di Giorgio and Del Grande.
What does the TCDSB do now with all reports filed by that same IC since October 1? Are they “negatived” because Principles Integrity has implicitly acknowledged that it had overstepped its authority?