Transparency Questioned At Board Meeting

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Is the Prairie South School Division transparent enough or do changes need to be made in how it’s various committees report to the Board was a recent question asked by a trustee.

At the November 27, 2018 Special Meeting of the Board Trustee Jan Radwanski asked the question to a Senior Manager of the Provincial Auditor’s Department. The Special Meeting was called to discuss the annual report and allow trustees to ask questions of the auditors.

Trustee Radwanski asked if there was a need to take minutes of committee meetings. He raised his concern because a letter from Administration to the Provincial Auditor’s Office stated all records were available to the Provincial Auditor.

“My belief and my personal experience being a trustee of the School Board here that no minutes are being kept currently of the Committee of the Whole, no minutes are being kept of Committee Meetings as indicated in Section 19,” Trustee Radwanski stated, adding “Those meetings are not open to the Public. There are decisions being made then with regards to recommendations or allocations of dollars to various programs.”

Radwanski had at an earlier Division Board meeting questioned whether or not sub-committee meetings were in-camera meaning the Public could not attend. SEE RELATED

Radwanski asked for comment on the Division making a statement that all records were made available to the Auditor but no minutes were made at certain meetings.

“I would like to have your comment on whether or not those records and those minutes should be kept for committee meetings...and for other important meetings and whether this is something the School Board should be doing?” Radwanski asked. 

Superintendent Tony Baldwin pointed out Trustee Radwanski was correct in saying minutes were not kept for Committee of the Whole or sub-committee meetings.

Baldwin justified it because no decisions were made at the in-camera meetings and all decisions were made in public meetings.

“That (public meetings) is the only place the Board makes decisions. Are thousands of decisions a day on the Administrative side but don’t keep minutes of those meetings,” Baldwin said, adding “the work we do at the Committee of the Whole is an opportunity for the Board to gain some insight into the administration of the school system.”

He went on state despite no minutes being kept by committees “there is an opportunity for the chairs of committees to provide a written report that would be attached as an appendix to the Board minutes.” 

“We actually work quite hard not to write anything down in those (Committee) minutes. Anything that doesn’t come from a written report because it is very difficult for a Board Secretary to make sure we have an accurate representation as to what trustees say when they are reporting on committees,” Baldwin stated.

The oral reports were generally made to help keep visitors in the gallery, people on-line and other trustees aware of what had occurred, he said.

Stephanie Russell, Senior Manager for the Provincial Auditor’s Office, said it was inconsistent what records were kept regarding in Boards regarding the Committee of the Whole and sub-committees with some doing it and others not. 

“I think it is a good idea (taking minutes) because it just creates more documentation of the decisions to support. What items are discussed and key are significant and it would be helpful,” Russell said. 

During her work of auditing the Division she said since she knew what decisions were made in Board meetings she knew when in-camera happened 

“I was able to follow up with Management and figure out what the background of it was, to see if it would cause any concern with the audit,” Russell stated, adding “do I was satisfied in the end with what I got. So you don’t need it and it is not always done, but it would be a good practice to do “

Baldwin said Trustee Radwanski had asked a “good question.” 

Trustee Radwanski said “I am just wondering if that would be I am wondering is that something we have got to change?”

Baldwin said “as it’s at a Management level I will respond to that. I think it is correct because the only place that the Board makes a decision is at the Public Meetings.”

“So the Auditor and Provincial has a list of every single decision the Board made in 2017-18 school year in the course of its audit. So certainly they don’t have a list of every Administrative decision we made because buoy the Audit down significantly,” he said.

Trustee Robert Bachmann said the entire issue may be a simple difference of opinions.

“If it is appropriate I would like to respond that there is maybe a difference of opinion in that matter as Trustee Radwanski made the comment he felt decisions are made at the committee level that involved individual expenditures. And I would say committees only bring forward recommendations but it is up to the Board as a whole to make decisions on expenditures,” Bachmann said.

“So committees are in no way spending money or making decisions that cost the Board dollars without it coming before the Board as a whole at a public meeting.”

The discussion ended and turned to the annual report and audited financial statement without any vote or motion made.

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