Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Case of Catherine Alpha - School Trustee

Last fall Catherine Alpha was elected to the Greater Victoria School District as a trustee as part of the VPEC slate. She was the only one that was elected from VPEC.

On March 12th she filed her elections expenses, there were some changes to the rules since the last election and seeking clarity on which form to use is anything but easy. She unfortunately used the wrong form, though submitted all the information required of her. The person at the school district who's job it is to review the election expense forms took a long time to review Catherine's and only pointed out the error after it was too late to file the information on the correct form.

Even though the school district had all the information and it was correct, they chose to use the fact that it was filed on the wrong form as the reason to say Catherine Alpha did not file her election expenses on time and then removed her from office.

The public did vote for her and she did nothing to hide her expenses but she has been removed as a trustee.

Catherine can rub people the wrong way, she is a very strong voice for what she believes in and she believes that the direction of the school district is wrong and this means by extension that the staff of the school board is not doing a good job. This is the same staff that recommended to the school board that she be removed as a trustee. The staff was clearly in a conflict when recommended the removal of Catherine Alpha.

The secretary treasurer of the school district has a fiduciary obligation to school board trustees to guide them through the law as it applies to the school district. This includes helping candidates with their election expense forms and reviewing them for obvious errors. Catherine filed more than a month before the final day

This situation highlights a problem with local government in BC, the people that oversee and manage the elections are the staff that report to the governing body of the local government or school board. Provincially Elections BC does not answer to the government, but is a non-partisan office of the legislature.

Some more points on this issue:
1) Catherine Alpha clearly filed on time, but made an error. Does this mean anyone who makes an error on their form should be removed? Can she not submit a correction?

2) It seems clear that the senior staff of the school district were not keen to see her on the school board, to recommend her being removed is clearly a conflict of interest on their part.

3) The School Trustees have to trust the senior staff, how can they retain confidence after this situation was allowed to occur?

4) In the past BC political parties have made much bigger errors and actually completely missed deadlines but they have not been sanctioned in anyway as severely as Catherine Alpha has.

5) How much money is the school board going to spend on this? There is the legal costs as this is clearly going to end up in the courts because the process has been obviously administratively unfair. There is also a by-election that will have to held. The school district is going to spend a lot of money on this, money that should be in the schools.
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