In Brief: The Chronicle-Herald asked AIMS acting President Charles Cirtwill to weigh in on the ongoing Halifax Regional School Board power struggle. His advice was simple. The deposed school board members should resign, forcing an election and letting the public decide their fate. He says appealing the court decision is a waste of money, both the councillors’, but more importantly tax-payers’.
A half-dozen ousted
Gary O’Hara, chairman of the board when it was dissolved last December, and members Deborah Brunt, Grace Walker, Bridget Ann Boutilier, Debra Barlow and Wade Marshall filed their notice with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal earlier this week.
Darren Watts, who was one of the original appellants in the lawsuit against Education Minister Karen Casey, was not listed in this most recent court document. Mr. Watts has been working for the Education Department since the spring.
In their notice of appeal filed Monday, the six board members claim Justice Heather Robertson of Nova Scotia Supreme Court “erred in law, or made a mixed error of fact and law,” in her decision released Oct. 29, which ruled in favour of Ms. Casey.
The members claim the judge’s mistakes include finding that the actions of a few members could result in the dismissal of all board members, as well as ruling that the board’s code of ethics applied outside of its formal meetings.
They also say Justice Robertson failed “to find that the minister breached the duty of fairness she owed to the defendants.”
Mr. O’Hara, who represented the Clayton Park, Rockingham and Fairview areas when he was an active member, confirmed Wednesday a third party is raising money on behalf of the six board members for the appeal.
He said Steve Boyce, a
“He felt strongly . . . about the action that was taken by the minister,” Mr. O’Hara explained.
Although Mr. O’Hara said he was ready to move on from the lawsuit, he’s happy to have someone championing the cause.
“I (will) support it morally, of course,” he said.
Mr. O’Hara added it’s not so much getting his job back anymore, but about standing up for voters’ rights.
“Democracy is the main driving force here,” he said. “Five thousand people voted for me in my constituency . . . they’re the ones that should remove me.”
Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said he has a different recommendation for the six board members still seeking vindication.
“The best way for them to handle this, is they all should have just resigned en masse and forced the government into holding an early election,” Mr. Cirtwill said Wednesday.
And they can still do that, he said, because they’re still members — they’ve just been stripped of their power.
“Rather than going through the foolishness of raising money and forcing the taxpayer to spend money on a court case, it’s far better to spend the taxpayers’ dollars on another election and let the taxpayers decide.”
The next municipal election isn’t until October 2008.
In a 35-page document, Justice Robertson wrote that Ms. Casey’s decision to replace the 13-member board with retired civil servant Howard Windsor was indeed lawful, as the board is accountable to the minister.
The judge made the decision after a two-day hearing over the summer.
Justice Robertson wrote that former education minister Jamie Muir handed down strict directives to what she called “a dysfunctioning board.”
However, she also acknowledged that not all members breached the board’s code of ethics.
“This is an unfortunate state of affairs that may tarnish some members undeservedly,” her decision said.