Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Most of trustee's ideas fail at board meeting

Votes to remain off the record, managers' raises to be studied

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Winnipeg School Division trustee Mike Babinsky's attempts to reinvent himself as Mr. Co-operation Monday night got him pretty much nowhere on a whole slew of issues.

After 18 years happily acting as a lone wolf and board maverick, Babinsky only persuaded his colleagues to budge a little on one item of the many miffing him on secrecy, openness and transparency.

The board referred to the finance committee the decade-old practice of giving senior managers the same percentage raise teachers negotiate for themselves.

"I believe it's a conflict of interest" for the managers who play a role in bargaining with teachers, said Babinsky.

Finance chair Cathy Collins said her committee is looking at possible alternatives and getting legal advice.

And, of course, the finance committee, like all board committees, meets behind closed doors.

Trustee Mark Wasyliw emphasized further study is not an attack on the integrity of the senior managers. "The (public) perception of bias is my concern, even though nothing untoward is happening," said Wasyliw. "We're certainly getting them cheap -- they're not lining their pockets."

Babinsky lost completely on a bid to reopen and overturn a bylaw on taking recorded votes which allows a majority of trustees to decide if the yeas and nays will be recorded for posterity. He wanted a recorded vote to be automatic anytime one trustee asks for it.

"We could canvass our neighbourhoods over the summer" to see what constituents think, he implored the board.

But setting aside the rules Monday night -- designed to prevent opponents of decisions from endlessly trying to resurrect them -- required unanimity, and trustees Suzanne Hrynyk, Collins, Kristine Barr and Darlyne Bautista voted against Babinsky's motion. That means it will be a year before anyone can try reopening the issue.

Babinsky brought out a big plate of catered sandwiches in bread, wraps and buns to show what trustees are eating when they come directly from work to committee and board meetings. Babinsky is the exception -- they do not pass his lips.

Further discussion of catered meals goes to Collins' committee, which does not meet until the fall.

Babinsky also directed his pique at the board over its practice of not making board agendas -- and bare bones ones at that -- public until the morning of the Monday evening meetings instead of releasing them online Fridays so residents can see what is up for discussion. That suggestion is off to a committee which does not meet in public.

Babinsky also claimed Barr gave incorrect information about the frequency of recorded votes and the time they chew up to Free Press reporter Randy Turner on May 31, but his demand for a retraction or correction from the division was overwhelmingly rejected.

Babinsky has vowed to make board and committee meetings open, especially during the $365-million division budget talks.

The finance committee reported Monday it has been examining the legal justification for having frank discussions in private about personnel and other budget actions.

But, according to the committee's report, it is also awaiting a report from staff "regarding additional opportunities to have open dialogue regarding budget."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2013 B3


Updated on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 9:05 AM CDT: adds sidebar

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