June 17, 2019

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Justice minister refuses probe into trustee's allegations

Should take complaint to police, Allum says

Mike Babinsky accused unnamed people within the Winnipeg School Division of criminal malfeasance.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Mike Babinsky accused unnamed people within the Winnipeg School Division of criminal malfeasance.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/12/2014 (1657 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Justice Minister James Allum will not order an investigation into the Winnipeg School Division.

It's not even within his authority, an aide to the minister said Tuesday.

If WSD trustee Mike Babinsky has evidence of possible criminal activities, he should go to the police, said Allum's aide. "If any trustee has evidence of criminal activity, they should take it to police, who would decide whether to investigate. The justice minister doesn't order criminal investigations."

Babinsky could not be reached Tuesday. He had demanded in an email Friday morning that Allum "investigate the Winnipeg School Divisions (sic) altering of public records to conceal and hide issues and facts."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/12/2014 (1657 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Justice Minister James Allum will not order an investigation into the Winnipeg School Division.

It's not even within his authority, an aide to the minister said Tuesday.

If WSD trustee Mike Babinsky has evidence of possible criminal activities, he should go to the police, said Allum's aide. "If any trustee has evidence of criminal activity, they should take it to police, who would decide whether to investigate. The justice minister doesn't order criminal investigations."

Babinsky could not be reached Tuesday. He had demanded in an email Friday morning that Allum "investigate the Winnipeg School Divisions (sic) altering of public records to conceal and hide issues and facts."

That led to an extraordinary confrontation at Monday night's school board meeting — extraordinary in what was said, extraordinary that it occurred in public session.

WSD board chairman Mark Wasyliw furiously told trustees Monday night Babinsky has accused unnamed persons within the WSD of criminal malfeasance — without offering any evidence or substantiation.

"As a criminal lawyer, I can't think of anything more serious than accusing someone of criminal malfeasance," Wasyliw told the board in public session. By going to the justice minister, Babinsky had imputed criminal actions, said Wasyliw.

Wasyliw demanded Babinsky retract his accusations and apologize — but Babinsky repeatedly refused.

Wasyliw said Tuesday the matter did not arise in Monday's subsequent closed-door session, and no one tabled another censure motion against Babinsky. Last month, less than two weeks after taking office, the new board censured Babinsky for releasing an internal board email to the media, the third time Babinsky has been publicly scorned by his colleagues since he was first elected in 1995.

The latest dispute goes back to early June, when Babinsky tabled a motion over alleged busing problems last winter, which he said left kids waiting far too long in freezing conditions. He wanted discipline taken against anyone responsible.

Wasyliw told the board Monday night Babinsky was aware of, and had taken part in, discussions last June that led to the altering and 'generalizing' of his public motion, because the wording identified one specific employee and left the division vulnerable to a lawsuit.

"They did that to protect Winnipeg School Division from the potential of a slander suit," Wasyliw said. "Sensitive information has been redacted," and employees who cannot defend themselves publicly have also been protected.

Wasyliw said Tuesday the board acted on Babinsky's original complaints last spring and has put a plan in place to try to avoid bus delays this winter.

Wasyliw told the board Babinsky waited six months, until after the municipal election, to suddenly take his allegations of conspiracies and criminal malfeasance to the justice minister and the media.

Babinsky ignored Wasyliw's demands for a retraction and apology and argued Monday night he'd done nothing wrong back in June. "It doesn't come close to identifying anyone," said Babinsky, who maintained his concern is for kids left too long at school-bus stops in freezing conditions. Babinsky insisted he didn't do anything wrong by going to Allum. "I haven't accused anyone; I requested an investigation," he said.

Trustee Kevin Freedman then challenged Babinsky to say whether he was alleging to Allum the former board — six trustees are new as of Oct. 22 — had violated the Public Schools Act last June.

Four times Freedman asked Babinsky for a simple yes or no, but Babinsky stuck to: "It is not a yes or no answer."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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