Anyone thinks there won’t be a next time for Babinsky?


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It was extraordinary that no other school board in Manitoba has ever gone so far in disciplining a school trustee as Winnipeg School Division trustees did this week in barring Mike Babinsky from board and committee meetings for a month.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/09/2015 (2822 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was extraordinary that no other school board in Manitoba has ever gone so far in disciplining a school trustee as Winnipeg School Division trustees did this week in barring Mike Babinsky from board and committee meetings for a month.

No other board has ever used Section 35 of the Public Schools Act to go beyond censure and give a trustee the temporary boot.


It sounds as though the WSD board went a long way, but you have to wonder what any trustee would have to do to warrant the even greater sanctions available under the act. WSD could have barred Babinsky for three months, and could have suspended him from any access to information and any activities as a trustee.

Instead, from Oct. 5 to Nov. 2, both dates being regular board meetings, Babinsky can not attend meetings. He can still act as a trustee.

No school board has ever before done that. I can recall several trustees facing criminal charges for activity having nothing to do with their role as a trustee who resigned their seats, I recall a trustee who missed several meetings who resigned before the rest of the board had to consider punitive action, but I can’t recall any trustee’s having come remotely close to this situation for something he or she did as a school trustee.

You may remember that Babinsky had been on a tirade last year with allegations about school bus issues and the division’s transportation department. He fired off long email rants to a lengthy list of recipients, including the police, justice officials, and the media, with allegations of children spending far longer than legally allowed riding school buses, and more crucially, children stranded at school bus stops in freezing weather.

In Prof. John Wiens’s scathing review of the division’s governance, Wiens cited the incendiary allegation of harassment of an unnamed employee by an unidentified trustee.

Board chair Mark Wasyliw had earlier acknowledged that the employee is a senior staffer, and that the harassment charge was not sexual in nature. He wouldn’t name names.

Then, Monday night, trustees finally said publicly that Babinsky was the unnamed trustee, and that they had hired an outside investigator to determine if the harassment allegations were true.

They were, vice-chair Sherri Rollins told the public portion of Monday night’s meeting. The ongoing harassment campaign unleashed repeated humiliation and intimidation on the employee. The board ordered Babinsly to formally apologize, to undergo anger management or respectful workplace training, and to enter into mediation if the employee wishes to do so.

The board and division and Wiens have never identified the employee, but the transportation department does keep popping up prominently in all these discussions.

Babinsky had nothing to say in public session Monday evening, other than to declare a conflict of interest and leave the room, rather than voting on disciplining himself.

Tuesday, he responded to phone and email interview requests by sending me an email in which he pointed out that trustee Chris Broughton had said he has serious concerns about the transportation department, thanks to what Babinsky had raised in the interests of students and the division. Broughton also urged Babinsky to start acting with conduct becoming a trustee.

So we don’t know if Babinsky will appeal the sanction. We don’t know if he’ll comply with the actions the board ordered him to undertake.

Babinsky has been censured four times since first being elected in 1995, two of those censures just since this latest board took office in November. Things just keep getting worse.

Babinsky has more experience as a trustee than all eight other trustees combined, and yet it goes without saying that he maintained his perfect record Monday night of never having been named the chair of any important board committee.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, and surely there’s no one who doesn’t believe there’ll be a ‘next’.

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