Frank O’Hagan submitted his resignation, which was accepted at last month’s Nipissing Parry Sound Catholic District School Board meeting.
He said there were several reasons for his sudden departure, however the greatest being his lack of right to speak publicly about board issues.
“As a former elected city councillor and last elected chairman of the North Bay Hydro Commission I don’t remember in any of those positions ever being as limited as I have been by board policies, bylaws and a governance model where my voice was lost,” O’Hagan said Thursday morning from his North Bay home.
“If the chair does all the speaking or refuses or doesn’t speak out, then I question why do we need the other six (trustees)?”
He said trustees could be penalized if they speak to the media as the chair is the only position allowed to do so.
“And because every vote isn’t unanimous this process prevents the public from knowing what the real issues are,” O’Hagan said. “What’s wrong with full disclosure?”
When asked if school board trustees can talk to the media, Anna-Marie Bitonti, director of education for the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board, referred to the board’s policies and bylaws posted on the board’s website.
She said the chair is the official spokesperson for the board, however input is taken from trustees.
When asked if trustees can speak to the media if there is a dissenting voice on a particular issue, Bitonti said, once a decision has been made, the chair is the official spokesperson.
She said board of trustees speak to issues at the public board meetings and our policies clearly articulate the role of the chair as well as trustees.
“The board can determine if another trustee can release the information, but the board speaks as one voice after deliberations are done.”
O’Hagan said he’s thankful for those who voted and supported him throughout the years, but he wants to make one thing clear.
“I had no plans of resigning before my four-year term was done,” he said. “I don’t agree with the policy that allows or limits the chair to speak publicly about school issues.”
O’Hagan said he isn’t the only one who is frustrated.
He said many individuals and groups are skeptical, intimidated or discouraged by board processes or personnel and often feel powerless to bring an issue forward.
O’Hagan said he would like to see the board discuss or implement an external audit process.
He said a third party review would validate the accuracy of the information the board receives from the director of education.
“Unfortunately as of my resignation there have been no efforts to discuss or implement an external audit which is critical to resolving any issue,” O’Hagan said. “And all that information should be released to the public.
“Integrity, credibility, transparency and accountability unless backed up with commitment, action and meaningful processes are mere words.”
He said many issues never reach the trustees and not knowing by whom, how or if they were resolved leaves the larger issues of transparency and accountability unanswered.