"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The secret ballot

Quite a bit of chatter this evening on teh Twitter about the decision of the Eastern School District to close MacPherson Elementary School in St. John's.

The school board made its decision by secret ballot – not by open vote.

How, you may ask, is that possible?

Well, it's because the Board's by-laws allow for just such a perversion:
1.09 Except as otherwise expressly provided in these by-laws, questions arising at any meeting of the Board and Committees shall be decided by a majority vote of those present and voting. Where a vote is tied, the question shall be considered as resolved in the negative. All votes at any such meeting shall be taken by ballot if so demanded by any member present, but if no demand is made, the vote shall be taken by assent or dissent. A declaration by the Chairperson that a resolution has been carried and any entry to that effect in the minutes shall be admissible in evidence as prima facie proof of the fact without proof of the number or proportion of the votes recorded in favour of or against such resolution. The names of the mover and seconder of each resolution shall be recorded in the minutes.
And how is this by-law possible?

Well, it's possible pursuant to s. 74 of the Schools Act:
74. (1)* A board shall adopt by-laws respecting
(d) the calling and conduct of meetings of the board and the administration and business of the board
And here's where it gets interesting: s. 74 goes on to provide:
(3) A by-law of a board shall not come into force until approved by the minister.
The by-law was approved (presumably by the Board) on August 17, 2005. It was amended on September 17, 2008.

At the former date, Tom Hedderson was Minister of Education in the Danny Williams-Government, whose approval would have been required by subsection (3).

At the latter date, if the secret-ballot provision was part of the latest amendment, the Minister was one Joan Burke.

It is entirely possible, of course, that the secret-ballot provision is a relic of earlier by-laws of the boards which ESD is successor to. Either way, whether grandfathered or adopted de novo, the authorization of such a provision, by The Most Accountable Government Anywhere Ever, is mighty strange.

Point of not-entirely-irrelevant interest: in May 2005, when Fabian Manning was spontaneously evicted from the PC caucus spontaneously and not in any way some cultish show of loyalty to The Leader, it was by show of hands.

* N.B.: not, as the ESD's by-law incorrectly recites, “Section 74.1”



At 1:34 AM, March 10, 2011 , Blogger Mark said...

An interesting comment from the same Twitterverse suggests that some board trustees, as business owners, feared retribution.

Think about that comment for a second.

If a public office holder votes a certain way and says they did so in their own business interests, we would rightfullly call them corrupt.

How is this behaviour - i.e. concealing their vote to protect their business interest - any less morally culpable?

I ask this out of genuine curiosity.


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