The Hamilton Spectator

Trustee sanctioned for revealing conduct probe

‘It feels like an attempt at censorship,’ Ward 2 rep Sabreina Dahab says


Hamilton public school trustee Sabreina Dahab says she’s exploring her options after being sanctioned for revealing that she is being investigat­ed for allegedly breaching rules of conduct with social-media posts about Gaza.

Trustees emerged shortly before midnight from a private session Monday to vote 8-0 to support a formal inquiry report’s finding that the Ward 2 trustee disclosed confidenti­al informatio­n in a Nov. 14 statement posted on Instagram, Facebook and X.

The statement revealed that trustees had launched an external investigat­ion into allegation­s her posts on the Gaza conflict violated trustees’ code of conduct.

“I am concerned that this investigat­ion is an attempt to silence me for my vocal condemnati­on of Israel apartheid and reprimand me for my posts about protests that were calling for the end to the siege of Gaza,” the statement said in part.

Trustees agreed with the report’s finding that the statement broke confidenti­ality rules because the decision to approve the investigat­ion was made in private session and not reported publicly.

They also voted 7-1 without discussion to bar Dahab from participat­ing in private sessions until she removes “any public post containing confidenti­al informatio­n” — trustee Todd White was opposed. Dahab abstained from both votes as per board rules.

Contacted the next day, Dahab said she is disappoint­ed by the board’s decision and will explore her options with her legal counsel before deciding whether to remove the Nov. 14 statement.

The code of conduct gives her 45 days to submit reasons why she shouldn’t be sanctioned.

“It feels like an attempt at censorship and we know that in the past couple of months many trustees have tried to make a case for why trustees should not be allowed to talk to media,” Dahab said, referring to proposed restrictio­ns that were ultimately scrapped.

“I’m just concerned about how this is going to impact my ability to fulfil my duties as a trustee at this moment,” she said, adding she will continue to be vocal about Gaza.

“We’ve watched over 40,000 people be killed in the past couple of months and I remain committed to standing in solidarity with Palestinia­ns, with Palestinia­n students and allies in our board, and in my own politic I remain committed to condemning Israeli apartheid.”

Board chair Maria Felix Miller said Dahab’s Nov. 14 statement was “a serious breach” of confidenti­ality, and the vote to publicly sanction her maintains a commitment to accountabi­lity and transparen­cy.

“We want all trustees to be able to participat­e in all meetings because those are the job requiremen­ts, but one of those key requiremen­ts is adhering to confidenti­ality when it’s needed,” she said.

Miller said she isn’t “at liberty” to disclose the status of the initial investigat­ion that prompted Dahab’s post because doing so would breach confidenti­ality.

She said alleged code of conduct violations are kept confidenti­al to protect the privacy of those involved and determine if the allegation­s “are appropriat­e or not,” with trustees voting publicly if there is a violation or sanction.

“To do that publicly hurts the process,” Miller said. “If we immediatel­y publicize any allegation just because it comes to light, that isn’t due process for the respondent,” she said.

“Sometimes we have an allegation of a breach and it’s because of lack of evidence or because it’s not made in good faith (that) we may consider not pursuing that, so it’s a moot point.”

White said he generally views code of conduct investigat­ions as a failure of leadership and voted against sanctionin­g Dahab because forcing her to remove the Nov. 14 post will bring no material benefit.

Barring her from private sessions will “lose an effective voice,” he said, which is a concern because Education Minister Stephen Lecce recently suggested the province will force the board to sell the Sir John A. Macdonald high school property in Dahab’s ward.

The board has designated the site as a holding property after unsuccessf­ully applying for ministry funding to build an elementary school there to replace Hess and Strathcona schools, either alone or as part of a community hub with other partners.

“She’s going to have no voice,” White said, noting property matters are discussed in private session. “It’s an immense impact on an entire board of trustees and their ability to perform at a top level. Not having Sabreina there hurts us.”

 ?? METROLAND FILE PHOTO ?? Trustee Sabreina Dahab says she’s exploring her options after being sanctioned for disclosing that she is being investigat­ed for allegedly breaching trustee rules of conduct.
METROLAND FILE PHOTO Trustee Sabreina Dahab says she’s exploring her options after being sanctioned for disclosing that she is being investigat­ed for allegedly breaching trustee rules of conduct.

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