Recorded-vot­ing mo­tion re­jected by school board

Times Colonist - - Connections - LIND­SAY KINES lkines@times­colonist.com

Greater Vic­to­ria school trus­tees have de­feated a mo­tion that would have made it eas­ier for the public to see where their elected of­fi­cials stand on is­sues.

Diane Mcnally, a new trustee elected last fall, had called for all votes to be recorded in board min­utes.

The record would show the trustee’s name and whether they voted yes or no or ab­stained.

“My mo­ti­va­tion [was] to make trus­tees’ vot­ing records more trans­par­ent to the public,” she said.

The board ma­jor­ity, how­ever, de­cided at a re­cent com­mit­tee meet­ing to con­tinue the prac­tice of record­ing a trustee’s vote only if he or she re­quests that it be noted in the min­utes. Oth­er­wise, the min­utes in­di­cate that a mo­tion was car­ried, car­ried unan­i­mously or de­feated with no in­di­ca­tion of where in­di­vid­ual trus­tees stood on an is­sue.

Mcnally plans to raise the mo­tion again at a full meet­ing of the board next week.

But Vic­to­ria board chair­woman Peg Orcher­ton said the cur­rent sys­tem works well and that it’s up to in­di­vid­ual trus­tees to de­cide how trans­par­ent they want to be. “I think it comes down to in­di­vid­ual trustee re­spon­si­bil­ity and the op­por­tu­nity to record your vote is al­ready in our rules,” she said. “If trus­tees don’t want to record their votes that’s their in­di­vid­ual right. But I don’t see why they wouldn’t if they feel strongly enough about an is­sue.”

Vice-chair­woman Bev Hors­man agreed. “If a trustee wants the public to know how they stand on an is­sue, they record their neg­a­tive vote,” she said. “If a trustee doesn’t feel that it’s that im­por­tant a thing, then they don’t record their neg­a­tive vote.”

Hors­man said Mcnally’s idea of record­ing the votes of all trus­tees would cre­ate too much work for the board sec­re­taries. “They have their hands full record­ing our com­ments as it is.”

Tom Fer­ris, who also voted against Mcnally’s mo­tion, said the min­utes should re­flect the over­all board’s di­rec­tion, rather than the views of in­di­vid­ual trus­tees. “I don’t re­ally link ac­count­abil­ity to an in­di­vid­ual trustee, I link ac­count­abil­ity to the board,” he said.

Fer­ris ac­knowl­edged that public has a right to know how in­di­vid­ual trus­tees vote on is­sues. “But you could al­ways ask,” he said. “Peo­ple rou­tinely ask me what’s my opin­ion on this or that, and I’m happy to let them know.”

Trustee Deb­o­rah Nohr, who sup­ported Mcnally’s mo­tion, said she was told by vot­ers last fall that they want more trans­parency on the board. “This is a very sim­ple, but im­por­tant way to do that,” she said.

Nohr said the board might act as one body, but trus­tees are elected as in­di­vid­u­als and have a duty of open­ness and ac­count­abil­ity to the vot­ers. “The public has said they want to be able to track the votes and it is not some­thing they presently feel they can do.”

The B.C. Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion and Privacy As­so­ci­a­tion also ques­tioned the board’s cur­rent prac­tice of leav­ing trans­parency up to in­di­vid­ual trus­tees.

“The trans­parency should be in the sys­tem,” ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Vin­cent Go­golek said. “Here’s how ev­ery­body voted, not, well, here’s how the peo­ple who feel like be­ing open voted.

“Es­pe­cially as you come up to an elec­tion, you want to know: ‘These are the folks that are run­ning for re-elec­tion, what did they do on the is­sues that are im­por­tant to me?’ If you don’t have a recorded vote, how are you sup­posed to find that out?”

The Sooke and Saanich school boards take a sim­i­lar ap­proach as the Vic­to­ria board, record­ing votes only if trus­tees re­quest it.

How­ever, the Co­mox Val­ley School Board moved last year to record all votes.

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