The Halton Catholic District School Board will not disclose the reasons why it has disciplined two of its own board trustees. On May 24th, 2022 the board found Trustee Vincent Iantomasi was in violation of its Code of Conduct. Later on July 28, 2022, the board found that Trustee Helena Karabela was also in violation of its Code of Conduct. Sanctions against both trustees were significant with Trustee Karabela barred from attending the September 6th and 20th board meetings. Trustee Iantomasi is to be barred from attending all board meetings until November 15th, essentially prohibiting him from carrying out his duties until the end of his term in office. In special meetings which were aired on the board’s YouTube site, Board Chair Marvin Duarte stated that claims of breaches to the Code of Conduct were brought to the board’s attention and a subsequent investigation was conducted. A final report was distributed to all board members for in-camera meetings. However, those reports remain confidential and out of the public eye.
When asked about whether the content of the allegations made towards both trustees will be made public, Board Chair Marvin Duarte said: “The decision to make inquiry reports open to the public rests with the Board of Trustees. I am unsure”. When further asked about the nature of the allegations themselves, Duarte responded: “Unfortunately I cannot comment on this as it is part of the report.”
Questions of timing and political motivation for these disciplinary measures were brought up at the special board meetings by Trustees Tim O’Brien and Peter De Rosa. When asked about the timing for these actions, Board Chair Duarte responded: “It was just bad timing that both the meetings happened to be held during the same week. To clarify – A determination of breach of the Code of Conduct for Trustee Iantomasi was made by the Board way back in May 2022, but the meeting to hold the “sanctions” only were held this week due to a Board resolution with a deadline of July 29. There was absolutely no urgency or rush with Trustee Karabela’s allegation and the Code of Conduct process. It so happened that a complaint was received and had to be dealt with – this was done in a reasonable time giving fair opportunity to all parties. All requirements of the Ed Act, bylaws and the Code of conduct policy have been followed with the presence of Legal and the Parliamentarian at the Board meetings for guidance.”
Currently, Trustee Iantomasi is away on medical leave and did not attend any of the meetings in question. In the May 24th meeting, Trustee De Rosa asked about Trustee Iantomasi’s ability to respond and defend himself against the allegations made against him. Vice Chair Brenda Agnew responded by saying Trustee Iantomasi was given the chance to defend himself during the investigation into the allegations but did not respond to the opportunity. According to her, he only emailed a statement that he refuted the allegations. This was apparently in the report that the board trustees saw however it is unable to be corroborated and examined further because it is not made public.
Both Trustees Iantomasi and Karabela have been in the spotlight before in regards to their conduct in board meetings. Earlier in the term, the board sought an outside auditor to evaluate the conduct of their meetings. Trustee Iantomasi was found to have been in a group of trustees that engaged in dilatory behaviour, causing meetings to become acrimonious and somewhat unproductive. Trustee Karabela in recent meetings has repeatedly introduced the same motion seeking to limit fundraising options for schools within the board. A policy which was met with much opposition in the last term. The board itself has fallen into factional lines with a typical five to four split amongst usual lines on most action items on their agendas. The vote on the sanctions above fell again into similar lines. With Trustees Pat Murphy, Janet O’Hearn Czarnota, Nancy Guzzo, Vice Chair Brenda Agnew and Chair Marvin Duarte voting in favour of the sanctions. Trustees Peter De Rosa, Tim O’Brien and Helena Karabela (in the vote regarding Trustee Iantomasi) all voting against the sanctions.
In the meantime, the secrecy surrounding this matter is eroding public trust in the board. Lauren Wallis, one of the organizers of a grassroots parents group Halton Parents for Change, which has been vocal in its criticism of both Trustees Iantomasi and Karabela responded to our request for a comment: “On July 28 and 29, Halton Parents for Change contacted Chair Duarte, asking that he make both reports public. He responded that the decision to make the reports public rests with the Board of Trustees and added that his personal belief is that it is time to put these matters behind us. We disagree. We believe transparency is important, and concealing the reports serves only to fuel speculation among stakeholders and undermine their already-tenuous trust in the Board. We continue to urge Trustees, including Chair Duarte, to table a motion to release the reports to the public.”
At the moment, there appears to be no motivation amongst the sitting Trustees to make the reports public. No response from Trustees Iantomasi or Karabela were given to our requests for comments on this matter.