Outspoken public school board trustee Donna Blackburn doesn’t ever back away from a controversy, even if that controversy is centred around her. She’s notorious for saying what she thinks, making her a target of her fellow school board trustees who seem to prefer a cone of silence than ever publicly ruffling feathers by speaking their minds. Some of Ottawa’s public school board trustees are so intent on unanimity, you have to wonder why we bother with elections at all if all trustees are always on the same page.
Blackburn believes she has a job to do, serving those residents who elected her. So she cares little about what her colleagues feel as long as she herself believes she’s serving her constituents. Blackburn contacted On the City, From the Burbs on Saturday, irate after learning about a $51,000 legal bill paid for by a cash-strapped school board, spent on yet another allegation about her behaviour.
Earlier this year, two complaints of bad behaviour were filed against Blackburn by fellow trustees. This summer, she was cleared of doing anything wrong after the case was dismissed, but the $51,000 bill serves as a reminder of the aborted process. And for Blackburn, it’s not just an obvious waste of money, but even more egregious given the overwhelming and constant needs of students within the school board, needs that often get ignored because of a lack of funding.
Upset, Blackburn contacted the media, then fired off a note to board chair Shirley Seward about what she sees as a waste of money, placing the blame correctly at the feet of Steward.
“Dear Shirley, I wanted you to be aware I have contacted members of the media regarding the cost of the Code of Conduct complaints. This bill rests solely on your head. I have brought forward complaints regarding certain trustees’ behaviour. They were dealt with. Because of in-camera rules I cannot be specific, which is sad. We have a situation where trustees treat people badly and nothing can be said. This board continues to placate these people. You participate in this,” Blackburn wrote.
To be sure, Blackburn has crossed the line in the past with her rush to judgment about others. But this propensity for an elected board to purport to speak with one voice just simply isn’t democratic and doesn’t serve the people. And to make allegations against a fellow trustee, then see the complaints dismissed but stick taxpayers with a $51,000 bill? Ridiculous. And a troubling indication that the school board as a whole needs to get its priorities straight.