Legal woes mar election win for trustee

Public school rep Sheila Cary-Meagher was slapped with a conflict of interest lawsuit just before election night

One is usually pretty happy after winning an election.

But the joy of school trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher’s reelection on Oct. 25 has been overshadowed by a lawsuit she now faces.

Documents recently filed in Superior Court by Beach resident Leroy St. Germaine claim Cary-Meagher, who represents public schools in Beaches-East York, was in conflict of interest when she was involved in the discussions and voted on secondary school teacher allocations and staff budgets during several board meetings dating to 2005. It states she should have declared a conflict of interest based on the fact her daughter is a member of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and is a public secondary school teacher.

Reelected school trustees Irene Atkinson and Stephnie Payne are also being sued by St. Germaine.

Cary-Meagher said she’s never met St. Germaine.

“I don’t know why the case was filed and how it was relevant to me,” she said recently. “I love my job, I care for the children and their education and I wouldn’t do anything to endanger my position. I know my responsibilities and I am here for the community, not the interest of myself.”

To Meagher, a lawsuit seemed excessive. If someone had a concern they should have brought a grievance or complaint to the board, she said.

When reached by phone, St. Germaine said he was too busy to discuss the matter.

Cary-Meagher speculated that the timing of the lawsuit, presented to her days before the election, was a ploy to jeopardize her image and her campaign.

“I’d like to know about it and correct it but instead he just brought forward a lawsuit,” she said. “With my 24 years, I never experienced such a unsettling instance.”

The case has also brought her monetary woes, as now she’s had to mortgage her house to pay legal fees, she said.

“It’s unfortunate some people file these cases not because someone did something wrong, but because they are trying to make a political point. It scares us and they know they can.”

Hearings dealing with the lawsuit are expected to take place in early January.

In the meantime, Cary-Meagher is concentrating on her duties as school trustee. “This is an interesting and challenging job and I have a lot of work to finish,” she said about her new term in office.

Meagher is working on two major initiatives that she advocated for in her campaign, including the Model School program that gives equal educational opportunities to inner city students, and the promotion of green initiatives in her ward.

About this article:

Posted: Nov 16 2010 10:23 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto

One thought on “Legal woes mar election win for trustee

  • November 23, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    The recent article on Sheila Cary-Meagher I think it is deplorable that this event is even considered newsworthy. A reading of the facts would appear to demonstrate this has little if any merit and only serves to impugn the reputation of a person who has served her community well for years.

    To insist that because you have a relative within the school system you are in a conflict is ridiculous. The trustees’ primary role is to prepare general policy and approve the required funds for disbursement to various program areas which are then spent by paid staff according to provincial regulations.

    The day to day operation of the school board is performed by paid staff. The trustee brings forward area and constituent concerns to paid staff which are assessed and acted upon by the paid staff with respect to the law, and the best interests of our children.

    I am also reminded that the Premier’s wife is also a member of the College of Teachers. Is he not also in a conflict of interest in bringing forth legislation? Many MPPS have children in the school system. Are they not in conflict in bringing forth legislation?

    The key points being made here is that Sheila has never hid the fact she has children within the TDSB system. I understand she also has Grand Children. None of her family are in a direct or indirect reporting relationship to her. They are affected by policy she creates on the children’s behalf just as Stephen Harper’s kids are affected by the legislation his government promulgates.

    I have as a parent sat across from the table with her on dozens of occasions and cannot remember a single instance in which the best interests of our children was not her paramount concern.

    We have disagreed and in many cases agree to disagree in a civilized fashion many times on how to get there.

    On reading the information that is publically available I personally find there seems to be a paucity of reason which only serves to obfuscate the hard work of a dedicated trustee.

    The entire exercise is making a travisty of our judicial system.

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