THE UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE:

Secret “Board Meeting” #2



Secret “Board Meeting” #2

On June 2, 2006, I was told by email that Bob Turner wanted to meet with me. Since there was no indication what the meeting was about (other than that it was about a governance matter), I asked for more information. A series of emails followed as I attempted to get this information. If we are expected to be open in our dealings, why not state up-front what meetings are about? Why the beating around the bush? For this series of emails showing my futile attempt to get this information, click here.

I was told on the day of the meeting that I could not bring a faculty member as a witness, but I would be permitted to bring a board member. Since it was then too late to find a board member, I went to the meeting with a tape recorder. I told Mr. Turner that I would be taping the meeting (given what had occurred in my other meeting with senior members of the Board). I was refused permission to tape the meeting. As with the first meeting, there were to be no minutes.


What Meeting #2 was not about
and what it was about

Although I could not be told what the meeting was about (other than that it was on “matters dealing with corporate governance”), I could be told what the meeting was not about: it was not about the “grievance issue.”

The meeting started off with a general discussion of the procedures the Board would take to remove a member from the Board. I was asked how I could serve effectively as a Board member when I had lost confidence in the Board Chair and Vice-Chair. An extensive discussion related to these kinds of issues continued until about half way through a 70-minute meeting. By that point, I was beginning to realize that there was something else afoot. I asked directly whether there was another issue and was told that there was.

That new issue was that the Board (that is to say, the Board Chair, Vice-Chair, and President—since no other Board member knew about this) had serious concerns about my violation of Board confidentiality. I was asked how the members of the Board of Governors could speak freely with me in the room since I had revealed confidential Board material.

The issue, I was told, revolved around the copy of my letter of March 29, 2006 addressed to the Chair and Vice-Chair, summarizing the meeting that I had with them. I had copied the letter to the faculty association and indicated that I had done that in the letter itself. This supposed violation of Board confidentiality is dealt with on another page (click here).]


What was Confidential about Meeting #2?

Several things were discussed at this meeting. One was the process by which the Board could act to remove a member from the Board. Surely that is not confidential information. Another matter was the concern that I had violated Board confidentiality by summarizing my meeting with the Board Chair and Vice-Chair and sending a copy to the faculty association. But that matter cannot have been considered confidential, for the President conveyed that information to the faculty association, which is clearly not part of the Board (email from faculty association to Robinson reporting the President’s comments).


Questions about Meeting #2

Whose meeting? I was not told the purpose of the meeting, although I asked for that information explicitly. But others were permitted to know. In fact, it appears others called the meeting, assigning the Chair of the Governance Committee to conduct the meeting in their absence. Who were these people? The Board Chair, the Board Vice-Chair, and the President—the very people against whom grievances had been filed or who were involved in actions related to these grievances. Thus the meeting was really a meeting in the interest of the very people against whom grievances had been brought on my behalf. It is curious that this information was not relayed to me on the initial request of a meeting and that I was not permitted to know what the meeting was about, though it is clear that my accusers were well aware of what the meeting was about and had initiated action to have such a meeting. This does not reflect openness, fairness or even-handed process.

The purpose of the meeting. I was not told what the purpose of the meeting was, although I had requested that information explicitly; I was told, however, that the meeting was not about the grievances. Interesting coincidences follow. Three grievances had been filed by the faculty association on my behalf on April 19, 2006. On May 2, 2006, the President informed the faculty association that he was recommending that the grievances be rejected. On May 11, 2006, the faculty association informed the President that the grievances would proceed and that the President could not investigate the matter, since two of the grievances were against the President and a conflict of interest would result.

The purpose of the meeting seems to have been to get me to resign from the Board. The reason given was that I had violated Board confidentiality, and that I had lost confidence in the Board Chair and Vice-Chair. But these were matters related to meetings on March 23, 2006 and my letter of March 29, 2006. Why was I not called to resign then? Am I to believe that it took two months to decide to force my resignation and that the decision to proceed in this way had nothing to do with the much more recent grievances? Really?

Further, I asked specifically prior to the meeting the following question: “Regarding the purpose of the meeting, you say that it is not a discussion of the grievances. Can I assume that it is not about my conduct as a board member, since that is an issue of the grievances?” The reply I received was “Can't answer that.” Why? Is it the policy of the Board of Governors to blindside and to obscure? Can the Board not speak more plainly than the oracle at Delphi? “The Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Board of Governors” states in section 6.0 “Fair dealing”: “Governors must deal fairly with the University’s stakeholders. None should take unfair advantage of anyone through illegal conduct, manipulation, concealment, abuse of privileged information, misrepresentation of material facts or any other unfair-dealing practice.” Except, apparently, when they want to do that.



My reflections on the meeting

I put my reflections of that meeting in writing after the meeting. I am posting the full document here since it reveals the kind of processes that took place behind closed doors at the University of Lethbridge. I believe that such processes fail the test of “due process” and that such conduct should not be protected by claims of confidentiality. Therefore, I am contesting such conduct publicly in hope that such conduct never again happens in our institution, protected by “closed doors.” For the document, click here.


— Tom Robinson
Professor

The University of Lethbridge



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EXAMINING ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS