EXAMINING ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS

 

Robinson’s Reflections on his meeting with

Chair of the Board Governance Committee:



6 June 2006


RE: Meeting on 5 June, 2006 with Bob Turner, Chair, Governance Committee,

Board of Governors, University of Lethbridge


This meeting lasted from approximately 3:30 - 4:40 pm



At the beginning of the meeting, I informed Bob that I would be taping the meeting since I had been given too short notice to have a fellow Board member accompany me and I was refused the right to have a faculty representative present. Bob refused my request, and I told Bob that, given my experiences over the past few months, I was uncomfortable with that refusal. The meeting proceeded without taping.


Although Bob informed me that this was simply a “fact finding” mission, it became clear to me early that this was part of some kind of formal investigation. I made that point to Bob and further informed Bob that I should have been told prior to the meeting that the meeting was about my conduct as a Board member.


As the meeting progressed, I detected that a yet unspecified new matter was part of this investigation and I finally determined, by various comments made, that questions were being raised about the fact I had provided the Faculty Association with a copy of my summary of my meeting with the Board Chair and Vice-Chair. I then put the matter bluntly to Bob regarding whether this was the matter of current concern and he confirmed that it was. It was also made clear that the question of my trustworthiness as a Board member was being raised since I had revealed the contents of what was a “confidential Board meeting.” Bob asked how Board members now could feel free to comment in a Board meeting when they could have no assurance that their comments would not be carried beyond the Board meeting (apparently by me). I stated that no one should have the assurance that comments of personal slander would be kept confidential simply because such comments had been made in the context of a Board meeting. I assured Bob that Board members could have full confidence that any other comment would be kept in confidence. Bob agreed that the “sanctity” of the Board meeting did not protect a member who made slanderous comment. I also pointed out that much of the business of the Board is not in closed session. He agreed.


I then pointed out that the Board Chair and Vice-Chair had spoken to students and made serious charges about my misconduct to them—in spite of the fact that such a matter was the very matter that the Board Chair and Vice-Chair objected to me speaking about to the Faculty Association. I pointed out, too, that they had spoken to students before I spoke to the Faculty Association about the matter. I pointed out, as well, that they had reached conclusion about my conduct and communicated these matters to students without ever having spoken to me and with having heard only the Administration’s side of the story. I told Bob that I was offended by this process, that I saw it as hypocritical, and that I could not trust the judgment of those who concluded against me prior to ever having spoken to me. I judged such conduct as showing ill-will toward me.


Bob then asked me how I could serve on the Board when I did not trust the judgement of Royer or  McNab. I pointed out that I had a considerable paper trail that provided adequate grounds for my distrust. Bob then spoke about the importance of all being on the same side (or something along those lines—I don’t recall exactly), and that there was a question of how the Board could function under present conditions. He then told me a story of a Board in Washington State on which he had sat. One member emailed all the other Board members, expressing a lack of confidence in the Chair (or something like that). Bob said that whether that person was right of wrong, he had to be removed from that Board. Bob then moved into a discussion of whether the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge might have to act in a similar way and he said that this could be done by the Board expressing a lack of confidence in a Board member and requesting the Lieutenant-Governor to remove the Board member in question. I informed Bob that if he felt that that was what should be done in my case, he should proceed, but he should be aware that there would be a public fight over that matter and that I would consider any such action as damaging to my reputation, and that I would take appropriate action. I also told Bob I would not be the “fall guy.”


Bob informed me that since this was a Board Meeting, I could not speak about the matter outside the Board. I informed him that I would be bringing the details of this meeting to the attention of my lawyer, and he conceded that he could not advise me not to.


The five main issues that I see arising from the meeting are these, with #2—#4 being broadly the same issue:

(1) Whether the Board has a right to request my removal from the Board because I lack confidence in the Board Chair and Vice-Chair and have expressed objections to their actions.

(2) Whether I had no right to provide the Faculty Association with a summary of the meeting I had with Royer and McNab simply because Royer and McNab had declared this meeting to be a Board meeting. I point out that the meeting was focussed largely on my conduct and that the matter of the confidentially of that issue had already been violated by the Board Chair and Vice-Chair to my harm by their earlier comments to students. My revealing of the details of the meeting was to appeal to processes that would protect me from such comments about my conduct.

(3) Whether I have a right to speak to the Faculty Association about the new developments or whether the “Board Meeting” setting prohibits me from disclosure, even though the matters I wish to disclose to the Faculty Association relate specifically to new criticisms of my conduct. This matter is identical with #2, except that in the present case, I have not passed the details of the meeting on to the Faculty Association, even though the matter is considerably more serious for me now than had been the case.

(4) Whether the Board is abusing the concept of “confidentiality” by making serious allegations about my conduct in a private meeting with me and declaring that I cannot speak about the matter because the meeting is a “Board meeting.” In other words, can simply stamping a meeting a “Board meeting” prevent me from speaking about the matter, even though the matters of the meeting relate specifically to my conduct? That would seem to put serious limits on my ability to defend myself. Surely this is a fundamental violation of my rights.

(5) Whether I have a right to hear the specific charges against me and respond to the evidence, or whether I must guess what the issues are and try to defend myself in a situation where I have been provided no specifics (in the case of my meeting with Turner) or where I have been provided specifics but I am prevented from defending myself because judgment has been predetermined prior to my knowledge of the charges against me and I am prohibited by my judges from speaking about the matter (as in the case of my meeting with Royer and McNab).  I feel like a blindfolded boxer in a ring where the only two rules are (1) that I cannot remove my blindfold, and (2) I cannot tell anyone that I have been blindfolded. It hardly seems like a fair fight.


— Tom Robinson
Professor

The University of Lethbridge



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