Chilliwack trustee quits electronic meetings

Chilliwack's school superintendent was admonished by trustees for seeking legal counsel in the matter of electronic participation at board meetings.

Trustees Silvia Dyck and Heather Maahs said legal counsel was not required, that the matter could have been resolved amongst the board in a private meeting.

"We didn't need to make a big deal of this," said Dyck, who requested a meeting to debrief the situation but was declined. "We should have been able to get together and figure this out. We didn't need to seek legal counsel."

The issue arose from technical difficulties at the last two meetings where trustee Doug McKay attended via Elluminate Live, an online web-conferencing system, that was having problems with sound, making it impossible for McKay to be heard. As a result, his votes were done by email.

At the March 13 board meeting, a fed up Gord Byers, president of the District Parents' Advisory Council, voiced his concerns over not being able to hear McKay's votes.

The following day, trustee Heather Maahs, who did not voice any concern at the public meeting, sent an email to the superintendent and trustees stating that McKay's votes did not count pursuant to Section 67 of the school act, which states trustees may participate in meetings by telephone or other means of communication only if all trustees are able to communicate with each other.

However, in her findings, Wendy Harris, of Harris and Company, said that because there was no objection by trustees at the meeting over not being able to hear McKay, and no objections to his voting on motions at the time, the technical difficulties were not sufficient to invalidate the March 13 proceedings.

Vice Chair Walt Krahn justified the legal counsel by stating that the trustees differing views on the situation would have resulted in a stalemate.

"We could not have dealt with that on our own," said Krahn.

But even with legal counsel in his favour, trustee Doug McKay, who was at Tuesday's board meeting, announced he would not again participate in meetings electronically with the district's web-conferencing system in its present form.

"In the 21st century world of electronic communication, it is common for governments, large organizations, including some of our own, regional hospital districts and many others to use systems such as Elluminate for effective communication," said McKay.

"Unfortunately, our Elluminate system needs some work. I believe, in its present version, Elluminate is not an effective system for this type of meeting."

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