Screenshot from a Chilliwack Board of Education meeting on Feb. 23, 2021. (File)

Screenshot from a Chilliwack Board of Education meeting on Feb. 23, 2021. (File)

UPDATE: Chilliwack school trustees choose Jared Mumford as board chair

Community Charter legality of meeting held in secret with no public access now in question

The Chilliwack Board of Education’s chair and vice-chair have swapped places in a vote by trustees Tuesday afternoon, a vote that is now under question since it was done with zero public scrutiny.

Trustee Jared Mumord was elected as board chair in a secret ballot and Trustee Willow Reichelt is now vice-chair, the two trading jobs going in to 2022.

As per school district policy, board elections are held annually no later than the second Tuesday in December for chair and vice-chair at a regular special meeting of the board.

That meeting, which should be public, was not held in person and was not livestreamed due to technical difficulties, according to the school district.

Superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam informed The Progress of the results of the meeting. What he did not say, but was explained by others later is that Trustees Heather Maahs, Darrell Furgason and Barry Neufeld did not attend the meeting.

The four remaining trustees also then chose representatives and alternatives to the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA).

Trustee Carin Bondar was named BCPSEA provincial councillor with Mumford serving as alternate, and Trustee David Swankey was named BCSTA provincial councillor with Reichelt serving as an alternate.

The Progress has pressed both former board chair Reichelt and Arul-pragasam as to how the meeting was legal under the Community Charter given that it was held in secret with no members of the public allowed to attend or watch online.

Reichelt responded to the question on Facebook, saying the meeting wasn’t intended to be secretive.

“We possibly should have postponed it,” she wrote. “We were doing it in person rather than via zoom to make it easier to cast/count ballots if there were any…. This was not an in camera meeting, so nothing that happened is secret. Any questions you have will be answered fully.”

District superintendent Rohal Arul-pragasam blamed technical difficulties in a response on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, recent YouTube changes to their studio software and security authentication required us to update our Telestream Wirecast Software to a newer version, which we were unable to complete before 3pm. As a result, we were unable to livestream the meeting. Our apologies!”

The legality of the meeting is now under question given what appears to be a violation of the Community Charter’s provisions regarding public meetings.

Reichelt said that the board is now looking into whether or not the meeting was legal and if the election needs to be redone at a new special regular meeting.

Reichelt, who is now vice-chair, was first elected as chair on Oct. 30, 2020, a vote spurred by Dan Coulter leaving the board after the provincial election where he was chosen as MLA for Chilliwack.

READ MORE: Reichelt earns Chilliwack school board chair role as positions change at table

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