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Catholic school trustee cleared on charge of attempting to influence vote Add to ...

A judge has dismissed allegations a Toronto Catholic school trustee tried to influence a vote on which she had declared a conflict of interest, the latest chapter of a legal saga in which two other trustees were booted off the board.

In a brief, handwritten judgment, Madam Justice Lois B. Roberts of the Superior Court of Justice ruled that the evidence presented did not prove trustee Barbara Poplawski gave a thumbs-down signal during a meeting more than two years ago after she had recused herself from voting.

At the meeting in May, 2008, the 30-year board veteran declared a conflict-of-interest during a debate on whether to send layoff notices to teachers because her daughter was working for the board as an educational assistant.

A ratepayer, however, claimed she made the sign in hopes of persuading the board to vote against a motion that would have delayed sending out the notices.

"The applicant has failed to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that Trustee Poplawski made a thumbs-down gesture as alleged in an attempt to influence the voting at the May 14, 2008, meeting in issue in this application," Madam Justice Roberts wrote.

Ms. Poplawski, who is running for re-election on Monday, said the decision was a relief.

"It has been a draining year," she said. "The time could have been put to better use."

The ratepayer also complained about other trustees at the meeting. In February, 2009, Oliver Carroll was found guilty of 10 conflict-of-interest offences for voting on budget decisions related to teacher layoffs even though his daughter worked for the board as a teacher. He was removed from the board and ordered to pay nearly $50,000 in costs.

Last summer, board chair Angela Kennedy was also removed for voting on budget items in spite of the fact that one of her sons was a part-time substitute education assistant.

She is appealing the decision and running for re-election on Monday.

The TDCSB has had a rocky term, with a provincial official taking over many of its powers after it was revealed trustees had been spending their expense account money questionably.

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