VSB trustee Patti Bacchus files privacy complaint over audit

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The ongoing saga involving the Vancouver School Board (VSB) has delivered another curve ball, with trustee Patti Bacchus filing a complaint to the privacy commissioner.

Bacchus has filed the complaint over confidential information she says was given to the government’s special adviser Peter Milburn during his current audit of the VSB.

She told Global News her concerns had nothing to do with the allegations of bullying put forward last week by the BC School Superintendents Association.

“Confidential information from the Vancouver School Board, including confidential board minutes, tapes of confidential meetings, and trustee emails has been shared with the special adviser,” said Bacchus.

She said her concerns over the emails and other shared information stemmed from confidential information about children, their parents, and employees they contained. Those worries caused her to seek legal counsel.

“I sought legal counsel in terms of what my own responsibilities were to inform people that their information may have been shared with a service provider to the government. I was advised to make a complaint to the privacy commissioner by my lawyer, so I did that last week,” she said.

The privacy commissioner confirmed to Bacchus that they were investigating the matter.

The Ministry of Education responded on Friday saying any information seized by the special adviser was done so through a previously agreed-upon process.

As for the bullying allegations, Bacchus said her complaint wasn’t a defensive move. She said she is not worried about the contents of the emails painting her in a negative light.

“I have no concerns about anything I would put in a Vancouver School Board email,” she said. “My concerns are about information about children, their parents, and employees.”

Bacchus maintains the board has not received any direct complaints about bullying or harassment but is investigating the allegations as required by WorksafeBC.

The Superintendents Association called out the VSB in a Sept. 30 letter to Education Minister Mike Bernier, saying:

“[The VSB’s] work environment continually and cumulatively creates a toxicity which fosters fear and lack of sense of safety for these lead educators as the expectations requested of them are unmanageable.”

The letter came in the same week six senior administrators with the VSB mysteriously took medical leave at the same time. Shortly after the allegations and WorksafeBC investigation came to light, the VSB voted to suspend the public process to close up to 11 schools.

The province’s audit report, which was initiated after the VSB was the only school board in the province to not turn in a balanced budget, was supposed to be due on Friday. Minister Bernier announced on Thursday he would be extending the deadline by a further two weeks in light of “all the changing situations” with the Vancouver School Board.

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