The Hanover School Board is putting a lot of time into updating two policies regarding conflict of interest.  

Trustee Danielle Funk, who also chairs the Governance Committee, says the changes to the Employee Conflict of Interest Policy are quite minimal, citing grammar corrections, a few additions, and making the policy more concise.  

First reading was unanimously approved last month with little discussion, but now, a few trustees have expressed significant concerns about the amendments, preventing the policy from going to a vote for second and third reading.  

Funk appeared taken aback by the pushback at the June 4th board meeting, considering there was only one question at the previous meeting when trustees showed full support for it during first reading.  

At the May 7th meeting, Trustee Cheryl Froese asked for the rationale for the changes to the policy.  

Both Funk and Superintendent Shelly Amos explained that Human Resources indicated there were some changes required, adding that the proposed amendments were created after getting some opinion on proper wording for the policy.  

There were no more questions at that meeting, and first reading was approved with an 8-0 vote in favour of the amendments.  

Then at the June 4th meeting when Funk moved second and third reading of the policy, Trustee Dallas Wiebe expressed concerns about removing a sentence that appears later in the policy.  

“'In discharging their duties, all personnel employed by the Division must exercise the greatest care that neither their influence with their students, nor their position in the Division, shall be used for personal gain or to promote the commercial or financial interests of any person, business, organization or institution.' That line has been removed. I thought it was there in the first reading, but maybe it’s not in this one,” Wiebe said.  

Amos responded to the concern, saying that particular sentence had been removed to avoid redundancy.  

“If you look down to paragraph three, in the definition, that’s embedded in there,” she said.  

Wiebe indicated the policy should still include more details in the first paragraph.  

Chair Brad Unger asked Funk if she would be open to a friendly amendment to the policy she presented.  

That would depend on the wording, Funk replied.  

Vice Chair Jeff Wiebe then asked if the board could approve only second reading at this meeting and then send the policy back to the Governance Committee for some amendments to reflect more details in the first paragraph.  

“The motion on the floor is for second and third reading,” noted Kevin Heide, Secretary-Treasurer.  

Wiebe, who was absent from the May 7th board meeting, said the amended policy has “lots of changes,” adding that he did not feel comfortable “rushing second and third reading." 

Trustee Shayne Barkman said, “It looks like three quarters of this policy has changed, just wondering what the rationale is for making so many changes.”

Funk and Amos reiterated the reasoning, to improve the policy, remove redundancies, and to have both the Employee Conflict of Interest Policy match the Board Member Conflict of Interest Policy. 

After further discussion, it was decided that Funk would withdraw her motion to approve the amended policy for Employee Conflict of Interest, and take it back to the Governance Committee for further improvements. 

“It’s great to have discussion here, but we want to give Governance as much of a heads-up as possible,” said Chair Unger. He pointed out that this was not the first time that trustees have seen this amended policy. 

Funk requested that trustees clearly indicate their concerns and questions prior to the next Governance meeting so that they can be addressed prior to bringing the policy back to the June 27th board meeting. 

Funk then made a motion to approve first reading of the amended Policy BC, Board Member Conflict of Interest, seconded by Trustee Ron Falk. 

“Because we were doing the Employee Conflict of Interest, we thought it would be appropriate that the Board member conflict of interest also be changed so to mimic the wording in both so we’re not, at different times, changing the conflict-of-interest rules and then ending up with two policies that look vastly different from each other,” Funk explained. 

Froese noted her concerns with some of the wording. 

“This conflict can be real, potential, or perceived,” she read, noting her concerns with the words “potential” and “perceived” being used in the policy. “They’re not based on anything except feelings.” 

Amos noted that is the language used in the recommendation from the Manitoba School Boards Association legal counsel. 

“I’d says that’s very common wording in most Conflict-of-Interest policies,” she added. 

Trustee Shayne Barkman stated that, “It looks like 80 to 90 per cent of this policy is changing so I'm just wondering what the rationale is for that.” 

Funk reiterated that these amendments were made to correspond with the Conflict of Interest policy for employees, “So we don’t end up with two vastly different policies.” 

She noted that the language in this policy is not new. The current policy for Board Members Conflict of Interest includes, “The Board expects all Board members to conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions of the Public Schools Act with respect to disclosure of any conflict of interest situations, either real or perceived.” 

First reading of amended Policy BC, Board Member Conflict of Interest policy, was approved. Trustees Cheryl Froese, Shayne Barkman, and Jeff Friesen voted against it. 

Both policies are expected to return to the agenda for the June 27th board meeting.