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School board launches formal investigation into trustee Jake Skinner

Two months after a complaint was filed against a trustee by his colleague, the school board has launched a formal inquiry into whether Jake Skinner breached bylaws in his other role as co-owner of Blackridge Strategy.

A complaint was filed against the trustee and co-owner of Blackridge by fellow trustee Corrine Rahman in June

The TVDSB has launched an inquiry into the conduct of trustee Jake Skinner. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

More than two months after a complaint was filed against a school board trustee by his colleague, the school board has launched a formal inquiry into the conduct of Jack Skinner.  

A formal inquiry committee is looking into the conduct of the elected official and whether he breached the Thames Valley District School Board's trustee bylaws.

Skinner is the co-owner of Blackridge Strategy, a PR firm that has been embroiled in controversy since last fall's municipal election. The OPP is now looking into complaints about the firm's conduct.  

Board chair Arlene Morell, trustee Bill McKinnon and trustee Bruce Smith will sit on the the inquiry committee. 

None was available to answer questions about the inquiry on Wednesday. Instead, Director of Education Laura Elliott sat down with reporters to answer questions about the process, though she couldn't go into the evidence against skinner. 

Elliott does not sit on the inquiry committee. 

"At the end of June, the complaint was filed, and that was at the very end of the school year. The chair of the board reviews the matter and has the option to convene an inquiry committee, so that was put together a few weeks ago and that's where we are in the process," Elliott said. 

"The inquiry committee will consider all of the evidence, anything that comes forward must be given to trustee Skinner, and then he has the opportunity within a 30 day period to provide a discussion or comment, and that goes back to the inquiry committee." 

Director of Education Laura Elliott speaks to reporters on Wednesday about the complaint against Trustee Jake Skinner. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News)

The complaint was filed on June 11 by trustee Corrine Rahman. Rahman said she cannot comment on the complaint as it's being investigated. 

In a somewhat bizarre move, the school board, and Rahman, are refusing to say what area of the school board's bylaws Skinner is accused of violating. 

"In my opinion, in submitting a formal complaint, I've followed our procedures to request an inquiry into the actions of trustee Skinner. It is important to me to stand up for what I believe in and set a good example for students," Rahman told CBC News in June when she filed the complaint. 

Skinner to respond

Skinner is in his second term as a school board trustee with the Thames Valley District School Board. He represents Wards 7, 8, 9 and 10.

He co-owns Blackridge Strategy with Amir Farahi, whose name and credit card were linked in court documents to the creation and registration of two websites during the fall municipal election campaign, one of which alleged that a city councillor running for re-election engaged in child abuse for bringing her school-aged child to a budget meeting.

That candidate was Virginia Ridley, running for re-election in Ward. 10. 

In a written statement, the school board said it hoped the inquiry committee will include its work "as soon as possible." 

Skinner said he couldn't comment on the inquiry. 

"I look forward to a fair and impartial process following the laws of natural justice," he wrote to CBC News.

"As part of that, trustees are to refrain from making any comments in the media to protect the integrity of the process and ensure it is conducted in a private and confidential manner. As such, I will reserve comment until the appropriate time. Any inquiries should be directed to Director Elliott."