School trustee Mike Babinsky's harassment suspension first in Manitoba
Controversial Winnipeg School Division trustee Mike Babinsky is barred from board meetings for a month after an investigator found he breached the division's harassment prevention policy.
Board chair Mark Wasyliw calls the move a first in Manitoba's history.
"We, as trustees, can be critical of employees, we can be critical of the administration, but there's a line you can't cross, where it stops being respectful and it becomes abusive, and it's concerning when a trustee holds a position of power," he said.
The division sent out a press release late Monday night, following a meeting by the board.
According to the release, a formal complaint was made by a WSD employee who "had been subjected to repeated humiliation and intimidation, and that the employee's reputation was impugned by trustee Babinsky and that the employee had cause to worry about employment security."
The conduct by Babinsky included repeated comments in public, via email to a number of people, in conversations and in board of trustees meetings, the release stated.
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"It wasn't going away and it just kept happening and in December of last year, the employee obviously had enough and took the unusual step of filing a complaint against a school trustee and, as far as we know, there's never been a case like this in Manitoba," Wasyliw said.
An external investigator was brought in to examine the matter and a report was released to the board on Monday.
After Babinsky was allowed to respond, the board passed a motion ordering him to:
- Formally apologize to the affected employee.
- Take a respectful workplace and/or anger management course.
- Undertake mediation should the complainant wish it.
Babinsky is also barred from board meetings and committee meetings between Oct. 5 and Nov. 2.
Once the employee filed the complaint, Babinsky's behaviour improved, Wasyliw noted. However, the suspension is important to send a message that the board takes harassment seriously, he said.