Nova Scotia

Cape Breton University president placed on leave pending investigation

Cape Breton University president David Wheeler has been placed on a leave of absence pending the results of an investigation into his conduct during labour negotiations.

Matter is related to David Wheeler's involvement in recent labour negotiations

Cape Breton University president David Wheeler is now on leave with pay, the school says. (CBC)

Cape Breton University president David Wheeler has been placed on a leave of absence pending the results of an investigation into his conduct during labour negotiations.

The board of governors appointed Dale Keefe, vice-president academic, as acting president last night, a release from CBU says.

Wheeler is on leave with pay. The release from the university said the board voted to "conduct an independent investigation regarding governance issues involving the president."

Labour negotiations at heart of investigation

A statement from Wheeler's lawyer, Ray Larkin, said the investigation is related to recent labour negotiations at the university.

Earlier this year the faculty association filed for conciliation in hopes of reaching a deal with the university. That move followed a resounding strike vote in the face of concerns about layoffs. The association has since ratified a tentative agreement, which is expected to go to the board on Dec.9.

Larkin said the investigation would show Wheeler "was acting in a way that was consistent with his oath of office, board of governors policies and bylaws and the agreed direction of the university."

Wheeler "is aware that there are strongly divergent views about the wisdom of closer relations between the administration and the faculty, as represented by the Cape Breton University Faculty Association, but he holds firm to his belief that without those closer relations and the resulting higher levels of trust, the future of the university will be bleak indeed," according to the statement.

"He believes that faculty at CBU deserve to enjoy similar levels of job security as at comparable institutions in order for them to deliver the best results for CBU students and the Cape Breton Island community. Thus he stands by his actions and will continue to advocate ratification of the tentative collective agreement if he is permitted to remain in office."

Decision not made lightly

The results of the investigation are expected within the next month.

The board "did not make these decisions lightly," chair Ambrose White said in the release. "I am confident these decisions are in the best interest of the university."

Wheeler has been president since April 2013.

He previously spent three years as the dean of management at Dalhousie University between 2006 and 2009 and worked internationally as a business executive.