The Ontario Education Act permits confidential meetings when they might disclose "intimate, personal or financial information in respect to a member of the board or committee, an employee or prospective employee of the board or a pupil or his or her parents or guardians . . ."What they fail to realize is the board could have also considered the discussions over the superintendents in question to have been negotiations with employees, which are also permitted in-camera. Canton also notes Ferguson is the person who took the plagiarism concerns all the way to the Ontario College of Teachers and was cut off by the board chair at a meeting earlier this fall where he started to speak about what he thought should be done with the superintendents in question.
(Peter) Ferguson argues that the board wrongly held all meetings regarding the superintendents involved in the plagiarism case behind closed doors because "the plagiarism activities of the subject employees are part of their professional lives and concern only their conduct while in the employ of the trustees."
This is a grey area, despite how black and white the text of the Act appears. When a board deals with disciplining its employees -- particularly given only one employee reports to it directly, the director of education -- there is enough legal space in the act and, I would suspect case law, to say these discussions qualify as "personal" information. While the alleged behaviour may be related to a person's public conduct as an official of the board, the censure as potentially meted out by trustees -- or rather, as board direction to the director of education for implementation -- isn't necessarily so. Most boards treat director of education reviews and evaluations as in-camera items, as these discussions and reviews deal with personal information.
I'm not a lawyer, but I've spent a lot of time this year looking into municipal in-camera meetings (whose rules aren't that different than what's in the Education Act in terms of appropriate subject matter) and there could be enough space here for the investigation to come up empty.
Or, as Ferguson alleges, the board could have gone too far-- and therefor should have done what to my knowledge would be the first board to ever publicly discuss and then censure its own employees. I'll be following the coverage here very closely as I've come to question my own public board's bylaw that allows a closed-door "caucus" meeting to be held at the call of the chair. Despite my routine coverage and ranting every time the board chose to hold these meetings, it garnered no public reaction and created no appetite for change.