Supervisor’s kin work for board

But Catholic school head denies a conflict
Mon, June 9, 2008  BRYN WEESE, SUN MEDIA

The provincially appointed supervisor of the embattled Toronto Catholic school board has dismissed suggestions he has a conflict of interest, even though his wife and daughter are employed by the board.

Norbert Hartmann confirmed his wife Gisele has been a teacher with the Toronto Catholic District School Board for the past 38 years, and his daughter, Elyse, was hired by the board just over a year ago as a supply teacher.

However, Hartmann told the Sun yesterday he and Education Minister Kathleen Wynne discussed his family connections to the board and acted accordingly.

"As a result I have been delegated no powers related to teachers," he said, noting his assistant, Norm Forma, is responsible for those matters. "That was a very conscious decision made very early … I obviously couldn't have accepted if I had to deal with teachers."

The province decided last week to take control of the board after provincial investigators found trustees had created a toxic atmosphere and a "culture of micro-management" that paralyzed the province's largest Catholic school board.

Trustees were toppled six months after the Sun reported on trustees' excessive use of public funds on late-night meals, booze, clothing and vacations.

According to the board's website, Gisele Hartmann currently teaches at St. Margaret elementary school on Carmichael Ave., near Avenue Rd. and Hwy 401, and Elyse teaches at St. Helen elementary school on College St. near Dufferin St., filling a long-term vacancy.

Wynne said yesterday she was fully aware of Hartmann's relatives working for the board and is satisfied with the current delegation of duties.

"We knew this and so that's why we appointed Norm Forma," said Wynne, noting they were hired at the same time.

Hartmann will be paid $190,000 a year, while Forma, a former board director in the late 1990s, will be paid $1,200 a day.

"He (Forma) will be in an associate supervisor role, and so the delegation of authority around labour negotiations will go directly from me to him and his decisions will be binding on those issues," Wynne said.

She added Hartmann is the "overall supervisor," but on issues relating to contracts and teachers, he cannot overturn Forma's decisions.

Catholic trustee Oliver Carroll said he is concerned about the optics, given the credibility troubles that facing the board, even if Hartmann is removed from decisions that will affect his wife and daughter.

"I think this will play out over time, that the relationship between the supervisor and the staff was a bit too tight on too many levels," he said. "I will suspect we'll hear more about this as it goes on."

Wynne said it wasn't hiding anything from the public, and that information about Hartmann "was absolutely always available."