Ethics – Conflict of Interest : the Education Business @ LBPSB -1

At the last Quebec political leaders’ debate, there was a discussion,  regarding  former employees of public institutions lobbying  their former employers.  I understood  Mr. Couillard (now Premier) to say that he considered  there should be a two year time frame, between leaving a government job before doing business with the same public institution.

The  letter to the editor on page 9, in the  PDF, at the end of part 3, summarizes the situation wherein  the former chairman of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, who resigned part way through his mandate, (April 2011) and was employed by the company, Ameresco .  That same company then shortly afterwards started to lobby the board, via its former chair Marcus Tabachnick.

Part of the lobbying included  promoting the product at the Quebec English School Boards Association Conference in May 2011, and the Canadian School Boards ‘Congress’ in July 2012.  (For several years Mr. Tabachnick had been president of the QESBA and the CSBA)

Nonetheless,  a company, Johnson Controls, which had been praised and honoured for its previous work with the board with contracts worth millions of dollars,  bid for another million dollar contract, but along with the twelve other bidders,  suddenly withdrew from the process,  which left Ameresco  with the sole bid.

Subsequently, in 2013, a $5.4 million contract was signed between Ameresco and the LBPSB.

It is noteworthy that  the Quebec Education Act  stipulates that boards create a  by-law for the  Code of Ethics for Commissioners, which defines what is acceptable behaviour following the resignation of a commissioner.

The LBPSB has repeatedly refused to provide  a time frame, when a commissioner is permitted to start doing business with the board, after leaving the board.

Moreover, even if Mr. Tabachnick’s new employment was within the legal guidelines, one assumes that not only must there be no actual conflict of interest or impropriety but there also should  be no  appearance of any conflict of interest or impropriety.  If the school board is putting out tenders and may be they are  dealing with their former chairman, can it be done without it being prejudicial  to others who may be bidding?