Central Okanagan School District office on Hollywood Road in Kelowna. (File)

Central Okanagan School District considers expanding whistleblower policy

The change would allow employees to report cases of financial misconduct to independent third party

A whistleblower policy for the Central Okanagan School District could soon be expanded to protect people who speak out about financial misconduct.

If approved, employees or people affiliated with the district will be able to report allegations of financial misconduct to an independent third party, including the manipulation of accounting records and finances, the inappropriate use of district assets or funds and financial fraud or deceit.

Currently, the majority of workers in the school district can report financial misconduct to a senior member of the district, a senior school trustee, the superintendent, or in serious cases the RCMP.

During a meeting on Dec. 4, superintendent of Central Okanagan schools Kevin Kardaal, said there could be repercussions for people involved with the district if the policy isn’t implemented properly.

“My concern is that a broad-based whistleblower policy could have a detrimental impact on due process for employees in the district,” said Kardaal.

“That could impact a culture of trust and fairness when we have so many different ways of reporting.”

During the discussions, Kardaal said expanding the policy for people reporting on more serious circumstances could be more impactful.

Director of labour relations for Central Okanagan School District Kyle Cormier said portions of the expanded policy didn’t sit well with him.

“The anonymity portion is a significant concern for me. Thankfully, we don’t work in a legal system where people remain anonymous,” said Cormier.

“You have a right to know your accuser and if the employer is going to discipline an employee, I need a witness for that to prove evidence.”

Despite the hesitation, Central Okanagan Public School chairperson Moyra Baxter said the policy would help give a whistleblower more protection during the initial stages of a school investigation.

The board has now asked district staff to provide pros and cons of the proposed whistleblower policy before it is brought forward again for further discussion at a Feb. 5 policy meeting.

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