Trustee feels 'exonerated' after conduct probe finds 'insufficient evidence'
LONDON, ONT. -- The Thames Valley District School Board has wrapped up its inquiry of Trustee Jake Skinner, finding “insufficient evidence” that he breached the board’s code of conduct.
“I think that gives me a fresh start.” said Skinner during an interview with CTV News.
“This is a complete exoneration. I think there were some problems with the process itself, but ultimately the conclusion is what I knew it would be all along.”
But the brief news release issued by the public board does not use the word ‘exonerated’.
It reads that an inquiry determined “there exists insufficient evidence to support a finding of a breach of the Code of Conduct”
Skinner’s take, “By using that language, and coming out with that language, that sort of implies, ‘well, maybe there still is something’— when there is absolutely nothing.”
Skinner was working at political consulting firm Blackridge Strategy when a pair of attack websites were registered by co-owner Amir Farahi.
The online content targeted council candidates Maureen Cassidy and Virginia Ridley during the 2018 campaign.
Last spring, Blackridge Strategy issued a news release defending the content as harsh but accurate. That document included a reference to Skinner as a TVDSB trustee.
Last June, a code of conduct complaint was lodged by Trustee Corrine Rahman, though the specific allegation remains confidential.
However, the inquiry was put on hold in October 2019 when Board Chair Arlene Morell told CTV News, “I determined that our inquiry is on pause subject to further information from Ontario Provincial Police.”
But it turns out, the pause ended before any further information was received from the OPP. Trustee Bill McKinnon stating in an email, “In the absence of any statements by OPP, the Committee resumed its review of the complaint in March, 2020.”
Skinner’s is unhappy about how the 12 month process unfolded, “Not keeping the process private like they are supposed to be doing, and then making a false claim that I am under an OPP investigation— which I’m not.”
The OPP say their review of a complaint questioning if Blackridge Strategy’s actions during the 2018 campaign violated the Municipal Elections Act is still underway.
Blackridge Strategy says in a statement it “remain(s) confident we obeyed the law throughout the last municipal election.”
Skinner departed the political consulting firm in January, and has been contacted by the OPP.
“I asked them, am I under investigation? They (the OPP) said no. I said can you tell everyone else that? They said that they couldn’t.” says Skinner. “That was just their PR decision. But they assured me the worst I could possibly have been, is a witness.”
Trustee Rahman, who lodged the code of conduct complaint, declined to comment on the decision.