Aloha! Why are ASBA-appointed ASEBP board members going to Hawaii, where else are they traveling and how much are they paying themselves with our public education dollars?

These are simple questions, but thus far have been met with silence— or worse— resistance and hand-washing from the ASBA Board of Directors— the body who appoints these same trustees.

The ASBA leadership has told us that they consider the ASEBP “to be a service of the ASBA” and continue to require school boards like EPSB to be members of the ASBA to be eligible to receive employee benefits through the ASEBP plan. Yet when it comes to holding the ASEBP accountable for international travel, they aren’t interested. The ASBA wants to have it both ways.

At the May 17th, Edmonton Public School Board, I reported the following information:

May 17th Alberta School Boards’ Association Update (ASBA): At ASBA Zone 2/3 (April 22nd/2016) we received a presentation from the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) and learned that ASBA-appointed trustees to the ASEBP participate in significant out-of-province travel including such locations as Hawaii for professional development. 

It is unclear to us how much they are traveling out of province or country, what per diems the ASEBP has set for themselves, or if they would be willing to disclose their expenses (just as school boards are required to do so). The ASBA has informed us they consider ASEBP a service of the ASBA so we expect the ASBA to assist us in establishing a heightened transparency and assurance. We will send a follow-up letter requesting more information and we will report back to the board when we learn more. 

You can read our letter requesting more information here:ASEBP Zone 23 (April 25 2016) ASEBP Zone 23 (April 25 2016)

EPSB Trustee Nathan Ip put forward a similar version of our request for more information to the ASBA Board of Directors on May 12th. We were frustrated to hear that the ASBA Board of Directors voted down his request for more information especially in light of the significant concerns we have raised about their own transparency and accountability for student dollars.

As half of the ASEBP board is appointed by the elected school trustees of the Alberta School Boards’ Association Board of Directors– both of which are funded by public dollars – we have a fiduciary duty to ensure that as elected officials and as members of the ASBA are confident in the appropriateness and efficacy of all our expenditures. That includes the conduct of those we appoint to represent us on committees, task forces, or external organizations.

We don’t even know what we don’t even know. Maybe there is a very good reason why a conference should be attended in Hawaii. I say: disclose the travel and expenditures and let the public be the judge! All of the Minister of Education’s travel is disclosed. And expenses. School Trustee expenditures are disclosed– yet I can’t find disclosure from the ASEBP.

Background:

The ASBA appoints 5 of the 10 trustees to the ASEBP Board.

Current Alberta School Boards’ Association appointees include: (https://www.asebp.ab.ca/about/governance.html)

  • Karen Holloway, ASEBP Chair (since January 2014)
    • ASEBP Trustee January 2008-present
    • Karen is also an elected School Trustee with Clearview School Division 71
  • Gerry Martins, ASEBP Trustee January 2011-present
    • Gerry is also an elected School Trustee with St. Albert Public School District No. 5565
  • Drew Chipman, ASEBP Trustee January 2009-present
    • Drew is also Assistant Superintendent, Corporate Services Foothills School Division 38
  • Christopher Cook, ASEBP Trustee April 2014-present
    • Christopher is also an elected School Trustee with St. Paul Education Regional Division No. 1
  • Heather Welwood, ASEBP Trustee January 2014-present
    • Heather is also an Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) Consultant
    • Heather is also former ASBA President 2007-2010 and no longer serving as a school trustee.

The ASEBP Board also has five trustees appointed by the Alberta Teachers Association.

I requested information from ASEBP Chair Holloway (April 22nd) and we have not received any response from them or indication they are responding to our request for this information.

  • The ten ASEBP Board members are encouraged through ASEBP policy (which they create themselves) to attend one conference per year through the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (https://www.ifebp.org)
  • One ASBA trustee went to Hawaii this year for the American IFEBP conference. They did not indicate how many had gone to the Hawaii conference in previous years.
  • It was unclear from your responses where the other 9 trustees went this year or which conferences ASEBP board members attend. Past conference locations include: 
2015 Hawaii, 2014 Las Vegas, 2014 Florida, 2012 San Francisco, 2010 Hawaii.

The unwillingness to indicate something as obvious as travel and expenses clearly leads to the larger question of compensation in general: what is the total compensation package, including honorarium, expenses, per diem, and any other form of compensation that an appointed trustee receives? And what about senior staff?

Next Steps

We continue to remain vigilant in advocating for appropriate use of student dollars by the Alberta School boards Association. Given the inappropriateness of previous conduct by the ASBA, we continue to remain diligent in applying a heightened level of scrutiny to their expenditures in the hope that we can strengthen the organization through transparency.

  1. If the ASBA President and Board of Directors will not assist us in finding out these answers, we may need to contemplate disciplinary action or a motion of censure at the upcoming June 6th Spring General Meeting. Are we at the point where school boards have to try and FOIP their associations in order to discharge their responsibilities for fiduciary oversight of public funds?
  2. If the ASBA-appointed ASEBP Board will not disclose how much they are paying themselves and how much they are traveling, then we may need to explore other options such as a recall vote, suggest a review of them by the Alberta Legislature Public Accounts Committee, review by the Superintendent of Insurance, or appeal to the Minister of Education for assistance.

(Continued: Aloha! Part 2: is the ASEBP a service of the ASBA? http://www.michaeljanz.ca/2016/05/aloha-pt-2-is-the-asebp-a-service-of-the-asba/)