TVDSB forms committee to probe code of conduct complaint against trustee Jake Skinner

The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) says a formal inquiry committee has been formed to examine a code of conduct complaint against board trustee Jake Skinner.

The move comes months after a PR firm Skinner co-runs came under fire for its role in the creation of two attack websites during the 2018 municipal election.

The complaint was filed by Skinner’s colleague, board trustee Corrine Rahman, on June 11. In a statement at the time, Rahman said she had “followed our procedure to request an inquiry into the actions of Trustee Skinner” and that “it is important to me to stand up for what I believe in and set a good example for students.”

In a statement, the TVDSB said the committee looking into the complaint will be made up of board chair Arlene Morell and trustees Bill McKinnon and Bruce Smith. Trustees are barred from speaking publicly about the matter, and the board can’t release any details about the complaint.

As part of the process, documents and written statements from the trustee who filed the complaint will be gathered, along with “any other witnesses who wish to present information,” the board explained.

Skinner will be given up to 30 days to respond, and a confidential report will be handed over to the board outlining whether any code of conduct breach occurred and what sanctions, if any, should be levied.

Global News has reached out to Skinner for comment on the code of conduct complaint and the TVDSB committee’s formation.

The substance of the complaint itself has not been made public, but Rahman’s filing came a week after Skinner’s firm, Blackridge Strategy, defended its role in creating a pair of attack websites aimed at two then-incumbent city councillors, Maureen Cassidy and Virginia Ridley, during the 2018 election.

Skinner co-runs Blackridge with Amir Farahi, whose name and credit card information appeared on domain registration documents for the two websites, court documents revealed in late May.

After the websites made headlines in October, Farahi denied he was involved with the websites, telling CTV London he was being framed and that someone had stolen his identity.

On June 4, Blackridge publicly acknowledged it was behind the websites but said in a statement that it stood behind them and did not apologize.

Blackridge worked with a dozen municipal candidates in the 2018 election, including candidates who ran against Cassidy and Ridley. Six of their clients were elected. Following the release of the court documents, several said they would not use the firm again in the future.

A campaign worker for Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen, who defeated Ridley, later came forward, saying he had hired the local PR firm to create the Ridley website.

Ward 5 candidate Randy Warden, who had also worked with Blackridge Strategy during the election campaign, said he was unaware of the fake Cassidy website but took responsibility for it and apologized for “agents or volunteers” acting on his behalf.

— With files from Matthew Trevithick and Devon Peacock

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