Politicians purchasing private iMacs with school funds banned in New Westminster

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Some school trustees in New Westminster are still wondering what all the fuss was about regarding them using District funds to purchase personal computers

A few weeks back we reported on a controversy swirling around a couple of school board trustees who used public funds to purchase themselves new personal computer equipment. It was revealed by local media that Vice-Chair Michael Ewen had used $2,600 of New Westminster School District funds to purchase himself a new iMac computer in order that he could access his email. According to policy, the trustees were allowed up to $3000 per term in order to purchase themselves a computer which they could keep for their personal use.

It would appear that some trustees have now had a change of heart. A majority of them just voted to cancel what is known as the trustee "technology allowance". Casey Cook, a former city councillor, now school Trustee with Voice New Westminster, supported the motion to cancel the allowance. He states:

If the material belonged to the board, I would have an entirely different take.

It was trustee Jim Goring who actually made the request to cancel the fund and here is what he told the Royal City Record about the rationale for his decision:

Discretionary pools of money without guidelines are not in the public interest. Expenditures can be made when a business case is made and options are explored to avoid the expense.

Oddly enough the man in the middle of this controversy actually abstained from the vote. Ewen said he didn't want to be seen as a hypocrite by voting against the fund when he had already taken money from it to make a purchase.

We think if Ewen still believes that making the claim to the District for $2,600 for his computer was a good purchase, than rather from abstaining, he should have gone on the record as supporting it. Otherwise, he should have returned the funds to the District, then voted against the policy. To cop out now and say he couldn't vote after purchasing his new computer with taxpayer funds is simply disingenuous.

If you recall, Ewen originally argued he needed tax dollars to support his purchase:

I had to buy a new computer. My computer had died. If I didn't have it, I wouldn't be able to receive e-mails.

Trustees Brent Atkinson and Lori Watt (who works for CUPE) voted to retain the technology allowance, but they couldn't muster enough votes to keep the slush fund alive. According to the Record, Watts was concerned that without the technology allowance, some trustees would simply not be able to do District business.

- post by Daniel


Welcome to New Westminster, where the school Board is a study in dysfunction.
I wasn't at the meeting where all this happened, but there have been reports in the Locals. Apparently Ewen's expenses exceeds the totals of all the other Trustees combined. This guy doesn't need to abstain from a vote to be a hypocrite, he is a study in hypocrisy. This guy is part of the Business Company which lost $1M, undeclared conflict of interest issues - somebody please bring in term limits. The sense of entitlement issues are astounding.

Trustee Ewen should turn in his expenive laptop to one of the needy city schools.
It is not right that he has this computer and other trustees do not. Some one should also FOI his district paid for cell bills, how does this guy get away with talking on his SD40 paid for cell all day and what does his employer the Surrey school district have to say about this?

In the Record article about this, some trustees said they were concerned about future trustees being able to access email without the fund. Seriously? Netbooks are $500 or less. Plus trustees have a $30k/year stipend!

Does this mean Ewen will have to give up his chauffeur driven Rolls Royce too? Damn, the school district just outfitted it with a wireless internet connection for Ewen's new MAC. Oh, Boo Hoo.

This all goes back to the issue of school district employees sitting as trustees on other districts. It is a pure conflict as any trustee has the opportunity to influence salaries and benefits enjoyed by all teachers. And clearly teachers have little regard for ethics when it comes to using public funds.

Daniel, you need to do a FOI on all the New West trustees to learn the extent of their expense spending. It would be good to know.
Post a request for donations and there will be enough of us who will donate.

Looks like I was right in my post on the original story - almost. We're still far from seeing heads roll over these issues, even though we should be. Such a soft society we live in now.

Let the rip-offs continue.

The real issue is the incredible lack of judgment in establishing the policy in the first place. Any trustee that doesn't have internet access before being elected probably is not qualified to sit on the Board. But if the New Westminster voters are prepared to accept fiascos like the business company and the new high school non-construction then I doubt this issue is likely to result in a change.

A picture is worth a thousand words!!

Bob Hawkins is right on two counts. Ethics are a joke to BCTF. Teachers sitting as trustees constitutes a clear conflict of interest. The unanimous decision of the BC Court of Appeal in Wynja v. Halsey-Brandt et al.(CA 14560)was unequivocal. This has not stopped the employee unions from infiltrating boards across the province. That is why all collective agreements in K-12 have been imposed through legislation, not bargained collectively.
History has shown repeatedly that BCTF has no respect for the law, no respect for the truth and no respect for the rights of others. The first priority of K-12 in BC is jobs for adults, not the educational needs of students.

I wonder... did Michael Ewan have any sort of smart phone, subsidized by the school board when he just "had" to buy the new computer?

Hypocrisy is right -- he doesn't even have the ethics within him to vote on the matter. Who are these worms and how do they 'qualify' for positions on the taxpayer dime. Oh, right, because few private sector companies would employee such a person.

What goes around comes around. Short term greed, on someone else's back no less, will haunt them into the future.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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