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No byelection to replace Alberta school board trustee who posted Nazi comparison on social media

Trustees voted to continue with six on the Red Deer Catholic school board for the rest of the current term
Former Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools trustee Monique LaGrange. File photo

A byelection will not be held in Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) to replace former trustee Monique LaGrange, who was disqualified following a controversial social media post that compared the Pride Movement with Nazism.

Chairman Murray Hollman told the Albertan a number of considerations went into the decision not to hold a vote, including the potential cost of up to $100,000.

In August, LaGrange posted on her personal Facebook account two photographs, one an historical photograph of a group of children holding Nazi flags with swastikas and one a contemporary photograph of children holding rainbow Pride flags. The meme post included a caption stating: “Brainwashing is brainwashing.”

In November, LaGrange’s fellow trustees passed a motion disqualifying her from continuing to hold her elected position. She resigned that same day.

The 10,600-student RDCRS division is headquartered in Red Deer and includes schools in Innisfail and Olds.

LaGrange has filed court appeal of her November disqualification. He lawyer, James Kitchen, says the appeal has been filed with the Court of King’s Bench, with his client maintaining that her disqualification should be set aside.

During the board’s recent regularly scheduled meeting, trustees considered a report prepared by secretary-treasurer Laurel Latka regarding the issue of a possibly byelection to replace LaGrange. 

The report outlined a number of factors, including possible risks, use of resources, timing, costs and potential benefits.

Under the provincial Education Act section 81(1) school board trustees can pass a resolution for a byelection to replace a former trustee.

“However, if a vacancy occurs during the three year period immediately following a general election, a byelection need not be held if there is only one vacancy on the board,” Latka said.

Considerations whether to hold a byelection include the ongoing judicial review, democratic representation, the board’s ability to make resolutions and direct action with six members, cost of a byelection, timing of a byelection and timing of the next general election.

Regarding the judicial review, she said, “The most significant risk at this time is the uncertainty of the judicial review process. This proves is ongoing and the results are uncertain at this time.”

As for use resources, she said, “Additional risks include the use of resources for a process that is optional. There will be both time and money invested right after we have reduced other budget areas to reduce the project budget deficit.”

Regarding the possible costs of a byelection, she said, “The costs are uncertain and will vary depending on whether or not we can enter into an agreement with the municipality (City of Red Deer to conduct the election). 

“For information purposes, there was a byelection in 2019 and the division paid $13,987.08 to the City of Red Deer to manage the process. Given recent inflation, current cost will likely be greater. Should Red Deer Catholic conduct the elections, there will be additional costs.”

As for possible benefits of holding a byelection, she said, “Filling the vacant position ensures that the number of trustees (7) established for the division is maintained. This will also ensure that there is an additional trustee for sharing representation on committee and as school liaisons.

“There will also be input from an additional trustees when deliberating board resolutions.”

In the end, trustees voted to continue with six trustees for the rest of the current term, as allowed under section 81(1) of the Education Act.

RDCRS chairman Murray Hollman said three principal considerations came into play when deciding not to have a byelection.

“First, there is a little bit of uncertainty and risk with the judicial review happening with the former trustee LaGrange,” Hollman told the Albertan. “If we held a byelection and got somebody else in and then the judicial review goes against us, what do we do then?”

The potential cost was also a factor, he said. 

“We were looking upwards of $100,000 to run a byelection,” he said. 

The third factor was the fact that the division is not required to hold a byelection.

“We still have enough trustees representing the different wards, especially in the Red Deer area where the former trustee LaGrange was situated. We still have four trustees representing that area” he said. 

Asked if he believes the six remaining trustees can do the job until the next election, he said yes.

The Pride Movement promotes and supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

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