Ingamo upheaval
Board suspends four staff for violating code of ethics

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Apr 09/99) - Three Ingamo Hall Friendship Centre staff members were suspended for four days while another has resigned after clashes with the board of directors.

All suspended staff are back working at the friendship centre, although relations with the board remain tense.

Healthy babies co-ordinator Michele Tomasino, executive assistant Jody Day, and administrative assistant Joanne Whiteside received the suspensions for breaching the friendship centre's code of ethics and for not adhering to the centre's personnel policy, according to Tomasino.

Andre Jove, who formerly ran youth wellness and HIV/AIDS education programs, resigned last week after differences with the board of directors.

Tomasino says the suspensions did not follow the personnel policy.

"I don't even know why I've been suspended, technically. This letter doesn't explain anything to me," she says.

"This morning they asked us to come in one by one individually to listen to why they were suspending us and we said, 'No, we want a witness with us.... So they walked out, gave us our letters and walked away.'"

Tomasino says the policy gives workers the right to have a witness present and to have a detailed explanation in writing as to why they are being suspended. Further, she says, the board is required to get workers to sign a form to show they understand the reasons.

"They didn't do that," she says.

Board chair Barry Greenland says friendship centre managers did not follow the board's direction but he could not say more.

"Everything is in confidentiality. I just can't talk about it. What's in confidence should be kept in confidence. When a board has a meeting and it's in-camera, everything is kept in confidence," Greenland said the day the suspensions were given.

"What the staff did today was on their own. It shouldn't have went the way it did today with the staff doing what they've done. They have no right doing that. I'm not ready to have staff run the board. That's the whole thing. They've disobeyed directives from the board and it's all in their letter. It's self-explanatory."

Tomasino says the suspended members could appeal their suspensions with the territorial labour board. In fact, they were set to make a presentation to the board at an evening meeting, in keeping with policy which states staff must give written notice of an appeal within 24 hours of being suspended. But at 7 p.m., the doors of Ingamo Hall, where the meeting was scheduled to take place, remained locked.

The differences between staff and the board began March 26 when Greenland called former acting executive director Jodi Day in Edmonton to demote her from the position, according to staff.

Tomasino says the group had approval to be in Edmonton and were meeting with financial contributors from Health Canada.

Tomasino stresses that the meeting was important since the contributor she was meeting gives the centre $40,000 per year.

She says others met financial contributors who donate $28,000 for the breakfast program, for example.

"I'm part of the management team and I did ask for a full board and staff meeting to deal with the issue of demoting our (acting) executive director last week while we were away," Tomasino says.

"I thought that was unprofessional of our board president to do that -- basically to call us in Edmonton to say (it)."