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CBC interview: TDSB trustee describes alleged confinement of director Donna Quan

11/13/2014 10:37 EST | Updated 01/13/2015 05:59 EST
Below is an excerpt of an interview veteran Toronto District School Board Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher did Thursday with Metro Morning host Matt Galloway. In it, Cary-Meagher describes an incident she witnessed last fall between TDSB director of education Donna Quan and trustee Howard Goodman in which Cary-Meagher says Goodman prevented Quan from exiting an office.

Howard is facing charges of forcible confinement and criminal harassment.

Howard, who did not seek re-election in October and whose his term ends in December, has said through his lawyer that he will vigorously defend the charges, which he says are politically motivated. Quan has opted not to comment about the incident, saying the matter is before the courts.

Galloway began by asking Cary-Meagher what she saw last year as she went to an appointment with Quan. Here's what she said.

"I went to [Quan's] office. The person in the office said she's down the hall with trustee Goodman. So I went down the hall and she was in her secretary's office and the door was closed and trustee Goodman [who was inside the office] had his back to the door, his hand on the door handle and his foot against the door. I knocked, pushed the door open enough to get my face in and said 'I have an appointment with the director Howard.'

"He pushed the door back and said 'You're interrupting me' and closed the door on me. I was a little annoyed and a little taken aback and I paused for a minute and decided: 'Wait a minute, I do have an appointment.' So after about a minute I pushed the door open again and said 'Howard, I have an appointment, you don’t. I would like to speak with the director.' And he very abruptly and somewhat loudly said 'She can leave anytime she wants.'

"It was pretty clear that the design of the office and the size of the office made it quite impossible for [Quan] to get from where she was to the door without having to move him aside.

Galloway: "So you're saying that he was holding the door closed and she couldn't get out?"

Cary-Meagher: "Yes."

Galloway: "Why do you think the victim of this alleged harassment came forward now?"

Cary-Meagher: "I'm not sure. She certainly has been encouraged by everyone who witnessed this — and there were several of us — that she should lay charges. She was loath to do it because she's a relatively shy sort of person and I think she just felt uncomfortable with it."

Galloway: "She's also the director of education for the Toronto District School Board."

Cary-Meagher: "But this is a strange power relationship between a trustee and the director. From the outside, it may seem simple. From the inside, it's not. And I think the public attitude right now after all of the things that have been going on just brought her to the point where she believed that it would be a safe thing to do.

Galloway: "These are allegations, but had you seen anything in the past in terms of Howard Goodman's behaviour that would have raised alarm bells for you?"

Cary-Meagher: "It was not an unusual attitude or level of voice from Howard of late."

Galloway: "What does that mean?"

Cary-Meagher: "He had become quite aggressive on many fronts."

Galloway: "The trustees met last night. What was the atmosphere like?"

Cary-Meagher: "It was strangely calm. People were sort of settled. It's hard to describe. I think the presence of a great number of reporters might have had something to do with that. There was tension, but it was calm."

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