The Thames Valley District School Board says an inquiry committee “has found insufficient evidence that Trustee Jake Skinner breached Thames Valley’s Code of Conduct” and recommends the inquiry committee be dissolved.
The inquiry committee was formed last summer to investigate a code of conduct complaint against Skinner, and the board says the committee’s report “finds that there exists insufficient evidence to support a finding of a breach of the Code of Conduct and recommends to the Board that the Inquiry Committee be dissolved.”
While the nature of the complaint itself was not made public — the board previously stated it cannot release any details about it — the initial filing came soon after the PR firm Skinner was involved with at the time 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.
The website targeting Cassidy said she couldn’t be trusted, citing her high-profile affair with former mayor Matt Brown.
The website that targeted Ridley described her as a “colossal spendthrift” and “greedy.” It also accused her of child abuse for bringing her son to a lengthy budget meeting.
Skinner was a co-owner of Blackridge Strategy but he confirmed on Jan. 10 that he had cut ties with the company.
Most recently, documents made public Jan. 13 suggested current Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen and former council candidate Randy Warden paid Blackridge Strategy to create the websites, according to Susan Toth, a lawyer for Cassidy and Ridley. The following day, Van Meerbergen denied any involvement and called an invoice included in court documents a “fabrication.”
The invoice in question said Van Meerbergen paid for “attack ads” against former councillor Virginia Ridley and “anonymous websites” for a total of $1,320. At the time, Van Meerbergen said: “I did not receive this invoice, I did not pay it. In short, I knew nothing about it.”
Blackridge owner, Amir Farahi, meanwhile, said, “the documents speak for themselves.”
While the inquiry committee report closes another chapter in the scandal, there have been no updates in regards to the OPP investigation into Blackridge’s involvement with the fake websites.
— with files from Global News Radio’s Matthew Trevithick, Andrew Graham, and Sawyer Bogdan.