Tuesday, December 3, 1996

Petti Fong

p. B3.

Man in child-porn cases sues schools for his pay

An elementary school principal in Burnaby says the district had no right to suspend his salary.

An elementary school principal charged with child pornography offences is suing the Burnaby school district for suspending him without pay.

William Bennest, principal of Clinton elementary school at the time of his arrest in September, wants school trustees to reinstate his pay.

Shortly after he was charged, the school trustees volted to suspend him with pay. But in October, the board decided he would no longer receive a salary.

Bennest, 52, was charged after police seized 43 videotapes, five audio cassettes and photographs and magazines from his Vancouver home.

Police also seized daily journals from Clinton elementary, where Bennest had been principal for the last five years.

In papers filed with the Supreme Court, Bennest wants the school trustees to reinstate his pay since Oct. 23 and to pay all the costs related to his lawsuit.

He claims that under the School Act, the board has no power to revoke his pay.

Bennest's lawyers also maintain the board acted "arbitrarily, unreasonably and therefore in excess of its jurisdiction," and that Bennest should be presumed innocent.

Minutes of a school board meeting last September show trustees were advised by the police and Crown counsel that the standard for laying a charge is a substantial likelihood of conviction.

Trustees were also told when deciding whether to revoke Bennest's pay to consider the nature of the charges and the reaction of students and the community to a suspension with pay.

School trustee Ron Burton said Monday the board will meet with its legal counsel tonight before deciding its next move.

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Created: October 18, 1997
Last modified: October 18, 1997

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