A New Westminster school trustee has admitted she was behind a fake Twitter account that came under fire for making "inappropriate comments" towards local parents and others — and the school board is asking for her resignation.
Dee Beattie, a two-term trustee on the School District 40 board, issued a statement Friday at 5:20 p.m.
"I admit to my role in using an online fake account and I sincerely apologize to all who were hurt by my actions," the statement said.
The "fake account" in question was a Twitter account in the name of "Allan Whitterstone" (@alfromNW) that was thrown into the spotlight Wednesday night when New West parent Sarah Arboleda went public on Twitter with a thread suggesting that "Allan" — who had targeted parents, among others — was, in fact, Beattie.
Beattie said she has taken a medical leave of absence from the board and will cooperate with a code of conduct review by the school district.
She also said she has stepped away from Community First New West, the NDP-aligned organization that controls both New Westminster school board and city council, and expressed regret that her behaviour had hurt the "wonderful team" that supported her.
"There is no excuse for what I did," she said. "For a significant period of time, I have had health issues, including chronic pain and mental health issues that increasingly became worse. I should have done this sooner, but I have finally realized I must seek medical intervention to heal myself and refocus.
"I cannot undo the pain and damage I have caused, but I can say I am truly sorry."
School board requests Beattie's resignation 'immediately'
The New Westminster school board issued a statement shortly thereafter, noting it had met today to discuss Beattie's conduct and the appropriate next steps.
"The board is requesting Trustee Beattie resign her position immediately," said the statement, signed by chair Maya Russell.
"The board is deeply disturbed by the conduct and the harm this has caused to individuals in our community and to public confidence in our district. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable for someone in public office and runs contrary to the district's foundational values: collaboration, engagement, inclusion, innovation and integrity.
"We hold each other responsible for maintaining the highest standard of ethical conduct. The board is committed to rebuilding the trust of our community, as we continue to engage in the vital work of supporting students, staff and families."
Yesterday, the board had issued a statement saying it would investigate the allegations of the fake account and the "inappropriate comments" that had been made to local parents and others.
Community First severs ties with Beattie
Community First New West has officially severed its ties with Beattie as of Friday evening.
At about 9:20 p.m. on Friday, the Record received a statement from the organization noting that it had first received "serious allegations" against Beattie late Wednesday evening (June 14).
"In the course of our investigating this matter, Dee Beattie admitted to the conduct. Our executive has accepted her resignation from Community First this evening," said the statement from chair Cheryl Greenhalgh.
Greenhalgh said Community First supports the school board in its process of investigating and responding to Beattie's actions.
"Community First is dedicated to a very high standard of conduct for our candidates and elected representatives and will continue to enforce this standard," the statement said. "As a party, Community First stands for social justice, equity and respect for all and expects our elected members to uphold these values."
'Good grief, still whining': Twitter account targeted parents
So what, exactly, was the fake Twitter account used for?
The @alfromNW Twitter account was deleted after Arboleda (@NewWestSarah) delved into a history of the account in a lengthy Twitter thread late Wednesday evening.
Arboleda’s thread included screenshots of numerous examples of the Allan Whitterstone account responding to her and her husband on Twitter — in particular at times when they were critical of the school board.
“Good grief, still whining. Move on,” said one tweet in response to criticism about the move of two downtown school-based daycares into portables at other school sites.
In another response to Arboleda’s husband, James Plett, the @alfromNW account called a tweet from Plett (again a tweet critical of school board): “Typical tradesman bully behaviour against women.”
Other examples cited in Arboleda’s thread showed the @alfromNW account targeting former trustee Mary Lalji, B.C. Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring, and teacher/COVID awareness advocate Jennifer Heighton.
Who was 'Allan Whitterstone'?: Parent followed the trail
How Arboleda came to deduce that "Allan" was in fact Beattie was part of Arboleda's Twitter thread.
That thread included a screenshot of a tweet by Allan that showed location data of the phone being used — a location that appeared to correspond to Beattie’s home address, as published in election disclosure statements.
It also showed a screenshot of a tweet from February 2016 that indicates the @alfromNW account was originally called @BlueOwlTerrace; that handle, when googled, leads to an Instagram account whose description says “Deelightful.”
A Google search for Allan Whitterstone turned up no results, and no such person can be found on Facebook.
New Westminster school board trustee Dolores Anita "Dee" Beattie @deebeattie has been using a troll account under the name of Allan Whitterstone @alfromnw to harass parents, teachers, and even the head of the BCTF for years here on Twitter. #SD40 #NewWest— Sarah Siegel (She/Her) (@NewWestSarah) June 15, 2023
Community First New West trustee the second involved in controversy
The Beattie controversy is the second issue surrounding an incumbent Community First New West trustee to arise in recent weeks.
Last week, trustee Gurveen Dhaliwal stepped down as chair of the board amid a special prosecutor’s investigation into allegations that she violated election rules by being present at a polling station during an advance vote in the October municipal election.
Dhaliwal, Beattie and Russell are the three incumbents who ran under the NDP-aligned Community First banner, winning re-election alongside newcomers Marc Andres, Cheryl Sluis and Elliott Slinn.
The opposition New West Progressives — who won one seat on school board with Danielle Connelly, and two on council with Daniel Fontaine and Paul Minhas — released a statement from Fontaine about the two episodes on Friday evening.
"It's time that former Community First school trustee Dee Beattie do the right thing and immediately resign her position as a school trustee," said the statement from Fontaine. "As someone who has personally been catfished and attacked by Ms. Beattie's deceptive Twitter account, I think nothing short of a resignation will suffice in this case."
Fontaine's statement said Community First politicians have "already been mired in two major scandals," citing the Dhaliwal episode.
"Our students, parents, teachers and staff deserve better with an entire school board who are honest, trustworthy and truly committed to putting the community first," he said, adding he looks forward to the results of an "independent and third-party investigation" into the matter.