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AGM delays Capital Pride bankruptcy

Chair: ‘I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a job done very poorly’

Community members voted to delay a declaration of bankruptcy by Capital Pride and voted in an interim board to join three returning board members at the Nov 5 annual general meeting. Credit: Ben Welland

Capital Pride hasn’t filed for bankruptcy yet, and an interim board is going to try to keep the organization intact.

On Oct 20, Capital Pride released a statement saying “the Board of Directors has found itself in a financial situation beyond its ability to alter or repair and is now forced to declare bankruptcy. That announcement came following the board’s Aug 29 statement alleging that post-festival “accounting irregularities” could result in a police investigation.

At Capital Pride’s annual general meeting, held at Ottawa City Hall on Nov 5, it became clear the organization had not yet filed for bankruptcy. That realization changed the meeting’s agenda. Originally, two groups were going to make presentations under the heading of Pride 2015: Going Forward. Christopher Doyle, executive producer of Mr Leather Ottawa and a co-owner of Dog & Pony Sound, was going to speak on behalf of a diverse group of community members determined to make sure there would be a Pride festival next year. François Zarraga was going to present on behalf of a second group that not only wanted Pride to continue, but wanted the organization to become more inclusive, with events and meetings being bilingual and the festival involving Gatineau as well as Ottawa.

Instead, when members realized the existing board hadn’t yet filed for bankruptcy, the focus shifted to putting off filing for 45 days and appointing an interim board. Treasurer Giselle Gardipy, who along with all but three board members resigned mid-meeting, put in a last-minute phone call to prevent the bankruptcy papers from being filed on the morning of Nov 6.

Chair Jodie McNamara and board members Rob Swartz and Stephanie Lavergne agreed to stay on until a new AGM is held, slated to take place in early December. The newly appointed interim board members include Laurie Hawco, Jeremy Dias, Glenn Nuotio, Kevin Hatt, Michael Wright and Peter Zanette.

“We’re feeling really optimistic, and we’re excited that the community is so engaged in the Pride movement, and we’re hoping to use that momentum to move forward, Dias, the executive director of Jer’s Vision, told media after the meeting. “We’re going to be meeting this week, and we’re going to review all of the statements and all of the available information. We’ll be making an official announcement in three weeks.

Optimism was in short supply earlier in the meeting as approximately 200 attendees shared their frustrations. At one point, when a community member asked what controls were in place to prevent Capital Pride’s financial crisis from occurring, McNamara responded, “That’s a fantastic example of a question we can’t answer.

Amidst laughter and groans, McNamara said that in the face of a possible libel suit the organization’s lawyer had advised that it was problematic for board members to answer certain questions, no matter how truthfully, in a public forum.

Several attendees expressed dismay that Capital Pride’s board had intended to file for bankruptcy without consulting its membership. McNamara said that with a debt of $89,000, the organization no longer qualifies for municipal funding, which would be a significant loss of funding for the festival. She added that she couldn’t see other donors and sponsors being willing to step in, under the circumstances.

“Nobody is claiming that nothing went wrong, that we didn’t make serious mistakes, McNamara said as she addressed the room. “I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a job done very poorly.

Speaking to Xtra following the meeting, Marion Steele, a former Capital Pride chair, said she was upset that Capital Pride had intended to file for bankruptcy.

“I was annoyed, partly because [a debt of $89,000] is not enough to claim a bankruptcy over, Steele said. “We came in in 2004 with a $200,000 debt, and we did not declare bankruptcy. We held creditors’ meetings. We held fundraisers. We were out of debt in three and a half years. So, it’s doable and you don’t have to lose your branding.

Other community members, including Jay Koornstra, executive director of Bruce House, expressed hope that Capital Pride can find a solution that doesn’t involve declaring bankruptcy.

“It’s felt like being on a ship that’s sinking and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, McNamara said tearfully to reporters after the meeting. “But maybe there is.