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AGM ‘democracy at its finest’: Boychuk

'It seemed to be more power grabs': Hamilton

NO-CONFIDENCE SURVIVOR: 'The Vancouver Pride Society is healthier than it has been in years,' says John Boychuk who sidestepped a no-confidence motion against his leadership. Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

A bid to bring a motion of no-confidence against the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) president was defeated at a heated, marathon-length AGM Nov 17 that also saw the resignation of another two directors, and contentious debate over proposed changes to the VPS’ constitution and bylaws.

Former Society director Todd Brisbin sought to add the no-confidence motion to the AGM agenda prior to its adoption.

Such a resolution “requires 14 days’ notice for the membership to be prepared,” Boychuk argued before recusing himself from the matter, saying it was a conflict of interest for him to preside over an issue “against myself.”

Brisbin held his ground.

“The membership can add and subtract to the agenda, or alter it at any time before the agenda is accepted,” he countered, claiming that the Society’s membership could waive the two week requirement.

Laura McDiarmid, who was later elected vice-president, said removal of directors was “a little bit different.”

“[That’s] far more sensitive and there’s a lot more involved in moving a non-confidence vote,” she noted, adding, “if you look under removal of directors, you’ll probably find it.”

Brisbin finally sought to have the matter discussed under new business —a move that was voted down 38 to 13, with four abstentions.

Brisbin eventually walked out of the meeting but later told Xtra West that past administrative lapses, namely a failure to file lists of directors and financial statements with BC’s finance ministry over a three-year period, were among his concerns. He also alleged that Boychuk is in “clear conflict of interest” by sitting on InterPride, an international association of Pride coordinators, and “using his contacts with [Vancouver] Pride to promote a different society.”

Boychuk says the administrative and financial issues Brisbin raises were brought before the membership and dealt with at a special general meeting (SGM) in March.

“At the SGM, the membership voted at that time to keep me in as chair. We all took responsibility where necessary for all the discrepancies, and all the irregularities. The membership was satisfied, the board and those persons that were on it were satisfied, and we were able to go forward.”

Responding to the conflict of interest allegation, Boychuk says Vancouver Pride, Vancouver InterPride and the World Pride organization “all have the same purpose.”

“We’re all members of each other’s organizations, we all work together. To say that there’s a conflict, well, yeah, we’re all in bed together because we all do the same business,” Boychuk maintains.

The non-confidence bid was just one of several matters that triggered impassioned exchanges at the five and half hour AGM. Even before the meeting’s agenda could be approved, VPS secretary Rod Zelles announced he was resigning from the board, saying he was “not pleased with the direction the organization is taking.”

Reading from a letter of resignation dated Oct 3, which he noted was not accepted by the board, Zelles said there were “many contributing factors to my choice; many that I choose not to address as it is not my intention to sling mud.”

He continues:

“If I may offer a suggestion to this board, to take a quote from my 2006 advertising report, although it is every member’s right to question they must understand that it is not the director’s intent to do anything detrimental to the organization or society and therefore a common and mutual respect should be in order at all times for people, never mind board members.”

Zelles also said he was disappointed in former board members who chose to “air their misinformation to the media… and as community members feel it is their job to take down this organization without knowing all of the facts before passing judgment on an organization for the community.”

In closing, he expressed disappointment in the board “for allowing this to continue without issuing statements when they were desperately needed.”

Hours after Zelles’ resignation, director at large Tamara Shoop also stepped down from the board, citing personal reasons. That brings to five the number of directors who have left the Pride board this year.

Speaking to Xtra West the day after the meeting, Zelles reveals that the VPS’ new contract with Smart Cookie Consulting (SCC), the company that handles the Society’s sponsorship negotiations, was “the primary reason for my leaving.”

“This is a very key matter. This is why I have chosen to resign. I refused to sign that contract because I thought that SCC was asking entirely too much money from the VPS,” Zelles contends, adding that he was involved in developing SCC’s first two contracts. SCC is owned by Caryl Dolinko, the VPS sponsorship coordinator and a former Society director.

Zelles declined to “get into the fine details of the contract” but wanted to keep negotiations open.

“I thought by my leaving they wouldn’t have enough signatures for the contract,” says Zelles, who claims it required six signatures for closure. He says it’s his understanding that the “physical contract” was signed the day before the AGM.

Boychuk says the contract with Dolinko is part of VPS records and is available for any member to peruse. He maintains that SCC was already performing “a lot of those duties that were “never put down in language.”

There were challenges to contract descriptions, he admits but says there’s now a greater level of accountability on both sides. Boychuk also feels the VPS is getting a good deal with SCC, claiming that Dolinko’s rates are below industry standards.

More contention arose at the AGM when the membership standing of former treasurer and secretary Christiane von Pfahlenburg was questioned because of allegations he did not return membership monies totalling $290.

Von Pfahlenburg says the owed money “was sitting” at his lawyer’s office since Apr 16, claiming that his attempts to contact the VPS were rebuffed.

Boychuk said registered letters were sent requesting repayment but they were sent back unclaimed.

Von Pfahlenburg’s voting privileges at the AGM were subsequently revoked. He also walked out of the meeting during a break.

Two days after the meeting, Boychuk says there were “a few disappointing items that happened” but feels the organization is healthier than it has been in years.

“It was democracy at its finest. It really was,” he maintains.

Community activist Jamie Lee Hamilton disagrees.

“It seemed to be more power grabs. It seemed to be people interested in consolidating power. It seemed to be unprofessional. It does put a negative light on our community and we need to overcome that somehow.”

Newly elected board members

Laura McDiarmid (vice president)
Monika Whitney (director at large)
Nelson Herman (director at large)
Leith Mason (director at large)
Lee Casey (director at large)
Alexander Barrett (secretary)

Re-elected board members

Ken Coolen (treasurer)
Alex Kempenaar (director)
Ray Lam (director)

Existing board members

John Boychuk (president)
Dean Nelson (director)
Lisa Hall (director)
Sonja Prabhjot (director)
Daniel Lin (director)
Idris Hudson (director at large)