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Another Pride Society board member resigns

Almost 40 members call for SGM to address election 'voting irregularities'

"I can no longer continue as part of a board that our membership is so fervently against," wrote Trevor Ashcroft (back, second from left), who resigned from the VPS board Feb 9. Credit: Tallulah

Another Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) board member has resigned, and almost 40 members support a requisition demanding a special general meeting (SGM) to address what they allege are “voting irregularities” during the organization’s elections held last month.

In a Feb 9 letter to VPS secretary Rick Leonovich, Trevor Ashcroft, who was elected to the board in January, cites concerns members continue to raise about the VPS’s leadership as the reason for his resignation.

“It is my observation and opinion that the community which this board represents is largely against the leadership of this board and I can no longer continue as part of a board that our membership is so fervently against,” he writes. “The image and reputation of the Vancouver Pride Society is being questioned, and I felt that my resignation from this board is in the best interest of the community and more importantly, our membership.”

Ashcroft is among the list of members calling for an SGM. His resignation follows that last month of former vice-president Shawn Ewing, whose name is also on the requisition list.

Xtra‘s attempts to reach Ewing were unsuccessful up to press time.

Ashcroft’s resignation once again leaves the board with only four directors when the organization’s bylaws require five to function. Remaining on the board is president Ken Coolen and directors Rick Leonovich, Raigen D’Angelo and Monika Whitney. Coolen asked Whitney to fill the seat left vacant after Ewing’s resignation, which also briefly left four directors on the board.

“It’s what people want to do,” Coolen says of the latest resignation.

Coolen, who is at WinterPride in Whistler, says Ashcroft’s resignation wouldn’t be official until it goes before the board. The organization’s next meeting will be Feb 15, according to the VPS website.

As for the call for an SGM, former VPS director Ray Lam says the requisition dated Feb 9, which he drafted, was sent to the VPS’s offices on the same day. 

“We, the membership, do not recognize the election of officers at the January 21st, 2012 Annual General Meeting and hereby requisition a Special General Meeting to be scheduled immediately in accordance with Section 58 of the Society Act of BC to nullify the 2012 Election of Officers due to the voting irregularities and to hold a new election,” the requisition states.

“Many of us have expressed concerns regarding the legitimacy of said election and the accuracy of information provided to the general membership and public before, during, and after the meeting by the President and General Manager. Those concerns, however, were made to no avail. To this end, we are requisitioning a General Meeting to demand accountability.”

The document, which lists the names of 39 members, also calls for a special resolution that would render null and void “all business conducted since the AGM by an illegitimate Board.”

Coolen maintains the election process was legitimate. “As far as we’re concerned there was nothing done wrong at the AGM to warrant an SGM. We will look into it,” he says of the requisition.

Xtra attempted to contact VPS general manager Scott Blythe but was told he was on holiday.

“I’m one of many,” says former VPS president John Boychuk, when asked if he had signed the requisition. “I signed it because there were so many irregularities during the voting process.”

Those asking for an SGM are disappointed that some voters in last month’s AGM held multiple ballots. Some members suggested that Dean Nelson, who holds an organizational vote for WinterPride, which Coolen co-owns, should have excused himself from the vote due to conflict of interest. Nelson held three ballots in the vote.

But Coolen maintains that Nelson’s votes were legitimate, according to the VPS bylaws, as he held an independent vote and two organizational votes. 

“It should be one vote, one person,” says Caryl Dolinko, a past board member whose name is also on the requisition list.

City Councillor Alan Herbert, a former VPS chair, says he supports the call for an SGM requisition because he had concerns regarding the electoral process, not with Coolen’s leadership. “I don’t have issues where leadership is concerned, provided he was elected under due process.”

However, Herbert says he is aware that some community members have personal issues with Coolen that run deeper than political process. “Different people have different agendas. I can’t resolve those [personal] issues and I don’t think an SGM will either,” he adds. “They need to sit down and resolve these personal issues.”

Laura McDiarmid, a former VPS vice-president, is also on the list of requisitionists. She echoed Herbert’s sentiments, explaining that her support is for a fairer voting system.

She says one person should have one vote, and the current process allowing one person to hold up to three ballots representing individual and organizational votes must be changed.

Dolinko agrees and says Coolen should have “done the right thing” and declared a mis-vote at the AGM election. “It’s one of the most prominent and physically visible organizations in the queer community,” she says, adding that the issue needs to be dealt with swiftly to save the VPS from a potentially tarnished reputation.

McDiarmid also says she had concerns about how Coolen used VPS funds when she was on the board. She alleges there was no clear understanding that VPS dollars weren’t being used for InterPride expenses. “If there is a perception of conflict, that is a conflict,” she alleges.

“Everybody has, it wasn’t just me,” Coolen says when asked if he has used VPS money to travel to InterPride events. He told Xtra that the decision to use VPS dollars for events like InterPride is always voted on by the board, adding that some of the members who have signed the requisition have also used VPS funds to represent the organization at InterPride events abroad.