Capital Pride chair Sebastien Provost resigned from his position in a letter to the board of directors Jan 25, citing perceived conflicts of interest between his role as chair and his event planning company, House of Sas.
“It became very apparent to me today that I am not the best suited person to lead this organization and I am simply not cut out for the politics that goes with this job,” he writes in his letter of resignation, obtained by Xtra.
Michael Lafontaine will take over the role of chair. He says Provost used his House of Sas email to both correspond with Fierté Canada Pride (FCP) participants and then store their financial information for the upcoming conference in March.
However, Lafontaine calls Provost’s actions “an unintentional error” as Provost was working with Cvent, a program designed for tickets and payments.
“He didn’t realize that he could not tie in Capital Pride to that. It was something that when we became aware of it, we resolved it,” Lafontaine says.
FCP president Sandi Stetson agrees that the error was unintentional.
“What we understand his intention was is to further the cause of Pride organizations across Canada and to support FCP,” Stetson says.
Provost also corresponded with Capital Pride sponsors through his House of Sas email and suggested that House of Sas be included in the debt repayment plan to Fleet Pro Lighting and Sound, one of Capital Pride’s creditors.
“Sebastien was looking at ways to keep Fleet happy if we do not use them as a supplier,” Lafontaine explains. “They [House of Sas] in turn would use them as a supplier if we can keep the amount we have to repay down. We said that won’t work because that would be viewed as a conflict of interest. He was trying to be helpful.”
In his resignation letter, Provost says a comment made by community member Gary Leger at the Oct 24, 2012, Capital Pride annual general meeting about a possible conflict of interest “shaped how this board viewed me, my company and even my intentions.”
Leger calls Provost’s statement premature.
“When I made my comment at the AGM, the board hadn’t been elected,” he says. “They still voted for him, so clearly they saw no conflict.”
It is the role of the community to scrutinize anyone seeking a position that wields financial power, Leger adds.
Provost did not return calls for comment by press time.
In an interview with Xtra after the October AGM, Provost said he had read the Capital Pride bylaws and understood how to avoid any conflict of interest.
“At the end of the day my goal is going to be for Ottawa in general and what Pride does for Ottawa. So I’m not bound by what Pride or the House of Sas does in terms of Cirque Bizarre [House of Sas’s 2012 event that coincided with Capital Pride]. There’s room for business to be involved, and quite frankly, people like myself and Sara Ainsley have dedicated our professional lives to servicing the gay community, and so I’m not too worried about it,” Provost said.
But in his letter of resignation, he says other board members have since gone behind his back rather than bringing their concerns to him.
Lafontaine says Provost’s exit will not affect this year’s celebrations and commends the former chair for laying the groundwork for a successful festival.
“We are looking at how we can work with Sebastien,” Lafontaine says. “Whether it is as a sponsor or doing events, we are exploring all avenues. He resigned on very good terms.”
“I want to assure you that there are no hard feelings on my part other than feeling a little hurt but I will bounce back,” Provost writes in his letter of resignation. “I also applaud the work this board is undertaking and it is my sincere hope that this retreat will benefit and heal this organization and that the good work you have embarked on will continue. I wish you all the best of luck and look forward to seeing your progress and hopefully contributing in another capacity.”
In a separate letter sent to Capital Pride secretary Ian McLeod dated Jan 25, Provost assures he will return all assets belonging to the organization.