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Capital Pride comments on accounting irregularities

Board releases new statement, says producers exceeded budgets

Capital Pride is investigating accounting irregularities that have arisen following the festival.  Credit: Ben Welland

An emailed statement from Capital Pride alleging that House of SAS exceeded its budget without approval has been met with a tense response.

“Currently our examination centers on invoices from festival site and entertainment providers requesting payments for amounts that were not approved by the Capital Pride Board of Directors,” read the statement from Capital Pride’s board, emailed to media Sept 9. “The initial results indicate that House of SAS, through its principal Sebastien Provost, significantly exceeded the agreed-upon budget.”

Provost, who spoke to Xtra following the statement’s release, says he’s shocked by Capital Pride’s allegation.

“I’m troubled deeply by the accusation,” says Provost, who produced the event’s main festival plaza in a sponsorship agreement. “Capital Pride was fully aware of any expenditures that were made, and I’m definitely going to look forward to working with them to figure this out. But I was an unpaid sponsor and I did the best of my ability to produce a world-class festival for them within their approved budgets, and I regret that it’s come to this.”

Capital Pride released the statement after cancelling a press conference originally set to take place the same day

Because of a sponsorship agreement, Provost says he supplied his services free of charge, from producing the main festival plaza to hiring artists and coordinating the bar. On Friday, Aug 22, Provost says, people from Capital Pride were unaware they would need a bank draft or certified cheque to pay the LCBO just under $24,000 for liquor. With Capital Pride’s bank closed on the weekend and Provost’s open, he says he offered to get a bank draft, which he’s done for other clients in the past.

The cheque Capital Pride gave him to compensate for the liquor purchase bounced, and Pride representatives have cancelled two meetings set up to discuss the situation, Provost says.

“When I went to their bank, the Bank of Montreal, to try to have my cheque certified, I was told by the branch that there was actually never any money in the account, that those cheques were knowingly written without funds. And that is when I proceeded to go to the police and press charges,” he says.

Guillaume Tasse, who provided infrastructure for the festival, says he also went to police after his $10,000 deposit cheque bounced and he was unable to get a satisfactory response from Capital Pride.

“I sent them multiple emails telling them if they were in need of any financial help . . . we can try to find a solution,” Tasse says. “I was hopeful that they would just call and we would talk about it.”

Tasse says that in a conversation with Jodie McNamara, Capital Pride’s chair, McNamara objected to the LED wall in his invoice, saying the board didn’t approve that.

“I told her, ‘The LED wall, we’re talking about $3,000. If that’s the only problem, give me a cheque for $39,000 right now and we’ll argue about the $3,000 later,’” Tasse says. “She told me no comment, and basically the conversation ended.”

Both Tasse and Provost stand by their work and invoices and note that Capital Pride’s statement does not address why the organization’s cheques bounced. Reached by phone the evening of Sept 9, McNamara acknowledged that people have unanswered questions but says she isn’t able to offer answers at this time.

“The statement has been reviewed by our [legal] counsel, so we know that everything that’s in the statement is safe because it’s factual and it’s been confirmed,” she says. “Any unanswered questions that are in that statement we have to leave unanswered until we’ve gone further in our investigation.”

Tasse says police have been in contact with him to ask follow-up questions about his complaint, but a police spokesperson told Xtra they are unable to comment.

David Charpentier, whose company Producer Entertainment represents RuPaul’s Drag Race, says Capital Pride’s cheque to his company bounced.

“The funds were not available when we attempted to deposit the cheque,” Charpentier wrote in an email to Xtra. “Our bank has since sent it to Capital Pride’s bank for collection.”

He says Capital Pride owes his company a “significant amount of money” but because of the confidentiality of his contracts, he can’t disclose the amount. “It is an unfortunate situation,” Charpentier says. “Our legal team is currently exploring all of its options.”

According to Capital Pride’s statement, more information will be forthcoming.

Although Provost says the bounced cheque has left him unable to pay his rent this month and he remains “absolutely baffled” by the way the board has handled the situation, he doesn’t want people to see Pride in a negative light.

“The Pride movement is bigger than any one person, any group, any board of directors, any group of volunteers,” he says. “It’s something that belongs to everyone, and I believe from the bottom of my heart that this Pride was exceptional . . . and what I really want the public to look at is that success.”