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Directors not concerned about Pride finances

'People are getting a little bit over-reactive to the recession': Coolen

 Despite anxiety that the global economic recession would diminish the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) sponsorship pot, the Society’s president, former treasurer and new interim treasurer all say they’re not concerned about the organization’s financial stability heading into this summer’s Pride festivities.

“This has come up a lot,” Pride Society president Ken Coolen told Xtra West Feb 19. “The Pride Society has been as frugal as anybody can be over the last few years; we penny pinch everything we can,” he says. He points as well to the $60,000-plus term deposits and the organization’s current operating capital that as of the end of November 2008 stood at just over $37,000, as indicative of the Society’s financial health.

“The reality is, is that  — and this is where I have to be careful, because I don’t want to mix WinterPride with Vancouver Pride  — but having just come out of that festival, we were not down [as compared with] last year,” says Coolen, who is also part owner of WinterPride.

“We did this year exactly what we did last year  — actually a little bit more,” Coolen observes.

“I think that people are getting a little bit over-reactive to the recession,” he adds. “I don’t see restaurants getting any slower, I don’t see bars getting any slower, I don’t see stores getting any slower,” he notes, adding that he is “more about the cup half full than the cup half empty.”

Compared with last year, Coolen says the only thing that the Pride Society is “down on” is the presenting sponsor, which he attributed to the completion last year of a contract with Vancity, the title sponsor for the past three years.

“That’s the only thing. Everything else, this is right where we were last year.

“Yes, that is a chunk of change we’d love to have under our belt right now but I know that Caryl [Dolinko] is working hard to find other avenues,” Coolen says.

At a Feb 2 board meeting, Dolinko, the Society’s sponsorship coordinator, said the recession was affecting the organization’s ability to woo sponsors back for this year’s Pride.

“There’s not a question, we’re in a tight bind,” she told the meeting.

Richard Boulier, who resigned as treasurer at that meeting citing a permanent hand injury, began speaking to the Society’s finances using a projected cash flow document. He said the document detailed the “hard expenses” the Society would incur over the next four months.

But vice-president Laura McDiarmid interjected that the meeting would only address Boulier’s resignation, not the finances, at that juncture.

VPS board member Sandra LaFramboise then called for the board to accept Boulier’s resignation “effective now” so that the organization could move forward with another treasurer.

Boulier left the meeting shortly after.

A week later he told Xtra West that during his three-month tenure as treasurer he did not have any concerns about the Society’s financial solvency. He said the only thing he thought anybody would ask about would be the status of sponsorships.

“I left the meeting once they finished me off, and so I had nothing to offer in that area, and some of the areas I had worked on,” he added.

Asked if he knew about the sponsorship difficulties, he said he did not and that the Feb 2 board meeting would have been the first time sponsorship concerns were going to be aired.

“That was all needing to be discussed  — what about the term deposits, should they be touched, should they not be touched, are they going to have to be tapped into because sponsorship is late this year?

“I can’t speak on behalf of all the board but the general consensus in the board up till I left was that sponsorship was going to be okay, that there was no worry about losing too many [sponsors] that would jeopardize Pride,” Boulier told Xtra West Feb 8.

Asked if he felt the Society would have to tap the term deposits, Boulier says that possibility was discussed at a finance committee meeting and was to be brought up at the Feb 2 meeting.

“I didn’t get to do the report and bring it to their attention,” Boulier noted.

For his part, new interim treasurer Bernard LeClair says he’s not concerned about the Society’s financial viability.

As for dipping into the term deposits, LeClair says “it’s possible” but says he expects to put money back in.

“It’s working capital. I’m very happy I have some working capital. To me, it’s pretty much been normal.”

Both LeClair and LaFramboise, who is now chair of the finance committee, say the cash flow document Boulier briefly put up at the Feb 2 meeting was the first time that they saw a financial report since the Society’s annual general meeting (AGM) last fall.

Boulier indicated that he and Coolen, who was last year’s treasurer, were only able to work on the financials sporadically since the AGM because of the two men’s schedules.

“I tried to make myself available to Richard,” Coolen told Xtra West Feb 19, noting that Boulier was also in rehabilitation for his hand.  “There were times I spent with him, so I assumed that he was on par with where he was going,” he said.

“I don’t know if it was my fault for not being more insistent on spending time with him or if he should have been more insistent on needing my time,” he says.

The November numbers were presented at the VPS’ Feb 16 board meeting. LeClair says he’s working on December and January financials for the next board meeting scheduled for Mar 2.

The Feb 16 meeting also saw the resignation of another Pride director, Dean Nelson, who co-owns WinterPride with Coolen. Nelson cited WinterPride commitments as his reason for leaving the board.

Coolen does not anticipate his own WinterPride commitments will interfere with his ability to run the Pride Society.

“That’s why Dean has decided to resign and make his focus that, and that I can focus on Vancouver Pride and he’ll focus on WinterPride. I mean, I’ll still be part owner. We understood from the beginning of he and I going into the business together that my focus for the next year would definitely be Vancouver Pride, and obviously WinterPride is how I’m going to pay my mortgage while I [run] Vancouver Pride,” Coolen says. “I think I’m going to be able to balance it well.”