Two former Pink Triangle Services board members are raising concerns about the direction of the organization ahead of its annual general meeting tonight, Sept 25.
Gary Leger says five board members have resigned from PTS this year. Leger and George McBeth both recently left the board following president Denis Schryburt’s resignation on Sept 4.
Leger says the direction PTS is heading is “misguided,” and he is worried about proposed amendments to PTS bylaws.
The executive director and remaining PTS board members want to give PTS executive director Claudia Van Den Heuvel the power to offer recommendations on the budget and manage the creation and review of the PTS strategic plan with the aid of the board of directors.
“I read over the amendments and I’m concerned. I have looked at the bylaws, and literally, the changes that are being put forward would result in giving ultimate control to the executive director, and a not-for-profit organization cannot function that way,” Leger says.
Leger says he still believes in PTS’s work, but he thinks the current board members are leading the organization astray.
“I don’t think enough people, and I’m talking about board members and the executive director, they don’t put the organization first enough of the time,” he says. “They put their personal emotions and personal feelings first, and they need to put the organization first.”
But Van Den Heuvel says the amendments are necessary because the current bylaws are outdated and make no mention of the executive director’s role.
“We clarified things about finances. How much I am allowed to offer without board approval within the budget. If it is a certain amount, can I go to the executive committee to get approval? If it’s over that amount the full board must give approval,” Van Den Heuvel says. “Things like that to clarify some macro-level managerial things.”
Meanwhile, Schryburt worries that PTS is moving toward activism rather than education and the provision of supports for the community, which is why he submitted his resignation.
“PTS needs to be an organization who is fairly neutral and unbiased in order to better serve the queer community as a whole,” he says. “PTS has the potential to be the centre for the queer community in Ottawa, but it is not there yet, and it is going to be difficult to get there because of those challenges.”
Van Den Heuvel says it is natural for board members to disagree with the executive director. She says those members who resigned were unhappy because they were constantly in the minority.
“Does that make me difficult to work with? I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe there was just a personality clash. Of course, if I have an opinion and I think it is the right one . . . that’s the point of an opinion.”
Gender Mosaic president Sophia Cassivi says that if a well-respected member of Ottawa’s queer community like Schryburt has stepped down, something must be amiss with the PTS executive structure.
“Denis’s integrity and reputation is not to be debated whatsoever,” Cassivi says. “That sends out a very clear message to PTS there needs to be a cleanup. All of us [at Gender Mosaic], when we go to bed and look at ourselves in the mirror, we are very proud of who we are, who we work with and the cause we are working for. I think at PTS, some people must question that right now.”
For her part, Van Den Heuvel says the numbers speak for themselves.
“We are probably at the most balanced time in PTS history. We have more staff than we’ve ever had, we have more programs than we’ve ever had, we’ve diversified our programming in ways that we’ve never done before. Let’s just look at the numbers,” she says.
In addition to bylaw amendments, the AGM will elect eight new board members, who will work alongside five returning directors.
There has been some confusion over how to become a voting member. The PTS website says community members will get to vote if they purchase AGM memberships 30 days prior to the AGM. However, a Sept 13 PTS Facebook post says 10 free memberships are available for youth under 25 if they contact Van Den Heuvel.
Van Den Heuvel could not be reached for clarification on this point.
A notice about the AGM was distributed on Sept 11, the bare minimum of 14 days required by PTS’s current bylaws.